Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The True Artist

I stood and watched her work. Her small brow furrowed with fierce intent, her lips pursed with concentration. She was drawing a crayon "masterpiece"...one side covered with hearts and trees and clouds, the other an abstract blitz of colors and lines that merged to form, according to E, "shapes and things no one has ever seen before."

"Look Mommy, I made the color brown. And look here, I made a crown for this heart to wear. And here there's a sun and a cloud and all these colors mixed up on this side means how much I love everything."

We had the incredible opportunity to visit pop artist Burton Morris' studio in Santa Monica today with E's preschool class. There's nothing quite like the enthusiasm of four and five-year-olds. And when it's combined the energy, enthusiasm and patience of a famous artist who also happens to be the dad of a preschooler himself? 

It's nothing short of magic.

Burton gave us a tour of his studio and showed the kids a canvas he's working on that, when finished, will be a special donation to their school. Last month, he visited their classrooms to begin the creative process for the piece, talking to them about what was important in their lives, and then using their words and emotions to create a totally unique piece of pop art just for them. 

He talked to them about being a kid who liked to draw, a kid who drew everything--what he was looking at, his morning bowl of cereal, the toys in his room. He explained how he takes everyday objects and ideas and makes them come to life through his art.

Then he made his way around the room, commenting on each kid's work, pointing out interesting elements in their crayon-and-paper creations. He encouraged them and praised them, answered every one of their (ten million) questions, and turned what might have been an ordinary field trip into an experience they'll never forget.

Watching E's face, I could see the glow of inspiration radiating from inside her, transforming her features with light and excitement and possibility. Seeing art all around her--art that she could understand and relate to, art that made sense in her world, like hearts and popcorn, ketchup bottles and cereal boxes and "look Mommy your favorite thing, coffee!"--was one of the best parenting moments I've ever had.

"Mommy," E said, surrounded by crayons, still furiously scribbling away. "I want to be a true artist when I grow up. I really, really do."

Close enough to hear her, Burton leaned down and put his hand on her shoulder.

"You are a true artist now," he whispered. And E lit up with the magic of a million dreams. 

Thanks so much to Burton Morris for sharing his talent, his wisdom and his love for art with E's classroom today! You made a lot of kids feel happy and inspired and proud of their own abilities. And for this mom, who tries every day to teach my kids to work hard and dream big, this was the lesson of a lifetime.

For more information about Burton Morris and his work, click here.


  1. What a cool guy. I love how he tapped into his childhood to totally mesh with these kids.

  2. Beautifully written as always! I'm sure this great man has inspired much more than he can even imagine in those children!

  3. Thanks for sharing the inspiration and impact of this visit. I've seen Burton's work before and how he can communicate with others. Art is a perfect medium to unlock the imagination of children of all ages.