Monday, October 08, 2007

Art's a Family Thing

One of my favorite games to play as a kid besides "school" (big nerd!) was "art gallery." I had a book of famous paintings and I would make my own crayon versions of Picasso's sideways faces or Degas' dainty ballerinas and tape them up all over the walls in the storage room off the kitchen. I would make posters to advertise and give my family hand-written invitations to my show. I think they humored me for a few minutes and then went back to whatever else that grown ups had to do. I always wished that we could just sit together and make art for hours.

I have some memories of making art with my family. I remember coloring in Japanese coloring books with my aunt. While I was mostly concerned with staying in the lines, she would add wings and glittery eyeshadow and tatoos to the ordinary black and white ladies. My mom once stayed up with me until midnight when I had to make a time line for an English assignment my Sophomore year of high school. The theme was South Africa from the 60s to the 80s and I still remember gluing down photocopies of significant events while she colored in parts of the time line with fruit scented markers. When I was six, my grandma drew the most perfect butterfly and flower with my nickname, "NIKI" on a tag for my back pack. My aunt Michiko, my grandma's sister, made amazingly lifelike porcelain dolls. She would take real lace and cloth to make the dress for the dolls--the dresses looked soft and flowy but were treated somehow to be as still and statuesque as the dolls. I regret never taking a lesson from her before she passed away. My stepmom and I would spend every summer on some kind of new art project--one summer it was all about tie die and print making another summer it was Dia De los Muertos paper mache skeletons.

My idea of heaven is to sit with all of these women at a large table filled with paints, glue, stamps, ink, oil pastels, fruit scented markers and make art to our hearts' content. As I've started to make art again, I've infected my mom and aunt--they now join me at my stamping workshops (my mom lives a state away, too!). Sunday we sat and stamped and chatted at my dining room table. We made a card and a gift box each. I get together on a pretty regular basis with my aunt to try new stamping techniques--mostly we just spread out all the stamps and supplies all over the table (see previous messy table photo) and laugh.

I hope to keep art alive in my own home with my daughters. I remember one Christmas, I saved a Charlie Brown tree (twig like, emaciated branches and all) and propped it up in the living room of the blue duplex on St. John Street. It was a week before Christmas and we had no ornaments to speak of! (Me and Raul had just been living together for a short while and Zach and Brielle only came to visit every other weekend at that time--"home" for us was a weekend at Raul's mom's in Modesto with the kids!) So Brielle and I spent an afternoon making ornaments out of plastic plates and bowls with glitter glue, sequins and ribbon. Maya has said that she'd like to be an art teacher (like mom!) when she grows up. We spend many afternoons making art together (or side by side working on our own projects). She has a passion for painting ceramic animals in all sorts of strange color combinations. Whatever mom's into, she's gotta have her own version, too (beads, paints, brushes, pastels, paper, stickers). Art moms know this very well--to keep the peace and your own sanity, you've GOTTA have your own supplies and the kids gotta have THEIR supplies--less worries, less arguments...more time for art!

So if you've always wanted to make art or make a big change in your life or make your life more like you wish it was...well, it's possible. As a kid, I wished for an artsy family and as an adult I wished for more time to do art like when I was a kid.

It seems that my wish is slowly coming true.

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