Just before I set off to Munich with the kids I had a rare, cheeky kid-free afternoon in London, where I checked out the Matisse exhibition at the Tate. That monsieur, it's safe to say, was a dude. In his older age, when declining health prevented him from painting the way he used to, he surrounded himself with gorgeous assistants and became the Edward Scissorhands of the art world. He began creating huge cut-out tableaux, entire colourful worlds of creatures and symbols. He called his intricate dance with household shears "painting with scissors". Ever since I've thought paint, schmaint. It's all about creation. Use whatever you've got.
So the other day, partly due to an actual lack of paint, but partly also due to our proximity to lots of trees, the kids began expedition "painting with plants". They explored the garden, ripping off leaves over here, lobbing off flower heads over there (when my mum wasn't looking) and peeling off tree bark. "This would make the perfect owl," said Bobby ripping off a leaf from a Hazelnut tree. Or, "Look, whiskers!" said Minu grabbing a few blades of grass.
I showed the kids some inspiration online before we started our hunter-gather expedition but they were keen to create their own animals, drawing from their imagination. "It'll be more fun to do our own," said Minu. Funny that as adults we tend to want something to guide us, whereas kids are perfectly happy to freestyle. It's like they have an inbuilt mechanism that says: Who cares what came before me? Surely there is only me, right now.
By the way in case you're thinking, "Where are these people? What's with the ridiculous Caribbean-looking lake in the background?" I don't blame you. I'd be thinking the same. Looks like paradise doesn't it? And it really is to us. But it ain't the Seychelles. It's Bavaria. Germany, not Vegas. Seriously, it is. Ohne Schmarn, as we say here. We usually spend the summer with my parents on a small little-known lake outside Munich called the Woerthsee. My parents, who have lived in the Olympic Village for the past 41 years, have a one bedroom cabin here and us city-folk, coming from London and bereft of nature, pretty much take it over like vermin every summer. Wherever my parents look, one of us is lurking. And it's hard to get rid of us. But back to the plant paintings...
I always thought myself a completely relaxed, do-it-however-you-want kind of mum when it came to the kids' creativity, but once again I had to reign in my mothering, know it better attitude while the kids were at work.
Me: Bobby, are you sure you don't want to use the white side of the Silver Birch bark? It's prettier, don't you think?
Bobby: No. This is a sunset. The owls are watching the sun set.
I wonder whether similar misunderstandings happened in Matisse's atelier?
Assistant to Matisse: Monsieur Matisse, shall I throw this blue scrap away?
Matisse: Mais non, bon dieu! It's a swallow!
What you need:
- Kids glue
- The plants around you
Top tip: Leaves from trees create a brilliant array of both shapes and textures for a collage, but in the summer, if your kids want to add a pop of colour, they might need to raid someone's front or back garden. Or better still, find a meadow with wild growing flowers they can pluck.
Top quote: "There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has to first forget all the roses that were ever painted." Henri Matisse