On Making Art & Letting It Simmer

In my parent’s basement, throughout my entire childhood, my mom had a Norman Rockwell print pinned to the wall. Beneath it was the caption, “Patience is a virtue.” I never really understood.

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Then, I started teaching. I found, after a few

years, a deep patience that I could access. This was a skill. It had a lot to do with breathing.

Then, I had kids. I started to understand the expression a little bit more.

It has made its way into my art, too.

Patience is a virtue. The reality of making art is that sometimes – no, oftentimes – making art is really hard. It’s the most joy-filling, happy-making, soul-calming experience, but it isn’t always easy. It doesn’t just flow. What most artists know, that most non-artists don’t, is that making art is a skill, and not a talent. It isn’t a faucet to turn on, and it isn’t always waiting for you to access.

BookBearLifestylePhoto1What I have learned, over the years, is that letting it simmer is really important. It’s easy to jump to a conclusion and say, “I’m done!” when a piece isn’t really finished. It’s equally as easy to jump to a conclusion and say, “It’s terrible! I’m done with it!” when a piece isn’t cooperating.

There are a limited number of outcomes that I have found, and letting the pieces simmer almost always leads to a more favourable outcome. They include:

  • disappointment with a piece, when jumping to conclusions
  • a missed opportunity with a piece, when jumping to conclusions
  • a fresh view when revising a piece that has simmered for a day or week or month
  • the acknowledgement that the piece was a learning experience, thus thanking the piece and moving on without feeling the need to fix and finish it
  • a settled feeling upon revisiting a simmering piece, which ultimately leads to the feeling of completion without actually have to touch it

The last one is my favourite experience, but more often than not, I find that with fresh eyes I can see what needs to be worked on, and with a fresh state of mind am able to do that. Knowing when to breathe and walk away requires as much artistic skill as knowing how to balance and coordinate the colours, or any other aspect of building a piece of great art.

Below is an example of a time I felt settled upon revisiting the piece several days later. I believe, when I left it the last time I worked on it, I said to my critique partner, “It’s terrible! I am so annoyed and I don’t think I’m even an artist. Why is his face so terrible? No, don’t tell me because I don’t want to fix it! This will be a learning piece of art and I’m moving on.” I am sure my meltdown included more colourful language. Of course, after revising the piece and looking at the printed version in daylight caused a pause in me, where I sat back and thought, Oh. I was wrong. I actually quite like this. And it is finished.

Patience, whether it be in dealing with difficult humans or difficult art, is most certainly a virtue.

 

For more of my work, please visit www.patrickguindon.com
or visit me on Facebook & Instagram @patrickguindonart

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10 Ways To Bring Art To Your Creative Baby

So often we turn to Pinterest for ideas on what to do with our babies. That’s okay. That’s fine. I do it, too.

A quick Pinterest search for Crafts for Kids reveals uncreative, cookie-cutter projects. Shocking.
A quick Pinterest search for Crafts for Kids reveals uncreative, cookie-cutter projects. Shocking.

But … there’s more to life than crafts. 

And there’s more to creativity than crafts. In most cases, crafting requires little to no creativity.

What’s the answer, then? How do we bring art to our children? I have ten ideas, in no particular order:

  1. Finger paint. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. I loved doing this when I was little, and I still use the technique in some of my artwork now.11401018_10101094147962231_2531331046250198529_n
  2. Chalk surfaces. We have an old coffee table that’s been repurposed with chalk paint. We also have several chalk boards. These are great ways to let Kingsley explore making marks without having a million pieces of paper around.

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  3. Nature printing
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  4. Take photos together. Tie in the art aspect by talking about things like the colors and shapes in the photos.

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  5. Show him or her artwork. When Kingsley was five days old, he came home. That night, I started to show him the paintings in his bedroom. Could he really see them? No, not really. Did he know what they were? Nope. But, by introducing these and continuously showing him the art, he started to show signs of interest and he was drawn to certain paintings as time went on, most likely based on the level of contrast in the artwork on the walls. We still spend time looking at art, photographs and exploring the pictures in books as pieces of art.

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  6. Read picture books. They have so many beautiful pieces of art, that they are really very affordable art galleries. Talk about this.

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  7. Play dough. Whether it’s the brand name stuff, or the home made stuff, digging into this is fun, not permanent, and stimulates so much thinking, problem solving, creative form making, and more.
  8. Keep a Kid Sketch Book nearby. Kingsley loves my sketch books. He loves them so much that I have stopped using one of them as my own and let him scribble in it while I draw. Usually, we do this simultaneously and he sits on my lap. I talk to him about what I am doing, and I identify what he is doing.

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    We followed the paint activity with a bath. A very long, fun bath! (We even sang while I played the ukulele as he splashed around!) There were a few minutes left until supper, so he sketched.

  9. Craft. WHAT!?!?! No, I’m not talking about the garbage that you see on Pinterest, that is pre-determined. I mean, find a bunch of craft supplies, and let them go to town. Kingsley isn’t there yet, but I am certain that we’re not far away from crafting creatively.
  10. Color Code. This is a common play-based kindergarten approach, and it’s fabulous for a reason. Pick a colour, and then go on a hunt (WITH the kid, of course) for items that are this color. Create a 3D collage or even just a collection of all of these items that are the same color. If you make a collage, glue it together and put it up for a bit! If you make a collection (because you aren’t into gluing the table cloth onto a poster board), then take a photo, have it printed and add it an album of color collections!

    Challenge your kid to be the person who creates the crafts, rather than the person who just makes their own version of the craft they saw a picture of.

You don’t need to limit ART to just crafts, or to just making. It’s about consumption and exposure as much as it is about creating.

Now go out and get creative!

Book Review: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!

Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neil is a stunning piece of art.

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Just look at this cover. How could you not buy it? How could you not fall in love? If you’re worried that you’re just infatuated, I dare you to open it up and read the story, take in the tremendous artwork, and then you will realize: it’s love.

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I picked it up when Kingsley was just a couple of months old while shopping for some books for school. The stunning use of negative space, bold use of colours and textures, and the depth of artwork was truly what grabbed me. My inner artist was SCREAMING in excitement. This felt fresh and vibrant. I had to have it.

Kingsley, it seems, felt the same.

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At such a young age, he couldn’t really move around, but he could definitely look around. Not many books commanded his attention quite like this one. He was thrilled to see the pictures and giggled when I would recite the chorus: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!Unknown

This is the book I first started to read in true “read aloud” fashion. You see, my wife and I split up our weekends: I get up early on one of the days while she sleeps in (“sleeps in” is a relative idea; 7am instead of 6am is sleeping in!), and then we switch. I usually use this time to read to him, even now that he is a bit over a year. Back then, I would place him in his bouncer and he would stare at the book as I read it. If he was crying, it always stopped him. Gemma O’Neil’s words and artwork saved my sanity more mornings than I can count!

Now that he is a little older, he still loves to interact with the book. He points at the meerkats, birds and monkeys the most. We count them find ways of incorporating math, even though he is too young to grasp concepts. It’s crucial to make this part of his vocabulary and culture, so we do it anyway. There is a spread that says how Geoffrey has so many friends now, he can’t even count them. The page shows off a number of animals, so I model counting them and pointing at each one, and then adding up the birds and the monkeys, and so on. If I was teaching Gr. 1 this year, I would have this in my classroom.

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It is a quick read, with only a line or so on every spread. (For those non-writer/artists of picture books, you may be wondering what I mean: a spread is when a piece of art spreads across two pages. This book is mostly made up of these spreads.) The text is even quirky and curls around the artwork, takes on larger, more bold fonts, and truly engages the reader with the words. It is impossible to read this book in a monotone fashion.

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LOOK AT THIS ART! This is true ART! It could be framed and found in any home and you’d never know it was from a kid’s book, yet it is loose and fun and vibrant. It’s the perfect mix. I’m drooling.

By the end of the book, you’ll fall in love with clumsy Geoffrey and you’ll drop your jaw at the final illustration. It is stunning.

If you only have money for one book this month, make it THIS one. You will NOT regret it.

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Discovering the books in his library. “Oh Dear, Geoffrey” is NOT in this library – it is kept safe in my personal reference library, but brought out very regularly for reading and exploring!

I give this book a totally edible rating, according to the Creative Daddy rating. If I was in the business of giving out awards, I would also award it with the “Saved My Sanity Without Annoying Me Award”.

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See more of Gemma on her website, including process pictures of her picture book dummies (that’s what we call our outlines and storyboards in the story making world): http://gemmaoneill.co.uk

Also check out her Facebook page.

Creative Daddy Rating System:

Edible: It’s so good we want to eat it!

Viewable: It’s good, but we don’t feel the forever-connection to it.

Oncer: We’ll read it once, maybe twice, but it just wasn’t for us.

Meh: Move on.

Reading to Baby: KEEP Reading, Even When You Think They Aren’t Listening

When I first became a Daddy, I expected reading to my baby to be like reading to my class: he would sit and listen. It would include some thinking out loud and, of course since he couldn’t talk at first, I would have a one-sided discussion.

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It would also be like the pictures you see on google when you google images of reading with your kid, or the video clips from movies: child sitting happily in your lap, completely engrossed in the book.

And at first, it was like that. He would sit, and stay, because he couldn’t move. At first, he wasn’t even aware that there was a book, which I had expected, because he was a brand new baby and was putting the world together like the puzzle that it is.

I thought, if I read with him every day then he will just know how to do it.

What I have come to realize is that the definition of knowing how to do it for him is very different than it is for me, a fully formed adult.

I quickly learned that at the very base of reading to your child, you are filling their world with vocabulary. You are reading WORDS and EXPRESSING your voice. You are teaching them how to communicate.

This opened the reading world up.

I12118690_10101208345304841_5625839312682705286_nt was OKAY if he played while I read out loud. He was hearing the words. I would hold the book up “read aloud” style and show him the pages when he was looking. That was okay!

There are times when he wants to sit on us to listen to a book. This is great! And it’s okay too! It’s just as okay as it is when he plays.

There are times when he wants to look at the start of 257 different books. THAT IS AWESOME! He is expressing interest in a book.

Tonight, he took down a book, opened it up and started to babble in a VERY expressive little high pitched voice. He was READING the book TO ME! He even showed me a picture. The total length of this activity was about 32 seconds. He moved on, because he is a just over a year old (I refuse to number him in months after a year – that’s weird)!

Sometimes, he pulls down every book, and picks out one and hands it to me. I start to read it and he points at the biggest shape on the page. Then, he turns and gets another book. We start again. AND THAT IS OKAY.

Why is this rambunctious style of reading okay?

It’s okay because he:

  • hears lots and lots of words
  • hears complete stories at least 1-2 times a day (this happens usually when he is being read to while he plays, although sometimes he starts out listening to the story on my lap)
  • hears my expression
  • hears me wondering out loud about the stories
  • sees me turning pages
  • sees me pointing at words while I read
  • sees me opening the book, and touching the pictures
  • knows that I love books

12106728_10101208345294861_4609005104412785179_nHe demonstrates that he is learning by:

  • pulling down the books … this is his way of saying, “I LOVE BOOKS TOO!”
  • picking out books … this is his way of saying, “READ ME ALL OF THE BOOKS!”
  • turning the pages in the books … this is his way of showing me that he has been watching, and his way of saying, “LOOK DADDY! I CAN TURN PAGES! I can only turn them in big chunks, but my fine motor
    skills are getting stronger!”
  • opening the books … this is his way of showing off more of his finemotor skills and telling me that he knows that when you have a book, you should OPEN IT!
  • “reading” the story to me by babbling as he looks at the pictures
  • pointing at the pictures while I read
  • settling onto my lap while I read, even if it is only for short intervals, even as short as five seconds

12107103_10101208345384681_2296204966621885450_nI thought, if I read with him every day then he will just know how to do it. And clearly, he DOES. It just doesn’t look the same as I expected it to.

I know that when your baby turns away from your reading, it feels a little painful. BUT this does NOT mean that you should STOP reading. It means you should keep reading, because babies and small children learn from everything we say and do.
Lead by example. Just read: read great books and lame books, rhyming books and wordless books, holiday books and serious historical books, big books and little books. If you can read THREE book a day FROM THE DAY THEY ARE BORN (according to Mem Fox, reading guru – and I believe it), then you will have set your child up for success. Readers become leaders.