Technique vs Inspiration

November 17, 2013

Recently my 11-year-old grandson asked if he could come over and paint so we arranged a time on a day when he didn’t have school.  I haven’t had much experience teaching art and wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind.  I showed him some pastels and watercolor paint as kids are often familiar with those but that was not what he wanted.  He wanted to use the same paints I do, which are acrylics.  We looked at my stash of canvases and he chose a 14″ x 18″ one.

Next came deciding what to paint.  It was too cold to paint outside.  Since I like to look at what I am painting I suggested he might like to paint a still life.  I don’t think he had ever heard of that but I opened the refrigerator and he picked out some grapes, oranges and apples plus two bananas off the counter.  I found a white bowl and we were ready to begin.  I explained that he should paint the background first.  He was surprised at that but was willing to go along with that idea.  I asked him to draw a line where the table would be and then choose colors for the table and background and paint those before drawing the fruit.  Soon he had painted a pale blue background and a dark brown table.

Fortunately acrylics dry fast and I helped it along with a hairdryer.  He had put the fruit in the bowl.  I gave him a piece of charcoal to draw what he wanted to paint.  I explained about the top of the bowl being an oval rather than a straight line and he was willing to accept that.  The grapes proved too hard to draw so he eliminated them and added a second banana.  He listened when I suggested that perhaps he had drawn to bananas too thin.  Charcoal is easy to remove and he had soon drawn two very good looking banana shapes.

I asked him to look at the apples and notice that they were not totally red but had some yellow streaks in them.  He tried that, didn’t like the result and from then on concentrated on inspiration.  The two red apples became flat shapes, one red and one green.  The oranges and bananas became flat shapes too sitting in a white bowl.   Then inspiration really took over.  The bowl developed black spots.  The bowl and each piece of fruit was outlined in black.  The result was rather striking actually.  But then came the final touch.  Above the bowl he painted a pink pig with wings.  Now where did that come from?  There is a commercial where the phrase, “When pigs fly,” is used but in that commercial the pig sits in an airplane seat.

He was pleased with his painting and wanted to frame it.  So I took a frame off one of my paintings and we framed his creation.  Then I drove him and his painting home to show his mom.  I wonder where she hung it.



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