Keep kissing those (artistic) frogs

'Behind the scenes' Copyright Kate Forman 2006

‘Behind the scenes’ Copyright Kate Forman 2006

 This weekend was my beautiful god-daughter Jenna’s first communion. It was a blast: she looked like a wee princess, and kept her tiara on long after her pretty white dress and hand-knitted shawl came off. There was a lot of dancing among the young guests, but Jenna’s younger brother, Scott, my Godson, and I took some time to look through his sketchbook.

Scott is an amazing artist and he keeps an almost daily sketchbook. It’s awesome and filled with pictures of his imagination, including a castle he designed for his sister (what princess wouldn’t want a pink castle with a purple slide as the exit door?) and a cool green frog waving from  a cool turquoise lily pad.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: Scott’s self acceptance, and how all of us other keepers of sketchbooks and similar collections of dreams and ideas could learn a lot from it.

You see: the frog drawing, as compared to some other sketchbook pages, was, well, a little rough. Please understand, I’m not dissing Scott’s artistic talent, he’s WAY ahead of where most 5 year olds are developmentally. It’s just, the wave was a little off, and the posture on the lily pad was just a smidge un-frog like. On top of that, Scott’s name — drawn over the frog — had been crossed out in blue crayon, and the whole page had been ripped out of the book, and then stuck back in.

So I asked Scott what was up, and this is how he explained it to me: first he wrote his name, but then he didn’t like where it was, so he crossed it out, and then he thought he didn’t like the way the frog looked, so he ripped it out, but after a little bit he realized that he liked the drawing just the way it was, so he put it back in.

That’s all folks.

No breast-beating or loathing self-doubt, no torturous self talk or avoidance of sharing. Just an open, confident, loving ability to edit, and accept, with a healthy dose of matter-of-factness.

To top it all off, when I praised Scott for his truly wonderful drawings he very seriously looked me in the eyes and said: “yes, I am a great artist.”

Now I know I’m biased, he’s my Godson after all, but I really think he’s brilliant. So, the next time I’m painting and berating, or resenting a revision, or shrinking from self-promotion I’m going to keep young Mr. Scott in mind, and dial down the neurosis and up the acceptance.

To that end: I never liked the illustration that accompanys this blog. I still see it’s faults, but today I also reminded myself that I painted it while I was working 40+ hours a week, and operating on way too little sleep. It was an illustration for a children’s magazine, and a perfect fit for the article. There are things about it that I learned from, and wouldn’t repeat today, but I still really love the make-up guy — I painted him with greatness.

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2 thoughts on “Keep kissing those (artistic) frogs

  1. first off, i love the way you wrote this story. aside from being a great artist, you are also a great story teller. and writer. and not to mention cook. and decorator. just to name a few things that come to mind at the moment.
    scott has always been pretty brilliant. i have to confess i’m only familiar with a few pieces of his earlier work, more along the lines of finger paint, but even then i knew i was really seeing something. i’m amazed at his ability to not only self-critique, but to not beat himself down. i think somewhere there’s an entrepreneur thinking about what a clever magnet his little mantra could be.
    what i really think you should do is write this little sentence down somewhere where you can see it every day. this way you won’t forget, when you’re tired, hungry, have a million and one errands to do (like return phone calls) and your allergies are being RIDICULOUS, to look over and remember hey, you are a great artist.

    also, on a shorter but justified note, i love that painting for the children’s magazine. everybody does. there’s so much of your work to choose from it’s hard to choose just one. my favorite thing about your paintings and illustrations is that they never make me feel sad. they always make me feel excited, happy, and understood. i love them. keep up the good work!

    and one last thing, I love the blog!

  2. Becky! :0) Thank you so much for your reply & comments — it made my day. It is a good mantra, and I should write it down — it’s (unfortunately) too easy to forget. I kind of can’t put into words how much you saying that my paintings make you feel understood means to me. No one has ever said that about my work, and it really touched me.
    Thanks once more for all your support, and for the subscription — not to mention your kind words about my decorating skillz. I must admit: I can make two tables and a piece of wood sit 7 ;0)

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