Learning The Simple Art Of How To Begin

An artist friend told me that when her children were small, she would give them clay or paper - materials of some sort - so that they could make their art while she (or so she hoped) would be able to get on with hers. Presumably this ruse worked to a degree, because today one of her daughters is an artist in her own right.

That daughter also has small children. She, in her turn, does not find it easy to serve both these clamoring aspects of her life, and yet she is determined to be the artist she is, no less than the mother she is.

Her mother succeeded on both counts, so she knows it is possible - though she tells me that when she was a child, she sometimes rather resented the absorption with which her mother painted and drew. Perhaps now, the boot being on the other foot, she is concerned to avoid in her children any similar feelings.

All the same, she does now and then manage to induce her boisterous menage to join her round the table for a painting session.

Of course, it takes time to set children up with all the colors and brushes and water and crayons and pencils and paper that they want.

And if you've already spent much of the day cooking, washing, brushing, ironing, shopping, and to-ing and fro-ing, by the time you have all three of you sitting round the table, you may - as she did on one of these occasions - feel so overcome by an accumulation of dire exhaustion and contrary demands that you find there is not an idea in your head, not an inkling of a hint of an idea....

Her two children were sitting there waiting for art to commence. But she gazed into space and sighed deeply with worn-out frustration - and with a rather unsweet sensation of the unfairness of it all. How would she ever make her way in the art world; how could she really be the serious artist she knew she could be - get exhibitions, sell her work - while, like the old woman who lived in the shoe, she just did not know what to to do....?

''Oh!'' she groaned, ''I don't know how to begin! ''

Her son looked at her. What did she mean? Anyone can start anything. It's easy. After all, they were just going to paint together. Like laughing together, or playing card games, or racing. What was the problem?

He said brightly: ''How about, Ready! Steady! Go!?''

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