Honestly, sometimes it makes a giant mess. Elements I spent hours working on can quickly get covered with pink flowers and drawings of little girls or giant scribbles. I try to leave much of what they add and incorporate it into my final design. My “Ships Passing in the Night” painting (below) has Lucy’s (5 y/o) versions of sea creatures at the bottom, “Ferocious” is covered with Harriet’s (2 y/o) scribbles.
So why do I let my kids paint on my artwork? It is something I have been very purposeful about and is a meaningful element in our story. Here are some of the reasons behind my process:
1. Letting go of control. I love how by letting my children add to my pieces it adds an element of chaos. It forces me to be open to directions that I had not planned. When I intend for a piece to be a certain way and then my daughter adds a giant splotch of pink in the corner, I have to learn to be flexible. It forces me to think creatively about where the piece I am painting is meant to go.
2. Balancing motherhood and being a working artist is hard. Finding time to paint (or for that matter do a load of laundry) is difficult to say the least. It has been a priority of mine to find ways to keep fostering my own creative voice and growing as an artist. One of the ways I found to make that happen is to let my kids paint along side me when I paint – whether on their own projects or on mine. (This does lead to lots of messes, which sometimes doesn’t feel worth it, but I figure in 10 years I won’t remember the mess)
3. I genuinely love what they add. Whether it is tiny doodles drawn on the backside of the canvases, or drawings they have done that I collage in, there is something beautifully refreshing about the way kids draw. Their sense of line is so free. Kids draw the way they live life – free from inhibition. I think it’s a fun little surprise that when you buy one of my originals you will often find a sweet little drawing on the backside as well.
4. Getting unstuck. When I can’t figure out what to do next, or why something is not working, letting two little hands come in and shake things up can be amazingly freeing. Whether it helps me realize which elements were most important or introduces fresh ideas, when my kids add to my canvases, change and movement is inevitable.
5. Because it is true. This crazy whirlwind that I live in right now with a five-year-old, an almost 3-year-old, and the new baby on the way, is part of the story I am creating art about. For me making art is a process of sharing what’s true and what moves you. Hopefully, within that there are some universal truths to be found that others connect with and are moved by as well. I let my kids into my artistic process because it is a true representation of my story right now. I believe in including them into my art rather than separating them from what I do.
If you’d like to see the finished pieces from Almanac No. 1, they’re all here.
For more artistic inspiration, here is a link to another mother-daughter collaboration that I think is awesome!