Tuesday, March 29, 2011


We've considered doing an art party before, but it just never ended up on the top of the list.  But several weeks ago, when S said, "I'm no good at art," the art theme suddenly became a priority.

It broke my heart to hear her say that.  No good at art?  How was it possible that she thought that?  Shaggy and I both consider her one of our most artistic children.  The way she writes her letters, the way she finds creative ways of looking at things, the way her emotions can bubble over so suddenly.  She certainly has an artistic temperament!

I was determined to change her mind.  I have no doubt that a large part of why she thought she wasn't good at art can be laid at her big sister's feet.  Unfortunately.  But that's another story entirely.  Regardless of the cause, she had somehow allowed the artisitc door inside herself to be painted shut.  It was my job to help her pry it open again. 

With a few heart to hearts and some time spent looking at her pictures and projects that I have saved over the years, we managed to break the seal on that door.  We also talked a lot about trying not to compare, but rather to find her own style.  I fully realize that I may someday regret those words, especially considering her proximity to adolescence.  But for now, I am happy to have given her back a part of herself.

I grew up thinking I didn't have any artistic tendencies whatsoever.  But lately, I think that it had much more to do with the fact that I just hadn't found the right medium to inspire me.  Pencil and paper?  No.  Paints?  Not so much.  Stamps and ink?  Getting warmer.  Photography and digital layouts?  Yes.  Frosting?  Now, we're talking!!

So, I copied van Gogh.  Starry Night, which I've always loved.  And which was a heck of a lot easier than say, Renior.  I could probably manage Monet.  Jackson Pollock would be a breeze.  But I think I will steer clear of Picasso.  At least for now. 

Here is my masterpiece . . . temporary and edible though it may be.

I love birthday parties.  No surprise to anyone, I know.  I love the themes and the games.  I love the colors and the favor bags.  Obviously I love the cakes.  But the last few years, I have found that the themes we choose are more than just super fun.  They are inspiring.  Maybe mostly to me, but still . . . 

Granted, we've been doing parties for older crowds which makes a tremendous difference.  And it has been great.  Our science parties inspired us to think more scientifically and to do more experiments--even when they were messy and inconvenient.  J's dino party made us all want to learn more about dinosaurs.  K's Chinese New Year sent me on a quest to learn more about Chinese culture and to clean the library out of Chinese folk stories and legends.  And this art party has been just as inspirational.

Just thinking about the party made me get the paints out more often.  Which R absolutely loved.  Here she is very engrossed while painting the tallest ice cream cone in the world.

J went for a more visceral style with his giant worm-eating bird monster.  Not sure what he was trying to say with his expression.

Ok, on to the party details.  We began with a little discussion of color theory.  We talked about the color wheel and let the kids try it out by mixing their own colors and then finger painting.  We had to draw the line at two pictures so we could move on to the other activities.

One of which was to "taste the rainbow."  One of my all time favorite ad campaigns.  But we noticed that the Skittles were missing a rather conspicuous color of the rainbow.  Blue.  Even one of the primary colors!  It made their ad campaign suddenly seem much less likable.  I think they should remedy the situation and add blue.  You simply cannot have a rainbow without having blue.  No blue would even knock out purple and green, as well.  What were they thinking?  Taste the rainbow, indeed!

But my complaint did nothing to derail the fun the girls had.  They put on blindfolds and then were given the different colors of Skittles so they could guess which color they were tasting.  Try it sometime.  It's harder than it sounds.

Once we were done with tasting the rainbow, we settled in to learn a little bit about art.  I read them a book which talks about some of the different "isms" in the art world.  Impressionism, cubism, surrealism, naturalism . . . ism, ism, ism.  I had them look at the examples and tell me how they were different from each other.  They sounded like young art critics.  I was impressed.

Then we went back to our art studio (aka kitchen table), gave each child a block of wood (pine plank from Home Depot-cut to size, primed, with mounting hardware on the back) and had them sketch out their vision with a charcoal pencil before setting them loose with the paint. 

Originally, we were going to splatter paint an old cloth backdrop in the back yard, but the nasty weather made us change plans a few days prior to the party.  Would've been fun and very, very messy.  Guess we'll have to just make it a family project.

But the boards were fun to do.  The kids even had a cool little tree cookie to use as a palette.  And they all wanted to know what style their paintings fit into.

This picture by Shaggy is definitely impressionism.  And once again, I am left simply impressed by his talent, even those that he so rarely uses.

And I am left wanting to do it again.  The whole shindig.  Shaggy already wants to add to his painting.  Or change it.  Or make another one.  My kids have said the same.  I think we're gonna need some more wood blocks . . .  

We've all been vying for time with our art history books.  And the names of famous painters are becoming household names.  We can't get enough.

I'm sure our interest will wane some, as time goes on.  But I hope to keep art a bigger part of our lives.  And give all the kids enough time with pencil and paper, paint, even frosting; so that I never again hear one of them say that they are no good at art.  Seriously, Rothko has nothing on them.  Except for a little fame, perhaps. 

And maybe . . . just maybe, one of these kids will someday find themselves wandering through the halls of New York's Museum of Modern Art.  Where they will feel compelled to stop and linger in front of a particularly famous painting.  They might tilt their head and examine it more closely.  And when they are about to turn away, they might say, "I once ate a cake that looked like that." 

And that might make me very happy. 

1 comment:

Mom said...

S - - - no good at art??? I have to write that little girl a letter. Your cake is amazing, as always, and I love how your themes have become opportunities for your family to grow and learn. I also love the image of one of your grown-up children standing in front of Van Gogh's Starry Night and thinking, "I once ate a cake like that."