Tuesday, July 26, 2005


In Which I Watch The Artist At Work...

I'm not so good with heat. "Heat" by the way is for me defined as temperatures in excess of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything in the 80s is "sweltering hot" and anything in the 90s is "fucking hot." Temperatures in the triple digits constitute an Extinction Level Event.

So it's that time of year when I'm spending a good chunk of the weekend indoors, where life-giving Freon, as interpreted by my environmentally antiquated appliances, provides me with the essentials I need for survival (specifically, cool air and popsicles).

This weekend, I wasn't alone. While Her Lovely Self toiled outside, watering her garden with her own sweat, the kids decided to hang out inside as well. It had been a week full of sports and parties and outdoor activities for them, so I think they just wanted a change. We played a nauseating amount of Go Fish and Memory, then cleaned out the basement (that is, I cleaned out the basement, while threading my way through the ever-growing obstacle course of LEGOs and minuscule Barbie apparel).

Later, we watched a thrilling nature documentary about dinosaurs, which featured enormous, slavering T-rex style carnivores and--speaking of Extinction Level Events--a massive volcanic explosion. Well, dinosaurs and natural disasters are pretty high up on my son Thomas' list of artistic inspirations, and before the show was even over, he announced that he would be doing a new series of watercolors based on what he'd just seen.

Sometimes, when he's really excited, my son will prepare to draw a picture the way I imagine actors will prepare for a role. For example, if he's going to draw a picture of a fluffy woodland creature being chased by a pack of ravening wolves, he will first run through the house, or the yard, pretending to be the fluffy woodland creature. Then, he'll switch roles and be the entire ravening pack of wolves and convince his sister to be the FWC. I don't think they teach Method Painting at any of the big art schools, but I can't argue with his results. For me anyway, it makes the prep work leading up to the painting as enjoyable as the finished project itself.

So I was anticipating watching him spend the afternoon exploding out of our big red beanbag, or perhaps cajoling The Brownie into being a quiet little veggiesaur while he stalked her throughout the house.

But this time, Thomas did nothing like that. Instead, he laid on the floor a lot, with his eyes closed. Sometimes, he'd jump up with a yell, but instead of running, he'd stand still and look straight up at the ceiling. Then he went outside and did this for a bit, lying perfectly flat on the grass and staring up into the sky. A passing neighbor asked if he was looking at clouds. "No," he said, a little testily. "I'm working on my painting."

Finally, after an hour of this behavior, he settled in at the kitchen table with his watercolors.

About 45 minutes later, he carefully laid his work on top of the dog's kennel to dry.

"Come see," he said.

And this is what I saw.


Wow, I thought. It's kind of an abstract volcano. I mean, it was rather a lot longer and narrower than the one we had seen on the show, but look at the red of that lava! The more I looked at it, the more I saw that he must have tried to do a sort of cutaway view of a volcano, so you could see the lava inside.

"Wow, it's really vivid," I said, remarking on the colors. "Did you name it yet?" Thomas always names his artwork.

"Yes," he said gravely. "It's called 'Dinner.'"

Before I could stop myself, I said, "A volcano called 'Dinner'?"

He gave me one of those oh-god-dad-is-crazy looks that both of my children have mastered from an early age. "It's not a volcano, Dad!!"

Of course, I had been thrown. I thought because of the show we had just seen, Thomas was responding to that influence. But then I remembered that last night we had had pasta. HLS and I had ours with a rich, dark pesto sauce, but the kids had theirs with standard-issue tomato sauce. I remembered now how fascinated Thomas had been with the colors of the sauces, sitting next to each other in different bowls. He must have decided to switch gears and paint something inspired by, well, dinner.

"Oh, of course!" I said quickly. "That's the green sauce Mom and I had, and in the middle is the red sauce. And it's on some kind of, er, pizza bread thing..."

Thomas looked completely resigned. "No, Dad," he sighed in the practiced way of the artist who must explain his vision to the ignorant masses. "Not OUR dinner. YOU'RE the dinner!!"

And now I had no idea what he was talking about. "I'm sorry, buddy. I guess I don't—"

He pointed at the picture. "That's a T. Rex, coming to eat you. You're on the ground, and he's opening his mouth to bite you up. You're the dinner."

It was like that moment when you're looking at an optical illusion and the picture of the vase suddenly becomes a boy and a girl kissing. I could see it instantly: the white teeth, the bloody red maw. I just didn't expect a 6-year-old--even mine--to draw something from such a perspective.

Have another look:


"Holy shit!" I exclaimed, quite despite myself.

"So it's good?" he asked. "Good enough to hang in your office?"

"It's better than that," I said. "In fact, I'm going to show it to all my friends on the computer."

And so I have.

But please, folks, do not feel obligated to comment on it. We've all been subjected to those parents who expect you to coo over their baby (even when that baby has been whacked liberally with the Ugly Stick) and I have no desire to put you in a similar position. Just chalk this post up to the enthusiasm of a father who finds himself consumed by his son's talent.

In more ways than one.

From Somewhere in the Stomach of the T. Rex

Wow. I got it at first glance. I'd say the kid's got real talent. Time to get him some serious art supplies. I love the 'method painting' concept. Very impressive.
I got it at first sight too...impressive for a 6 year old! And his preparation for painting - even more impressive. Nurture that talent!
He has alot of talent... If he is this talented now just wait until he is older... He will make some art teacher very happy... Tell him to keep up the good work... and I would love to see more of his creations up here in the future!!
I was yelling at you the whole time I read this after I saw the picture, "It's a T-Rex mouth!!" I think it's very good. Maybe you should look into some sort of Art camp for him next summer, he is talented. Feel free to share anytime.

As for his method, how many artists do you know? How do you know this isn't the way all the greats do/did it?
Nice picture. I hate to say it, but I knew it was a T-rex as well. Maybe you guys could do some children's books together with him illustrating.

I bet the father/son duo would be a nice pitch.
I love it. Perspective is so important in art, and his ability to observe before hand while preparing shows a thoughtful mind. Very very creative.
So that is why he was on the ground looking upward. I bet he'd have a blast playing with an old digital camera.
And, it is important to brag on your own kid. No apologies necessary.
OK I scrolled down and saw the picture before I read anything so maybe I can be forgiven for thinking that it was an alligator's mouth (or crocodile's mouth - I have trouble remembering which is which) instead of a T-Rex mouth.

I think your son is brilliant, by the way. What a unique and clever process he's developed!
between that and the dinosaurs he has the beginnings of a great gallery showing --- make sure to send me an invite!
Too cool. Twinks was reading (OK, glancing) over my shoulder, and she knew what it was right away. I arrived there about two nanoseconds later; I love the whole thing. 'Specially the name!

Hang it in your office, Dad.

Thanks for sharing

T. (via DIAL-UP for crying out loud!) in Hospital City.
Wow, Johnny C. has a great idea! You'll have to give him royalties if you do it :)

As for knowing what the picture was, I admit that I was thrown at first, but I DID recognize teeth. These posts about your boy always bring me to the brink of tears. Man, I hope that's not my biological clock ticking... :p
I guess I'm going to be the only one to admit that I also thought it was a volcano cross-section. I like it a lot though! Frame it :)
I'm seriously impressed by your son's painting, though not with your guesses as to what it is! How could you not see it?!
"I got it right away," she says smugly.

I love his perspective with this. It would be the last thing a rabbit would see.

When my son was six, he drew a picture of Santa in front of his sleigh. Mind you, he didn't draw it "over" the sleigh, but in front of it. Then he had a bit go off the page.

"What's this?" I asked.

"That's the harness for the reindeer. They're standing over here waiting to take off again."

Unfortunately, the public school system killed my son's desire to draw. Don't get me started.

Please, PLEASE, please encourage your son's artistic talent. And to keep the wonder with which he views the world.

I knew it right away too. When you're the Dad....sometimes it's tough to see the forrest for the trees.

Your son is very lucky to have such a great imagination, a unique perspective on things and real talent. This is one of the upsides to ADHD. Almost a Savant like quality without the idiot part. With my kid - it's being mechanically inclined. He could practically put the ass back in a cat. But he still isn't working on MY car.

Might I suggest, as a form of encouragement, your son should have his own little picture blog. I'd link to it. I'm sure others would too. Hell, he could be famous before age 7!

Encourage the lad as you do. Might I suggest finger paints?

In terms of really being in touch with your medium, you can't beat them.

Seriously, I have the most fun and am most challenged with gops of primary color.

Okay, we can stipulate that I'm clueless and should have seen it for what it was right away (though God love you Jackie for seeing what I saw at first!). Clearly I didn't do a good job explaining just how fascinated Thomas was with the volcano part of the show. He had me so convinced that's what he was going to paint that that's what I was expecting to see. Which is fine with me, actually. It made the moment of revelation that much more exciting.

By the way, although I said comments weren't necessary, I'm very grateful for them. I've been reading them to Thomas all morning and he's walking on air. Alas, he can't leave the room now because his head won't fit through the door...
I am with Sharfa- I would love to see all his pictures if he would care to share. I have set this one as my background. It looks awesome.
I can only say that I am a dimwit and I did not see it for what it was until you told me.

Dinner ... indeed.

I can see where you get your creativeness from. You definately inherited it from him ... :)

I think its safe to say you can start keeping his work from now onwards so that you can open up a galery later on when you have enough to choose from.

I am serious. His good.
My favorite part is when you exclaime "Holy Shit!" to your 6-year old son... Didn't even faze him :)

He's def. good. The idea about the art blog is a good one - he could even write in it now and then and say hi to his adoring public.
Not only is it immediately obvious to me that it's the inside of a T-Rex mouth, but it's also obvious that your son has quite a talent. I couldn't make something like that if it were a paint by numbers. Definitely frameworthy.
OK, I am awed by the kid's talent and his knack for seeing things from different perspectives. I hope you don't mind I've nabbed it for my desktop for a while -- it totally reminds me that I need to look at things from many different angles before labeling them. Thanks for sharing this.
Tell Mr. T that one of the work ladies thinks he's a great artist. Heck, I knew what it was right away! But then, I'm old enough to remember when T Rex roamed the earth. At least, that's how old I feel today.

Muchas Smoochas
Has anyone mentioned "The PreHistory Of The Far Side" where Gary Larsen shows off his early handiwork? Magazine Man should buy himself a copy and take a look at the one with the wolf attacking Gary.

That's my way of saying, make him draw more because he can see three-dimentionally in his head and that's a gift.
He even shaded the teeth.

Bloody impressive.
Awesome, completely awesome. And dandy scary too.
Holy shit! is right. Please tell Thomas that art makes a difference in peoples' lives, and looking at his work and hearing a bit of how he thinks really cheered me up today when I was feeling a bit grouchy.

Start him up a cafepress.com "store." Art supplies can really get expensive after a while, and I think he'd get customers.
I'm a bit late coming to this but my son turned me onto your son's site. I have two sons that had/have a similar unusual perspective as your son. As children I provided an art center in a corner of the family room. They grew up doing creative things, including drawing, painting, putting on shows and newscasts for mom and dad. As they got into middle school they began using the computer and video camera to make stop action movies and so on. They both went to Savannah College of Art and Design. Now one (26 years old) works for Bungee, a company making computer games such as Halo and Halo 2. The other (23 years old) works at an ad agency doing web banners and also does freelancing websites, videos and film. They are going to go far and so will your son. Don't let teachers (even art teachers can do this) dampen his talent and creativity. I fought that fight a few times as they were growing up. I envy you all the great times you'll have in the future! Enjoy every moment, they will be grown the next time you turn around.
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