Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Conversations in Art

KNM-Michaela dandelion

This morning, I taught art. To children. It went something like this...

I sit on the floor. Kids around me, pressing in. I ask, what is art? The answers begin where I expect... pictures, sculptures, drawings. Is that it, I ask. My own kids have seen the books which are still hidden in my bag— Goldsworthy, who planted seedlings in stone (the namesake of this blog) at the Jewish Museum in New York City. So my Littlest says art can be things you find. Sticks, leaves, molded, used.

Art is beauty, says another child. It's pretty, someone adds. No, says another, not always. Sometimes art is sad. Or scary! You can get stuck in art in your dreams. Art makes you feel things, says a boy who thinks he is bad at art. Yes, I say, it does.

What can you use to make art, I ask. Paints, pastels, they say. How about water, I ask. Can you use water? One boy says, water color! And ice sculpture, adds another boy triumphantly. Yes, I say. Snow men. Yes, I say again. Waterfalls. Hmmm... that's God's art, I say. Let me show you a man who uses water to create art, I say, as I pull out the books on Goldsworthy.

Oh! Look! That's... How?! Look! They all talk at once, relating to this art that uses things any child can find. Reeds, rushes, thorns, icicles, dirt, stones, sticks. The boy who thinks he is bad at art says, I can build things that other people can't when I'm outside. A smile spreads slowly across his face. His eyes are intense in this moment. Yes, I say, you can.

Then we begin. And every child finds he is an artist.

Photo by L.L. Barkat: Michaela's "Dandelion Seeds in Silver Bowl."


Additional pieces are at Green Inventions Central.


This week's book club discussion at Ted's place Christmas Coal: shame


Scroll to the bottom of Sam's Breathtaking Poem for some great art quotes.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post on art.
How blessed to get to discuss art with children.
My own daughter declares she wants to be an artist when she grows up - as she is now. I bit my tongue to stay my response (better be good or you'll starve).
Instead I told her she already creates great art and has an excellent eye for color, scale and composition.
I told her that if she wants to work as an artist and creates art like it's a gift to God she can't go wrong.
And who told the boy he was a "bad" artist? I'm happy you showed him the truth. Would we all could encourage children instead of stomp down their sandcastles of self-esteem.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Very cool Laura. Thanks for sharing that.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Love it! I used to discuss art with my junior highers right before we started poetry. I loved to shock them with the notion that we are all creative--even the jock who can create "poetry in motion" as he drives to the basket.

Fun stuff. How great you had the chance to impart this truth to little ones.


5:16 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

How very encouraging.

Oh, and speaking of water... the water behind Sara's art turned your photo into a self-portrait, didn't it?

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's beautiful. Unstifled creativity.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

What a neat picture! And what a good time you had with those children. I'm even thinking that I too could be an artist. Just a little imagination with all that God has given us. And wow. It is good to have those who are especially gifted in artistry, like Bezalel, as I recall, in the Old Testament.

We all have creativity in us somehow, from the Creator, starting with the fact that each of us are an original to begin with. No one can contribute as each one of us can.

That pic does give me hope as I never excelled in art, though I still remember enjoying the colors in the water painting we did. Maybe a big part of my trouble was that I thought mine had to be like this or that, and I couldn't just let go and explore and learn to express creativity in that way.

But I'm just meandering here on something that to this day, I feel stultified in.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Llama Momma said...

Beautiful. I love it!

9:57 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Sam... I like what you told your daughter. As for who told the boy he was a bad artist, I think children who are trained up on Renoir and so forth can feel they have no way to do this thing called "art". This is why I spend a lot of time showing kids things like landscape art, abstract art, modern art. They find a way in more easily. They think, "I could do that."

Andrea... you're welcome. Be sure to check out E's piece on Green Inventions.

Becky... oh, I like that idea of being poetry in motion. And I also like the idea of beginning with art as a bridge to poetry. I wonder if my visits this week to some D.C. art galleries will inspire me again in poetry!

Craver... are you saying... hmmm. Well. I have been known to be blurry at times (but really, there's no reflection of me in the water).

Heather... it was REALLY refreshing. The kids just kept getting more and more ideas, more and more confidence. I loved it.

Ted... yes. I was sure to tell the kids that I'm better at assembling things than drawing things. To highlight the idea that we all come into artful expression with our own ways and talents. I do believe there is too much emphasis on drawing and painting as art. Today, our goal was to use water! (See Green Inventions for some other tries with this medium.)

10:05 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Llama... you sneaked in. :) Thanks for the "amen" on this project!

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful lesson. And I loved the pictures on GIC. Thanks for sharing.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

Teaching children or introducing them to a new experience is a wonderful thing isn't it?

The joy, the wonder, the eager discovery of new experiences - there's no substitute for it.

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff............I am a sculptures manufacturer supplier and looking for partners globally. If any one interest please contact me through this website.

12:32 AM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

LOVE THIS! thanks for writing about this time of discovery.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this kind of approach to art helps us look at our own lives and piece together the bits and scraps into something wonderful. What a wonderful lesson, LL, for us all!

7:25 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Spaghetti... quite welcome! We had a great time doing this. It really drew our creativity to the surface.

Every Square... yes. And, honestly, I feel it is they who also teach me. To play, to extend, to laugh and wonder.

Alan... welcome. Come and sculpt with us! :)

23... As always, when I write of art, I thought of you. What is your favorite way to open your creativity? Also, I wanted to say that this conversation was of course much longer. The kids also asked if music was art, and if being on stage was art. We talked about how we can embody art. It was a great conversation.

Charity... oh, a parable for life! Thank you for bringing that up. :)

9:02 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

This is just awesome. NO greater pleasure I think than helping children embrace beauty and realize their own sense of creativity. I used to teach art, mostly junior high. I loved watching the boys take pleasure in their creativity.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Beautiful post, LL. My oldest used to love drawing...and then one day another kid convinced him that he was "bad" at it. At which point he decided that he had no artistic ability. We've been working on teaching that creativity and art come in countless forms. And that each heart holds a capacity for art -- appreciating it and creating it.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Gorgeous photo, and wonderful words. Thanks!

11:48 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

Ooooh, lovely!

This post takes me back. I taught art to girls labeled "emotionally disturbed" for a couple of years. For me, it was huge fun to introduce them to "fine art" and supplies they would never have a chance to use elsewhere in their tumultuous lives where home a place called "group" and painful memories outnumbered good ones. They produced some really amazing pieces. We even set up an "Art Show" with all of the adults in their lives invited to see their work displayed on the school walls. I still have several of them that were given to me as gifts over the years.

There are many high callings in life, but I think one of the highest must be to give the gift of expression to little ones who have so much to offer if anyone will just look or listen.


12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL-I love that you opened these young innocent eyes to their creativity, which is so primal to who God made us.

Gotta say though, that "art" these days seems to be getting streched and contorted beyond recognition. I look at some public sculpture and am confounded by its display. What is it? What does it mean? What special skill or gift went into conceiving and constructing it? How is it beautiful or true or evocative?

I wonder, how do you distinguish between art and absurdity? I guess that's another day's blog. Today, it is enough that you've inspired these children to marvel at God's creativity and to revel in their own.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

ahhhhhhh, a r t ! !

6:52 PM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

And you, L.L., inspire us all, us unsure ones. Maybe us too.

(I del.icio.us-ed this post--rich.)

2:23 PM  
Blogger Simply Authentic said...

This gave me goosebumps. How wonderful to open the eyes of these children to the fact that we all are artists. Nicely done!

2:49 PM  
Blogger Kim said...


c h
r i
a t r e
e u
c t

be far behind?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

big smile

7:33 PM  
Blogger Shosannah said...

I love discussing art with kids. They are so open to exploration.
Art is everywhere! Inside all things there is a piece of art
An inspiring post!

6:16 AM  
Blogger Ric Booth said...


Thanks for this post. It must have been exciting to witness the truth of creative gifting dawning on their faces. I found you through Sam's blog and what a blessing.

8:14 AM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

Laura, I have been thinking about your question for a while, and I think my favorite way that I "open my creativity" is when I draw and paint with my daughter: my mind and heart fly like at no other time. Everything is new, there are no expectations, just raw, fun expression.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good joB! :)

11:51 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home