One morning last week, a co-worker (I very much adore and respect) was beaming in my office. She was showing off her grandson’s very small painting, which was also, somehow, some way, a sticker she had placed on the exterior of her checkbook.
To be honest, the 5-year-old’s work wasn’t bad, neatly colored in the lines, with good color choices, and I was delighted that she showed it to me.
Then, she went on to say how the boy is always doing creative things – like coloring, painting, drawing, and making things – at home. I responded by sharing my excitement in seeing a child so young discovering the joys of art and creativity, how lucky he was to have this early proclivity to it. His parents, too …
… At least I thought so.
It was a very friendly conversation but it soon took a turn for the worst, at least for me. She made it very clear that she’d rather see him take interest in things he could actually use and do one day.
Say what? I thought. The kid is five.
It was too early in the morning for this. Way too early.
Then, I told her that was the problem with this close-minded, left-brained-dominant society we live in, and showed her/told her about the BOOMER article from the Feb-March issue about artist John Barber. He was told in the most critical years of his life that making a living from art was preposterous, absurd, bad idea.
So he listened to all those negative voices kicking down his own dreams, and eventually took a job in the corporate world. (Nothing wrong with doing that, either.) Only years later, many years later, he realized all those naysayers (mostly art educators) were never artists themselves, never cared about nurturing his craft or his talents – and were basically projecting onto him their own insecurities, inadequacies, negativity and undying selfishness. (OK, the story didn’t really include all of that, but I can imagine; it really gets me streamed, OK.)
He’s since quit his job and has recently sold a painting for $50,000. That’s certainly more than most art teachers in public schools make in the first 10-15 years of their career, at least. At least in Chesterfield County. But that’s an issue for another day. He’s now making a good life and a good living from doing exactly what others were convinced was a child’s fantasy.
“My art teacher in high school and my department head in college,” he says in the article, “didn’t quite get it right.”
‘A puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king’
And I’m not talking about kids only doing creative, artistic things. I mean anything. Whether they long to be a doctor, a musician, an artist, an actor, a meteorologist, an editor, a lawyer, or a marine biologist …
Not every kid has to be a Mozart-like prodigy to be worthy of your encouragement.
But tell them they can do anything. Because they can — and you have that choice, too. (I’m actually very worried about the number of people who’ve actually told kids they can’t be an astronaut or a doctor if they want to be one. It’s frightening.)
Everyday people really are making a living from their art, their writing, the clothes they design, the buildings they draw and help create, and the music they play and record. Many of these people I’m talking about are living pretty good lives in the Richmond area.
A little compassion goes a long way
And remember – I’m not too far removed from the point in my life where I can understand how impressionable we are in childhood. Take that how you want … but our children (of the world) have an entire life to live, a big world to explore. Life gets hard enough, and it knocks us down time after time.
But – even as we figure out most things ourselves – it never hurts to have someone stop along the way and take a minute to explain something good and real to us. To encourage us. Same goes for a youngin’.
So, please, stop hindering children – tell them they can be anything the want to be they grow up … because they can.