Agony and Artistry

by Stefani on 29-July-2007

It is taking all that is in me to continue being positive about all this bloody rain. Yes yes, I know the farmers are grateful for it, as is my basil, but honestly, enough is enough already. Weird things, the likes of which we have never seen in these parts, keep popping up in shocking abundance. Shelf fungus and every imaginable kind of mushroom. Bizarre! The mosquitos have reached Biblical plague proportions, and now, NOW the mold is off the charts. It is KILLING me. I’ve had itchy eyes and throat paired with rapid fire sneezing for weeks now.

This weekend though, my body finally just gave up. I’ve had a miserable encounter with a sinus infection. There has been much moaning, crying, clutching at my throat, and NyQuil induced comas. (The coughing aching stuffy head so you can pass out and not care if you’d rather be dead medicine) For a person who is mildly claustrophobic, being unable to breathe through one’s nose is a complete nightmare that requires heavy sedation. I’m such a weenie.

I have been useless and irritable beyond all imagining.

But, there was one (and only one) shining moment.

My Luke, being the first kid and all, has been struggling with his need for his drawings to look, “real.” It bothers him to draw a dog that does not look like a real, fur and blood dog. I’ve tried to explain to him that part of what makes his drawings wonderful is that they are his unique vision. This, however, has been met with so much eye rolling that I have felt sure that he would pull some occular muscle.

So, while laying in a vegetative state watching CBS Sunday Morning, I heard that this weekend marked the anniversary of Van Gogh’s tragic death, and had a brain storm. I brought out some long stashed away laminated works of famous artists and showed them to my boy. (You can find still find them here)


We talked about how they all looked different from each other, and from the “real” subjects that the artists must have been working to recreate. We talked about how they were all famous for their unique visions. A slow smile spread across his face. “Mama, can I have some paper?”

His Take on Monet

“Look Mom, my tree is different from Monet’s tree!” (with excitement rather than disappointment) “It’s unique!”

It wasn’t long before James (who never, ever, minds being unique) was in on the artistic process.

His rendition of Matisse’s “Pot of Geraniums”:


And my personal favorite, the one he calls, “The Government on a Horse”


All this excitement over famous artists and their creations is making me ache to take my guys to San Antonio for a visit to the McNay art museum. It was there that I first understood the power of art, 12 or so years ago.

Standing before Monet’s Water Lilies, seeing them, in person, changed forever my ideas about art. When you personally witness a piece like that, and you see the texture of the paint, the enormity of the work, when you stand inches from it and can grasp the genius that it must have took for a person to clump bits of dollops of paint into something so beautiful, well you can’t help but walk away changed.

In his own way, my Luke tasted that feeling this weekend, and oh that’s the very best kind of medicine.

Sarah Jackson July 29, 2007 at 6:04 pm

What an amazing day, in spite of all the illness. We were experiencing the power of art today too at the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford and in the art museum. There’s nothing better than watching kids connect with art!

Get well.

Rachelle July 29, 2007 at 6:17 pm

OMG. SO cute! The government on the horse, lol!

mountain mama July 29, 2007 at 6:51 pm

Oh, oh!! That’s so cute! I love those laminated pics.. You said “long stashed away laminated works of famous artists…” So I suppose I won’t be able to get my hands on something like that today? Oh I’ll just have to buy me a book for the girls! We have lots of drawing sessions, but I never detach myself long enough to take pictures of the moment.

Hope you feel better soon!

Eren July 29, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Oh my friend, I sure wish I could whisk you all away for a beach visit. Our weather is quite different..dry, dry, dry, and hot and sunny. Such irony there. But you sure know how to make the best of a bad situation. What a wonderful moment to share with him…oh, and Luke, meet Zane…who also likes to draw things that really look like other things.

Molly July 29, 2007 at 8:49 pm

What a wonderful story! I love these images and I love your sons’ exploration. I remember seeing art in person myself… it still blows me away.

Molly July 29, 2007 at 10:13 pm

I love how creativity and learning can happen at unexpected moments. It’s often not part of the agenda, just a natural part of life, like being sick, but way better.

Sarah July 30, 2007 at 5:16 am

“The gov’t on a horse”! Haha. Seeing things through their eyes is interesting, eh?

kirsten July 30, 2007 at 6:19 am

love this! i love when kids get excited about art! especially their own. and i relate to what you said about museums, i got to go to the nat’l gallery in high school, and stand in a room full of matisse’s HUGE cut paper works. i could have lived there.

Heather July 30, 2007 at 6:55 am

You are such an amazing mommy!!!! Even doped up on NyQuil! Don’t you just love it when a moment of inspired parenting pays off in such a big way for your little one! Speaking of inspired parenting… I’ve just turned around to witness my 4 yr. old creating a some kind of artistic nightmare on our coffee table with ALOT of water, paper towels, and magazines. Need to go salvage a few mags…bye!

Heather July 30, 2007 at 7:03 am

oh by the way… she informed me it was not art… she was rolling burritoes (the paper towel being the tortilla shell.) I have no idea what the gallon of water was for. Glad we have wood floors.

erin July 30, 2007 at 7:04 am

Those post cards were just the ticket for Luke! What a wonderful, encouraging Mom you are, Stefani!

Oh, and Government on a Horse…that is funny!

jennifer w. July 30, 2007 at 7:12 am

Wow – what an amazing art and art history lesson. Great job, mama!

Anna August 1, 2007 at 7:45 am

that is an amazing art education moment! thanks for sharing. and thanks for giving me one more reason to want to go back and visit san antonio. i haven’t been since i moved away in ’97…and the mcnay is a shining jewel i would love to share with my guys.

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