I think every mother of young artists wonders what to do with the mounds of paper, each sheet scribbled with a few random lines, that pile up in the house. I’d guess that most kids’ll go through about as much paper as they’re allowed. Kids love to draw trees and sunshine and rainbows and the occasional horse with color crayons, right?
And then there’s Asher.
He hates color crayons. His preferred medium continues to be the good ol’ Crayola marker, both the fat variety and the thin. He even allows some of his markers to dry out, purposely leaving the lids off in order to expand his palette with those lighter shades. His hands and forearms are usually blotched with ink, and his pieces are often smudged from the excess ink he carries on his body, as you’ll see below. He’s like a little mad scientist, muttering away at his seat in the corner of the kitchen. Only he’s an artist, not a scientist.
He draws what he’s learning, often requesting the biggest piece of paper we can find (we’ve even brought those sheets of cardboard that come with salt and mineral pallets into the house) to portray entire landscapes. There’s this quick one of a roper navigating a branding pen:
But he usually draws on his favorite subject, history, and often reproduces what he sees in books and movies. His interest in history is evident in everything he does — he’s likely to absorb a story he hears, then draw out how he sees it in his mind. In this way he churns out masterpiece after masterpiece — or at least mediocrity after mediocrity — working so quickly that he often moves on to a new sheet of paper before he’s filled in the hills and skies on the first.
Seriously, the kid would draw all day every day if I let him.
I once saw a drawing by a very young (future Western artist) Tim Cox. In the drawing, a youthful Master Cox had depicted, in pencil, chickens outside a chicken coop, and his mother was quoted there as she pointed out the care her very young son had taken in portraying the depth of the scene. As in, the chickens were closer to the eye than the coop, and the coop was clearly behind the chickens — the lines of the coop did not overlay the chickens.
I have a tendency to look a little too deeply into such matters, but I think you’ll agree as you scan the portfolio below that we’re starting to see progression in Asher’s work. His style is much the same as it was a year ago, yet his ability is increasing as he grows up. Take, for instance, this self-portrait from when he was five:
And this more recent self-portrait:
Yes, my 6-year-old has a mustache and packs firearms wherever he goes.
We’re also starting to see more action and movement in the creatures he draws (compared to the stick figures he previously stuck to):
I guess you might title this one Soldier Herding Llamas. (?)
He produces so much art that, as any parent does, I have to sort through it on a regular basis. I toss probably 75% of what he puts out — but some pieces my mother’s heart just can’t bear to carry to the burn barrel. So I, of course, keep the best. But even the “keep” pile gets out of control. So this blog is actually dual-purpose: 1) to wonder with you at the meaning and potential future of my son’s art; and 2) to scan a bunch of the pieces into the computer so I can both preserve them for all time and toss a bunch of originals. I know, it seems like a terrible thing to do… but truly… there are so many papers floating around this house. The paper is taking over. Must downsize.
Below, I present the portfolio of 6-year-old M. Asher Blake. Please keep in mind, it’s not that I think my son’s work is groundbreaking or elite. I have no other fledgling artists to compare him to other than his 4-year-old sister, who likes to color (with crayons) pre-printed pictures of fairies and princesses and Doc McStuffins. It’s just that I think it’s very interesting that this little person living in my home churns out page after page of art, all in a very consistent style. Naturally, it makes me wonder if it’s all just a stage… or if we’re catching glimpses of the artist he might grow up to be.
A top interest for him since he was tiny, of course, has been Native American history:
This one, above, is not all that recent, but I have always loved the action in the hair shown here. You’ll notice, too, that Asher has always gravitated toward drawing humans and critters navigating steep hills.
This one, above, represents a recent foray into colored pencil art. He is becoming more and more interested in adding details, and pencils give him the opportunity to do that over markers. I really get a kick out of the details he’ll add to a piece like this: for instance, the girl jumping her horse over the pond. There are many people doing many different things in a lot of his drawings.
Below, a recent experiment with watercolor paint:
He’ll occasionally depict a rodeo, though he’s not above throwing in a bucking zebra to liven things up:
(I don’t know what that one fella’s doing out there in the arena.)
Asher likes to itemize drawings of what all he would need to pack for a camping trip… or if he was setting out to find a new land. I remember making similar “lists” when I was little:
He likes to draw details of what’s going on inside houses:
This one, above, from several months ago, interests me. Why the ice cream cone on the third floor?
And while wars and the Old West are his No. 1 loves in the realm of history, he’s also given attention to such subjects as the Trojan horse…
… cave men killing dinosaurs (my favorite detail here: the baby in the cradle in the cave)…
… the Easter story (from last year)…
… and the story of Adam and Eve (he reproduced these two pages below using a superhero graphic novel version of the Bible — the interesting part is that not every square is in the right spot; he sometimes juxtaposes the order of things in his mind).
That mean ol’ serpent!
Let’s see… what next? I think I scanned a total of 43 images to share in this blog. So… how about wagons? He puts together long panoramas of wagon trains (you’ll notice he loves that grand old American flag):
(These are very early marker drawings, directly above and below; he continues to delight in drawing horses and wagons and other modes of transportation crossing water.)
Speaking of water, there are sometimes alligators:
You know how I said he often reproduces something he’s seen in a book or magazine? Well, we can thank National Geographic for this one:
The truth is, a lot of his art leans toward the macabre. From his proposed gun collection…
… to Safari hunts…
… his art even sometimes borders on inappropriate. (But normal, I hope, for a little boy?)
And yes, it can be very embarrassing when he’s drawing in a public setting, like Sunday School, and turns out some gory war scene for all to see. Sometimes I’m not sure if I should make an effort to thwart his tendency to depict weapon-carrying individuals as well as people pointing guns at other people. I don’t want to squash his spirit, but I don’t want him to dwell on dark thoughts, either. The thing is, because he loves war history, we read a lot about it and look at a lot of period art pieces. Art like this results:
This is an aerial view of an Old West fort:
Lately we’ve been reading Hero of Hacksaw Ridge together, so the WWII battle on Okinawa is currently inspiring his work:
And the surrender of the Japanese, which he very much anticipates, depicted below:
Occasionally — actually, rarely — I offer ideas for improving or growing his art. For instance, adding depth or filling in the background of any given piece. But in reality, neither I nor Beau know a lot about art — so, if his interests carry on, we’ll have to get him to some art instructors eventually.
So mostly I just sit back and enjoy. And remind him to Use a whole piece of paper before you get another one!
I’ll close with these recent offerings that demonstrate how his attention to detail is growing. Below are three different depictions of Lewis, Clark, and various members of the Corps of Discovery:
I think that’s York in the middle. And maybe river pirates on the left?
© Tami Blake