If your child loves to draw or paint or sculpt or cut paper for collage, encourage them.
Scrounge up the tools they need.
Do not steer them away, gently or bluntly. Do not tell them there’s no money to be made as an artist or a craftsperson. You don’t know if that is true. You do not yet know the depth of your child’s determination, their wellspring of passion for art, their need to express themselves artistically.
Then, for anyone age 8 or older, track down a copy of Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art (Philomel, 2007). The book begins, “Dear young artist,” and continues with letters to artists-on-their-way from 23 pros in the field.
Each artist includes a self-portrait, photos of themselves as children and now, with a few adding photos of studios, and then some of their first art and their picture books in the making. Their letters reflect on their mentors, where they found inspiration, and most of them share that illustration is very hard work.
Mordicai Gerstein says, “When I was four or five years old, my mother made a scrapbook for me. In it she put reproductions of famous paintings that she cut out of magazines. It was my own little art museum, and I lay on the floor and went through it over and over again till I’d memorized every picture.” Now, that’s encouragement. Yeah, mom!
Wendell Minor writes, “My mother believed in my dream, but my father thought I would never be able to make a living in the world of art. He thought that work should be work, and not something that should be enjoyed. Every day he went to his factory job, taking little enjoyment from his work. He lived for his free time when he would go fishing, or walk in the woods and fields to hunt wild game. That was his true passion in life. When I went with him on these outings, it became clear that he loved the natural world and took joy in sharing it with me. … From that time on I have never stopped observing and drawing from nature. If you dare to follow your own dream of becoming an artist, you will dare to be different.”
Rosemary Wells shares that “I had no idea if I would grow up and work behind a cash register in the mysterious grown-up world. All I knew was I loved to draw, and would spend probably four hours every night drawing all the way through high school until I got to art school.”
These illustrators offer heartfelt encouragement. They share their thoughts, knowing that children will respect what they have to say and find what they need to forge ahead.
They talk about parents who recognized the importance of their love for art and teachers who gave them the tools and the understanding that they work with today.
As Nancy Ekholm Burkert signs her letter, “With sincerity of heart, may you find your Path and follow it.”
And may all of us provide encouragement along the way.