to read about writing and creativity. It's so much easier than actually writing or creating something. Fortunately for me, I live with someone who doesn't have that problem. Not only is Willem passionately creative, but I find many of the principles I read about are things that he naturally does.
When I started thinking about writing a few years ago, it was in response to the question "What did you like to do when you were a kid?" And, ever since, I've wished I could recapture the way I felt about writing then. There were no stakes. I didn't worry about being bad or that I might be wasting my time. It was just fun. Now Willem is at that same place, and it's a thrill to watch him do his thing. And it's inspiring.
Willem has a passion. It's monsters.
He spends much of his free time drawing monsters. The picture above is entirely his idea...he found the letters in his art supplies and made it work.
Most of us will need to spend a lot of time being bad at something if we want to become good at it. I can intellectually assent to that, but I don't like it. I write less than I want to because it doesn't feel good to struggle. Willem has dealt with this much more productively than I have. He really wanted to be able to draw a skeleton, but he wasn't very good at it. On one of his early tries, he wrote I qwit. He didn't qwit, though. He continued with the drawing, ending up so disgusted with one part that he cut it off. Then he added I maen it. And just to make sure we got the message, he came back later and wrote I sure do.
But then he picked up his pen and kept on practicing. And practicing. And practicing. Until he could draw a monster being hit by lightning to his satisfaction.
There's a story
in the book Art and Fear
about a ceramics class in which half the students were graded on the quantity of pots they produced while the other half were graded only on the quality of the best pot they made. All of the highest quality pots came from the students who were only graded on quantity. Willem's never read that story, but he certainly lives it.
We have drifts of drawings throughout the house--and of course they're not all outstanding--but it's obvious all the practice is paying off. And there are lots of good ones because there are just so many.
Just as writers are admonished never to travel without a notepad, Willem always has his eyes open when he's out and about. He looks at the world through monster-tinted glasses, hoping for--and expecting--inspiration from his physical surroundings. He'll often choose a school library book (one precious pick a week) based on the ideas he can get from the pictures.
Here's a monster made out of a city. (I think this one was his own idea.)
A magazine illustration led to a whole series of food monsters, like an ice-cream cone monster and a peanut butter sandwich monster. I was relieved when I figured out this was a chicken drumstick monster.
I love it when Shaun sits down to draw with the boys. He gives them a tip or two and they improve by leaps and bounds. Here's a little practice in copying from Doug TenNapel
Willem's drawings started out on the creepy side (this fellow is the stuff of nightmares)...
but soon took on a friendlier and less-apt-to-worry-one's-mother tone.
Every once in a while, though, he outdoes himself. Willem assembled this guy last week and left him up at the top of the stairs. It was there for two days, and I never failed to be startled by its malevolent leer whenever I came around the corner. At bedtime on the second night, Willem gently removed the head and placed it on the floor.
"Why'd you do that?" I asked.
"It's creeping me out."
You and me both, kid. You and me both.