Sunday, 25 August 2013

Decorating the School-bag (Or the things I can do if I put my mind to it)

All this week, my son has been going to orientation at his new school. This has been kind of a pain for me, because he's been going for a couple of hours a day, a.k.a. half the morning, which has made it very awkward to plan activities for myself and my daughter.  On the other hand, I'm pleased the staff are so careful to settle the incoming children before the returners get back.

My son has, to all appearances, really enjoyed it.  I attended a parent Q & A / meet your fellow parents event on Monday, during which my daughter sat on my lap and entertained herself by asking me: "Where are your nipples?" (Currently, nipples are her favourite part of the human anatomy--possibly just because of the sound of the word.) Thank-you, beloved child, for helping me face my fear of embarrassment in social situations.

However the real disaster came earlier on Monday morning, when my son's teacher handed him a brand new schoolbag, told him he could decorate it however he wanted--and then pointed to a little girl's bag by way of example.  Said girl's bag had caterpillars and flowers painted on with glitter and was completely adorable.  My son was captivated at the thought of transforming his bag similarly; I was horrified.

I am not really artistic in any practical way. I'm always nervous of art projects more complicated than 'give child materials and leave them to it.' It's probably no coincidence that my son is rather behind in art himself.  At age four, he's been writing his letters for over a year, but he only recently started actually drawing things, and colouring in our household means scribbling an abstract mass of colour through which the line-art underneath shows through. At any rate, I knew that the visions my son had were beyond us. Besides, we were all out of paint and our glitter glue stock was low.

So when we got home, I got out the markers (felt tips) for my son and told him to draw whatever he wanted, hoping he might surprise me. He let his two year old sister in on the action, and the result was a colourful scribble all over the back of the bag. I told myself that at least this was his creation, not mine, but the truth was that this was a bag he was going to be using for years to come, and it would be distinguished from everybody else's by being... a messy scribble.

I fretted over this for the rest of the week, and eventually came up with a plan.

The Plan

Today, I gave my son a spray bottle of water and a scrubbing brush. We squirted the bag thoroughly and then he scrubbed over the markers, blurring the washable inks across the canvas to create a watercolour effect.

Once that was dry, he picked out a simple picture of a rocket ship from a colouring book and I copied that onto the bag in first pencil, then Sharpie. Then he painted it (I'd restocked on paints)--and for the first time in his life (and without me mentioning it!) he carefully painted each element of the picture a different colour. I helped a little, but mostly filling in the main body of the ship when he got bored and moved onto the wings. I also painted in the flames at the back when he was unsure how to do it.

When that was dry (huzzah for a sunny day!), I broke out our glitter glue.  This was the only time I over-rode his wishes in design, since he just wanted to scribble any colour anywhere, and I insisted that we had to match the colours already on the ship. I was afraid that if I let him have his way, we would end up with the same messy scribble we started with. Besides, I wanted the glitter glue to act as a sealant, since the paint was washable and this bag is going to get rained on at some point.

I'm not entirely sure how you're meant to use glitter glue, but we found that we got the best result by squirting a line and then spreading it with our fingers.

The final result:
It's flying past a nebula or something...

It's not Monet, and I still worry about what's going to happen when it rains, but this is, I feel, a bag he can be proud of for the next few years (and an artwork that we can gladly keep in the memory box once he's done with the bag). I am tremendously proud of him for putting so much care into it--and have resolved to be less scared of doing art with the children going forward.

I am, however, already worrying about what we can put on my daughter's bag when she joins the school next year...

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