Art by T Kurtz

I’m gonna pick on some friends of mine:

It isn’t their fault; I have this conversation with several parents over the year. They always look the same; the shy, sheepish teenager with the excited overzealous parents. You see the kid, burning with shame as the parents either ask, “How do I get my child to do this for a living?” or say, “See? You are every bit as good as this. You should be on display here too!”

I must admit, my friends didn’t say anything like that. In fact, they aren’t anywhere as pushy as some and are incredibly supportive of their daughter’s efforts. The mother told me that she didn’t want to see her daughter’s talents go to waste (wasn’t going to happen). That doing art was a stress relief for her and she should do it for her health (this conversation was causing the daughter great stress). “I just want to see her doing art, she is so good at it.”

As an artist, raised by a professional artist; I can tell her that the talent never leaves. When my mother caused me too much stress, I stopped sharing my art with her. I felt nothing would ever be good enough for her approval. What my mother understood was to be good at art, you have to keep doing art but I didn’t hear that. I heard, “Keep trying, you’ll get better.” In my head that meant what I was currently doing was bad.

I tell parents to quit riding their kids. They will find ways to use their creativity even if it isn’t a way that you recognize. If you want to support them, buy them the art/craft supplies they ask for; pay for the classes they want to take and be proud of what they show you. Don’t press for more, it will come without you asking for it. Don’t tell them what they did wrong, chances are they see that already and 5 other things. Don’t brag about them to your friends in front of them, it will make them incredibly self-conscious. Don’t enter them in art contests behind their backs. Take them to art openings and leave them alone. Don’t tell the artist or anyone else, “My son does art.” Just be in a creative event with them and let them talk about it. Being a willing participant in their artistic lives and let them own it, will do more for them than anything else.

I will say this to the kids, your parents love you. Having a supportive parent who isn’t pushing you to get a PHD or an MBA instead is amazing. Forgive their enthusiasm when it embarrasses you, they could be indifferent and un-involved. You might be dying from embarrassment, but you are loved.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.