Worlds Collide: Some thoughts about intutition vs. intention, the state of my studio, and my daughter turning 6 years old.
Happy Birthday Boom! The moment when my role as a mother collided with my studio practice today.
I was greatly inspired by the incredible depth and nuance of worlds painted by KSU Stark Main Gallery exhibition by artist Marianne VanLent, whom I met and heard yesterday. I had poured out some “leftover” colors from the Sunday painting class I’m teaching and covered over last week’s black and white cavern of air. Marianne, who has in fact taught color theory at Pratt, had this to say when asked about some of her use of color “Don’t think—“ She has surely internalized color relationships to work in really intuitive ways. And when she admitted that blue was not a native color for her, I was surprised because of the way that it breathes in some of the paintings. So I have temporarily abandoned my typical way of beginning a painting to continue along this way, thinking about a particular place and experience there in this painting, but also simply reacting to the color I put down with what resonates best.
So here I am, feeling a little like an alcoholic not wanting the last drop in the bottom of a bottle, using up some saved scraps of primary colors that I did in fact encourage my students to squirt out, rather than dab, when we were mixing paint. And here I’m not even mixing but following my intuition as to what color goes where and how to blend with rag, glove, scraper, and brush. Nothing like the computer-based composition building I more often employ before even beginning painting.
Last week, we celebrated my daughter’s birthdays---Gillian 4, Madelyn 6. The “Happy Birthday Boom” balloon had drifted into my studio. And I went to bed concerned after last night’s 1st grade parent teacher conference. We looked at two conflicting test reports---one in which my daughter’s reading/comprehension skills were placed solidly in the “green” zone, and the other, in which she tested clearly the “red” intervention area. It is no surprise to me that her primary skill to work on is “focus” as she is “all over the place”. I am fully familiar with the delay and distraction tactics that are part of our everyday life, our daily routines. I am all too familiar with the fact that most of my dedicated time just with her to do homework is 90% cajoling, almost begging her, leaving 10% to accomplishment, and all the while she pushes away my every effort to help her.
When instructed to look over at her, during the conference, apparently to see this “all over the place” quality, I only observed her fully focused on her coloring. Yes, there were all the folders taken out of her bag, and yes, the colors were strewn around her. OK, And…?
So how much of this is she getting from me? I wonder to myself. I never had struggles in school, my character is eager to please and quite a few subjects came easily to me throughout my academic and work life. But distraction? Messiness? Yes, I am very familiar with those. My studio has a birthday ballon drifting in it, multiple projects and tools co-existing, drawing tools from the work finished last not put away. Multiple times in my life, I have been admired as “well-organized” even told that my secondary animal is a “beaver”. I can make and cross off bullet points on a list, listen well through long meetings, and read The Gaurdian from cover to cover. But spatially, I struggle with ordering my possessions, keeping the house and car remotely tidy, and I’m cronically a few minutes late.
In graduate school I was discouraged from using the word “Meander” in my thesis. Was the beginning of that thesis committee advisor’s admonition to be found at the crux of Kindergarten and 1st Grade? It is no surprise that grade level is the time when the playfulness of Kinder/playschool is abandoned for more linear learning style of academics. But is there really something requiring intervention about my daughter’s tendency to be immersed in whatever moment is before her at that time? How much time organization can or should I impose?
When we struggle everyday, I often think we were are not alike at all. (She is stubborn, a challenger, fiercely independent, and fanciful). But in another way perhaps she is really like me. She is dreaming about patterns of numbers, aliens with multiple legs, putting in browns and pinks of ponies just so, into her beautiful picture while her bag and its contents is strewn about her.
So when we work on reading, I will be more patient. And I aim to inspire her with long stories in chapter books like The Wizard of Oz. Maybe I just need to first ignite her imagination, in order to get her to want to put the effort in, to learn to tap out one simple word after another. Perhaps I should be OK to encourage her, “Don’t think—” Dream!