Saturday, February 19, 2022

Exploit Your Kids for Divine Interior Decor

In recent years outsider art has hit the mainstream art market and as a result has become a very pricy proposition. My apartment is full of wonderful, joyful finds over the past decades from the pioneer outsider art oasis Creative Growth in Oakland, and I am happy I stocked up when I could; these days the works by the talented crew of artists there are beyond my price range.

However, I have discovered a rich pool of untapped outsider art close to home that is just begging to be exploited: kids' art. Like outsider artists, children are untrained with no preconceived notions of what body part should be where, the constraints of physics and reality, or what color the sky should be. As when experiencing works by outsider artists, children's art often surprises and delights me and makes my brain travel to territories it wouldn't have travelled to otherwise.

Best of all, it is plentiful and free. Children are more than happy to churn out art for you and I have found they will (sometimes) be willing to work on specific commissions and meet your demands for specific subject matter. I am not the first to make this discovery and apply it to interior decor. The popular deep-dish pizza restaurant Zachery's in Oakland has an exuberant, entertaining interior decorated with children's  drawings of slices of pizza.

After repainting my kitchen my attention turned to an oft-neglected aspect of interior decor: the inside of cabinet doors. In this case I had painted the interior of the doors turquoise blue, and after a few days of living with the result I realized I needed something to break up all of that blue. For this project I tapped into my stash of art by my grandnieces accumulated over the past decade. I scanned the works of art, manipulated them in Photoshop and changed the sizes, flipped things horizontally, and made multiples as needed. After several failed experimental techniques I settled on the strategy of using a water-based wash that incorporated the same turquoise paint as the cabinet interiors and then used Modge Podge to apply the images to the cabinets.

Cabinet exteriors with brass label plaques

Brass label plaques add a little fun and interactivity to the cabinet experience.

The Dragons cabinet features artwork by the now-12-year-old, who has developed an extraordinary eye for anatomy, a passion for dragons, and a love of online graphic tools and coding.

The Dragon cabinet

Note in the background above you see a photo of my early art muse, my great-grandmother, who was around until I was 16. I like the idea of her overlooking art by her great, great, great-granddaughter.

The Monsters cabinet features early works by both girls during a commissioned art session when they were perhaps five and seven. I told them I needed monsters. At the time I was intent on hand-stitching a monster shirt, which I eventually gifted to their grandmother.

The final cabinet door features what may be the last art we ever see from the now-10-year-old who, like so many children, has reached some sort of unfortunate socially-induced turning point and decided she isn't any good at art. I think the work displayed here, which she originally drew and put together as a little book she mailed to me last year, is eloquent proof that she is wrong.

So there you have it. Go forth and exploit your children for creative outsider images, inspiration, and ideas for interior decor, for graphic design, for textiles. If you don't have any children of your own, go exploit someone else's children. That's what I have been doing for the past fifty years, and I think the children along the way are none the worse for it.

Note: The blues are all over the place in these images. All of the cabinet interiors are a consistent tone of turquoise blue; photographing them in different light radically alters that tone.
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