"Reflection" - A Collaboration with my Toddler

June 18, 2016

A Collaboration with my Toddler


by Eve & Ruth Oosterman

Two years. 

Two years of collaborating with Eve and I still can't even put into words just how much this experience has brought us closer. But as usual, I'll do my best.

Eve has been creating all sorts of things her entire life (all 4 years of it), evolving into this remarkable little artist in her own right. I can say I genuinely envy her skills and her ability to paint so carefree, full of passion and drive without a smidgen of doubt. She has definitely taught me not only more about art than I could have ever imagined, but life itself.

 We have come a long way from our original collaborations that involved Eve using a Tombow Brush pen. 

Even though we had every color possible of Tombow brush pen, Eve was obsessed with the color black and loved the stark contrast it made on the white paper. We used this method of collaboration for quite some time as Eve's vocabulary was still evolving and the drawings she handed me to collaborate with were very much abstract in method. Once I could make sure she was capable of painting in one general area for longer than 2 minutes I let her have full access to the paint. 

Our Collaborations began to take on all sorts of color from Eve's paint, the possibilities were limitless. It was amazing to watch her grasp the concept of color theory firsthand, although I love organized crafts there is nothing quite like unstructured creativity! I am convinced that is when they learn the most simply by having access to supplies to create endless opportunities. 

Soon enough Eve's vocabulary exploded and we went from taking turns to painting side by side while discussing techniques and story lines the piece was taking on. There is a very fine line between equal creative participation and one person overpowering the other's contributions, something I am still learning the balance to.

 For a huge portion of 2015 I was pregnant with Eve's little brother, Theodore, and suffering from Hypermeseis so our collaborations came to a stand still. (although Eve continued painting on her own) Finally feeling back to myself, mentally and physically, 2016 has brought our collaborations to a whole new level. They have evolved immensely as Eve and I learn new ways to create together. Our latest is story telling, every night before bed we take out our sketchbook and illustrate the stories we imagine. 

Some of our paintings are even based on these stories! Our story telling has taught me more and more about the importance of that fine line when collaborating with a child. It is never, ever about the end result, the journey MUST be why you choose to collaborate. Children's imaginations are absolutely priceless and must be protected at all costs, always encouraged and never smothered. There are many times that I bite my tongue when Eve grabs black paint and covers half of what we just did or takes us down a creative road I never would have chosen myself... but time and time again I am proven wrong. Her way, no matter how much it conflicts with my ideas, has always been the best way. This is the gift I value to no end, she has shown me techniques, ideas, concepts, etc. that I would never have thought of myself. That whole bit that Picasso said about having to relearn how to paint as a child is completely true and a lesson I am blessed to learn every time I sit down to create with Eve.  

Which is why our latest piece, "Reflection" is perfect in my eyes. I have been teaching Eve about reflections both in real life and in painting. (For example, if there is a bright moon in your painting then certain parts of the ground will show this light reflected, especially if there is a body of water) This piece started out with us using acrylics on a wooden panel with no real direction, just painting for fun. Painting with no purpose can be very eye opening and often will take on a life of it's own when certain images pop out of random brushstrokes.

About halfway through a landscape began forming and when we were all finished I asked Eve what she saw. She told me she saw a reflection of trees and the sun setting in a purple sky. Without wanting to overstep my creative portion I added some water ripples and definition to where the trees were, although I know I could go much further I just don't want to. Eve thinks it's perfect as is and so do I, which is exactly what collaborating is to be about. 

I have included the video down below, it is much longer than the majority of our time lapse video because I included some of the audio. While I usually document the process this time I went a step further to give you guys a little sneak peak at the behind the scenes, the bits of conversation that directs the collaborative journey. 

Eve painted this for her little brother Theo.


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