I was tidying up the refrigerator door, our art gallery, and reallocating Smootch's less recent artwork to a file, when something caught my eye.
You know those pads of art paper for they sell for children that come with a "frame" for their artwork. Usually some sort of adult drawn theme, rainbows, ocean life, flowers and such. Smootch usually receives at least one of these 'framed' paper art pads every gifting holiday, along with some felts or crayons. Smootch usually jumps on them, new art supplies are always welcome around here, and fills up the papers in due time.
Take a look at her pictures - do you notice the same thing I did?
When Smootch draws inside the 'frame', she draws according to the theme set by the paper. Fish and mermaids in the ocean theme, rockets in the space theme. Heck, she draws, sometimes, exactly what she sees.
This self limiting of subject matter Smootch does consistently whenever she uses these pre-framed papers.
But here is why I'm not freaking out.
When Smootch decides to draw, she has a choice of papers in the drawer. Everything from newsprint, construction papers, quality pen and ink papers, a variety of neon sheets intended for the recycle but put in the drawer instead because of a blank backside, and whatever else happens to come our way, including these 'frame' art papers. Lots of options.
Smootch, honestly, usually grabs whatever is on top. If she ends up with one of these frame papers, she has another choice to make: which side of the paper is the top and which is the bottom. There is, after all, a completely blank side and a 'framed' side. Our adult minds automatically assume the framed side is the front and the blank the back. But Smootch doesn't quite have all our rules down yet and considers both sides to be fair game.
When Smootch is in the mood to draw but does not have any particular subject in mind, she will often draw on the side with the 'frame', allowing the frame's theme to influence her. Watching her try to copy the pictures in the frame, I would make a guess that she is working on her technical drawing skills and learning how to 'see' something that she wishes to draw. She seems engaged and, dare I say, challenged.
However, when Smootch has something predetermined to draw that has nothing to do with the frame theme, she will flip the paper blank side up and follow her internal vision. The frame is on the back, ignored except as the side where she sometimes puts a dedication to whomever the drawing is for.
And that's just it, why I'm not concerned about these framed papers limiting Smootch's creativity. There are limits on almost everything we do. It's our choice whether we are going to internalize those limits and let them become our rules, or if we're going to go our own way. Sometimes it pleases us to stay within the frame set before us and go with the flow. There is value in harmony, even if we didn't choose the tune. Other times, we have to completely reject the frame, flip the whole thing over, and do our own thing.
I would love to get rid of the art frame paper entirely and never put limits on Smootch's drawings (except for the size of the paper, and the marking materials, and the paper itself and not the wall or her brother, and some other stuff but I think you get the idea). But it think it would just as restrictive to say that this paper is good but this other one is bad, based my own aesthetic judgments and justifying them through the greater good of supposed unlimited creativity. Instead, when it comes to her art at least, I will let her find the world just as it is and let her grow and learn with it's many imperfections and limitations.
Besides, there are so many other areas of her life where I get to restrict what she does and where she does it. I think I can take a break on this one just a bit, yes?