About a week after the art exhibit started at Pacific Northern Academy, Ms. Jaeger invited Ethan and me to model for Kyra’s class.
“Are you sure my terrible two is going to stay still for the class?” I asked Ms. Jaeger.
“Don’t worry. It will be fine.”
I leaned in close so only she could hear me, “So, do Kindergarteners know how to sketch from live models?” Note: I’m asking a teacher that had fifth graders create artwork for the film, Everybody Loves Whales, and seventh graders design four 54-piece dish sets and two tea sets with ceramic artist Ade Waworuntu.
“Oh yes, light and shadow on a live person is the best way to learn how to draw for artists just starting out. Plus,” she peered at me over her glasses, “there’s something about a living being that reverberates.”
I could see what Ms. Jaeger meant. Just as we sat down in the center of fourteen Kindergartener artists, Ethan stood on my lap, threw both arms into the air, and sprang off my thighs shouting, “I’m Buzz Lightyear!”
The Kindergarteners giggled hysterically. “Ethan,” they cheered. Some of them clapped and chalk dust flew from their little hands.
Ethan tossed his Buzz toy at his audience and three of them retrieved it for him.
Always the crowd pleaser, Ethan, then twisted in my arms as if he were ending a complex salsa routine and dipped dramatically across my lap. He closed his eyes and threw his arms and head back toward the ground for a final flare.
Meanwhile, I watched nervously as some of the Kindergarteners, who had already started to sketch him in the Superhero flying stance, frowned.
But Ms. Jaeger reassured me, “Moving models are a fun challenge for artists.”
And she was right. Catherine recovered by turning her paper upside down after she finished Ethan’s figure.
Charlie concentrated on designing his own outfit for Ethan and making sure Buzz appeared firmly in his hand.
Emily gave me extra long eyelashes and captured my earrings perfectly.
The twins, Mark and Sierra, imagined Ethan and me in their own fantastical world.
Hannah focused on Ethan’s face, taking extra time to blend in his hair by rubbing tissue paper over her brown chalk lines. When she noticed me peeking, she said proudly, “My mommy taught me how to draw.”
My chest tightened when I heard that. Her mother was an artist too, who told me she never taught Hannah how to draw either. She simply had a lot of art materials lying around the house and Hannah enjoyed watching her work. Lilly and Maya’s mother, who used to be an art teacher agreed, “Yes, sometimes, I’ll just throw down a tarp outside and let my girls go wild with paint.”
Lilly confidently accessorized my persona on her page. She gave me fancy pants and a figure I wish I had.
Her twin, Maya, had entirely different aesthetics.
“Go wild with paint” sounded messy to me and it was something I’ve never tried, but with school ending next week I made a mental note to take my art supplies down from the top shelf of my closet and make them more accessible to my kids.
Fortunately, Kyra and Ethan seemed to be born with plenty of swagger. “Look what I did!” Kyra waved her rendition of Ethan an inch from my nose.
“That’s me,” Ethan said, beaming at his sister.
“That’s my DeeDee,” Kyra said. With the back of her hand, she brushed her hair from her forehead and a red streak appeared like an exclamation point.
“It’s beautiful,” I praised Kyra. After that, every Kindergartener excitedly presented their artwork to me for flattery. Ms. Jaeger told me that every child is an artist. She said, “Encouragement is all kids need to be creative because when they get older inevitably they will have a habit of being self-critical.”
In truth, the Kindergarteners learned quite a deal this year. They worked on the elements of design: line, shape, value, texture, overlapping, modeling, linear, aerial, and color perspective. They experimented with pencil, charcoal, chalk pastels, india ink, tempera, acrylic paint, printmaking, book arts, still life, landscape and figure drawing. They even explored clay techniques, creating an Alaskan Animals Tile Table.
In addition, they taught me a great deal too. Armed with fourteen masterpieces, I went home that day dazzled by these passionate confident five and six year olds. Most importantly, they reminded me to throw self-criticism to the wind.