In the beginning
When my daughter was a toddler, I would set up a breakfast tray table on our living room floor and give her a stack of paper and erasable markers. She would sit there for hours, drawing and watching her “shows” (like Monsters Inc. over and over and over). Many of her drawings were dots. She would enthusiastically push the marker down onto the paper over and over. I never questioned it, I just assumed that she was happy and let her go on with her mark making. She worked on her drawings every single day.
Now she’s twelve and, as we were pouring over drawing books together one night this week, she told me she remembered making those dots and how happy they made her. She loved seeing how the dots would change if she changed the pressure of her marks, loved that the marker would start out with a pointed tip and, after hours of smashing it down on the paper over and over it would flatten and produce a different size and type of mark. She told me she could see penguins and other shapes in each little dot.
And that’s when I finally got it. For years my art mentors have told me that the secret to a daily creative practice is mark making. They told me that you didn’t have to produce a masterpiece everyday and to just put pen to paper. I would nod my head in agreement but not fully understand. Mark making seemed so messy, so pointless. Why would I sit down with a marker and push it around paper? How could I call that an art practice?
The beginner’s mind
The night my daughter told me about her creative toddler years was when it finally all made sense to me. She shared her secrets of practicing with a beginner’s mind and I finally understood the beauty of making marks for no reason other than joy and curiosity. I love how our creative journey together is so symbiotic. I once gave her a little table, some markers, and paper and in return she passes on creative wisdom I could never have imagined.
Hoping you make some marks today,
Want more creative wisdom from my daughter? See what I learned about handling set-backs in your art career from her when she was eight!