The Bones of Art

I teach art for all ages at the community center in my neighborhood Bridge Meadows.  Most of my students are children.  I try to make an easy going place for kids to express themselves, learn to deal with mistakes, and have a good time.  I do minimal instruction but give guidelines.  I also try to get them the best materials we can afford because I think the the kids deserve it. The better the materials, the less frustration.

One of my youngest students is Tomas, who is 4.  He’s loves to paint.  He doesn’t want crayons, markers or pencils.  He wants to slop around with watercolors. 

I hold class from 4:30 til 6 on Monday.  Children come late sometimes, but Tomas came with his brothers and mom at 5:45 and wanted to paint.  All the other kids that day were working with markers, oil pastels and colored pencils.  I didn’t want to get everything set up for him to paint when he was going to leave 10 minutes later.

“Let’s just draw today,” I told him.

“No I want to paint!” he said.

“But you need to draw sometimes, too.  You know drawing is like the skeleton of painting.  It’s the bones that hold paintings up.  You  know, like your bones hold you up.  Drawing holds up painting.   It’s the bones of art.”

He looked a bit mystified. 

“Not if you’re a snowman,” he said.

And that’s one of the great rewards of  working with children — they put things in perspective for you.

Mixing colors
Tomas’ Monday Masterpiece

For more posts on life at Bridge Meadows, you can click the tab in the heading.  You can read my latest post about it here:  Living the Rich Life.

I appreciate your comments, likes and shares.

Bridge Meadows on PBS

Here is the link to the program I wrote about on this blog:
 Bridge Meadows Community on PBS
I’m linking this to my friends at Paint Party Friday.  I’ll be back to posting art next week.

Hi friends and blog followers.  I’ve been absent from blogging a lot longer than I intended, but I was in the

By Lily age 8

midst of two freelance jobs and couldn’t really work it into my schedule.  I’m in the process of writing a post about that, meanwhile, I got news today, April 15, that the PBS Newshour will be broadcasting a story on Bridge Meadows, the intergenerational community I live in.  Last month Cat Wise and her cameraman came out and shot a lot of footage of the elders, families and kids here, and interviewed a lot of us, including my husband and me.  So if you watch the Newshour, or even if you don’t, tune in tonight and see what intergenerational living is all about.

About two months after I moved here in 2012, I made the following observation on this blog: “I’ve met many of the elders (there are about 29 of us) — a wonderful and diverse group of young-at-heart optimists who all feel pretty lucky to be in this intentional community built to support families adopting foster children.
I feel this sense among us that we can help patch up a small tear in society.  

Instead of just being “low-income” seniors, I feel we are now contributing members of society.  It’s both a subtle and grand shift in self-perception.  We are now teachers, friends, aunties, grandparents, musicians, neighbors, uncles, writers, counselors — all more than a statistic or a hard-luck story.  There are so many creatives and support people, it’s hard to figure out what my contribution will be — but whatever it is, I know I’ll get plenty of support.  I’m also pretty sure I’m going to learn more from the kids than they’ll learn from me.  Plus it’s a work in progress, this community.  It only opened in April of 2011, and is only one of 3 in the entire county. That gives it a fresh, shiny sheen of optimism.”

Bridge Meadows Neighbors

I’m providing a link to a post I wrote in September about working with one of the boys here on art and repair, called Godzilla’s Prosthesis.  He and I are in the process of making a cardboard robot now, so expect more on that soon.  Meanwhile, thanks for reading my blog.

Bridge Meadows: My Home Sweet Home

My dragon story and story friends

I haven’t written about my community Bridge Meadows in a while.  They’ve made a new video about it and I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s posted on their Facebook page, but it’s a public page so you should be able to get to it without being a member of Facebook.  There’s a shot of me reading the very funny picture book Socksquath by Frank Dormer, which represents what I do in the community.  I read stories to and with kids.  I also do a lot of drawing and encouraging their creative sides.  Everyone here knows there’s no such thing as a bad drawing.  Yesterday, one of the girls here told me, “There’s no such thing as a bad child.”  Amen to that!  The kids in our community have been through a lot in their young years, but each one of them is a treasure and full of the potential that every human is born with.  Here’s the link to the video:

We have a great community space where all the buildings and houses open up to a courtyard.  My husband and I live in a small apartment that is frequently visited by children of all ages.  One of the great things is that the kids here are used to being around people with disabilities.  My walker is a popular item.

We all get to have fun with crayons, paints and our imaginations.
I’ve made great friends with people of all ages and some of the elders even like my children’s stories.  Nita, my 89 year old neighbor, just joined me in a challenge to write a poem every day in June.  And if I’m every blue, my young friends always know what to do:
photo by J.E. Underwood

If you want more information on Bridge Meadows, just ask.  And thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

Spider Heaven

I took my sketchbook out to the Bridge Meadows courtyard on Saturday and was soon surround by a small group of kids.  We had a spontaneous drawing party.  I’d brought my twistable Crayola colored pencils and we were all drawing flowers. 

A little speck of red started skittering across my paper.  At first I thought it was a pencil crumb blowing in the wind, but then I realized it was a spider mite.  I pointed it out to the kids and they were all fascinated, except one little girl, who panicked and squished it with the side of  her pencil.  It was so tiny, it didn’t even leave a mark.

A seven year old boy got very upset.  “That spider was just going along, minding his own business and having a good time and she just killed it.  She killed it!  He didn’t deserve it.”

He went on and on — I thought he was going to cry.  He also seemed to want to torment the girl.  I told him that some people are afraid of bugs.  The girl thought the spider was dangerous and some are.  And there’s no use in making her feel worse about it.  Everything’s fine and the spider is in spider heaven.

His eyes got wide and he wailed, “I wish I was in spider heaven!”


“I want to live in spider heaven!”

I told him that we didn’t want him to live in spider heaven, we wanted him here in the neighborhood with us and that we’d all be very sad if he left. 

“Oh,” he said and went back to coloring.  Soon he was singing a little song.  And the girl was fine, too.

Brief theology discussions with my new young friends pop up quite often.  The kids are all somewhat worried that some disaster is going to befall them.  Most of them have had fractured lives and they’ve witnessed violence.  Plus they get a lot of mixed messages from film and video games. 

The thing I love most about helping them with art and stories is that after an acknowledgement of fear, we can imagine anything we want.  We can play with color.  He drew a picture of his cousin and him watering flowers in big pots.  “We really did that.  We grew flowers”  He ran off with the picture to give to his mom.

I drew spider heaven.

Ink and watercolor pencil