Art: it’s about the process


We have an old dresser that we don’t need anymore for clothing storage. So, over the past several months, I have crammed it full of artwork. Of the preschool genre, of course. Construction paper and stickers and glitter spring out if you so much as touch a handle on any of its drawers. And though I love a hyperbole like none other, this is no exaggeration. Occasionally, M makes the mistake of opening one of the drawers, most often, I’m sure, in search of something. Oddly, it seems he is never searching for a dozen sheets of finger painting paper displaying our daughter’s hand and feet prints in every primary color.

So odd.painting on an easel

These mistakes of his are always followed by the same ‘talk.’

“So… that dresser up there…”

“Mmm hmm?”

“It’s really full again.”

“Yeah. It is.”

He always pauses here. As if deciding whether or not to say what we all know he will say next.

“When are you gonna clean it out?”

This usually devolves into me delivering a long winded list of all of the things I have to do on any given day followed by him encouraging me to plan a time on our shared calendar and he will help and take the kids.

And, usually a few days later, I concede that he is right. The drawers should be cleaned out. Again. And I let the kids play on my bedroom floor while I weed through five drawers of creation. I make a few piles. The absolutely keep pile. The, yes, ok, this can go pile. The, this isn’t exactly a keeper but there may be a use for this someday as decoration or wrapping paper pile.

halloween arts and crafts

The first time I ever made a ‘this can go’ pile, it broke my heart. I had harbored a dream that I’d keep every scrap of paper that my daughter ever graced with a crayon. It felt of supreme importance to me to preserve that work, those creations. And it felt so wrong to dispose of them.

She worked hard on each and every one of those pieces of art. Because when we are young, we put our all into everything we do. Heart and soul, though tender and innocent, are there in it all. And it’s all exploration. In every scribble, every swipe of paint, every arrangement of stickers, she is working through something.

Last Fall, when she first started school, her favorite thing to do was play with stickers. We’d set her up with a stack of construction paper and a pile of foam stickers in various shapes, colors, and sizes, and she’d be happy for hours, arranging the stickers in elaborate designs. Sometimes she’d create borders, long chains of stickers arranged around the page. Sometimes the placement would seem more haphazard, a circle here and a square there and a heart over there. But for each one, she had a plan and she’d ask me to find specific shapes or colors for her.

sticker art

And then she’d get lost in the peeling and the placing. It was almost like meditation for her – the way some find calm amidst the chaos if they can rest their hands on a pair of knitting needles or a paintbrush. Her world last fall was marked by upheaval after upheaval. And stickers were her rock.

Still, hours and hours of sticker play does result in dozens and dozens of sticker creations. Add to that the stacks of artwork that come home from preschool, the masterpieces she creates on her easel, the daily exercises of drawing flowers and balloons and people and the regular practice at writing her name and her brother’s name… Oh and of course, now that baby boy is rounding the corner towards one, we’ve started this….

baby boy and paint

Suddenly we’re drowning in paper.

As a writer and creator of sorts, I often find myself sitting and staring and trying to dream up an end product. I rarely sit down to begin until I know exactly what I want my work to produce when it’s done. And even if the point of my post shifts a I write or the contours of my drawing morph into something different as I move pencil across paper, I still create with an eye sharply focused on the end. And sometime, because of that, I miss the journey.

And sometimes, that’s ok. Sometimes I need to just produce. Sometimes we all do.

But sometimes, it’s just about the process. The discovery. Sometimes the end product is really just by product. It exists, but it’s not the main point.

The main point is that she had an urge to create and she did. That she was running around like a kid on sugar and I asked her to be calm so she opened up a coloring book and grabbed a crayon and seconds later, there was peace. She is learning how to work through emotions and events and she is learning to express herself creatively. These things are amazing and beautiful and I don’t need a slip of paper to remind me that this is happening. I see it in her everyday.

So this afternoon, I’ll let the kids play on the floor in my bedroom while I work my way through five drawers of end product. And then I’ll hug my little girl and marvel at the artist she is becoming.


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