Fun with kids

April 29, 2008

Robert Genn

Yesterday I went to a local elementary school--grades one to
seven. I set up in the library, and two classes at a time came
in to watch me paint and hear what I had to say. The school was
in a new suburban neighborhood. Dorothy came too, but she was
swarmed and had to leave. I asked if anyone was willing to take
her for a walk and 45 hands went up. A teacher took her. I
squeezed out and told the kids that in situations like this I
try to visualize nice places I'd been. I told them I sometimes
started with the foreground and worked toward the back. Some
kids were raring to ask questions. Sometimes five hands were in
the air at the same time. I had to keep my answers terse.

"What is that you are painting?" (A mountain and a lake.) "Are
those supposed to be clouds?" (No, it's the snow on the
mountains.) "You put in the snow before the mountains?"
(Sometimes.) "Why are you using that colour?" (It seems right.)
"Do you paint other things besides this one?" (Yes.) "Can you
paint people?" (I try.) "Were you always a good drawer?" (Yes,
pretty good.) By now I was painting with my other mind. One
class left and another arrived.

"Have you always done this?" (Yes.) "How long have you been
painting?" (All my life.) "How old are you now?" (71.) "Do you
think you have more time left?" (Yes.) "Are there some
paintings you will never be able to sell?" (Yes.) "Which ones?"
(The personal, family ones, and the bad ones.)

Some kids were interested in the concept of failing. "Have you
made many bad paintings?" (Yes.) "How many?" (Thousands.) "What
do you do with them?" (Most I throw out; some I hope to fix one
day.) "Could you give me one of them?" (I'll consider it.) "Why
do you bother with the bad ones when you already know how to
paint?" (I don't know.) "Is this one of them?" (Could be.)

One class seemed remarkably concerned with economics. "How much
did you get for the first one you sold?" ($15.) "How much do
you get for them now?" ($2000 to $50,000.) "What's the most you
ever got for one?" ($100,000.) "How much do you make, anyway?"
(Quite a bit.) "Are you rich?" (Fairly.) "How many cars do you
have?" (17.) "Do you have a Lamborghini?" (No.) At this point a
teacher interjected that they should stick to questions about
art. And so it went. Eventually the final buzzer sounded. I was
exhausted. I went home. I had to have a drink.

PS: "Every child comes with the message that God is not yet
tired of the man." (Rabindranath Tagore)

Esoterica: Nothing like a day with the kids to cut to the
chase. I was just able to bring a couple of paintings home and
fix them up this morning. We've illustrated the event and the
results in the current clickback. See URL below. "The
unconscious mind is decidedly simple, unaffected,
straightforward and honest," said family psychologist and
cultural theorist Milton Erikson. "It hasn't got all of this
facade, this veneer of what we call adult culture. It's rather
simple, rather childish. It's direct and it's free."