Another Day in the Country
Children are a work of art
© Another Day in the Country
It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the wind was blowing. That rather sums up what’s been happening in Ramona, Kansas, population 100.
Last Friday evening we had our annual Artful Eye Show at Centre Elementary, where my sister and I nurture the artistic side of kids in third, fourth and fifth grade. This was the 20th art show that we’ve pulled off since I began teaching art there in 2000.
The first couple of years we turned the old bank building in Ramona into an art gallery. We wanted these country kids to have the big city experience of going to an art gallery complete with an opening night including refreshments.
Then we started having the Artful Eye Show in the gymnasium of the old Elementary School in Lost Springs. We attempted to turn that big room into an art gallery with varying degrees of success.
After a few years of that all the grades were merged at the school facility near Lincolnville and, eventually, we took over the small gymnasium there, once a year, for our annual show of country creativity that I’d been calling “The Artful Eye.” I’m always amazed at what these children can do!
It has become a custom for the fifth-grade students to paint an actual art canvas as their final work of the year. Usually they are painting on paper with watercolor paints. With the canvas they are now painting with acrylic paint for the first time, which presents a whole new challenge.
When you are painting with watercolor, the water actually does some of the work for you because it blends colors together to enhance your art piece.
I tell the kids that it’s like the colors are getting married, “Red and blue blend together and you get purple.
All kinds of combinations are possible.”
Acrylic painting is a whole new world of possibility. If you make a mistake, put down the wrong color, you can either wipe the paint off the canvas while it’s still wet and start over, or you can let the paint dry and paint again right over the top and no one will be the wiser. You can make any corrections that you need.
The downside of using acrylic paint is that you have to do all the work of blending the paint colors with your brush, though. It’s a whole new ball game for a bunch of 10- and 11-year- olds.
You also have to be careful to not get that acrylic paint on clothes because once it dries there, it’s permanent!
The downside of using watercolor is that once you put your brush to paper, it’s there … permanently.
You can’t erase or back out. Whatever you’ve created is there! However it turns out, it’s yours. Come to think of it, that’s like getting married, too, isn’t it? You blend, you have a child, and there they are, permanently.
Your work of art! This reminds me of our yearly celebration of motherhood.
Jess ran into the grocery store this past weekend and stopped to admire all the “Mother’s Day” bouquets. “Happy Mother’s Day,” a complete stranger said to her out of the blue.
“Oh, I’m not a mother. I’ve never had kids,” Jess said, laughing.
“Well, it’s over-rated,” said the lady, as she grinned and drove her cart on by to the vegetable department. When Jess came out to the car, she told me of her encounter.
“I disagree!” I said. “Being a Mom was a challenge at times; but I think it was probably the best thing I’ve done in my life.”
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult at times. It doesn’t mean it was all ‘happily ever after’ either. But all in all, with my girls all grown up, it was the experience of a lifetime and I’m glad I had the chance to do it. I’m also glad I have the chance to teach art to other people’s kids.
One of the 5th graders lamenting over how long it was taking him to finish his canvas asked Jess, “How long do you think it takes a real artist to do a painting?”
“A lot longer than it’s taken you,” Jess reassured him. These fifth graders paint their canvas using “scrap,” which is a picture they pick, torn from a magazine or an image found on the Internet that gives them an idea of what they want to create.
“Someone has already come up with an idea,” Jess explained, “they’ve decided what to include, what colors to use, and now you attempt to do something similar in just three or four hours. They probably worked for weeks or even months on it.”
And so it happened, a one-night gallery opening in Marion county, the oldest artists barely eleven, on another day in the country.