“Mom! I made you a picture!”
Mom stops what she’s doing and looks at the wild scribbles. There’s definitely a person on that paper, but who they are and what they’re doing is debatable. Mom takes the democratic approach. “Thank you! It’s so colorful! Who is it?”
The artist is slightly offended. “It’s you! See your curly hair?” Mom looks at the wild nest of purple curls on the top of the stick figure and smiles. She finds an unused portion of the refrigerator and puts it up there with the rest of the art.
You were that kid, once, and so was I. It was deeply meaningful to see our work displayed in a public place like the refrigerator. We also knew all too well what it felt like when it didn’t make it up there. Mom never failed me; other people did. I gave them my art, and they set it down and forgot about it, or even outright told me “No thank you.” Ouch. Usually, though, people gladly accept the worst-looking offerings from the children in their lives. Since they love the kid, they love whatever the kid makes. Grown up artists aren’t really all that different. Here’s a few guidelines to caring for them:
- If they give you the product of their artistic endeavors, understand that they are telling you that they love you in one of the most personal ways that they know how. So accept it, and do your best to use it as intended! Loving their art means loving them. You know, hang it on the fridge.(Note: Loving the art and liking the art are similar to loving vs. liking a person. They ain’t the same.)
- Voluntarily read their writings, hang their paintings, buy their cakes from time to time…you get the idea. It will means tons to them if you just…show up at their art show.
- Speak of their creative endeavors as the genuine, useful work that it is. You might have pandered to the child’s early attempts; the adult would appreciate genuine encouragement. Art is really, truly useful in the world; it is not merely playing in a sand-pile.
- Understand that they might need time alone to accomplish some art. Lack of such time will play havoc with their emotions, so much so that you might need to step in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this. You go paint for awhile.” If they don’t actually smooch you, just know that they will probably really want to.
- If they ask you for critiques, be diplomatic but honest. It’s unfortunate but true that some artists are looking for compliments instead of critiques; know which one your artist is. Are they ready for that genuine critique to push them forward? Are you the one to give it?
- If you wish to give them supplies, ASK them about their preferences in notebook, brushes, charcoal brands, etc. They won’t use supplies that they don’t like.
- I have written before about a ring-bound, lined-paper notebook festooned with naked, glittery, butterfly-winged cherubs that some sweet soul gave me to encourage my writing. I wrote, but not in that.
- My father knows all my picky notebook preferences. God bless him!
- Introduce them to your favorite artists; they will love learning new things with you. Then it will be something that you share.
Make no mistake: EVERYONE is creative. Not everyone chooses to devote their creative urges to hours of artistry. Maybe you and a friend support each other in your different endeavors—they music, you ceramics. Maybe you consider yourself a supporter of the arts: you buy and read the books, the paintings, the music. But all the quirky little personalities in our lives could use a little knowledgeable love.
Blessings on all those people who have knowledgeably loved on me.