A few weeks back, Mr. T and I watched a video from the library called Eric Carle: Picture Writer. It’s a movie I watched years ago with H and Lulu, about Eric Carle’s art, and his stories about how he became an artist. It’s a quiet, sweet film. One of my favorite parts is the story of his kindergarten teacher, and how she saw that he had a gift for art, and urged his parents to nurture it. Carle believes it’s what led him to become the artist he is.
The other fascinating part of the film is watching Carle in his studio, painting the tissue papers that he uses to make the collaged art of his picture books. It’s so fun to watch him, and then to study his books, and see how he uses those papers. At the end of the film, Mr. T said definitively, “I want to do that.”
So he did. I pulled out paints and papers and brushes, and a few other tools like toothbrushes and combs for making texture in the paint. I offered Mr. T plain white paper; I was afraid tissue paper might be too delicate.
And oh boy, did he go to town.
It wasn’t long before his sister had joined him at the table. I love how having a younger sibling gives an older one “permission” to do something that might seem to babyish to do on his or her own.
When H and Lulu watched the Carle film years ago, they made Carle-style papers too, and then used them to illustrate a book about the sea called, “Over by the Seashore”. It followed the pattern of the old folksong, “Over in the Meadow,” and I helped them make up verses about sea creatures. This time, as Lulu and Mr. T worked, they came up with a grand scheme of writing a new book together called, “Over in the Jungle”, which would be based on jungle creatures from India.
They made papers to use for monkeys, tigers, elephants. They wrote the first three verses together.
They worked at it for two mornings straight, and Mr. T made more papers on a third.
And then the project died. Lulu lost interest. Mr. T decided that he didn’t want to use the papers to make animals. He just wanted to make more papers.
I’ll admit it: I had a hard time with this. They’d spent days making the papers, and I hated to see them give up before making something with them. I tried to encourage Mr. T to use the papers to make something: a galaxy scene, some imaginary creature. I pushed too hard and he got mad. It was making the papers that he’d originally wanted to do. That was what captivated him; that was what he’d enjoyed.
So I let it go. We now have a nice collection of art papers for some future project–maybe. Then again, if making the papers gave two kids born six years apart a few mornings of shared joy, I suppose I should be satisfied.
And you know what? I am.