Let Them Create (Art)

March 20, 2020

I’ve hoarded art supplies for years.

It started when I received a Lisa Frank sticker collection. (It was the 90s, after all.) The stickers, bold and beautiful, sat on their sheets. I would pull them out and admire them, but I wouldn’t add them to any art project. They were too precious.

It was different for my set of 96 Crayola crayons. I not only admired this art collection, but I used it! The set had every color from neons to pastels. (It even had a crayon sharpener!) The colors included names like “macaroni and cheese” for the yellowy-orange crayon and “tickle-me pink.” I believed that I was the envy of my fifth-grade class, but I doubt that I was. That award might have gone to my friend, who owned a set of Mr. Sketch scented markers. (So cool!) Either way, my set of crayons stayed with me until way past my first year of marriage.

A couple of years into my marriage, my nieces and nephew came to visit for an extended holiday. I pulled out the crayons, thinking they would love an artistic outlet. Then, I left the room. Within a couple of minutes, crayons were everywhere. My floor was littered with broken crayons and peeled crayon paper. I looked at my sister-in-law with horror. “Welcome to life with kids,” she said.  

Lesson learned.

So when my son was old enough to reach for art supplies, I made art into a shared family event. I retrieved the supplies out of the art box. I taught my son how to replace the supplies when we were done. I supervised.

Yes, I finally relinquished the Lisa Frank stickers, but I kept the art mess at a minimum. It was a controlled environment.

Many years and one more kid later . . . .

It was a sunny morning, and I was itching to write. My son was in school, and I needed something to keep my toddler daughter occupied for at least 20 more minutes.

“Would you like to paint?” I asked.

She nodded. I pulled out the art supplies and set up our big canvas. I positioned my computer so I could still see her as she painted to her heart’s content.

Even though she was in full view, I got more and more engrossed in my own word project. 20 minutes flew by. Then another ten.

My momma radar perked as I noticed my daughter was very quiet. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the open art box. I realized I had neglected to move it.

I didn’t want to look. I knew the mom freak-out that would ensue as I saw the mess. My writing project was still calling my name. Just a couple more words. A couple more sentences . . . .

When I finally looked, what I saw was not the mess.

(Yes, there was a massive mess of supplies. Ink pads stained with the wrong color of ink, tape tangled, the glue lid off. You can imagine the destruction of a curious two-year-old.)

What I noticed, though, was the concentration in my daughter’s eyes. The joy as she showed me her creation.

Her journey of art discovery created joy. (Even in the mess.) I snapped a photo.

Let Them Create (Art) Charleston Moms
The mess.

Our culture consumes, consumes, consumes. Instead, let’s create.

Release the imagination.

Pull out the art supplies.

Let the house show that we have kids.  

Remember, it’s about the process, not the final product.

Next time I might limit her access to fewer supplies. And, I’ll still help her clean up after herself and show her how to take care of the supplies we have.

But I’m reformed.

I will no longer hoard art supplies.

I will no longer hoard art supplies.

I will no longer hoard art supplies.

Art supplies are for creating, not just for looking.

I’ll save my looking for the famous art in museums, not my favorite art supplies. Instead, I’ll watch the joy on my children’s faces as they create.

Priceless.

Let Them Create (Art) Charleston Moms
Concentrating on the art process in a Loblolly class. Picture by Rachel Konstanty.