Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Framing Children's Art by Saralee Sky

It was my daughter-in-law’s birthday and once again I faced the dilemma of what to give her. Jackie is notorious for returning gifts and buying things for the children instead. I wanted to give her something she would keep and – more important – something she would like!

Percolating in the back of my mind was an idea gleaned from a recent visit to my sister’s house in Detroit. In her den, Sheila had a shelf that spanned the width of the room. Her TV sat on the shelf along with a collection of framed children’s art, created by her children when they were young and now her grandchildren. Sheila framed them and in some cased matted and framed them and then arranged them on the wall above the shelf and on the shelf itself. There were so many pieces they overlapped each other, but the effect was bright and cheerful and – artistic!

I also recently watched an episode of the TV show, Play With Me Sesame. During the episode, Grover sings “Old MacDonald Had A Frame”. While he sings, an image of a frame is filled again and again by different children’s drawings. A picture of the child appears to the left of the frame as their art is displayed. This segment along with my visit to my sister’s house helped me come up with the perfect gift for my daughter-in-law.

Lately my granddaughter Crystal (soon to be 4) has been drawing primitive people. She recently presented me with two pictures, one of me and one of herself. Each one was a great big head taking up about two thirds of the page and angled to the left. There were two circles for eyes, one much bigger than the other and two circles inside the eyes to represent the iris or colored part of the eye. She drew a circle for the nose, a straight line for the mouth and two small circles for the ears on her self-portrait. On the picture of me, she did not draw ears because she can rarely see my ears through all my hair! She drew a scribble on the top of the head for hair, two lines coming out of the middle of the head for arms and two lines at the bottom of the head for legs. In short, a floating head with stick arms and legs!

I took one of the pictures with me and went to a local department store to check out mats and frames. I found a double mat for an 8x10 size picture and a reasonably priced 12x16 frame that fit the matt. I started heading for the check-out when I turned around and headed straight back to the frame area and bought two double mats and two frames. I just couldn’t frame only one of her pictures and besides, I wanted one for myself!

Back at home I quickly matted and framed each of Crystal’s pictures, hanging one in my Babynut office and wrapping one for Jackie. I wrote her this note in her birthday card: “For your birthday, here is a piece of original art. Treasure it – it’s priceless.” On the back of the frame I wrote the date and the title of each picture: ‘Crystal’s self-portrait’ or ‘Crystal’s portrait of Nana’.

The day came for her birthday barbeque and we gathered at my son’s house, four generations of people coming together to celebrate Jackie’s 24th year on this planet and the chance to be together for a happy occasion. The time came for her to open her presents. Crystal helped her tear off the wrapping of each one. When it came to my present, she read the card and I could see the question in her eyes. ‘Original art’? She removed the wrapping and her eyes lit up. “It’s perfect!” she said. “Look everyone, Sara framed one of Crystal’s drawings!”

Everyone oohed and awed and passed the picture around. Jackie walked straight to a place on the living room wall and demanded a nail to hang it right away. She would not blow out her candles on the cake until that picture was hung. I admit I was a bit stunned by her intense reaction and that of everyone else in the room.

“What a great idea!”
“Look what she did – she matted and famed Crystal’s drawing!”
“I never thought to do that with my kids’ drawings.”
“You should write about this in your newsletter!”

And so I am. I am sure you all have stacks of drawings that you first put up on the refrigerator, then quietly move to the recycle bin as the next wave of paintings and drawings appear. I do, too. I am NOT suggesting that you frame each and every drawing or painting that comes your way. What I am suggesting is this: every so often you will notice that your child has entered a new stage of drawing/painting development. You may want to commemorate that new stage by at least matting a representative drawing of that new stage. Don’t forget to put the date and ‘title’ of the drawing on the back.

Or, every so often, your child will produce a picture that simply speaks to you. One that you will want to look at again and again. I say to you: go for it! Mat and frame it and hang it on the wall – in your den or in their room or in your living room along with the professional art you have in your home. The picture I framed for myself hangs next to a batik wall hanging I bought in Scotland. My office doubles as our library and is the room through which everyone must pass to enter our house. Everyone sees that picture.

When Crystal came to visit recently, I pointed to the picture and said, “Who made this?”

“I did!” she said proudly. That says it all.