Everything we have come to call the arts seems to be in almost every 3-year-old. […] When 3 and 4-year-olds draw, the thing they are drawing can change from one thing into another, surprising them.*
If you see a good deal remarkable in me, I see just as much remarkable in you.**
Every day provides an opportunities for us to change who we are and help others to change, too.
Playfulness helps us change.
The artfulness Lynda Barry observes in the drawings of three and four year olds is an expression of playfulness we have once known and perhaps lost. She reflects:
Stories show up on their own when kids draw. The drawing itself propels the story, changing it in a living way.*
Johan Huizinga writes about how our stories contain both play and seriousness until they become civilised:
Living myth knows no distinction between play and seriousness. Only when myth has become mythology, that is, literature, borne along as traditional lore by a culture which has in the meantime more or less outgrown the primitive imagination, only then will the contrast between play and seriousness apply to myth – and to its detriment.^
Barry is noticing living stories in the art and engagement of children and engages with them to try to recover this for herself:
This is the state of mind I’m after when I make comics and spending time working beside four-year-olds has helped me re-learn one of our oldest natural and spontaneous languages. Words and pictures together makes something happen that is more than good or bad drawing.*
We look at children’s drawing and wonder whether they are finished; we may even make the worst possible mistake and judge they are not very good. James Carse helps us to see what we have lost if we are but observers of art:
Finite players stand before infinite play as they stand before art, looking at it, making a poiema^^ of it. If however, the observer sees the poeisis*^ in the work they cease at once being observers. They find themselves in its time, aware that it remains unfinished, aware that their reading of the poetry is itself poetry. Infected by the genius of the artist they recover their own genius, becoming beginners with nothing but possibility ahead of them.^*
Ultimately, we are not trying to produce something that is finished but something that allows us to continue playing and this for others, too, so they may recover their genius and help us grow in ours.
(*From Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(^^Poiema being a piece of art.)
(*^Poeisis being the spirit or genius of the artist.)
(^*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)