The exact quote is: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once she grows up.”
It’s so predictable. Kids start out painting on anything, with anybody, at anytime. Pure joy. No fear, no limits, no excuses. Their art is high energy, passionate, colorful, and free. I finally figured out why: Because they don’t give a flying crap.
They don’t care what rules you set, what suggestions you make, what instructions you give. The truth is, they’re not listening anyway. They are so far ahead of us. All they know is their job is “to express” — and that allows them to paint whatever they want– whenever they want. And the coolest thing is, they don’t judge their work, so they don’t fall into that dark abyss of self-criticism, and they certainly don’t care what the finished product looks like. It’s about self-expression. That’s it.
When I paint with 2-year-old Mickey (Pic #1) she’s just as excited about squeezing a glob of gooey acrylic paint out of the bottle as she is about making her marks on the page with her brush. I get that. When I was little, I used to mix up concoctions of mouthwash, tooth powder and food coloring; I’d shake it up, and toss it on the floor “just to see what would happen.” It was so much fun to experiment. And honestly, that’s art-making too.
It takes some discipline on the part of adults — not to control what kids are making. But in the end, it’s their artistic journey — not ours. The more we support kids creating “without boundaries,” the more they exercise their imagination.
I recently checked out the Italian Street Painting Festival at the historic Santa Barbara Mission. Some of the most gifted artists in the region “paint the pavement” with their dense pastels. A fantastic collection of traditional and contemporary work — drawn live, and sadly, destined to be ephemeral, due to the powdery consistency of the chalk. The first thirteen images are drawn by kids….with no planning or instruction. The next eleven are by adults.
Oh yeah, Picasso was right — and if there’s any chance for our kids to retain the artistic freedom they are born with, it’s kind of up to us, to follow their lead.
Below: Kids’ Art from The Santa Barbara Italian Street Painting Festival, 2017.
Below: Adult art from The Santa Barbara Italian Street Painting Festival, 2017.