I do what I can to make as much art around the edges of life as reasonably possible, and if my life were a quilt, what a colorful border there would be.  How making art on the side actually works changes constantly, and I have no hard and fast rules or schedule at this point.  If a project is ready and waiting for me, it is easier to jump in when a good moment to work presents itself.  Often, just when I think the kids are engaged enough in their own activities for me to dig into my own, they get interested in what I’m doing and want to try it too.  Mostly that’s a good thing.  If I’m working on art for fun or practice, I can usually give the kids a parallel project to mimic mine.  If the work is something that is more serious and I need uninterrupted time and space, the kids have to be in their own space, and it helps if I have a longer span of time planned out (and ideally someone else on kid duty).

This week I was working in the garage on my workbench clearing task.  Soon my oldest found me and and started playing around with the studio flotsam that I was trying to organize and put away.  He found a useful ball of yarn and some other odds and ends, and soon was weaving a web, over, around, and through the step ladder.  This weaving turned into a “space station” that got bigger and bigger and stretched out the garage door to attach to a tree and our car.  At that point I told him that the yarn would eventually have to get wound back onto the ball, but for now the space station could go forward.

The next day I set up a painting project on my garage work table.  First one, then two, then three children discovered me, and immediately wanted to know if they could paint too.

see the ladder in the background?

garage artists

So I put them to work, and they were happy, and I got some work done too.

Yesterday I was trying to get started on my daily drawing practice, and thought filling my new book with ink paintings would fit the bill.  I made one quick 5 minute sketch, and immediately had an audience.  

windowsill grasshopper sketch

“Mom, can I try an ink painting too?”  asked brother number two.  Soon brother number three wanted to join #2, on the same stool even.   I made the youngest wait for a turn, but he enjoyed watching his big brother at work, and listened carefully to everything that was said during the painting session.

A lot of narration goes on while these guys paint.  Stories about what happens with each new mark made on the paper develop as quickly as the brush moves.  When T made his painting I took notes and made a transcript of his monologue.

Here’s how the painting ended up, but there was a lot that happened before the paper got covered with black…

black ink

“That’s a cat’s head with ears and stuff (pointing to a spot with lines coming out of it).  Now it’s covered by bad guys.  Now the good guys are covering the bad guys.  Now the leg is stretching at the good guys.  The good guys covered it.  But another mark came and the good guys covered it.  And another mark came.  And the good guys covered it.  And another mark came, but the good guys covered it…”  ( x 3 !)

At this point he’s drawing with one hand and painting with the other, so each hand represents a good or bad guy.  The paper gets blacker and blacker and wetter and wetter.  I’m not sure who won in the end, but it seemed that the good guys were in favor.

transcript of painting story

Even though there are times when I’d love more distance from my 3 shadows, and I could use more solo art time, spontaneous family art-making always teaches me something.

3 ink paintings