Do you remember that familiar Picasso quote: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."? I have been thinking about it a lot the last few months as the stresses of adulthood and my inner critic try to sabotage my art practice. I say "try" because my many teaching gigs have taught me some valuable lessons that help me get out of my funks of second-guessing myself and agonizing over the smallest details. Working with 8-10 year old students not only cracks me up, but leaves me wishing that I could recapture that reckless abandon that they display.
Kids truly amaze me! Even those that may complain about not having much artistic talent will come out with the most breath-taking work: sometimes humorous, skillful, or just plain original. It's so sad that the older we get, the more restrictions we put on ourselves to express our creativity. The human mind is incredible and many of us have hidden talents that we have yet to discover. Being around kids really inspires me to take more risks in my art, but I realize that that's something I have to work at and keep reminding myself to do, not an easy task.
I have also been lucky enough to work with some senior citizens who were taking an art class for the first time (none pictured here). I really do think we come full circle: older people often exhibit a healthy recklessness that mirrors that of the kids, as if after a life-time it is finally OK to let go of one's inhibitions and play. I was particularly impressed with one student, in his 70s, who liked to paint pretty landscapes and abhorred anything abstract, yet the week after I held a class on abstract painting, he came to class on his own initiative with not one, but two, (un-assigned) abstract paintings (unfortunately I did not get photos of these). Now that takes not only courage - to try something new and scary - but also a certain level of playfulness that is truly inspirational. While I hope that I am that willing and able to try new things when I am 72, I also want to start cultivating that attitude now and not wait until I'm older.