For years I have had this notion that art has to be complex – like every pencil movement, shutter click, and brush stroke has to have deep meaning and perfectly honed skill behind it because if it doesn’t then the end result isn’t real art. I’ve struggled with the feeling that most of what I create has an air of phoniness to it that everyone can sense because maybe it was an accident that just happened to turn out beautifully without a lot of thought or feeling or deep meaning. I have actually thrown away, disassembled, and deleted so much of my work over the years because it didn’t seem to fit that mold of complexity.
And then I had my son.
Lately, we have established a daily ritual where he grabs his Magnadoodle and comes running over to me shoving the pen out in front of him. He crawls up on the couch next to me demanding (in his non-verbal way) that I draw something for him…and so I do. We are working on shapes right now. The first shape that he actually recognized by name was a heart, followed by a triangle, and now the circle. I doodle a heart, a triangle, a circle, a square, a rectangle, a star. We point to each one and I say its name. Then he snatches the pen from me and attempts to color inside the shapes and connect them together with squiggly lines. When his work is complete, he drags the knob on the bottom of the screen and swishes them away, shoving the pen back into my hand to draw the shapes again but in a different order.
Every time I draw those imperfect shapes, his eyes get big and he can hardly wait to snatch the pen from me and start ‘perfecting’ them in his own style, while learning what all of their names are. In his world of constant discovery and learning, this is art and it is perfect. A circle is a circle. A square is a square. A triangle is a triangle. You can color them in or leave them empty, it doesn’t matter. It still makes him happy.
His excitement about learning shapes has inspired me to work on a series of paintings involving simple shapes so that we can hang them up in his bedroom. He loves to run over and point at all of the art in his room while we tell him what is in the pictures. As I sat down to do some preliminary sketches I found myself caught in that complexity trap again. I couldn’t come up with any ideas of how to make a circle interesting. And then I looked at it the way that my son does and realized…it’s interesting because it’s a circle.
photo : practice circles by yours truly