Art therapy / by Susie Lubell


Yesterday morning my daughter came into the office while I was trying to squeeze in some work time before getting the kids off to school and she asked if I always knew how to draw. And I told her that I always liked to draw and I did it a lot when I was a kid. And she got big tears in her eyes and said, but I can't do it like you. My drawings aren't pretty. 

And the truth is they're not. Neither of my kids are prodigies, let's just say. Both of them mostly scribble. And I vacillate between being fine with that and being disappointed. How awful, right? But true. For a while my son talked all the time about how he wanted to be an artist. But he almost never decides to just get some markers and draw. He'll get them and write a letter about something or write his name with ten exclamation points. But drawing doesn't come to mind when he's bored at home. He'd rather write memos in his organizer. I'm not kidding. And when we sit down together to draw in the afternoon most often both kids want me to draw something for them or want me to decide what they should draw. Aren't kids supposed to be naturally free and expressive in their visual creativity? The whole exercise makes me irritated. Mostly because I know it's my own fault. I'm probably what's stifling them. I stifle myself sometimes too. The truth is I'm not great at drawing. It's hard for me to just draw a chair or a person or a piece of fruit. Which is why I don't draw those things. Play to your strengths, I say, which for me is color.

So when my little girl came to me distressed about her own abilities all I could think was that I wished I had something I'd drawn as a kid. A few paintings from kindergarten to show my kids that this is how it starts. A scribble. A stick figure. No aspect. No proportion. Just color and love. And outside the lines. Maybe we should go see a Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothko exhibit so they can see that even famous artists scribble and make a big mess.

That afternoon I decided to try something new. While my daughter was napping, my son and I tried some still life drawing and we both drew southpaw. Except he really is left-handed and I'm not. So it gave me an exercise in letting go a little which gave my drawings a kid-like quality. He liked them and liked how his pictures turned out too.  It was positive all around. Then he asked if I wanted his drawings and I said absolutely yes. That's when he showed his true talent. He turned on all the charm and replied they cost $2 each. I might hire him to be my agent.