Tonight I helped Bean put away the PlayDoh she’d been using after dinner while her dad and I cleaned up and lazed around waiting for bedtime.
She had opened five mini containers – three shades of green, one red and an orange. The greens were hopelessly mashed together. I spent a little time trying to separate them by shade and felt myself getting anxious and frustrated that she hadn’t kept the colors separated so we could put them away easily.
But then I realized she didn’t care at all that the colors were mixed up. She was happy to put them back in the containers all mixed up.
She liked mashing the colors together. She wasn’t playing with the stuff with the goal of putting it away easily, she was just playing with the stuff to explore it. The texture, the colors, the shapes we could make with it.
This is the child who will use only the purple pen from any set until it alone is dried up and the tip grows furry, and then maybe she’ll try some of the other colors.
This is the child who will paint a whole page, sometimes two, of the one color she loves best from a paint box until it is gone. She will drag her brush across the top of the paint box, mixing the colors right on the pans, just to see what happens. She breaks her crayons and peels the paper off, draws heavy lines of chalk on her easel just so she can wipe it off with her hands and do it again.
And none of that bothers her. She cheerfully tosses the worn pen in the trash and cheerfully points out the new color she mixed on top of the paint box. She proudly shows off her creations and happily mails them off to grandparents and far-flung aunts and uncles. She loves what she creates – all of it. The process is as much fun as the result.
I am the one who keeps my paint box neat and clean, my brushes manicured and conditioned, my pens tightly capped and in the tidy order they came in from the art store.
She knows there are always more art supplies. I make sure she knows there is plenty. I want her not to feel they are too precious.
And yet. I have a studio full of art supplies of my own and I act like there will never be enough, never be more, each pen and tin and paint tube is almost too precious to use at all. What art I create turns out tight and small and never leaves my studio, when I allow myself the time and permission to create it at all. I never think it is quite good enough to share with the world. I hide it in books lined up on a high shelf and in a stack in the back corner against the wall.
What could I create if I could combine her creative abandon with my many years of practice? What would happen if I could loose myself of the preciousness and play? Could I allow myself to just create for the fun of it? Just to see what happens when I mix this with that and put this color next to that one?
I’d really like to find out.