Here’s a new look at my story. Hope you enjoy it!
When our younger son was 2, he discovered diggers. On any given day, he’d say “digger” more than he said “mommy” or “daddy.”
Then he realized that I could draw his precious machines. Every day, for hour after hour, he’d sit on my lap and ask me to draw diggers. And tractors, front loaders and cement trucks, backhoes and forklifts. Then we we got serious with face shovels, skid steers and rock drills. I was pretty stoked about adding these words to my vocabulary and only felt a little as though I’d been chained to my chair.
After a few weeks of this I went to a craft store and bought some card stock. Figured I’d cut out some vehicles, slap them in a frame and be done with it. I stuck the diggers onto contrasting squares, framed the beast and went to hang it up. And that’s when I found that I couldn’t. I couldn’t because it turned that out my boy didn’t want it stuck on a wall.
Enter Teachable Moment #1. Apparently kids don’t define “art” as a stationary flat thing stuck on another stationary flat thing. It also isn’t something you just look at. He kept his art – and by now it was definitely HIS – at ground level, pointing at it, poking the glass and talking to (yelling at) it. That was in the evening. During the day, he’d saunter into the living room with it, and there it would sit. On the couch. Watching him play, until he needed to go to bed. Then he’d lug it back again. Want a stuffie, sweetheart? Whatever.
I felt pretty good about my boy’s new habits. I figured they were good for his language development. And at least he wasn’t poking or yelling at me. I snapped a photo of the framed art and stuck it on Facebook. Figured that was it… which brings us to Teachable Moment #2, under the topic of, in spite of what I tell my kids, Mommy is NOT always right.
Pretty soon, the comments started to appear, and what they were saying was, “Can I buy that?” I did some research, located a printing studio and started shipping art. It went across British Columbia, to Alberta, to California, and New York. I also sent pieces to England and France.
After the diggers came ladybugs and butterflies. Then pirates, marine life, dragons, fairies, gnomes and fish. Owls – lots of owls – flowers, abstract shapes, geometric shapes, shapes that allowed my hand to dance across the page in big, swooping circles, as the paper curled away from my knife.
I experimented with static and swivel blades. I tried different scissors and found that my favourites were the ones the gardeners found in a bush at our old house. I tried new techniques: sometimes I’d build the artwork up from the page, sometimes I’d cut through and reveal a different colour underneath.
I began to relax into my technique, filling sketchbooks with drawings and mixed media prep work. I found inspiration in my friends’ children, our natural surroundings in beautiful British Columbia, and through conversations with parents. Time and again, we came back to a single theme: the importance of art in early childhood. Art as the stimulus for language development. Art as a visual aid for teaching. Art as a way of forging connections between siblings. Art as an activity, a safe place, a way of being.
Gradually, though, the dividing line between “children’s art” and “art for adults” became blurred. I stopped referring to my work as Modern Art For Kids and started calling it Modern Art. I diversified into greeting cards in two sizes, sold my work at markets and to numerous retailers in the Vancouver area.
By late 2015, I realized that I needed to expand my wee empire. Within a few weeks, I had 250+ followers on Instagram. Thanks to the example set by more established Instagrammers, I’ve developed what I hope will be an efficient, sassy, quirky-yet-ruthless approach to social media. New branding followed in early 2016 with a new logo, press releases, a sales event, a long term marketing strategy and business plan.
I’ve found my groove and I’m not about to fold. Actually, I’m ready to score. Do join me! It’ll be a slice.