Art History Redemption

We finished our paintings on Monday afternoon, but I waited to snap pictures of them until they dried. Again, the plan is to fill the the bare wall of the living room with more paintings as time passes on. Whatever I write next should be taken with two handfuls of salt since I failed Art History in college, but it is my best attempt at critiquing the works of art my family has created.

1“Butterflies in the Air” by Madison Higa. Lynnette quickly drew up the outline of a butterfly and a few flowers before setting Mad to work on her painting. Madison’s use of color in areas outside of the butterfly reflect her keen understanding of nature: the sky is blue, the stems are green, the flowers are pink with yellow centers. It is the color of the butterfly, however, that reveals an insight into my daughter.

It is public knowledge that Madison’s first favorite color was purple. Then suddenly – and for reasons which remain untold – Madison declared that pink had usurped that title. I am impressed with the restraint Mad shows in not painting the entire butterfly pink. The wings were done in purple and outfitted with pink hearts – all of which she painted herself. It is her favorite shape, with stars as a distant second.

The most telling feature of this painting, however, is the smiling face of the butterfly. The humans/creatures in all of Madison’s drawings smile; she’s always been a happy kid. More recently, however, she’s shown her own mind, often disagreeing verbally with decisions levied upon her by Lynnette and/or I. Lynnette has come up with a kind-of/sort-of solution to these outbursts. She has Madison write her feelings down in a notebook whenever she’s upset. “Write your feelings down,” she’ll say. “Get your anger out,” she’ll say. The funny thing is, Madison actually does it. She angrily picks up her frog notepad and pencil and goes to town. Last night, I saw an entry in Madison’s “Feelings Journal” that read: Mom makes me rile [really] mad becos [because] she makes me take a nap. Between this and her handling of soap incident, Lynnette’s the leader in the clubhouse for Mom of the Year.

2“Shades of Orchard” by Lynnette Higa. When I saw her drawing the painting the branches, they positioned vertically. “That looks familiar,” I said. I thought it was coral. It wasn’t until she started painting the flowers on the branches that I could see it for what it really was.

The blue, cloudless and boundless sky obviously represents the concept of infinite possibilities – but that is the background. In the foreground, the sparse branches and the dark color choice represent the other end of the spectrum. The branches splitting in divergent directions are visual symbols of choices we make in life that ultimately lead to dead ends. This juxtaposition creates a stark contrast between the quixotic idealism of youth and pragmatic decision-making of adulthood. The flowers, then, serve as the balance between the two: there can be moments of transcendent beauty, even in situations where they may not be expected to occur.

Also, when I asked Lynnette to name her piece and she responded with “Shades of Orchard,” I sarcastically asked “How many shades?” I was hoping she’d respond with “Fifty,” but she went the other way. “Ukubillion,” she said, obviously picking up on my sardonic tone. Clever girl.

3I Ripped Off a Jae Lee Drawing of The Sentry” by Philip Higa. I realized two things by the time I completed this painting. The first is that I rely on black lines to do the work of separating spaces. The second – as a direct result of the first – is that I don’t know how to use color variance to create depth and reflect lighting. I used a total of seven colors to paint this picture, and as I look at it – even a photo of it – I can see where I need to put in a little extra work.

The next time we paint, I am going to try very hard not to “draw” the painting first. It is going to be extremely difficult for me to do this, because those lines effectively turn my work into a coloring book, telling me where to start or stop with the color. I have several ideas that I am kicking around in my head, but I am not sure I’ll be able to execute them. Honestly, as fun as this was, it was frustrating because it reminded me of that quality of mine that I hate most: I can’t materialize my ideas.

My fear is that I’ll get to work on the next piece and 40 minutes in, I’ll see that it isn’t working out the way I conceived it. I’ll want to quit. I don’t want ugly art in my house, even if it’s mine.

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