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Learn To Paint Like A Child

All children love to draw or paint. It matters little whether the result is an exact copy of reality because at that very moment reality is in the mind of the artist. As they draw they are creators and each will stand back to admire what they have accomplished. It is not their desire to become an artist, they are there already! There is that small child in all of us – an artist inside that holds a perception of the world as expressed by our feelings and thoughts. It differs from everyone else; it is unique. But during the years of maturity we became self-conscious about our abilities.

Unfortunately, we might have been criticized and decided that our talents lay somewhere else. Because it was met with some form of disapproval, we stopped being so free with our expressions. Picasso once said, “All of my life I have been learning to paint like a child”. Did he succeed? I think he did, because he never let go of his child-like images. He was the master of innocence.

Today his artworks are priceless, but at the time they were created I’m sure some judged them harshly. My first recollection of drawing or painting was around the age of ten. By high school I spent my meager earnings on oil paints and canvas. My passion was nature – animals in particular and that was my subject material at the time. Talent has two definitions--a natural ability or a developed skill. My parents couldn’t send me to art school, so I depended on the former. I am still painting in my senior years without the benefit of schooling. There were times when I thought I should have learned the basics of form, reflective light, color-wheel importance, composition, etc. Still, not everyone can deal with the pressure of grades or a structured format. I paint from my heart, expressing what my mind dictates, and there are no schools that teach that.

I give myself new challenges, just to see if I can produce this vision on canvas to my own satisfaction. You don't have to have a certificate to do that. Often we look at things without really seeing them. After all, our eyes are merely lenses; they have no knowledge, no memories and no experiences. To see well we must open our minds as well as our eyes. Perhaps for that reason I like to paint the less-than-perfect subject material. A broken sea-shell has more character than any perfect specimen. Models, just short of perfect beauty leave a little ‘yet to be desired’. My choice for portraits would be in the facial structure itself, eye or skin color and character lines. It’s been said that there are two times when a boy can be called beautiful -- at puberty, and when felled by the sword.

I see in each of these a child-like perception and I am driven, at times, to put these images on canvas. Henri Matisse put it this way: “Creation begins with vision. The artist has to look at everything as though seeing it for the first time, like a child”. © 2006 Esther Smith.


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