Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Boys Do

Recently someone asked me about "rainy day" ideas for kids.  I named a few standards - board games; a movie; a read-a-thon.  Then I gave slightly more unique ideas, like creating "buildings" with cubed brownies for bricks and frosting for mortar. Finally, I said, "Or you could just convert the kitchen into an art studio and let them create whatever they wanted.  You could do something open-ended, or you could give them a set project with materials."  She kind of chuckled and said, "Well, what would the boys do?"

What would the boys do? 

I suppose these comments amuse me more than anger me these days.  But my heart still sinks a little, to hear of another stereotype being voiced about boys and their seeming lack of creative ability or interest.  I am tired and weary of hearing about what boys can't do, don't like, won't appreciate.  When I was young, if I heard something that even vaguely suggested at something can't, don't, or won't, I interpreted it as a dare and set my jaw in determination to prove otherwise. Cases in point:

I took piano for several years.  One teacher I had insisted that the girls curtsey and the boys bow at the end of their recital performance.  Born a feminist, I railed against this requirement and threatened not to participate in the recital at all, unless I was allowed to bow.  My mother pleaded my case to the teacher (who was, to put it mildly, unmoved and unwavering), reasoned with me as best she could, and finally hinted that perhaps I might find some middle ground.  After playing a round of the Suzuki twinkle variations in a way that was "almost perfect" (my piano teacher's words) I stood by the baby grand and delivered a half curtsy, half bow before taking my seat... and switching to flute.

As a sophomore in high school, I was given the assignment to develop a persuasive speech on a topic of my choice, except I could not talk about any truly "hot" topics, such as gun control, the death penalty, abortion, and the like.  And so what topic did I choose?  Freedom of speech and censorship, with an opening paragraph describing all the hot topics I wanted to talk about, but was denied the right to do so.  It was ballsy, and I was convinced it would get me thrown out of class or that I'd earn a failing grade.  I got a standing ovation from my peers, and an A+ from my teacher, which admittedly made it feel less ballsy, but still - don't tell me what I can't do.
And so with what will the boys do? still echoing in my mind, I transformed our kitchen once again into an art studio, switching out potholders for paints and coffemakers for canvases. 

After discussing several options in terms of composition and technique (keeping in mind I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to art), I guided Leo and Aidan into thinking deliberately about what they wanted to paint, planning it out and essentially "drafting" their work.  

(For a little self-confidence of my own, I consulted this website several times.  I love her ideas, but as a relative non-artist, her stuff can be a little intimidating.  I mean, come on - her house has a REAL art studio.  Not a kitchen that she converts for the afternoon.) 

Armed with plans and ideas, we set to work:

I knew I would have to be quick and be smart with Pax. Usually, Pax paints a gorgeous array of color, only to smear it together in one final swoop of the brush and turn every inch of his paper a decisive shade of brown.  This time, I offered only one color at a time, letting him choose which paints he wanted to use.  Between colors, I surreptitiously blasted the canvas with a quick shot of warm air from my hair drier, which Pax eventually accepted as all part of the painting process, since occasionally, the older boys required a quick dry as well.  Pax worked for a solid hour and a half on his canvas and, it seems, would have continued on for hours more had I not needed to cook dinner.   

Leo decided on combining techniques, first painting, then later outlining with sharpie marker. He was very set on his composition (his loveys, Flat Cat and Flat Lion, plus a selfie thrown in at the end).  I gave him very little structure or guidance, but did offer tips and suggestions along the way, especially when he seemed to falter a little (the grass, for example, looks pretty awesome after just one small suggestion on how to work the paintbrush).  He worked primarily in acrylics, and didn't do much mixing of paints.  I love the perspective he used for this painting - the loveys are walking with their backs to the viewer, seemingly into the warmth of the sun and the rainbow.  His selfie, the red figure, is skipping away sideways, happy to be life-sized with Flat Cat and Flat Lion.

Aidan had planned from the start to do a Tree of Life, and wanted to use his liquid watercolors for the background. He worked for a total of three different sessions on his canvas, and the end result is positively gorgeous.  In phase 1, he painted the background, mixing colors and shades, varying intensity and hues.  For a boy who loves process, this was an ideal project for him. 

In phase 2, he created a template for his Tree of Life.  I traced his hands for him, but then he did the rest of the work:  shaping the fingers into tree branches; adding a sturdy trunk; curling the branches at the end.  He cut out the template and traced it onto the dried canvas. 

In Phase 3, he filled in his outline first with solid black acrylic paint, and then a second coat with a sheer black fine glitter acrylic paint.  The finished product:

 So - What will the boys do?

They'll do this:

1 comment:

gthiele said...

Wow!! Love this...the art work is amazing and your references to Suzuki piano make me laugh out loud!