The Artist's Muse Art Blog
I recently observed some children riding on a double-decker carousel on the pier in St. Tropez. Wiggling as the carousel wound to a stop, having spent the better part of the last ride deciding which horse or animal they would ride on, they determinedly jet out to the beast of their choice. Some of the children prefer the pretty ponies, painted in vibrant colors, dawning a feather in their mane. Others rush up the stairs to the second level, spying a stationary giraffe, light blue with painted florescent flowers on it. A few of the boys prefer the yellow motorcycle on the first level to a fantasy horse, still others set down on a porch swing meant for adults who are too large for to ride the animals. Most of the time they know what they like, they know what they want, they run to grasp it, if only for a few treasured moments.
Another fascinating observation that I made recently was on the subway in Boston. A little girl sat in her stroller, clearly well versed in subway riding. The strangers squished together like sardines, of whom she could only see their legs and back for the most part. Occasionally a friendly adult would play peek-a-boo, hiding their face in their hands or behind a leather portfolio they were carrying. For the most part, however, this little girl entertained herself. She had an orange sweatshirt that she was carrying on her lap. It was muggy and much too warm for a sweatshirt. She easily converted it into a toy that amused her for most of the ride. She was fascinated by the snaps on the garment and tenaciously examined each one with her fingers, mouth and eyes. The hood, which had no snaps on it, confused her when she grasped it. But she kept moving the shirt through her fingers, knowing that the snaps would reappear. When they did, she was delighted. Her face lit up with self- satisfaction. After these two incidents I began to think about how skilled young people are at observing what is in front of them and how adults, so wrapped up in distractions, often cannot see things that are right before their eyes. What can children tell us about art? Children can show us how to be in the present, like no one else can. They cry when they are hungry, they laugh when something is funny and they sleep when they are tired. If something does not make sense to them (like the little girl looking for the snaps on the sweatshirt) they persist until they have an answer that they are satisfied with. The lesson? Let yourself explore something until you are satisfied with what you find. The quickest way to simplify the art process is to get in touch with your five senses. To really observe things fully, an artist should see, feel, touch, taste and smell something until it becomes intimately familiar before trying to render it or write about it.
Photo credit: Julia Courtney Merry-go-round, St. Tropez, France