Monday, March 01, 2010

Art without borders

The circle is complete.

Close up

The antidote to our gray stone village in winter.

This is the kind of dog I want.

Isla's version of Klimt's The Kiss

Anne Shirley alone in her boat.

It's so much fun when Daddy joins in.

Tired flowers, pastel

Painting with mud, like the cavemen did.

How did Degas recreate sunlight through a window with pastel?

More Degasian inspiration from Musee d'Orsay

Dressing the part.

One more. Is this another Degas? Or is it Monet? Renoir? I don't know.

I see San Francisco, Esther sees turtles marching across the land.

At work.

I wrote a post over at BabyCenter about the dance of childhood, or any, friendship and how art just might have to be my daughter's best friend right now.

I think the culture shock of leaving behind our home and moving to France has stripped us all of a layer of our skin and exposed us to a level of sensation, sensitivity, awareness and humility that we've never experienced before.

It's the most evident in Esther, a sensitive soul to begin with. Sensitive with a competitive streak and high expectations of herself and others. Art has been her one constant throughout it all. She's good at it, she loves it, and it knows no borders. It knows no language barriers. It doesn't let her down.

If Esther is given time and space and quiet, usually meaning a good book on tape without any loud, grumbling grownup voices interrupting, her heart will come pouring out onto the blank page. And it gives me, mom, such a unique glimpse into her mind to see what she creates.

Her affinity for putting it all down in pictures has rubbed off on her sister. Isla sits down with Esther, delighting in the fleeting sense of unity with her big sister, and creates right along side of her. She moves so purposefully through the simple motions of getting a fresh piece of paper, putting it down on the table, choosing a color from the bouquet of markers in front of her, and moving her busy hands back and forth across a page.

And I take a strange delight, and sense of purpose, in seeing her, and her big sister, create things. Never are my children more self sufficient and content than when they are producing art.

Of course, Isla's favorite part of the whole drawing process comes at the end, when she gets to use scissors and tape and turn her pictures into a collage.

For Esther, every blank page is an opportunity for self expression. Sometimes it's fantasy that needs to come out. Other times it's reality. Usually, a beautiful melding mixture of both.

And I, of course, don't forget me?, envy their ability to escape, to create fantasy worlds, on paper. Somehow words seem confining in comparison.


sharalyns said...

Ok--Esther has significant talent. Kudos to you for giving her opportunities to express herself! My son also has talent, and I need to provide more opportunities for him! Thank you for the reminder!

Betsy said...

sharalyns: You're welcome. Her talent, and passion, make me want to spoil her rotten with art supplies. I want to build her a studio, to surround her with every possible medium and say, "Make art, make art!."

Anna said...

wonderful post. fantastic art work and photos of you all working. Thanks!

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

From BabyCenter: "And Karin: I started an art blog for Esther a year ago. Just like my personal blog, it is neglected, but I plan to revisit it soon."

Hi! I had not seen this post when I commented "over there" and it was so cool to see that you had posted more of the girls' art here. I am so glad you did! It is great to see them at work. Please link to Esther's art site if you post anything there soon; I'd love to see it. :)

I think you are right here: "art just might have to be my daughter's best friend right now." Like I commented on the other post, as a highly sensitive child myself, I had to turn to solitary pursuits of self-expression a lot more than actual friendships as a kid. I did not feel that other kids "got" me and I had trouble getting them, too. It was not easy, but in the end, I feel that because I was the way I was, I am a richer person in many ways now.

" Never are my children more self sufficient and content than when they are producing art."

I am so glad that Esther and Isla have this outlet to turn to. The girls' work is so expressive! Wonderful stuff. :) Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Betsy.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Oh one more thing, too (I went back to re-read one more time and this sentence jumped out at me again...):

"I think the culture shock of leaving behind our home and moving to France has stripped us all of a layer of our skin and exposed us to a level of sensation, sensitivity, awareness and humility that we've never experienced before."

Oh yes -- this is so aptly put. This sentence describes exactly what happens when one moves overseas! I have been trying to get my head around writing a post again -- I've been so down-in-the-dumps, I have not even felt like writing, but this sentence inspires me and makes me understand even more *why* I am down-in-the-dumps! Thank you for that. Don't be surprised if you see that sentence, quoted, in a post soon. :)

Take care --

Betsy said...

Karin: Two things: I still come away from social interactions feeling as if people don't "get me." It's a very vague, but nagging feeling of being dissatisfied with my connections with most people. I guess it makes those rare connections with people who do "get me" all the more precious.
This whole expat thing is a fascinating topic. I am constantly scrutinizing and analyzing every expat I meet over here to see if they really feel happy, fulfilled, at home. And what of their identity. Especially the French born Brit kids. Do they feel French, Do they feel British? I asked the 19-year-old daughter of one of the Brit expats in town this question and she answered no to both. "I'm just lost at sea," she said. It worried me should we ever decide to stay here for good. Can we overcome, or readjust, our national identity?

Marathon Mommy said...

I was just like Esther when I was young. Some of my earliest memories are of painting, drawing, and writing. I can't remember ever NOT wanting to do art...

When I was in grade school we were only allowed to do art once a week and my parents never had a lot of extra money for art stuff that I could keep at home. My favorite part about the last day of school was being able to have access to my "art box" whenever I wanted. Having glue and crayons and scissors whenever I wanted?? Bliss. It was as liberating then as painting is for me now.

Now that I am a mom I make sure my kids are constantly surrounded by art supplies and every opportunity to create. I made a pledge years ago that my kids wouldn't have to have their art time or rationed. You are doing a great thing for your girls by doing the same!

PS-thank you for your blog. I have been lurking for over a year and have enjoyed living vicariously through your life abroad.

KiminAZ said...

Betsy- I love this new site! I'm so glad that Esther finished her picture. When I first saw it I was struck with the thought that she was the girl in the red dress, too. I didn't want to jump to conclusions, though. It's hard to tell what's going on in peoples' minds. Esther has amazing insight about her own thoughts and feelings and I didn't want to over interpret them. She's a beautiful artist and has a great outlet for expressing herself. I was always disappointed because I can't draw. I can see it in my mind, but can never get it to come out on the paper like it should.
You mentioned that the girls resemble Esther's friends in America. Maybe she's homesick and when things go badly with her new friends it makes her long for familiar and more friendly ground. (?)
You made a comment to Karin about how when you meet people you come away feeling like they don't "get you". I usually feel that way when I talk to women. Even as a little girl I had trouble connecting with females. I've only ever had a few female friends and they all have similar personalities. It's interesting- Though I've never met you and I don't "know" you, I get along with you. Well, from my perspective anyway! I also feel like I "get you". Probably because we both tend to feel misunderstood a lot of the time. Also because you share so much of your life with all of us. Sometimes I feel like you hold back a bit from saying things. Especially when people leave rude comments either aimed at you or other people that have left you comments. Or maybe I think that you hold back because I know what I would say!
I've read your blog since it started. It's been great reading your posts and getting to know you and your family. Thank you so much for being there with all of us and talking about real and honest life experiences. You help me feel sane on the days that I don't and make me laugh and cry at just the right times!

KiminAZ said...

O.K. This may seem like a strange question, but how do I get my picture attached to my name on this? I'm a bit computer illiterate!

Emma said...

Esther's art is beautiful, as is Isla's. It's wonderful how they both have that courage that children have to put whatever they want on paper, without hesitation. And I love your idea of painting with mud! Something i'll have to try, Ruby will get a kick out of it.

I have been back at University for 3 days now, and I feel like i'm 100 years old. lol

Betsy said...

Marathon mommy: I remember loving art class and my art teacher in grade school as well. For some reason I never felt as if I had any real talent and the jock in me prevailed. It's hard to do art without sitting still.

Kim: I am computer illiterate as well. I dont' even remember how I got my cow nose on there. I think you add a photo when you set up your profile.
You are right about holding back in my blog. It's a protective thing. I hate conflict and sometimes it's just not worth it to me to call people out.
Emma: what are you studying? I have always wanted to go back and get a MFA in creative writing. One day....

Alison said...

I know everybody is commenting on Esters art work, but let me just say, Wow! Ian is So handsom.

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

I was just thinking yesterday how art can be so messy. Ugggg. But so necessary. It doesn't take much - a kitchen table, some pens, some imagination. How you inspire me, Betsy, and make me long to have my parenting column back. I might just have to start one. You would have to guest post, of course.

PS: Your daughter is a rock star artist!

Betsy said...

Alison: I agree, wholeheartedly. Unruly coif and all. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


I love to hear your take on things. If you ever run out of ideas for posts, just send out a call to us. We'll be happy to give you ideas. You have such a way with words and I'd love to selfishly steer you toward certain topics.

In the meantime, can I make a suggestion? I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can help foreign kids in our own kids' classrooms? My heart breaks to see a non-native speaker move in and try to adjust with impatient classmates and surprisingly ill-prepared teachers. Esther's escape to art is so poignant I just want to hug her.

We have a boy right now who came in only speaking Turkish. Poor guy is making his way, but he and his parents seem to be on the fringes of everything. My sons aren't being as friendly as I'd like and I don't want to be too pushy, but I'd like to help ease his transition.

What would be helpful? What would you like people to do for you?

Betsy said...

That's a tough one, Anonymous.
It's especially tough trying to get your kid to go against the grain and reach out to an unpopular kid. My mom somehow instilled this instinct in me, but I'm not sure how.
My kids have had the good luck of having at least one or two other English speakers, including the teacher, in their schools. I couldnt' imagine how hard it would have been without this. Not impossible, but hard.
That Turkish child will learn English by fire, because he has to. Give him time and tell your son to smile at him a lot.