Updated: Feb 9, 2019
Our trip to the National Gallery, London
I wrote the bare bones of this piece as I watched Luca drawing from afar.
Other visitors to the gallery are enthralled by him as he looks to the painting and then back to his page, slowly and mindfully moving the pencil. People tip toe a little closer to him, peering over his shoulder to look a this work. I sit on the bench a little further back where I can keep an eye on him.
A man approaches me to ask if it's ok if he takes Luca's photograph, afterwards smiling to me and commenting that he's very good. It warms my heart.
I wonder to myself whether it is the juxtaposition of the image of this little boy drawing, a tiny, young figure compared to this large piece of heavy oil painting hundreds of years old that other visitors to the gallery love to see, or whether it is the joy in seeing someone young engage in something, so unaware or concerned about the people around him. Is there a quality that reminds us a little of our childhood, a time when we were not too concerned about the thoughts or opinions of others.
On arrival to the gallery we escape to the café for a drink and to share a chocolate brownie. Luca is excited to get drawing. We find some rooms of paintings he is familar with from our last visit in May last year. He returns to the large oil painting of a horse. He settles himself down in front of the painting. This room was very busy, I shuffle Luca on the floor so he is sat just behind the rope and him, his pencil case, sketch book and toy puppy are not taking up too much space. Dozens of people stop and stare to watch this little boy busily drawing. Some knelt down and chatted with him. After he'd finished, several people came up to him and I, keen to see the final results and encouraging him to keep on drawing. Of course, he loved the praise, as much as I did.
As I watch Luca working away, I feel calm. He is calm, it is a large extended bubble of calm, quite the contrast to the large ferocious tornado of anger he demonstrated the evening prior.
This is the kind of thing I'd envisaged doing with my child but in our busy lives, have to make a date with him to make happen. I feel fortunate that Luca is so excited about the prospect of taking a little trip with me to London to look around an art gallery. In contrast, I can envisage my youngest, four year old, Robin, seeing these shiny wooden floors as a wonderful opportunity to run, throw in a knee slide or two perhaps, across the polished floor. He is instead enjoying a love bombing session with Daddy, football followed by bowling.
I hope I can always do this with Luca and even when he's got to that self conscious stage... like sadly, I now have, of drawing in front of people, I hope he will still want to come to look, really look at all these amazing paintings, and be moved by them, like I am.
I talk often of the power of creativity and how it has the ability to calm, this is why it disturbs me greatly when I feel the arts are being pushed further and further out of the curriculum. As Luca momentarily holds his coloured pencil up to the picture, (I imagine he is squinting slightly,) it appears as if he's checking out the proportions to translate them to the page, (amusingly something I'd been encouraged to do in a life drawing class I went to just a week earlier.) What he is actually doing is trying to see if the colour he has in his hand in a close enough match to the fur of the dog he is focusing on in the painting!
He never seems to give this much time to ponder anything in his life.... it's always rush, rush, rush.... the progress he's made in his learning from reception to now in year two is astonishing and I'm amazed at how much information, he, along with his peers must be taking on every day to keep up with expectations for their age. Which is what makes this moment so powerful. I know they are fed with information every day... questions...phonics, spellings, holding it together emotionally until he can release it all at home.
Here, everything feels, completely. slow. motion. There is no expectation. His movements are so thoughtful. Deliberate. Meaningful. He spends at least twenty minutes, if not more on the four large pictures he has chosen to draw.
Early on, he was drawn to a man with a wig and a large pink gown, I'd image from around the 1700s I'd imagine. I have to sit next to him on the floor cross legged while he draws this one and I watch him as he draws the outline first, it's steady, forceful and self assured. I thought to myself afterwards, I didn't even bring a rubber but he never actually asked for one and he is someone who usually hates to make a mistake....it was like he was in a confidence orb or something... untouchable!
If you ever have the opportunity to take one of your children away for a few hours of 'Love bombing,' do it. I spend a lot of time with my youngest outside of his fifteen hours of nursery, so to spend it with Luca feels like a real treat. For me, galleries, particularly this one, create a happy place for both of us to be happy and for positive energies to flow but it may not be the chosen place for your child. The quiet hushed voices, the slow, carefully placed footsteps over wooden floors and the odd echo as a result of the high ceilings. The dimmed lighting all went towards creating a few hours of my favourite kind of love bombing.
We don't follow all the love bombing rules.... I don't let him have total control.... we nearly had a major falling out over him bringing his puppy with him before we'd even left home and I also wouldn't give in to buying him something in the shop. Basically, it's not all honey but I know if I'm given time that is just dedicated to him, I make the most of it and properly engage with him and that quality time and connection can have a ripple effect for days afterwards.
I think this idea can also be extended to other people in your life including your partner.
I'd love to hear how you get on....