Kids + Art = Surreal

Nick, meet René…
but not really, because this is just a painting.

“Yeah, I told Juan to stop drawing that crazy s***.”


I had just picked Nick up from camp and, while driving home, had asked about the over-sized picture he had drawn with some friends.

Apparently, his s-bomb hadn’t escalated to the camp leaders, because all they said when I picked him up was, “See you tomorrow” not “Please wash that boy’s mouth out with soap.”

Tread lightly… tread lightly…Pick one issue at a time…Swearing or censorship…

“So Nick, what did Juan draw?”

“He drew a house in the middle of the air.  So I had to draw a basement so it could touch the ground.  See?”  He held up the drawing, and yes, I could see the not-remotely-to-scale house the two boys had drawn.  I also saw multicolored trees, people with stick hands and bubble feet, and at least 7 rainbows in a single sky.

Oh, and there was no perspective.

“Wow.  That’s great that you guys worked together on this.  You know, it’s totally OK to draw whatever you want.  That’s art.  You get to use your imagination to draw the pictures that you see in your head.  So, you could definitely have a house in the air.”

He shrugged, clearly unconvinced as his attention wandered to fraying edge of his shorts.  I needed a better argument.  Stat!

“Hey!  What if it was flying?”

“It wasn’t…and they don’t.”

Okaaaaay.  Different approach needed.

“What if you were just taking a picture of a house that was blowing around during a tornado.  It would look like it was flying.”

“It would be broken.  We would need to show it all broken up.”

OK, my kid’s a realist. Do we stay on the picture-as-a-moment-in-time idea of segue into other styles of art?

“You know how Jill is a painter?”


“And she makes really cool pictures that people like to buy?”


“Well, half the time,” I lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper and Nick leaned forward in his car seat.   “I don’t know what she’s painting because it doesn’t look like anything I know.”  Nick’s eyes went wide.  “Yeah, and that’s ok because that’s called abstract and I still like it.”


“And there’s this other painter who used to paint melting watches.  Can you believe it?  How funny is that?!  It’s like, ‘hey, I’m going to leave my watch in the sun and let it melt like ice cream.‘”

“Would your watch really melt?”  Again with the realism?

“Uh, no. But it wouldn’t matter because with surreal- “

“I bet if you went up in a rocket ship to the sun and then put on your space suit and had a watch on and it dropped into the sun that it would melt.”

“Uh, yes.  But – ” I stopped myself.  What was I really going to say?  That his scenario wasn’t realistic and was therefore invalidEt tu, Nana?   Who was I to rain on his imagination parade?

“I bet that would be a pretty awesome adventure, kiddo.  Would you take Gabe and Olivia with you?”

He scrunched up his face, giving my question the serious thought it clearly warranted.

“Maybe, Gabe, but not Olivia.  Babies can’t go into space. (duh).”

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