My five-year-old could do that!

Drawing by a child, of a person wearing an orange dress and purple hair. Done in felt pen on a piece of crumpled paper. With the words "My five year old could do that!" and the address underneath

Yes, and isn’t that wonderful.

Think about the five-year-old who did this painting. She was telling the story about me coming to visit. “This shape here is Aunty”, my niece explains, concentrating fully on the job at hand. “And here is her suitcase. I’m happy Aunty is here, so the dress is this colour because it’s my favourite”. (I was wearing grey. It was winter. I remember it clearly.)

She gave me the picture, smiling. Did I step into the role of “experienced artist and arts-educator”? Did I tell her all the things she could have done better? Of course not. I loved what she’d done. She’s almost 21 now, but I cherish that painting to this very day.

As artists it’s easy to see what’s wrong with our artwork. This can be productive. It means we can improve. But it can also be destructive. Too much criticism slows down our enthusiasm for taking chances. If we need to be perfect before we start, it sort of defeats the purpose of learning new things.

I believe that art is the doing part of the process, as well as the result. In my business it’s a lot about the result, but I feel happy every time I stand at the easel, so it’s worth it. And for every time read, most of the time. It’s not all beer and skittles being a full-time professional artist. But when I’m in my happy place the bad times fade.

Painting like a five-year-old

My niece, that day was playing, not working.

Her focus was about the story she was telling, not worrying if the result would be good enough. She used the materials she had, not proper “art” gear. Her own colours and symbols told the story rather than what was “actually” there.

She celebrated what she’d done, without judgment, by sharing it with me.

Something to aspire to?

Perhaps we should all try to paint like five-year-olds. Let go of expectation, planning, judgement. Paint for the sheer joy of making a mark. Now that sounds productive.

From the cheap shop buy a small canvas and 2 tubes of kid’s paint – your favourite colour + white.
At home, mix the paints into three jars creating three different colours.
Your job will be to get paint onto canvas, in various ways, with pleasing results.
Use an old toothbrush, a stick, a plastic fork.
Splash, daub, dribble, stamp. Play.
Vary your approach – left hand, upside down, other brushes, a rag or sponge.
Notice when you’re feeling happy or relaxed.
When you feel you’ve done enough, stop.
If you show someone, ask for encouragement, or only share with people who will encourage you.
Celebrate your success. Remember that the finished work is only part of the story.

First Published

A page from a magazine with the content of this blog laid out as it was published, with artist photo in top corner and illustration near the top.
First Published in St Carthage’s Home Care “Life!” Spring, 2019


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