Saturday, June 20, 2015

Art Camp

The digital clock on the dashboard read 6:09 as I pulled out of the daycare's gravel driveway. Although it was actually 7:16 - as daylight savings time had only been a few months ago - I had yet to  reset it. I've become quite comfortable living with a rough guesstimate of the time. The minor inconvenience saves me from feelings of urgency when problems arise. As I don't defuse time bombs for a living, I find times such as "between 7ish and 8" acceptable for most situations.
On this particular Monday morning, all that mattered was that it was early. So early that I couldn't have dropped the toddler off any earlier. So early that driving felt like lucid dreaming. So early that my 8 year old was now throwing up Reese Peanut Butter cereal in between the bucket seats behind me. I watched helplessly in the rear-view mirror as I barreled down the highway, barely missing another suicidal and horny turtle.
Twenty minutes later I pulled in to pick up a long-time friend. We were scheduled to co-teach a summer art camp for kids in a little town about an hour's drive southeast.

"Sorry I'm running late-ish. Sorry it smells like chocolate milk vomit. We need to stop for gas."

Barely ruffled we set off down the hilly, winding highways that tether together small-town Missouri across the ancient Ozark Mountains - my buddy driving so I could attempt to clean the car with air freshener and paper towels as needed. We sang strings of lyrics along with the oldies radio station in an it's-okay-because-I've-known-you-forever kind of way. The smell of the morning sun attempting to dry the over-watered landscape sweetened our puke potpourri. We tucked pleasant conversation around the robotic instructions sporadically recited from the GPS navigation software. I found it humorous and exciting that my friend's idea of where we were going resembled my idea of the actual time. You really can't beat hanging out with a couple of artists unless you're on your way to diffuse a time bomb.

We spent the mornings with about 7 to 9 kids. We used markers, paint and paper mache projects to instill principals of art and design:

Us: "Let's use markers and talk a little about color. How about red? If you felt angry, would you maybe color a red scribbled line? What about if you felt sad. What color would you use to paint sad feelings?"
Kid: "Orange is a color."
Us: "Yes, good. Orange is a color. Is orange kind of an exciting color? Maybe a happy color?"
Kid: "My grandma likes orange. She's going to buy me a bunny."

So it went really well. It was perhaps not the easiest thing I've ever done, but by the end of the week we had some slightly soggy 3D bears and monsters to show off, and all those kids were able to comment on the colors, contrast, patterns and depth in professional artwork. After day 5, even the 6 year-old had moved beyond "I like that one because it's pink" to "I see patterns and overlapping in that one and I can't hardly wait to get a bunny".

I also gained a lot from the experience. I practiced my patience. Road-tripping with a laid-back fellow artist and good friend made my week. Eating at a little country diner called J&J's, where no one thinks anything of ordering a side of bacon or fried okra to go with anything, added charm to our trip. And most rewarding of all was planting the seeds of art education and appreciation in this tiny pocket of the universe. I'm looking forward to our next class. It's scheduled to begin in July-ish... BYOB (Bring your own bunny).