Thursday, January 27, 2011

Children's Artwork

I love my kids' artwork.  From the moment they could color, draw, paint and paste, I've cherished their creations.  Of course I'm not kidding myself: they are not amazing child prodigies and I don't expect that crayon-colorings they made at age 5 will someday be museum-worthy.  But I have always loved the way their artwork expresses their thoughts and passions.  I was equally entranced by my older son's Yu-gi-oh drawings and my younger son's scuba-diver scribblings.  Their creations showed me what fascinated them at the moment. 
For several years, I used the long hallway in our apartment as a sort of art gallery.  Using frames from Pottery Barn that allowed easy access so I could update the artwork on display often, I would choose the best of their current works for display.  I especially loved the annual self-portraits that each child produced in art class.
In time though, the kids became wary of having their artwork on display.  Perhaps they found it embarrassing when their friends came over... I'm not really sure.  Toward the end of his elementary-school years, my older son and I tussled over a wonderfully imaginative rendering of numbers and letters that had personal significance to him.  It was abstract and wonderful watercolor, but it also had several hearts worked in and I think he felt it wasn't masculine enough.  We compromised by me hanging it on the back of my office door where only I could enjoy it.  Several months later, he destroyed a self-portrait rather than allow me to display it. 
So that was the end.  Since the art gallery was meant to be a celebration of my kids, it certainly didn't make sense to continue to hang works that they didn't want seen.  Now the "gallery" is filled with photographs that show them doing what they love -- playing sports or meeting prominent NYC sports personalities.  And I've culled my collections of their creative works and keep them in two portfolios safely tucked away in the hall closet.  I no longer am inundated with their output; instead at the end of the school year, they bring home a few works that they really spent time on, and we carefully pack them away together.
So all of you who read today's  NY Times articles (see Mom, You're One Tough Art Critic, Reclaiming Your Refrigerator: Ideas for Displaying Children’s Art and The Non-Nurturing Approach to Children's Art), don't worry.  Most kids grow out of the prolific art producing phases -- and when they do, you'll miss it!

In addition to buying ready-made frames, or taking artwork to the frame shop for professional mounting, or the ever-faithful posting on the fridge, there are scores of ways to celebrate your kids' creations.  If you are into DIY projects, try this one from Good Housekeeping: paint a few canvases a single color to unify the collection. Then cut pieces of corrugated cardboard (from a box headed for the recycling bin) so that each fits snugly in the back of a canvas, and tape inside — this will give pins something to stick into.  Hang canvases on the wall, and tack artwork on with pushpins.

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