Nature or Nurture? My lil girl, An Aspiring Artist

Mama, here’s my Show and Tell topic.

As she memorised her speech, I was pleasantly surprised by her artist aspiration.

I want to be just like Mummy, an artist. Pa pa saw and made that note for her. Haha.

Wait a minute, Mummy’s not a professional artist… Mummy teaches Art, not do art for a living. That didn’t stop her from wanting to be one. She shared with my helper and in the recent children’s art biennale, she even drew herself with her painting tools.

This little girl taught us how to have faith before she was born with reports 50% of being a DS child. After having 2 rambunctious boys, her arrival was no fanfare. A tranquil, music to the ears babyhood. Sometimes I even forget about her peaceful presence in the midst of ‘toddling’ the boys. I had to pay special attention to her if she were to have a good share of my time.

Many remarked that she has my artistic genes. Maybe, but I think nature can mean only better aptitude, while nurture will nourish the attitude and draw out that talent to stretch its potential. Without nurture, any talents will render unproductive or perhaps even undiscovered? However, whether a child has talents or not in the arts or any other matters, with a growth mindset, we can all become better learners.

Since young, my kids have been exposed to the Arts. Last year, all three entered the Colours of the Bible contest. This year, only my girl carried out the project she desired to do.

1. A Small Idea

I had informed the kids a month ago and only my girl had started her ideas. She had been doing these miniature drawings of animals and asked me if they looked alike. I thought she was creating a game of what is missing in the ‘look-alike’ animals. I only realised this was her artwork after she mentioned this was her version of Noah’s Ark to represent Hope and Promise for 2019 theme. Her idea was to have these drawings stand up 2 by 2 inside the boat. I was impressed by this interesting notion of propping the 2D paper onto the 3D boat. That started the whole process of our Arkventure!

As her mini version was palm-sized, it was not the minimum standard for submission criteria. I encouraged her to create a larger version of boat and animal drawings.

2. The Big Boat Begins

First she had to paint the paper. Then after it dried, she referred back to the Young Scientist magazine to construct her boat. She had difficulty managing the paper folding as it became very thick after many layers. Therefore, I helped her turn inside out and I tore it a tad! She had also folded the wrong side and was pretty upset! I apologised and helped her tape up. I used this opportunity and taught her the value of creating lies not in the first attempt. In fact, when something goes wrong, it is time to ask if it can be

  1. salvaged
  2. be creative and think out of the box
  3. Or redo

Then we refolded and mended with masking tape the torn areas. It hurt because she spent time painting the paper boat. But I reminded her, it may take even the 100th time before a masterpiece can be made.

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3. The Two-Dimensional Twos

Next my girl looked at photos of the animals and did her observational drawings. She had listed out the animals she wanted to do. She then brainstormed and experimented on how to make her paper stand. In the end, we found that simply by folding the paper, it could just prop up on its own. That was how she did the animals. She used a day to draw 1 animal, and traced the drawing to the other side using tracing paper. Another day was used to outline the drawings with black pen, erase all marks before colouring with colour pencils. This was a tedious process requiring much patience.

She wanted to differentiate the male and female animals, so I asked her how she can do so with either hair features or any wearables she can think of. She then planned each animal with care assigning the female elephant with necklace and male with a hat and a bow tie. The rest of the animals had different accessories too.

4. The Platform

Next we had to decide on where to place the ark. E wanted After the flood scene with lots of greenery and some puddles of water and sea. I gave her options of a cardboard or use a canvas that we picked up and recycled long time ago. She picked the canvas and planned her parts of water and land. On the day of painting her canvas, mummy wanted to teach her how to paint the water effects. However, before I could do that, I returned to a painting that says ” I know how to paint my own waters.” I was glad I did not step in earlier. She did the other designs another day after the paint dried.

5. Happy Accidental Finds

Creativity developed along the way when we are open and look out for ideas in our surroundings. I was going through her drawer stuffs and saw this box of Kutih Kutih mini plastic animals and fruits. I asked if she would like to use them in her artwork. She agreed and also saw the pebbles would be of good use for the decoration of the background scene. We then sorted the Kutih Kutih in pairs. I noticed she refused to accept anything that was not the same. It needed to be exactly the same shape and species. My boys were even mobilised to sort them to the highest accuracy to my amusement. She used Elmer white glue to attach all these items on the canvas.

6. Noah’s family

‘On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark.’ Genesis 7:1

I had taught my girl how to make a sample of a human figure, then she takes off on her own with very little help from me. She did all 8 of them and designed individual styles of clothes and hairdo for each figurine. The men were more painstaking to score them and join the parts together. By the time she reached the ladies, she was tired. I suggested to use 1 lump of clay to mould instead. This encouraged her to press on and model a faster figure of the ladies! In fact, we were pleased that the ladies looked better with this mould. Sometimes, when we meet a challenge, it forces us to create a more efficient way of handling something? It is important for us to guide them at their level of pace and capacity if we are to spur our lil ones to press on.

After reading the passage again, I asked why did Noah make an altar and give an offering unto God? She said to give thanks to God. Then I reinforced how this idea of hope is seen here as the family had chosen to obey God, which resulted in them being saved from the flood. I asked if she would like to include this part in this scene and she nodded. This gave me another opportunity to research on what an altar looks like and she used the bigger pebbles to create that altar. There was this pebble already painted with a heart from long ago art.It was perfect for the altar. I also explained why offerings were important and how Jesus became the lamb of God. We then discussed how she wanted to arrange the figurines in view of her rainbow directions.

7. The Rainbow Connection

Now there was a problem creating the rainbow effect. Initially, I thought wires could work, but when we tried it, it could not form the curved shape well, not to mention withstand the weight of the ribbons. These ribbons were recycled decoration from a good friend’s wedding 5years ago. We always try to make use of available materials at home.

After the failed wire experiment, I googled ‘ribbons tent’ then my girl selected what she thought is the most feasible concept. We found a kitchen paper roll that might work as a stand ad she started exploring how to tie the ribbons for that effect. She had to also avoid the 2D paper animals and the ark. Her initial plan was to attach each ribbon one below the other but found that it covered the art works with the different heights. Then I gave her a longer tube to play with. This time round, she tied all the ribbons together and attached it to one side of the canvas with blu tacks. Bingo. She loved the effect and we went ahead with the latter construction.

First she had to cover up the tube stand with ribbons. She used double-sided tape to do it. I helped her hold the coloured tube while she measured and cut, stapled the ribbon and used the hot glue gun to stick the ribbon onto the canvas sides. She did this for all 6 colours.

8. Handling Hot Glue Gun

This was E’s first time handling the hot glue gun. I taught her how to use and she painstakingly applied on all the figurines and ribbons. The only thing that I had to assist her was the glueing of the rainbow tube onto the canvas. That required a lot of glue. I also had to teach her a bit on how to see the corner of the canvas and what area to cut up for the tube to be able to stick and stand securely onto the canvas. Other than that, she had done all the work with her own effort!

Final Product

This is the final product at different angles.

Lastly, E came up with her artist statement and titled her artwork.

Title of Artwork: Two of Each Animal
Medium of artwork: Mixed Media
Size of artwork: 51cmx51cmx55cm

Description(P): After the flood, Noah and family gave thanks to God with offering because God saved them. God smelt the fragrance and was happy! God then promised not to destroy earth with flood again. God will remember his promise whenever he sees the rainbow in the clouds

Scripture reference of the miracle: So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. Genesis 8:18‭-‬21 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/gen.8.18-21.NIV

The main reason for sharing this whole journey of this art process is to emphsize that Art has values that encompass a huge range of learning. It engages all the faculties of the mind, emotions, spirit and practical lifeskills. Even if your children do not aspire to be artists, they can learn valuable lessons in art-making.

I could leave her to work on her own, but with guidance, I wish to impart teachable moments and specific skills in problem solving. It is my way of connecting with her and stretching the potential of her artist aspiration. We have learnt together the meaning of perseverance and patience having to work 3 to 5hours for 7 after-school days. When we guide and give the space and time for children to create art, we provide a nurturing environment.

Using art to inspire God’s people is a wonderful way to help sensitize our children’s spirit as we try to express God’s Hope and Promise in our lives. I am thankful for efforts such as The Colours of The Bible Competitionwhere the young and old are encouraged to grow in the Spirit through expressions of God’s truths in our lives!

Our prayer and takeaway from this great project:

We will choose to have faith and obey like Noah’s family so that we can experience God’s promise of hope and a future.


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