art, side by side


One of my favourite ways to spend time on this planet is by making art.  Drawing, painting, making, writing … generally any kind of creative mucking about makes my heart all warm and sparkly.  Add kids to that love and it makes my heart truly electric with joy.

The other day Esmé and I took our notebooks and pencil crayons to Café Continental and spent a lovely, leisurely couple of hours  working in our books.  She designed and drew and coloured-in a cartoon about a deadly virus, while I doodled a bit and helped her out when she wanted to figure out some element.  As in, “How can Killer be looking sideways?”

I know a lot of folks just let their kids go to town with all things “artsy,” but I do offer support when Esmé asks for it.  I believe that I have a responsibility to teach her about things like perspective, shading, layout, how to develop characters, which pencils are better quality and more pleasing to use, how to do a draft sketch before the final version, how to draw your first lines lightly, so you can correct as you go, and how to integrate more permanent ‘mistakes’ into the art itself.  When she wants to learn specific concepts in math, I teach to her interest.  Same with art.  Even if art has a much messier range of knowledge.

Our lovely neighbours gave Esmé a copy of Barney Saltzberg’s Beautiful Oops, which has been immensely helpful when she gets frustrated with a piece that she’s working on.  We call mistakes ‘beautiful oops’ now, and try to incorporate the mistake into the finished work.  I also show her my own rough skteches, and how an illustrated character can take shape over time and many drafts.

Esmé works at her drawing everyday, and takes great pleasure from expressing herself that way, and sharing her finished pieces as gifts and cards.

Now that I’m embracing dictation, I can help her realize some of her more challenging creative goals, which has given her a great deal of artistic satisfaction.

I’ve written before about how I would never play down my own creative skills as some warped way of playing up hers.  I like her to know that by working hard, and keeping at it, skill and expertise come with time. And yes, there are ‘correct’ techniques that will help.  Art is not as willy-nilly as many people think.  Talent plays into it, yes, but mostly it has to do with perseverance and practice.

Some of our recent mucking about:


Esmé dictated the story, illustrated it and did the colouring. I did the layout and text. She worked really hard on rough sketches for this!



What I worked on while she worked on her octopus.


Esmé’s “Rainbow-foreheaded Octopus” that she worked on while I worked on my little fox.


Our side-by-side drawings of the Tambaqui fish we sketched at the aquarium.


Why yes, that IS chocolate whipped cream.


I drew this in her notebook. She liked Hawk’s Tool ABC’s and asked for one of her own. I have to remind myself to do this kind of thing for her even though she’s filling her own notebooks now. We had fun coming up with this nasty alphabet!

And for any of you who don’t know about Beautiful Oops, here it is:

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2 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    so much great stuff :)

  2. Courtney Smith says:

    Junie wants a copy of Esme’s story. She also wants to know why Esme (and the other kid’s from our ddc) is stealing her age. Also, it looks like I will be making a nature abc’s. Thanks for the great idea.

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