By far the three most repeated words in art therapy sessions with kids: I messed up! And fast, before I have time to intervene, into the trash can goes the messed up, crumpled up paper, often with just one or two little marks on it. Sometimes it’s very difficult to convince kids that making art is not about a perfect product, but about the process, and that their mess-ups are just steps in that process. That embracing the mess-ups is, in fact, metaphorically accepting all parts of oneself, ugly and beautiful.
But try telling that to a kid who has a picture in his head of how something is supposed to look. And who is so afraid of being a failure that exploration and play feel impossible. And who feels so bad inside that facing those feelings in the form of ugly art is painful.
So I always try to demonstrate that nothing’s really garbage.
- Let’s make really ugly drawings! Keep going, make it worse. That’s not ugly enough.
- Let’s rip out the parts of the picture we like and make a collage out of them.
- Let’s try making sculptures out of the papers you threw in the trash can!
Presenting: four little paper sculptures from the trash can.