Art is a convseration
Written by Emily Chibwana
When he was two, Ishe (now 9) would sit with me for hours, begging me to draw for him. Art is a conversation that started between us. We’d spend hours drawing vehicles—especially fire engines—while baby Kudzi (now 7) napped or played or cuddled.
Every now and then, I’d invite him to try too, but he’d shake his head and ask for another fire truck. Until, one day, he didn’t. At two and a half, he picked up a pencil and off he went, drawing cars and trucks and fire engines with his funny upside-down pen grip until he’d gone through all the paper in the house. We bought a whiteboard, and he’d spend hours standing at his easel drawing and perfecting his little trucks.
We collaborated: he’d draw, and I’d colour in. For me, our collaborations were a conversation. Colouring in his drawings (with his permission) was a way of saying, “I love what you’ve drawn,” in more than just words.
Kudzi didn’t draw his first representational drawing until he was 4. He was interested in other things. But when he started, there was no stopping him!
Between them my kids have filled sketchbooks and used up all the paper from the printer, drawn on walls and cardboard, with chalk on tiles and with sticks in the sand. And every step of the way, I find something to praise in their work, whether it’s attention to detail, or wild use of colour.
I respond to my kids’ artwork with praise because I want them to continue this conversation with me, and with themselves. But praise for a finished product isn’t the point of art. Not for kids, and not for me either.
For me, the point of art is to communice a story, an idea, a feeling, in a language that is universal to all mankind, even if the conversation is only happening between me and the pages of my sketchbook.
I think kids know this intrinsically. They know that the value of art isn’t in the finished product. They value art for the joy of creating.
Kudzi will happily fill the pages of his books with hundreds of dragon designs, each a little different from the one before. Every now and then he’ll share one with me, but mostly he’s happy to have his dragons live out their lives, private within the confines of his sketchbook.
I love that for him.
Kuda (2) has recently started bringing me my iPad and asking me to draw him firetrucks and cars, diggers and busses and trains. I feel like we are coming full circle, back to where Ishe’s art journey began.
We are starting a conversation, together. I hope it will be the beginning of an art journey that will last him a lifetime.