The Joy of Imagination

Good to receive comments and questions. Some, like those related to politics or religion, we leave best alone. Others, like this note from Saskatchewan, gets my attention because it deals with a subject very dear to me and may be of interest to you.
“Sir, we have two grandchildren. Tina’s in kindergarten, Tommy in first year elementary school. Like most children, they paint pictures at school and at home. When Tina paints something, we can almost always tell what it is. But Tommy’s pictures we cannot make head nor tail of. Last week the teacher asked them to make a Holiday Season picture.
Tommy splashed bright colours all over the page, and when we asked him “What’s that, Tommy?”, he replied, as if it was perfectly obvious, “That’s a Christmas tree with lots of presents under it.” (And anyone who doesn’t see it, is really dumb, as far as he’s concerned!)
His teacher seems to think his pictures are wonderful. But, is it not the teacher’s job to guide and teach pupils the foundation and beginnings? To us, Tommy’s pictures look like the dabs of a monkey, or like those pictures we see in modern galleries, and which are very pricey at that. Do you agree, sir, that school should discourage children from just splashing paint around?”

First, let me say my respects go to the teacher, for letting Tommy’s imagination roam freely. Too soon in our childhood we lose that precious gem of Imagination.
In the process of growing up, there are already many things a child has to learn and requires discipline. But at the young age of Tina and Tommy, freedom (and encouragement) to express themselves is vital. What I look for in children’s art is the colours a child uses.

In most cases, bright and joyful colours reflect a happy child. The realm of art embraces not only technical skill, but colour and imagination. Later, the required skills to learn will come, if a boy or girl wants to later pursue art. Children are children. Imagination is their world. Foundation and guidance comes later.As adults, some very mature artists express themselves through what’s called nowadays their “Inner Child”.
Many fine abstract artists do not paint non-objective art because they cannot draw, just like a pilot does not fly because he or she can’t walk. Good examples of this child-like quality in mature artists can be seen in works by Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, and Karel Appel, just to name a few.
This reminds me of an experience I had back in 1959 while visiting for awhile at the home of a friend’s parents. TIME Magazine featured a full-colour reproduction of a painting by the young Karel Appel, a post-war artist from Amsterdam. The painting, titled “Woman and Ostrich”, won the coveted $10,000 Guggenheim Award in NY City. During my visit, my friend’s parents spent the whole evening looking for both the woman and the ostrich, to no avail . . .