Cee the Artiste

What goes on in your kids’ playroom when you’re not looking? The good folks at Dropcam – a state-of-the-art video baby monitor – posed this question to me for their Tales From the Playroom series and I summoned up the courage to answer it. Such a sobering moment when you realize that the last thing on your little angel’s mind when she’s left alone in her bedroom is reading War and Peace. But as we know, fear is as natural to parenthood as Cheerios, so I threw my hat in the ring.

Cee the ArtisteY’know, I think I have fairly decent taste when it comes to home decor. My family’s apartment will never make it onto the pages of Better Homes and Gardens much less go viral on Pinterest, but when I take the time to tidy the place up, it looks decidedly not horrible. There is a kinda-sorta teal color motif going on in our bedroom*, we have some swanky throw pillows adorning our sofa that I got on clearance at a thrift store, and our hand-me-down vintage kitchen table and side tables hearken back to more modular Mad Men days if Don Draper never had someone following him around with a coaster.

*I mean, our bedspread is teal; that qualifies it as a motif, right? Right.

All things considered, I’ve made our place up. You may not even notice the – ahem – remembrances of grape juices past on our rugs and sofas. The artwork we’ve hung on the walls makes up for the stains we started noticing once Cee hit the toddler years. And hey, I’m willing to write off the coffee splatters she got on the wall (don’t ask) as Pollock-esque. Whatever gets me through the day.

But clearly, all the work I’ve put into making our home the kind of place that is moderately pleasant to look at was lost on Cee. To her, it lacked that certain je ne sais quoi that would really make the colors in the drapes pop. One morning last week, I gave her some paper and colored pencils and told her to go to town with them, but the true artist takes inspiration from the world around her and looks beyond the obvious. Our living room wall spoke more to her than recycled copier paper, so while I was  indulging myself with the laundry in my bedroom, she created a mural á la Diego Rivera.

It’s quite an improvement on the aesthetic I had going, no?

I apologize for the poor quality of this photograph. We have not yet installed gallery lighting in our apartment.

I apologize for the poor quality of this photograph. We have not yet installed gallery lighting in our apartment.

I can tell that my daughter surely has a career in art ahead of her because she did not spare a square inch for her masterpiece. She covered the entire wall with circles and lines and used a respectable variety of colors. I interpreted her work as a critique on the socioeconomical implications of worldwide oil dependency. However, when I asked her what she had tried to convey with her mural, she said it was ducks.

Here is the artist with her work.  And a lemon. There's a lemon too.

Here is the artist posing with her work.
And a lemon. There’s a lemon too.

In the grand tradition of artists who are not recognized as genius in their own time, though, her father and I decided that the mural needed to be taken down the next day. It turns out that I am more attached to the Spartan clean-wall look than I had thought, and her mural – while well-intentioned – simply clashed with what I had going.

art 4

Perhaps the Magic Eraser took with it the early work of a genius, but this is an apartment and we’re very keen on collecting our security deposit once we move out.

We are, after all, a family of starving artists.

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70 comments

  1. Beautiful and I totally see your interpretation and she’s right, it really IS about ducks! lol! I like how she threw in the lemon for the pic, like a still life. She is a creative genius!

    1. Her fixation on that lemon is truly fascinating. We took a trip to a city about an hour and a half away a couple weekends ago, and she insisted on bringing it along. I don’t even know.

      1. I have friend who has a little girl who was like that with a plastic shovel for a while. Took it everywhere and slept with it. So funny how they get attached to random things.

  2. Lol! Love it! :)

  3. Twindaddy · · Reply

    Perhaps she and Baby C can collaborate on a masterpiece. He has found inspiration on the inside of closet doors and on the twins Rock Band drum set.

    1. I’m sure they were thrilled.

      1. Twindaddy · · Reply

        It’s their fault. They were supposed to be watching him.

  4. I get ducks from that mural. I see the plight of the domestic duck as it struggles to form an identity in a pond of wild ducks. Wow. Makes me stop and think. Well done, Cee!

    Girl-child went through a phase where she marked everything with an “X.” We didn’t find all of them until we sold the house and had to paint over them. Two or three coats of paint were required to cover them up.

    1. I think all her x’s on your house were a subtle hint that she wanted to move.

  5. Ok, so were you really so creative in your initial reaction to her impromptu mural when you first saw it? Regardless, I love the perspective and I am sure you are one of the coolest moms ever! Great laugh! Thanks!

    1. Ha! My mom reads my blog so I have to keep it expletive-free. But yeah, a couple angry words may have been uttered under my breath.

  6. I love the angsty artiste pose in the picture, with the lemon. :-)

    1. It’s so weird: whenever I tell her to smile for the camera, she puts her hands on her face. A lot of times she will do it while smiling. She’s a piece of work, that one ;)

  7. Love it, and been there – but with felt tip pens – the washable ones, but they don’t wash off the walls – just create a smear in a slightly paler shade. In defence of your little one she doesn’t look as though she’d been caught red-handed. Mine hid her works of art behind the curtains and blamed then on her little one year old sister, even though she’d placed them a good foot above her height, lol ;-)

    1. You are totally right, she didn’t hide her work of art. She has absolutely no shame whatsoever. All the time-outs in the world cannot keep her from her calling as a muralist!

  8. Your interpretations clearly weren’t THAT far apart. Remember that “Saved by the Bell” episode where Bayside lets an oil company drill on their campus, but then there is a giant spill and Becky the duck gets covered with oil and dies? And then Zack realizes all the big oil money isn’t as important as the natural life around them? It’s deep. Your living room wall was a homage to the greatest Saturday morning dramadey of all time.

    1. You are my favorite person on the planet for referencing that episode. PLEASE tell me you have seen this:

      1. “Whoa. You’re in a wheelchair.” How did no one ever win an award for best dialogue for this show? How God…HOW???? I wish I could walk through life with Saved By the Bell “Wooing” as my soundtrack.

        1. I know, me too. It might get a little creepy when you get out of the shower, though.

      2. Also, I’m not sure if I am proud or ashamed to admit I did not have to look up one iota of that reference…including that the duck’s name was Becky. That all lives in my brain, and in a spot I can readily and quickly access. It’s a blessing and a curse.

  9. Sooo funny, we have white walls and my toddler is itching to draw on them! I love the “Life is so hard!” pic of Cee!

    1. Her life *is* so hard. Just today I limited her to two graham crackers even though she wanted to eat the whole box.

  10. I love this! While many parents would have had ten heart attacks, you said screw that and grabbed your camera for a super cute photo shoot. Plus, you found inspiration for a witty blog post. Well done! By the way, isn’t that Magic Eraser a parents best friend?? Magic, indeed.

    1. Thanks! The Magic Eraser is indeed awesome. I’m glad I have a kid in the age after Magic Erasers (AME.)

  11. I can’t believe you didn’t clip the section of wall and hang it on the fridge.

    Of course, then you’d need a bigger fridge…

    1. We’d DEFINITELY lose the security deposit then.

  12. You’re a great deal more patient than most… My niece once decided that the thermostat needed a dash of green Sharpie to complete it’s thermostat-y look and her mother just about lost it when she found out.

    Hooray to Cee for thinking outside the box — er, paper. :)

    1. What is it with Sharpies? Without even knowing their power, my daughter instinctively goes for mine every.single.time. It’s crazy!

  13. Lovely to start documenting the early works, as they are often the most sought-after by collectors down the line. Be careful tho, publishing her pictures on the web leaves it wide-open for plagiaristic opportunism It’s fairly common for artists’ works to be downloaded and printed in far-away lands such as Dubai, then sold as “printed” canvases, cards, book covers, and couch fabric. You have been warned.

    1. Oooooooh, good point. I need to watermark those suckers ;)

  14. You make being a Mom seem fun :)

    1. It is fun! You just have to keep a sense of humor about it (for your own sanity.)

  15. Don’t you just love it!? Man, two days after I bought my son a new bedspread for his big boy bed, he took a permanent marker to it. I even did a post once about how I should charge admission to my home as an art gallery with all the “artwork” I had displayed on every surface. I feel your pain friend. Even my 5 year old does this kind of stuff from time to time and tells me he “forgot” what the rule was. So frustrating! Here’s the link if you want to see the masterpieces from MY household. ;) http://www.perfectionpending.net/2013/11/01/i-should-be-charging-admission/

    1. Did you know that there are bedspreads that are designed for kids to draw all over? Maybe he just thought it was one of them! ;D

  16. My kids, who are superior in every way, never wrote on the walls without permisson. My daughter’s best friend, however, wrote on OUR walls in ballpoint/gel pen ink. I understand the desire to make one’s mark, but why would you do it on someone else’s wall? Oh, unless your mother is the kind who disinfects the sliding glass door track with Tilex.

    When you move into a place you own, you can let the kids go to town on the walls you intend to paint. And when you do paint (I can’t keep from the unsolicited advice thing, can I?), you can give her a bucket of water and her own brush.

    1. My MIL has already volunteered an entire wall of her home as C’s canvas. She really lucked out ;D In the meantime, C’s getting an easel for her birthday.

      1. Ooooh! An easel! That’s perfect!

  17. What a talented little artist! And I love it how you remind us at the beginning of the post that pictures going viral on Pinterest is a greater mark of fame nowadays than a two-page spread in Better Homes and Gardens. The things we aspire to that our parents never had to stress about…

    1. I know, right? Pinterest is great for finding new great recipes, but it has done a number on my home-decor self esteem.

  18. “I interpreted her work as a critique on the socioeconomical implications of worldwide oil dependency. However, when I asked her what she had tried to convey with her mural, she said it was ducks.”

    Hilarious, Emily! GREAT lunchtime reading here at The Grind. MoMA should come calling shortly.

    1. Thanks, V! Do parents of the artists get in free to MoMA?

      1. They sure do, Emily! … If they attend between 4 pm – 8 pm on Fridays.

  19. Ah, yes, my son decided to use crayon. It doesn’t come off nor can it be painted over with anything less powerful than Kils. *sigh* Those were the days… ;)

    1. I have tried giving her crayons, but without fail she has tried to eat them each and every time. I am impatiently waiting for her to work her way out of her oral phase.

  20. P.S. My favorite story ever came from an Aussie friend of mine. She walked into her son’s room one day (he was about 3, maybe younger) and found him cutting holes (yes, he had somehow gotten hold of scissors) in his pillow case. When he looked up and saw her, he immediately cried, “I didn’t do it!” scissors in hand not-withstanding. Gotta love it.

    1. Love it! Cee sometimes blames one of her toys whenever she’s doing something she’s not supposed to.

  21. Ahaha, this was great! Bean has already drawn on the wall in the hallways, but I have yet to take it off. It’s tucked out of the way so…I’m the only one enjoying it currently. Also, if you like kid art so much, I’d love if you entered my 100 likes give away (inspired by you!) – the prize is a my little pony comic with a cover drawn by me and colored by Bean. ;) You could hang it near C’s next mural (because there will be more). The picture with the lemon is so so precious, and so emo-artist. :P

    1. Yay! Giveaways are so much fun! I am so happy to hear that your blog is flourishing ;D

  22. I love her creative spirit.
    I also love that you made her help take it down.

    1. Yeah, you know how I feel about child labor. It’s never too early to start. (I probably shouldn’t mention this, but she sprayed herself in the face with Windex today. Oops.)

      1. It’s ok. Windex has healing powers, haven’t you seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

        1. It was so long ago, but I seem to recall something. Don’t they, like, gargle with it?

          1. No, they spray it on their skin for things like pimples and warts.
            Cee’s face is going to be sooooo fresh and clear!

            1. Thanks for the positive spin on things. I’m afraid my husband won’t leave her again with me tomorrow if I tell him!

  23. Hahaha this was so good. I kept finding new “favorite lines” in it but I think I settled on this: “I interpreted her work as a critique on the socioeconomical implications of worldwide oil dependency. However, when I asked her what she had tried to convey with her mural, she said it was ducks.”

    1. Hahahaha thanks, Aussa! She interprets everything as ducks. It makes for a very simple world.

  24. As parents, if we can achieve “decidedly not horrible” then we’re doing pretty well!

    1. I agree. I aim at just OK.

  25. Lovely art! Mine have yet to do this. Kinda bummed, kinda not.

    1. Don’t be too bummed. This is the kind of post that’s funny the first time, but it gets a little old scrubbing the walls every damn day.

  26. “Van Go draw on something made of paper” haha! Cute kid

    1. Hahahaah! Very punny ;D

  27. I have been emphasizing to my daughter the necessity of only drawing on paper. I fully expect to one day encounter such a scene.

    1. I emphasize it a lot too, but a lot of good that did me. The wall just called to her in a way that the paper just didn’t.

  28. I love it! What’s her rate? I have some walls that need coloring.

    1. She’s very affordable. I think you might be able to work something out if you have enough Goldfish crackers and raisins.

  29. I think the best thing ever might be her pet lemon. I hope it’s a plastic lemon. Otherwise, she’s going to get a lesson in death soon when Mr. Lemon starts to get that not-so-fresh smell.

    I have a LOT of white walls, and I was informed it doesn’t matter what I do to them, because “we’re just going to paint over them when you move out, so do what you want.” Cee is welcome to come make me a mural. MANY murals. The people around here don’t seem to care, and my design aesthetic is…”clean up the mess sometimes, maybe, if you’re not too busy.”

  30. Those small minded apartment people should be paying you all a BONUS for providing their lodgings with original art!!!!!

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