Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Portrait of the artist as a young child

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
 Pablo Picasso        
Chloe is an abstract artist.... that is, at least for now. Intuitive in her expressive creativity, she rarely colours within the lines or, for that matter, notices that there are lines. Of course Julie looks at my penmanship and my propensity for dish breaking and doesn't seem the least bit surprised that Chloe has a little trouble with fine motor-skills.

But I do think there's more than a lack of fine motor development behind Chloe's unique artistic sensibility. She seems to be more concerned with drawing ideas or meanings than drawing actual objects. She lives in a world of make-believe and creative storytelling, and I think this is what she tries to express in her drawings. She'll ask, "do you know what it is?" and we'll helplessly say, "no honey, but is that a rabbit over in the corner?" And instead of giving us a description of what she drew, she tells us the story she's trying to evoke. One time drew a story of two sisters seperated and trying to get back together - she used frogs stickers to represent the sisters and a line between them to represent the separation. Other times she draws what looks like scribbles all over a colouring book page.  And when we ask her what it is, she tells us the story the scribbles tell. Chloe has no fidelity to realist form. It's all representative. It's meant to evoke rather than reflect.

I would probably have dismissed Chloe's approach to drawing as a normal childhood phase if it weren't so different from Emily's. Emily was almost born coloring between the lines, in art and in life. She has excellent fine-motor skills, true, (she was able to do up buttons and zippers before the age of 2) but she also lives in a much more structured environment than her sister - an environment of her own making. Where Chloe still leaves her clothes and her diapers all over the place for us to pick up, Emily tends to want to put things where they belong. Everything has its place and she can become quite disconcerted when we don't respect this order.

There are other differences in how each girl perceives and interprets the world around her. Chloe is earnest. Her first instinct is to take things seriously and often she acts and reacts on an intuitive and emotional level. If I tell a joke, she won't laugh or relax until she's sure I'm not serious. Her default is to believe me, even though I come up with real corkers on a daily basis. Emily, on the other hand, doesn't believe a word I say. She's so used to hearing my fish stories that I often have to get Mommy to back me up when I'm telling her the truth or she won't believe me.

Despite my joking nature and sometimes dry sense of humour, I actually think I'm more like Chloe in this respect than Emily. I was always the gullible one growing up, the one that would instinctively believe what someone told me before feeling foolish or stupid for being fooled. And I also stunk at drawing between the lines. In fact, there's earnestness and eagerness about me - an idealism, jaded and cautious after 35 years of experiencing the world, but still there. I too am intuitive by nature amd search for meaning and significance in everything. I see all of this in Chloe. Maybe I should ease up on the jokes a little.