Every Child is An Artist

“Every child is an artist….” – Pablo Picasso


I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that statement. Sorry Pablo, but Nate and Sam are not artists. And especially not Nate.


I’ve tried to encourage art projects. Oh, I’ve tried so hard. I always make sure paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils are accessible. We have Play-Doh, water colors, finger paints, coloring books, scissors, glitter, and construction paper. We steal coloring pages from the library. We’ve collected raw materials from outside to make collages. We’ve used magazines, sidewalk chalk, and stickers.


But nothing seems to interest them. Instead, they peel the paper off the crayons, discarding it onto the floor of the dining room while I color in a picture of Buzz Lightyear by myself. They take the naked crayons and shove them down into a crack in Sam’s yellow booster seat so that it’s very heavy and makes a peculiar rattling sound every time Sam slides out of it. Here are a few examples of our other failures.


Story Time. We always stay for the art project at the library’s Story Time. There’s usually some clever little artistic activity that references one of the books that was read aloud that day. Like painting with cooked spaghetti when the world-famous Mr. Ron read a book about worms. Or making a skeleton with Q-tips when he read a book about bones in the human body. How does he come up with this stuff? Thank you, Internet.


And Nate and Sam usually tinker with the materials set out on the table. Nate seems to favor glue above all other media. There’s nothing better than picking dried glue from your fingertips!


“Do you have a plan for that glue?” I asked him once as he flooded his paper with it one morning.


“What glue?” he replied. Never mind.


Anyway, last week the books were all about dogs, so the art project was simply to color print-outs of dogs. All they had to do was put their fat crayons to the mostly white pieces of paper and make some marks. Simple! But they refused.


Sam decided to climb up onto his stool and swan dive off onto the concrete floor again and again. Meanwhile Nate munched on pretzels and made faces at the kid across the table from him. Okay, performance art.


“Nate! Are you just going to sit there and eat pretzels or are you going to color?!” Mr. Ron’s voice challenged him.


Nate turned his head in that very slow, I-don’t-give-a-fuck way and shrugged. Mr. Ron slinked away in that I-can’t-believe-I-spend-my-days-arguing-with-three-year-olds way. After a few minutes, Sam got bored with the suicide thing and turned Nate’s pretzels into projectiles. When this got old, he charged around the room and used the heel of his shoe to grind the scattered pretzels into tiny morsels.


This is when I miss fruit snacks the most. They’re not messy, and Nate/Sam love them too much to sacrifice them to the floor gods – no matter how many silly laughs they may get from the kids around them. I think we might skip Story Time this week. We left behind too many crumbs, too much evidence. We should probably lay low and not be seen there for a little while.


Playing with shaving cream. In my head, I thought we could have fun while tracing letters and shapes in the foamy mess. But instead, we dirtied the dining room and walked away smelling like clean-shaven men, power brokers. Actually, it smells like the lobby of a Vegas hotel – you know, where all the hookers hang out. Or a foam party, but the really sketchy, questionably hygienic kind, like where you might acquire an STD just by entering. So, like a foam party.


Finger paint dance party. This was my mistake. It seemed like a good idea one rainy morning. I laid down some sheets of cardboard, set out some finger paints, and allowed them to stomp around on the cardboard and the paint while we rocked out to silly pre-school songs. Can we do the stanky leg to The Wheels on the Bus? Maybe.


Suddenly, though, the situation started to get a little out of hand. Red paint drips on the Oriental rug. Hmm… Then, before I knew it, we were out of control! Their little toes started to wander off of the cardboard dance floor. Oops. “These are refurbished original hardwoods! Why is there yellow paint up the banister? No! No, we’re not playing basketball! Stop rubbing your face – and your stomach! Put that down! In fact, get out of my house! Get out!”


So, I sent them out – dressed down to Nate’s minion underwear and Sam’s diaper – out the front door as quickly as possible with two bottles of bubbles while I tried to clean up. Did I mention it was raining? Bubbles are soapy. Rain is wet. Plan B: outdoor shower.


Race car kit. I like to keep some new puzzles and other activities on hand for such rainy days, so a few weeks ago, while Sam napped and Nate sulked around the house, I pulled out a race car kit I had gotten at the dollar store. It came with a track and stickers and markers and glitter to decorate it. I thought I could make it last all afternoon: after we decorate it, we can race it! Instead, three and a half minutes later, Nate told me he was finished and asked to do something else.


“Mom…I want…I’m gonna go practice my ninja moves with my sais.”


Nate’s teachers at school have told me similar stories. They “invite” him to do art, but he often declines, content to work on a puzzle or race matchbox cars instead. And when he does bring his masterpieces home, they’re pretty minimalist: a couple dollops of paint here and there, maybe a scrap of paper glued to another piece. He explains it to me and I pretend to care, but it’s just so crappy.


And what am I supposed to do with all these gems anyway? Our refrigerator is only so big, and they fall off anyway when Sam, desperate for some chocolate milk or apple slices, swings the door open with too much force. Then, they slide underneath the fridge or we ice skate around on them, too busy to pick them up.


Once, just before guests were to arrive, I swept up a large stack of them, collected from school and from Story Time, and shoved them in the kitchen cabinet behind a crudité platter and the blender where they remain to this day. And I think that officially classifies me as a hoarder.  


“Art and works of art do not make an artist; sense and enthusiasm and intuition do.” – Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel


Well, if that quote is true, than Nate and Sam are definitely not artists. And it seems that neither am I.