“Tia! Paint with me!” My four-year-old niece Natalia grabs my hand and looks up at me intensely with beautiful, big eyes, brushing unruly curls out of her face.
It had been already quite a long day of fun kid stuff I planned; Chic-fil-a! Rangers game! The Legos store! We were tired – well I was. Now I just wanted to crash on the couch and watch mindless tv.
I ask her if she’d be cool with drawing, which I suggest is similar to painting. She shakes her head no.
“I want to PAINT. And, I want you to paint with me!”
She climbs up into the chair at my art desk and waits, keenly watching me. I remove an unfinished watercolor that’s sat for months, select paper and brushes, clean my dusty paint pallet. But she’s looking at me like I forgot something.
“Tia,” she sighs. “Sit DOWN!”
I realize I’ve got to actually, really do this. I pull up a chair beside her and sit my butt down. She smiles
First. We dip our brushes in water and choose our colors. Red for me; blue & green for her.
The moment my brush touches paper, I feel it; that magical flow of color and light. The creative release, taste of freedom, ripple of delight. We let colors flow, no rules, relaxed. We are caught up in the moment of our mini art collaboration. I realize, we are having fun.
About ten minutes later, my sister picks her up and I am home alone, staring at a beautiful abstract painting, which Natalia titled without any hesitation, Sea Sausages.
Those few minutes instantly transformed into a happy memory. Something cool we did. The moment encapsulated what I am passionate about; children, art, personal connection- and I didn’t even want to do it at first.
Kids really do have the right idea with creativity. If they were speaking in adult they would say:
“Stop running around doing shit you hate doing and do something fun! Five minutes & then you can quit, that’s what I do! You don’t have to do it perfectly. I promise you’ll be glad you did it!”
It’s not like I don’t come up with a ton of creative ideas, but I usually turn them into painful chores I imagine will take hours and require perfection. Guess it’s the adult in me. I’m working on that.
You and I both know it ain’t ever gonna be the right time. Also, I’ll never have all my to do’s checked off and a perfect window of time to start.
Since that evening, I keep remembering her little voice exclaiming “Paint with me! Sit down!” So I’ll try something new for a few minutes, then forget it again. Not as bound to the idea it has to be freaking amazing. I tried painting abstractly while talking on the phone with a friend. I tried a backwards cart wheel at the gym. Both things turned out awkward, but they were fun and different.
Approaching a creative idea as a child is way easier than the “adult” way, and it’s so much lighter, and fun. I can even laugh at myself when it doesn’t turn out “right,” plus I have the rest of the day to be serious and adult about shit.
“Shitty first drafts,” “just five minutes,” “practice not perfection,” “start small,” “something small is better than nothing at all”….