Making Sense of Crayon Drawings

While I’m on the topic of crayon drawings, my four-and-a-half year old son has really spent a lot of time recently with the Crayolas, primarily rendering superheroes with a similar look. Oblong shaped heads with really long stick legs and arms. They are the sketches of a four-year old in that they bear almost no resemblance to their intended subjects, save for a recent one of Captain America where B did get the shield somewhat right.

What interests me is his evaluation of each drawing. While they all look the same to me, he distinguishes between each, deeming one good, the next bad, even one or two as horrible. Already he has nailed the creative process and how intensely personal it is. I obsess over everything I write and often have a distorted view of how it actually comes off to the outside world. What I think is good isn’t necessarily so, and sometimes the stuff that I think sucks ends up the best received.

My take away is two-fold: one, that all art is little more than a child’s crayon drawing, just one person’s distillation through their own eyes. Secondly, its merit lies not in its creator’s eyes but in the hands of the audience. It’s all in the eye of the beholder (this doesn’t mean the act of creation doesn’t provide some sort of psychological benefit to the creator but that’s a whole other topic).

This may be an oversimplification, as are my son’s drawings. That doesn’t mean they’re not true or accurate. Once I looked at a recent coloring of his and noticed a red shield I knew that he had drawn Captain America. This was Cappy just as was the original artist’s rendering or those who have drawn him over the years. It’s then up to you or me to decide if it resonates, just as it is when it comes to this blog. Does any of this make sense?

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Playing with My Son’s Mens

I was seven-years-old when Star Wars came out and it was great to experience firsthand, especially in the form of the accompanying action figures. I loved the Luke Skywalker figure with the oscillating light saber that was attached but was also removable. I removed it so that Luke could play quarterback and throw an imaginary deep ball to a streaking Storm Trooper while eluding the rush of Chewbacca. I don’t know why I liked to have them play imaginary sports contests–perhaps because I played sports so much myself, but I never really liked to play with them as they were intended.

That year, my parents gave me my first sibling and after that one every other year for the next six years. All that procreation ruined my monopoly on my parents but it also meant that I was surrounded by toys, so even though I was technically too old to have the 3.75″ G.I. Joes that Hasbro put out in 1982–I loved the 12 inch bearded version I had as three or four-year-old–there were lots around for me to play with, characters like Snake Eyes and Destro. I loved to play imaginary football games with them, too (especially when Hasbro produced a limited edition figure of the actual NFL player, William “the Refrigerator” Perry).

Even when I went off to college, I would play with my brothers’ toys when I returned home for break. I knew I was too old to play with action figures but as long as nobody made a point of it, why not, I was having fun. But then my brothers all grew up, their toys were gone, so I had to move on and put away childish things.

A decade or more went by with no toys to play with, then along came my first son. Sometime in the Fall of 2010 he got his first action figure, a 3.75″ Iron Man. He loved it, so did I. Thereafter ensued a frenzied acquisition of much of the Iron Man line of action figures, like Suitcase Armor, Deep Sea Diver, and Iron Monger. There were so many.

It was logical to then pursue the Marvel line of action figures which we have ever since. Spider-Man was our first I believe, maybe Wolverine, but they were followed by Silver Surfer, Captain America, Hobgoblin, and Falcon, among lesser known ones like Absorbing Man. Most nights around here end up at some point with me upstairs with my son playing with his “mens.” While he is having them jump around and fight each other I grab the ones he’s not interested in and recreate a gridiron battle. Captain America is a great quarterback, for instance, who can throw a bullet to a streaking Silver Surfer who is crushed by the fierce safety, one of our many Iron Mans.

My wife watches all of this in amusement, her three-year-old son and 41-year-old husband playing with the same toys. Sometimes I catch her smirking at me but just shrug it off and turn back to my imaginary game where Silver Surfer has just dived into the end zone. Touchdown!