My own interest in art developed early. My mother encouraged me and treasured everything that I produced, but she could also be critical. In preschool I presented her with a drawing- a group of people, standing side by side like soldiers. She pinned it to the wall and praised several details, then she paused and added, 'but generally when people stand around, they don't hold their arms straight out like this, they drop them to their sides. Next time give that a try.'
That story is not one of my mother's favorites. She thinks that I am painting her as overly critical, but that isn't really what I take away from it. I did start to draw people with their arms down at their sides, and I also started to really look at and observe what I was drawing. Sometimes I wonder whether any skill that I might have comes from that early exposure and feed-back, or whether it is some gene that that was magically passed down.
I do like to think that I share some of her ability, but we also have a very different eye. I am not an ace at Pictionary, ask me to draw a horse and I can't visualize what one looks like... sit me in front of a horse and I could probably sketch it with more accuracy than my mother, of course hers would make a better children's illustration. I see in shape and shadow and she thinks in lines. If the artistic eye is a gene, it was passed on but the inheritance wasn't linear.
I can already see a creative force in Little Smith. When he is working on a project he is so focused and thoughtful. I am watching with curiosity to see how his talents take shape, giving him access to crayons and blocks and clay, but trying not to influence how he plays with them. He is still too small to really understand anyway, but I do think about how and when constructive criticism might help to drive a little person rather than defeat him. The current thinking with parenting seems to be unbridled praise for every effort. I see the value in that unconditional support, but I also believe that honest evaluation helped me to observe the world more keenly as early as four years old.
It seems tricky, but I am sure that when the time arrives, it will all come more naturally than my theoretical imaginings... or perhaps his pop will get his way and Little Smith will buck the artistic lineage and end up a professional snowboarder. The poor kid isn't even two yet and we've got big dreams. Of course we truly just want him to be happy. A happy artist/ professional snowboarder!