The Little Things

I was away last weekend. I was far away in California for my niece’s wedding. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. My seven siblings and their families, along with my mother (eighty-seven years old, God love her) descended upon Orange County from all over the country. We have not all been together like this for several years due to various work and immediate family commitments. I am so glad my family set aside this time to be together to celebrate this next generation of family!

Wedding flowers by the sea
Wedding flowers by the sea

My trip ended Monday as we flew into Logan at midnight. I was at school Tuesday morning feeling tired yet happy to be back and still basking in the afterglow of sunny California. Having taken a few personal days to make the trip, I felt out of sync with my students, who had been working on an oil pastel flower project in my absence.

Using a slide show shared via Google Classroom to experiment with brushstrokes for a warm-up exercise

It was really weird picking up a lesson after someone else introduced it – even though I designed it. I took some time to listen as my students shared how the lesson had been described and their varied interpretations of the directions. Although they were drawing from observation, the students were encouraged to utilize layers of color starting with an underpainting and building up by adding thick strokes of color. They listened as I described the following scenario, which I hoped would steer them away from tight drawings of flowers in vases on tables with a window behind and a sun in the corner, etc.: Imagine you gathered a large bouquet of flowers in a field somewhere. Sadly, you trip on the way into the house and the flowers cascade all over the floor in front of you. While shaking off your slight injury, you look down and see a jumble of color and shape all over the floor. Now, make a frame with your thumb and forefinger on both hands and crop the section you will draw. Bring it to life with layers of color using thick pastels.

One section of the start of a larger drawing from observation while encouraged to experiment with abstraction…

They were working, they were happy getting their hands dirty. As I walked from table to table, I absently picked up Jared’s sketchbook because it is a particularly nice sketchbook which looks very professional on the outside (his grandmother bought it for him, he said). I was curious to see how he had filled it and started flipping through. Suddenly the little things began to catch my eye. It wasn’t the sketches completed using a whole class period (although really good), but the little warm-ups and creativity spark responses that caught my eye. Somehow the little things spoke more about Jared than the pieces he had labored over.

NoseBlog post
Warm-up: Draw a nose
Creativity spark: Draw your brain during MCAS
Creativity spark: Draw your brain during MCAS
Warm-up: Draw an ear
Warm-up: Draw an ear
Creativity spark: Draw a face and tell what you find most challenging about doing so
Creativity spark: If you could add a modern element to your paper castle, what would you add?

They say a trip away can be enlightening. It is a lot of work to prepare for, it is most enjoyable in its duration, and the return to work and routine can be something we dread. However, time away can help us see our usual surroundings from a brand new perspective. We become more attuned to the little things. I’m glad I went away and I’m glad to be back. I’m grateful for the perspective gained and a new appreciation of the little things.

“Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.” – Georges Bernanos

My mother and I on the pier at Huntington Beach
My mother and I flying a kite on the pier at Huntington Beach, CA

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