art lesson

A friend came over to visit after work yesterday, and she noticed something I hadn’t really thought about: that Alice holds a crayon correctly.

Alice had been coloring at the coffee table while we talked, and it’s true, she draws with a Crayola held between her thumb and index finger, not squeezed tight inside a clunky toddler grip.

So is that special? (A children’s television show is still on in my bedroom, and I can hear a character explaining that “binoculars make faraway things look closer”). Of course it is special, and probably, it is not. She is herself. An early teether, a late crawler. She is dexterous, and she is cautious. She loves dogs and hates vacuums.

Maybe she will be an artist. Maybe someday, she will say, “I couldn’t draw my way out of a paper sack.” I know her so well, and I just don’t know.

She says, "Ta-da!"

A while ago I interviewed a college professor who had studied children’s scribbles. (Here’s a link. But it was a long time ago, you guys. Be generous.) When toddlers first pick up pencils and crayons, their mark-making is random. They recognize only a faint connection between the movement of their hands and the shapes left behind on the page. But after they realize they can control their scribblings, they begin to label them. They draw pictures. A flirtation with representation that maybe has something to do with language and literacy: If that red splotch can be an “apple,” then this shape, “A” can stand for the first sound in Alice.

Something like that.

To me, her drawings lately look like rose gardens.

She tells me they are “a mama,” “a baby,” and “animals.”

“Mama, help,” she says, and I draw her a star.

She says no. “Hand.”

She presses my palm to her paper and traces a finger.

Pushes my hand away. “All done.”



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