Artist in Residence, part II


Cameron comes home every day with a handful of papers – his daily drawings. Usually they’re nothing more than scribbles on a page, but ask him and he’ll have incredible stories about what they are, or happily give details about the land he’s drawn a map of. One of my favourites is still on the wall at the daycare, and I can’t wait to get it home and frame it. At first glance, it’s a page covered in red and orange paint. But his teachers hinted to me to ask him about it.


It’s a painting of me, Mama.


At first, I was a little concerned.


I’m at the centre of the earth, in the red hot lava!


Wow, cool!


If I give him a colouring book with clearly defined lines and images, he will scribble all over it, coating the page in one colour, maybe two, rarely more. He pays no heed to the picture the lines are trying to dictate. I have on occasion seen him try to colour like other kids do – it was ages ago. He meticulously stayed in the lines, saturating the area with the colour he chose, then melted down as the marker strayed out of its lines. So I think he’s just not colouring in the lines our of pure perfectionism – if he doesn’t try to do as the picture tells him to do, he’s not doing it wrong!


Instead I usually give him, when he asks, a page of blank paper. Sometimes it’s white, but usually he likes coloured construction paper. Then he’ll free-draw whatever he feels like drawing.  Then, I get to see the thought processes that are going on in the drawings he brings home from school. A couple of weeks ago he drew a boat, floating on water, then decided to give it a mast. But then the marker slipped. No worries, it became a boat with two masts. Gradually, more and more details appeared, some deliberate, some accidental, and he narrated a story as he drew. Soon the whole page was filled with lines and marks, and the original boat was barely recognizable. But each addition was a part of the story, each part either made sense or was made to make sense as it appeared, so at any given time parts of the artwork were a single picture. I think of it like a fluid overlap of images.


Today I tried something different.


Tonight when we get home, Cameron, could you draw for me a Red Hot Itchiworm? Like you think they look like?


Nevermind that whole ‘when we get home’ thing – he grabbed a piece of paper and insisted on drawing it right then and there. Luckily I was early, we had time. I’ve only a few times asked him to draw something specific for me, and never with any success. He’s too determined to do his own artistic thing. So this was a first. He carefully picked out the red he wanted, and thought about what he was doing for a moment. Slowly, the dragon took shape. You can see the eye on its head, one wing sticking way out to the side, and spikes on its back. I’m not exactly sure what the square with a line is, and he didn’t seem to know either. Kids dropped by to watch him, and sometimes he’d answer their questions, sometimes he was too focused on what he was doing to even look up at them. Each line was carefully considered.

It was intriguing to watch, seeing this side of my little love emerge.

Even better to watch was the smile that grew as he decided that he was done.



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