When traveling last month Squiggles and I started an art project together in which we paint the fantastical, often surreal, stories she comes up with. Three year-olds are expert in developing surreal stories. Developmentally, they are still at the age where their imaginings and realities naturally overlap and interweave. Three-year olds don’t have to work to keep their imaginations nimble and fresh like adults do – their imaginations are infinite.
This overlapping is sometimes challenging, for instance, when you need to get to the reality of an event that actually happened.
Usually, however, this penchant for story-telling is really entertaining! The idea to do this little project came to me one hilarious afternoon/evening of listening to her tell a lot of stories: bath-time stories, those behind her paintings and drawings, the story of Spiderman and Tinker Bell, stories about the birds flitting about outside the window and of course bed-time stories. Earlier that day I had also watched a beautiful animated film, Destino, a surreal little gem based on a storyboard collaboration between Disney and Dali from 1945 to 1948. Inevitably that afternoon, a million distractions occurred and we never got around to experimenting, but for months the idea kept reoccurring to me until last month we got around to trying this out. It’s so much fun to paint with her and listen to her thoughts. She gets really excited that we are putting her ideas down on paper. It’s a wonderful bonding experience for both of us. I am fascinated by her process. Artists are always fascinated by the visceral and emotional method with which children and other “outsiders” paint. It’s true that they capture something primal and authentic with their gusto and un-self-conscious application of color. It’s that lack of fear and judgment perhaps? That makes these moments of genius come alive in the things they create/help to create.
Now that we’ve begun this project I am noticing repeating themes and archetypes – for example giants – it will be interesting to see where these motifs go – stay tuned! I might have to brush up on my Joseph Campbell-esque fairytale and mythic criticism!