Sunday, February 26, 2012

Painting Like a 3-Year-Old: A Keepsake

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. Pablo Picasso

When my son was a toddler, one of the things we routinely did was paint. He loved to mess around. I recently spent some time looking at two paintings he had done at 3 years of age. I can recall being taken by them and waiting days for the paint to dry. I then matted and framed each, thinking these would be important keepsakes--ones I would want him to have when he got older--ones I would have trouble parting with. This morning, I snapped a picture of each image and decided another way to preserve them would be to do so here, in this inbetween world.

I am reminded when I view them at his wild abandon as he painted with fingers, hands, arms, and now and then a brush. He seemed to have an instinct for color in the many ways he combined colors or perhaps it was more the absence of fear of error that prompted his experimentation.  There also was movement that typfied his art making--not so unusual at 3.  Making art is a full body experience, especially when you are a toddler up to your elbows in paint.  It is something we would do well to recall as we age. And then there was the kindness: "Mommy, for you," he said offering his art so freely in a manner that still makes my heart hurt just a bit.  I can recall the paint more on him than the paintings as he reached out with his hands.

These things: color, movement, and kindness are the story.  The absence of making an error is the gift.

A decade has past and now this child is teenager and I want to say to him:

Be wild, let instinct guide your steps.
Abandon the fear of failure that often dogs our steps as we age.
Make mistakes.
Seek color and movement in the way you chose to live.
See possibility in yourself and especially in others. 

Remain generous. 
Remain kind.


  1. absolutely love this! the paintings are so invitational, and the advice: priceless. makes me want to shout out: make mistakes!!

    1. I wonder if the secret isn't not shouting out, "You made a mistake!" If that alone would help to emphasize a shift from fear of failure to a culture of risk and possibility.


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