Monday, December 15, 2008

art and pondering

These pieces are both more than two years old. Banana was not quite four when she did them. I'm still amazed by the control of line and image. In the bird, the use of color is surprisingly good.

I keep these near my desk at work. As much as any picture I have of her, these are my constant reminders of what faces me and what I'm responsible for day after day, week after week. The talent and potential are remarkable in all children. I remain constantly aware that it is my job to foster that rather than hinder it.

Without a doubt, my parents did what they could to foster my interests and talents. I went to Interlochen for summers when I was a teenager to study flute and later composition. My parents enrolled me in gifted programs and Saturday enrichment classes. I had piano lessons. We traveled extensively. For all this effort, though, it was the Nikon EM my father bought me in ninth grade that probably most influenced me — well, that and all the time we spent in bookstores and around computers.

What I mean to say is that I've started to see all of the time spent on music and the sciences as mis-placed energies. While I was being given every chance to succeed in those areas, I was also doodling. When I dove into Dungeons & Dragons, one of the things I most enjoyed was designing and drawing maps; another was meticulously painting those little lead figures we all collected. And while I was doing this, many of my musician friends would obsessively practice, and some of them have gone on to careers in music. My experience was different: when I got to college and out from under my parents' expectant eyes, I stopped playing and switched to theater.

This is where the camera comes back into play. In those years, I also took picture after picture, and in my last year at Interlochen, I was one of the photographers and editors of the camp yearbook, Scherzo. With the exception of showing up for classes and lessons, the flute was all-but-ignored. The camera was my companion. And when we were doing the design, photo cropping, and paste-up in the layout meetings, I slipped into the element that I would return to again and again until it became a profession in the mid-nineties.

In recent years, I've come to realize that the areas that truly interested me were not the areas I was exploring. My one regret for all the years I spent at Interlochen is that I never took a single visual arts class. Same with college. Why? I don't know. I was trained to pursue certain areas and not others. Even my mother acknowledged as much when I broached the subject with her. The fact was my parents didn't recognize what I was showing an interest in, and I didn't tell them that there were reasons why I didn't practice nearly enough. In the end, though, none of that can be changed. What's done is done; what I've learned on my own over the years, I've learned on my own.

Fast-forward to my life as a parent. I have a child with remarkable creative talents and not-inconsiderable scientific experience and knowledge. The latter I can only foster tangentially; her mother is a better resource there. On the creative (and athletic) side, however, I've made some clear decisions. I will do whatever I can to support the things she actually shows an interest in, but I will not push her in area once she's said she doesn't want to pursue it. Currently, this means I am supporting ballet, art, and possibly ice skating. Soccer and piano are out so far, as are other musical pursuits—though she has shown an aptitude there. And as long as she keeps working and wants to keep working at her ballet positions and her drawing and painting, I will do whatever is within my means to make sure she gets as far as she can. I just won't decide what she should or should not be doing, and I will not push her past the point she decides she's not interested.

Hopefully, I'll see years and years of elephants and birds—or at least brilliant ideas and solid achievement.