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Mama Said: Emily Martin writes for Velvet

My daughter wants to be “an artist”. And compared to me at her age wanting to be "Kylie Minogue", that sounds positively aspirational, so I support her dream. I've already given her many very important speeches about how you have to find your passion and get on with working hard on it if you're going to have a chance at putting in the 10,000 hours needed to be the best. "Yessss, Mummy," she says, having no idea what I'm on about.

Anyway, as a consequence of me giving these speeches, she's mega into drawing. She draws and doodles constantly and when she was younger, like zero to 3, I would just bin it. I mean, it was scribbles and blobs so. . .? Of course, I've kept maybe five or six special things that resembled something, and caused us to do the children’s artwork face and voice, "WOW! That's BRILLIANT!". But on the whole, it's all been pulped.

But Girl is 5 now and she's accelerated production. When she's not at school drawing endless pictures (seriously is infants’ school just drawing now?), she's at home writing books or spending hours carefully colouring things in. "Mummy, have you got any plain paper?" Seven seemingly harmless words that I know will lead to me standing over the bin, staring down at a multi-coloured page. My own face staring back, smiling under a rainbow, holding hands with a cat and thinking, the only thing harder than throwing this out, is keeping it.

Mama Said - August 2019 (13211848)
Mama Said - August 2019 (13211848)

I have six enormous bags of artwork from this year alone. Diagrams, family shots, inventions, animals, me and her, her and her brother, and increasingly she's writing stories too and poems. "Wonys ther woz a prynsess.” I can't keep it all. She's only FIVE. We'll need to build an extension just for artwork.

And then there's the "junk modelling". A thing where if you can't cram any more into your blue bin, you can just take it to the school and your rubbish instantly becomes art supplies. Your child chooses bits of rubbish and sellotapes it together, and then proudly emerges from the classroom with it balanced in their arms for you to take home and enjoy.

"Mummy, where is my junk modelling?" she'll say and I'll say, "Oh I… Oh NO..." Knowing full well I've stuffed it in the recycling bin. "Mummy! Why is this in the BIN?" she’ll exclaim and I'll come rushing out to the kitchen looking confused and saying, "Oh what the... Wow maybe your brother put it in there?"

The other option is to go through the enormous collection of work with her and decide what we're keeping. But then: "Darling, what about this one? Hmm? Is THIS picture of us holding hands with a cat and having ice cream good enough to KEEP? No, I don't think it is, is it? In the bin it goes." Her dreams of being an artist shattered by a cold, unyielding mother for whom no picture was ever quite good enough.

So, the positives are she's definitely making headway on the 10,000 hours of practice needed to be an outlier in the artworld. But the negatives are being an artist's mother is emotionally draining. Throughout history, we never hear about the artists’ mothers, do we? Where are the mothers in those glossy, coffee table art books? I think I know.


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