Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Art Class

My oldest child is in sixth grade, and in our town that means that she cycles through four "art" classes, one per quarter. The four courses are drama, art, music, and computer skills (which I have a hard time calling art, but I suppose you use it in various artistic endeavors). This quarter she's in art, and as I thought about her being in an art class for 45 or 50 minutes every day, I got a little jealous. I think at her age I would've felt intimidated by the prospect of a daily art class, since I'm not good at many of the activities you do in art class. But now, at 30-something, I'm jealous.

To have a span of time each day when your only job is to express yourself sounds heavenly. To be told to pick up fun art supplies and use them to create whatever your soul is telling you to sounds so peaceful and liberating. Maybe I just like the thought of having control over something. I can't control my screaming toddler or my obstinate 4-year-old or my sometimes challenging pre-teen, but I can control the colors and materials I use to create a picture. And while the outcome of my artwork may not be any more predictable than the outcome of my parenting (remember how I said I'm not so good at art?), at least I know it won't talk back to me or sometimes make my heart ache.

As I was contemplating the gift my daughter has in this daily art class, it hit me: I can schedule my days more or less how I want, and if I truly believe that each person is made in the image of a creative God, then my lifestyle should include artistic expression. Call it art therapy, call it worship, call itself-expression. Call it what you will, I think creativity is part of our makeup, not just a recreational pursuit. I think it's how we're supposed to live each day we have on earth, not something that should be pushed to the margins and engaged in if we have extra time. (And how many of us have much "extra" time?)

The creative expression I'm talking about could be something like cooking, or sketching a picture, or expressing myself in music. It could be coloring with my baby or writing in a journal. It could be experimenting with my camera or rearranging the furniture in the living room. It may or may not have some specific outcome, and it may not be "successful" in terms of turning out like I want it to. Perhaps the only rule for creative expression is that it is something that doesn't need to be done, that doesn't meet a purely utilitarian need (although of course it may be useful).

And so as an act of gratitude for the way God made me and the place he's put me, I'm going to give myself the gift of daily creative self-expression. I'm giving myself an art class. I'm going to have creativity be one of my daily goals, not the thing that always gets pushed aside. Or to be more specific, I'm going to set aside 45 minutes of every day for the next month to be spent in a creative endeavor of my own choosing.

Now, this is not going to be an easy month in which to set aside 45 minutes each day. I'm going to be a single parent for two weeks. And Thanksgiving also falls in this month. And the beginning of the Christmas rush. But perhaps with these added stresses this is the best possible month for this new goal of mine. What better way to help myself tackle a challenging month than to give myself the gift of time and space and peace that creativity offers? And what better gift can I give my children when I'm juggling a full schedule than a peaceful mom who encourages them to express themselves creatively also?

Is anyone ready to join me in this daily "art class" challenge? I'll keep you posted on my progress if you keep me posted on yours!


  1. I tried this this fall and got discouraged when my husband's schedule doubled with a class and a second job, and the kids needed home schooling. I think it's hard to maintain alone, so thanks for the reminder. My husband just said to me, "you know, it's hard work taking care of a baby! They need constant attention...why don't you take a shower and I'll watch her." Maybe I'll try again....I also included reading Bible story and Bible commentary books/Bible atlases etc. in my daily regime, and it gave me fodder for artwork that was inspired by Bible stories. MB

  2. yes, it is hard to do! It's hard to not always feel like we should be being productive. And a new baby is very time-consuming. But it is nice to give yourself permission to do un-useful things every day even if you don't always get to it.