I check in on the New York Times Art And Design section every week or so. A few days ago, I saw an article on a tile project with the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in conjunction with area schools and scout troops. The article was announcing the ribbon cutting ceremony for the project; a trail of tiles along the waterfront of Delftware inspired designed by children.
The simplicity and innocence of children’s art is inspiring. The sophistication of a professional artist is remarkable to training and skills – both of which children carry on quite effortlessly without.
When my boys were little, we would set aside time to draw, paint, cut, glue, something…anything creative. My oldest son loved to draw. As a young child he would create images without the confines of proportion, spacial relationship or perspective. The lines were unrefined as determined by yet developed fine motor skills. As such, they were captivating in their intent to define an object, describe an image.
My youngest preferred painting to drawing. Never hesitating in his approach, the colored shapes and lines created by the cheap brush were energetic and playful.
The marks of a child are reflective of their innocence. I’d like my work to capture some of these qualities: the enthusiasm, the intent, even the awkward gestures. But, finding a way to express those characteristics with some integrity is more difficult once there is some level of understanding in visual communication. As adult artists we are a bit educated, or maybe jaded, by the world. It’s a little like trying not to read the words in a sentence once you’ve learned to read.
One approach I’ve tried in an attempt to create those child-like marks is to remove myself by degrees from the work. Not like the anti-art of the Dadaist. More along the lines of using what I know within the confines of a process that I lack as much control. For instance, when I work on paper drawings/sketches for clay pieces, I use familiar materials; tools which I have achieved some mastery. But, when I apply these images onto clay, I use a sponge and a bucket of water. Many variables remove my sense of mastery here! It can be as challenging as a child learning to write for the first time.