Ten ThousandVisions




Explaining Painting to a Four-Year-Old

By Michael Divine on June 26th, 2007

two little boys with their father looking at my artwork. The boys are four (and Marcus actually let’s me know that he is four and a half which is rather important when you figure that other half is a significant portion of his life. Relatively speaking, that other half a year to him is equal to 3.3 years of my own life. That’s a big chunk of time. The two are about two and a half feet tall each and dressed similarly in plaid shirts and short little pants and little bowl haircuts. They stand in front of the eight foot tall Om Mani Padme Hum banner, looking diminutive in relation to the banners height. the father says “they were wondering how you come up with your paintings- do you draw them out first or just go at it?”

I turn to the two boys whose names are marcus and wilson. “Well,” I begin, “I kind of know where I want to go but don’t always know the details, you know? Like on a road map, you see the point on it where you’re going to go, like New York City or something, but you don’t always know all the scenery that you are going to pass on your way there, or even what all the details are going to look like.”

The boys both nod their little melon heads in agreement. they know all about wanting to go somewhere but having no idea what it is going to look like, since they have, at the age of four been to so few places.

“So, likewise, with the painting- I have this place I want to go explore, some emotion or something- love or anger or something, and I have ideas of what it might look like, you know, a basic road map, but the process of going there is the creation of the painting. And on the way, I see all these other little things,  the details come out, the colors find their relationships. You know, the painting gets painted.”

They totally understood. I put out my hand and he slapped me five. Then the other kid did too. “that’s how kids shake hands,” I said. Then I shook the father’s hand. “And this,” I said to the two boys, ‘is how adults end up shaking hands. Not always as much fun…”

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