Who needs donuts when you've got love?

Once in awhile I am so grateful that I am not traveling through adulthood without children to protect me. I am newly 41 years of age, and without kids I would truly feel it. Or worse.

Who Needs Donuts Cover

Once again, my kids have stumbled me over a great fun find, Who Needs Donuts by Mark Alan Stamaty. I found the book sitting on a table at the library in the kids section. I read it to the kids last night and then spent about thirty minutes myself just looking at the details in the pictures, like a kid myself. I might have to buy my own copy while it is still in reprint.

Each page of Stamaty’s book mixes the detail of a “Where’s Waldo” scene with a gently surreal absurdist outlook on life. Turns out that the absurdist style got the book panned by overly conservative reviewers at School Library Weekly (they obviously didn’t have children to protect them like I do!) when it was published in the 1970’s and Stamaty gave up children’s book publishing for a life of writing comics for the Village Voice, New York Book Review, and Slate. He was poor and needed to focus on forms that would actually earn him a living. (read a great interview about the book at Rands In Repose) Years later, one of the reviewers apologized to him and said her review was wrong, but it was too late, he had moved on.

So it turns out that if it weren’t for a few stuffy reviewers, Mark Alan Stamaty might well have been be one of the best loved children’s authors both kids and parents alike could adore. Then there would have been the animated series, the merchandising, and just maybe my kids would be watching Stamaty-toons instead of insipid-toons on cable today.

But instead, “Who Needs Donuts” is a rare gem and a “cult classic.” And it looks as if I am joining this particular cult. Thanks to my kids.

The Pencil Game

Petunia loves to play what we call “The Pencil Game.” This is a random art game where we each take turns picking a color from dad’s humongous box of colored pencils and drawing a shape on a common piece of drawing paper. There are (usually) no rules other than take turns and take care of the art supplies.

I’ve been using some form of collaborative art process as a kids activity for many years now. It teaches taking turns, colors, shapes, and general creativity. When Girlzilla was just a wee monster, we’d pass back and forth a drawing book and take turns adding critters, faces, doodles and the like to a drawing. The drawing gets crazier and crazier as you go which is the whole idea. With Fresh and Petunia, we just scribble. Some days’ results look like Cy Twombly on crack.

What I’d like to do is think up some random art games that get incrementally more complicated as our kids developmentally progress. Maybe teach some math skills along with art play and colors. Does anyone out there do that kind of thing? Does anyone know of any resources that might help?

I guess I could make up a bunch of silly art games, but it’d be nice to see what other people do.

Speaking of silly art games, here’s a scribbly art toy that is pretty fun. Maybe I’ll try to make a “pencil game” out of it.

Date Idea

Okay, here’s my agenda for an afternoon date:

I am wanting to go see the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the MFA.
Then stroll over to browse the Thornton Dial exhibit.
Cross the street and go see Andrea Zittel’s Critical Space exhibit at the CAM.
And right before dinner, we can whet our appetites with the Art Guys’ Food Sculpture at the Art League Houston.
And since we’re over that direction, do dinner at Daily Review, our favorite cafe.

And then we can be home in time to put the kids to bed and read them stories.

Sounds great to me. I just need to figure out when I can get a whole afternoon off, with babysitting, for Heidi and I.

If you’re in Houston, feel free to steal my date idea. I may not get to use it before some of those exhibits turn into pumpkins.

Art By Mail

Have you ever seen an art exhibition coordinated totally through the internet? Sounds impossible, but not if it’s an exhibition of mail art. Three hunderd people of all ages mailed art postcards to this lady in Northampton, some paintings, a lot of collage, and one ingenious one made of astroturf.

I joined the mailart list too late to take advantage of this exhibit, but I do think I will contribute to the curator’s PhD dissertation on recycled materials in art, since that’s my kind of thing.

Well, now I’m in a mood for a snail mail art swap. Who’s interested in an n-way summer art swap?

Stuck in Abstract

Last night I found mysefl staring at a blank canvas, pencil in hand. Shiner Blonde in the other. Took me a long while to come up with something in my head I wanted to paint. When I went with my pencil to sketch it out, I was frustrated by my complete lack of technical skills. I couldn’t put what was in my head onto the damn canvas. I can’t draw for Shite.

Not to say I know anything of the pain and suffering of stroke victims, but I can see how it must be very frustrating to have words or images stuck inside one’s head that you just can’t get out there.

Maybe it was the Shiner Blonde and the welling frustration, but I just said Fkk it all and started drawing who knows what. Scribbles a la Cy Twombly only thicker like Jackson Pollock. (I am *not* inviting any comparisons. No sir.)

I started with pencil and pen. I’ll add pastel color later. Then I’ll selectively take it up with cloth and eraser. Only to lay down another layer of incoherent artistic babblings. Maybe I’ll throw on some liquid paper, my bourgeois bohemian surprise ingredient of choice lately.

So I am stuck, as usual, in abstract mode. My conscious representational ideas are locked away behind my lack of training, and so I bypass, tapping directly into my unconscious. And the stuff pours out in a flow state. I hope something cool emerges from my incoherence, my impulse, my frustration.

My working title for this piece – “I can’t draw for shite but I’m fkking drawing anyway.”

Even though I know that “The bad paintings have to be painted” I hope this isn’t one of them.