Monday, July 11, 2011


I have three drawings done by my middle nephew -- now almost 5 years old -- and given to me for my 25th birthday. The first is a monster, the second is a lion, and the third is, well, probably another monster. Luke was the artist, after all, and monsters are his specialty. The drawings consist mainly of haphazard squiggles, though there is always a central component which differentiates one work from the other. The first monster has his sharp teeth, the lion has his mane, and the other monster has his big mouth.

I imagine if I showed Luke the drawings even today he would be embarrassed by them. He is only 8 months older than he was at their conception, but his talent has no doubt developed, and his monsters and lions have probably gained all sorts of new features that he can weave together. And in ten years' time he will not even remember the kind of art he was commissioned to do for my birthday by his patron and mother. He most likely won't believe that the drawings I now have in my room are his own. He will show me the incredible monster that he just drew for his art class, and it will bear practically no resemblance to his earlier work.

But the earlier work is still his. It represents the best of what he could do at the time. He will have learned to do more skillful work, yet he could never have learned without the work which he may one day look at with embarrassment, disbelief, or laughter. The connection, the dependence of the future on the past, isn't obvious, but it's there. This he must also learn.

Me too.

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