Chart Number 162

March 13, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Two weeks ago on a Monday I received an email from Six’s art teacher. The teacher had entered some art created by  Six and her classmates in a local contest. An awards function would be held on our university campus here in town on that Saturday evening.

I smiled at the email but didn’t think too much about attending the awards. The weather was forecasted to be awful, and Eight already had an activity that day. I let the email go into the “Old Mail” folder and went on with my day.

At the end of the week Six’s art teacher emailed me again. Six had won first place in the kindergarten to third grade division. The teacher added a bunch of exclamation points and reminded me about the awards ceremony.

I couldn’t stop grinning, and in a rare moment I managed to catch my husband while he was at his desk. I told him about the award, and he expressed his surprise and pride in Six. When I picked her up after school, she couldn’t stop grinning.

Throughout the evening and the next morning, Six came to me several times and threw her arms around me.

“I’m so excited,” she said over and over in a shy voice and with that same grin.

I obliged her every time she wanted a hug. My younger child parcels out her affection in small doses, and I relish every time she shares it.

The next night as she went on stage to accept her certificate in front of the audience, I understood how my parents felt when I would accept an award. Six shared that same grin with the large crowd as they applauded for her picture of a praying mantis head, and I felt like giving her a standing ovation.

Since the awards ceremony Six has devoted time to her art with renewed vigor. I’m excited for her, but now we’re in an interesting cycle of discussion: how she can make her art better.

Most of the time Six prefers to make drawings and leave them in black and white, although she will do something in color once in a while. When she creates her black and white pictures, I always encourage her to add some color to it. I don’t want to diminish her efforts in any way, and I certainly don’t want her to feel like she should only do art in color. I am trying to convince her to try new things, though.

It hasn’t worked so far, but I’m going to keep trying. As an artist myself—albeit a word artist—I know how important it is to stretch my talent. The only way to do that is to attempt parts of the medium new to us.

During Christmas break when we visited my parents for winter break, Six began working on a large picture of the ocean. As per her current M.O., she sketched several animals and added fun details like a person surfing in the distance. I started bugging her about color—it would be so much easier to see and identify some of the smaller fish—and after a day or two she relented.

The picture that started out as an impressive sketch turned into a window into the world under the sea. The more she colored, the more all of us became drawn to the scene. And the more Six smiled at her efforts.

When we got back from Christmas break Six’s drawing and coloring became a secondary priority, but since winning the art contest she spends time every day with her sketch pad. And I keep nudging her about bringing the same vibrancy from her ocean picture to all of her other art.

Coincidentally our park district announced an art contest, and when Eight brought the flyer home from school I encouraged both kids to enter…and found myself with a new challenge.

Six created a picture the day she heard about the contest and has insisted several times that that’s the picture she wants to enter in the new contest. It definitely lends itself in more of the abstract realm, including a sky comprised of rainbow colors from edge to edge and a large pair of eyes in the middle of the page signifying the eyes of the sun. Three teepees line up on the prairie, but Six elected not to include any people in the picture.

I want her to feel the freedom to create, but she isn’t old enough to understand what it takes to plan a concept and then execute it. She still creates on impulse, which is totally fine. I just hope I can embolden her to reach for the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the unseen in her art. I have no doubt that if and when she does, her art will grow by leaps and bounds.