Thought of the Week: Art Supplies and Preciousness

I love the segment Jimmy Fallon does with musicians and elementary school instruments.  Surely you have seen these on YouTube, if not on the show itself.  The latest was Idina Menzel with “Let It Go.”  She and Jimmy sing while his band, The Roots, play the song on simple instruments you might find in a kindergarten class.  I love this segment because it is a great reminder as creators and artists, that the beauty does not always come from having the best materials or instruments.  The beauty lies in the creating.  In the making.

Artists of all kinds are makers.  We make a painting.  We portray a character.  We create a melody.  We create a movement with our body.  We bake bread.  We create a garden.  We make things. While it is certainly nice to have the best materials possible, it is not necessary.  The magic is the creation.

This idea has been on my mind since taking on an elementary art teacher position.  You see, I don’t have access to the best materials, but what  I have realized is that my students are making amazing art with the most basic of supplies.  The most important thing they are learning has nothing to do with the tools and instruments.  They are learning to embrace their creativity, to problem solve, and to think in different ways.  No matter where their lives lead them, the skills of creation are ones that will serve them well in their futures.  The quality of the supplies is a bit superfluous.

This has been a valuable lesson for me as well.  I have a little problem with making my supplies too precious.  When I get the good stuff, I tend to hoard it like there is going to be a shortage on quality art supplies for all of eternity.  I have literally kept expensive paints without using them until they became unusable.  It’s kind of ridiculous.  I save them for something special.  Then I don’t use the supplies or even make art because it is not good enough.  I use “something special” as an excuse to not make art.  When I restarted my personal art journey this last year, I bought bottles of cheap sixty-nine cent paints and cheap paper just to get myself started.  I could let myself practice with that.  I could tip toe back into my lost creative life.  I have fallen in love again with creating.  During a conversation with a friend recently, he asked me how doing art and my project made me feel.  I replied that it makes me feel calm.  When I make art, my high-strung personality relaxes and gets distracted.  Nothing else matters except what I am creating. It is all-encompassing.  What matters to me is the act of creation itself.  It leaves in the dust the quality of supplies, and even the product of our creation.  The brave act of creation is the sole purpose.