Is it possible to be materialistic about one’s own artwork? When does a desire for a record of one’s work become selfishness?
Today we were making cards as a thankyou for a neighbor who did something very kind for our children. But as soon as the art project started to take shape (and it looked really, really nice), he decided to keep it. Fine, we’d use Bethel’s card. Then Bethel decided she didn’t want to give up hers. In disgust, I told them if they wanted to keep their artwork for themselves, then they should take it to their bedrooms.
The problem is that anything really beautiful my son refuses to give away. It doesn’t matter if it’s something he’s made six months previously and stored unnoticed in his sock drawer, or something with the paint still damp. I allow him to keep what he makes (and he’s got a portfolio crammed with artwork), and I don’t force the issue. But one of my concerns is that art production should not be selfish. When composers got too introspective with their music in the early twentieth century, their music was intellectually stimulating, but unpleasant to listen to. The audience didn’t matter; all that mattered was the mathematical order. I don’t believe that kind of attitude reflects God’s glory.
I suppose it’s natural that he wants to keep his masterpieces. I’m trying to think like an artist, and it doesn’t come naturally.There’s a difference between creating something for one’s own pleasure, and hoarding, I think. Maybe I’m just expecting too much from a five year old.
As for me, my reaction the other day was probably a little too abrupt for them. I was really disappointed, because I hoped they would find joy in giving someone something they had created. The problem is, it was obvious that I was unhappy with their decision, and I’m not sure I should have been so transparent.
Now I’m wondering whether this is worth deliberately teaching. I can’t think of any Bible passages or stories about selfless art. I do have a picture book about a sculptor who decides sculpting for friends is better than sculpting for kings. I can think of Scripture verses about selfishness, but I don’t want to be using the Scripture as a club for a child who simply enjoys making beautiful things.
After about ten minutes after the children scuttled to their rooms with their artworks, I in my bedroom pondering, David came and told me he had changed his mind and wanted to give his card to our neighbor. I asked him why, and his response was “Because you want me too.” I told him we’d talk about it later. I wanted to think about it some more.
If he gives away art because it makes him feel good to please mom, is that any less selfish than his keeping art because it makes him feel good? Was it wrong for me to be so clear that I disapproved? Am I being selfish in imposing my extrabiblical desires on my children, beyond their ability to understand? Should I continue to give them the option of giving their art away? Should I be glad that David changed his mind to please me? And how will I respond when we get the time to talk about the artwork on their dressers? More questions than answers today.
Here’s one verse we could talk about: God loves a cheerful giver.