The development of the artistic impulse in new humans is a thing to behold. In early childhood, illustration is usually a happy accident. Toddler X will be chewing absentmindedly on a crayon and inadvertently dribble Blue Poles onto a square of lino.

A parent takes Emma's advice and wheels a worthless finger painting out to the bin. Pic: Ray Strange

Toddler Y will eat too much birthday cake and produce a perfect replica of Cy Twombly’s Nine Discourses on Commodus all over the hired party mermaid.

Then, if you’re really lucky, toddlers D, A, M, I, E, N, H, I, R, S and T will stumble upon a 4.3-metre tiger shark and a vitrin of formaldehyde, and voila! Charles Saatchi is flogging their cute little conceptual masterpiece for $8 million.

The point is that most of us regard the art of our immature offspring as sheer genius. Which is why it’s such a dilemma when the time comes to start chucking some of it out.

In the beginning, I kept all my daughter’s Pollock-esque paintings. These included her excitingly avant-garde Yay Mould! impasto series which, years later, is still wet.

So determined was I to support her early doodles that – when her cash-strapped day care centre held a fund-raising “art” auction – I paid good money for mountains more of the stuff.

Unfortunately Alice’s prodigious artistic outputs now vastly outweighs the space available to store it. My ability to muster the requisite enthusiasm for her efforts is also wearing thin.

Wednesday’s abstraction of a cat with breast-shaped knees defecating green love hearts was easy enough to gush over. But I am fatigued by her factory line productions of triangular bodied fairies, lumpy rainbows and partially coloured-in Disney princess print-outs.

“These are for YOU, mummy,” she gushes. “Don’t you LOVE them?”

I’m not mean enough to answer “actually, not so much”. But the truth is that more and more of her masterpieces are now on crumpled display in the Galleria Recycling Bin.

Does this make me a bad parent? According to the internet, yes indeedy. One pro-kiddy-art site goes so far as to claim that offering even generic praise such as “what a pretty picture!” violates childrens’ self esteem.

As such, I’ve decided to support my five-year-old’s nascent aesthetic processes by steering her towards the thrilling world of impermanent art which embraces decay as a means of deconstructing the alienation and social violence caused by the oppressive paradigm of permanent collection.

It won’t take Alice long to work out that such wanky art-speak has as much real-life traction as Santa and the tooth fairy. But perhaps by then she will have discovered the storage-friendly delights of Japanese miniatures.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • Justme says:

      07:02am | 31/05/12

      Easy fix. Take a photo of the masterpiece before you chuck it out. Set up a folder for the artist so they can admire their portfolio whenever they get hold of an I-pad(most toddlers can manage these can’t they).

    • GetRidOfCommies says:

      07:41am | 31/05/12

      Or do like I do and tell your kids that their drawing is actually pretty crap and not worth keeping. No use boosting their self esteem unnecessarily.

    • acotrel says:

      09:07am | 31/05/12

      If they start getting uppity, they will probably start smoking dope, and become commies ?

    • stephen says:

      07:59am | 31/05/12

      But, but but ... but that’s Blue Poles they’re wheeling out to the display cabinet.
      It’s an overwhelming painting up close, and I don’t think a kid could’ve done it.

      No kid can do a Masterpiece ; Mozart didn’t do one at least until he was 20.
      So if you find a handwritten chess handbook done by a toddler and both are found under the bed, chuck out the book and tell the kid to get ready for school, (or the other way around if the scrunge has found a response to the Queens Gambit Declined).

    • Eleanor says:

      09:23am | 31/05/12

      Let’s face it Stephen, if they haven’t done their magnum opus by the age of 9, it’s never going to happen.

    • acotrel says:

      09:32am | 31/05/12

      I could play the banjo mandolin when I was seven. Eat your heart out, Mozart !

    • stephen says:

      07:27pm | 31/05/12

      Do you mean the electric mandolin ?

      I have recordings of The Seigel-Schwall Band.
      Jim Schwall plays this instrument and played it as a blues instrument.

      I e-mailed Corky Siegel recently, (don’t mind name-dropping this time ; he was once the best harmonica player, world-wide) and Jim is still teaching school in Madison.

      A great, great player ... both of them.

    • morrgo says:

      08:19am | 31/05/12

      I fully agree how baffling it is that the picture may well look the same, but only the adult’s opus is worth the megabucks.  Perhaps is has to be committed with full adult intent, not childish abandon to be valuable.

    • iansand says:

      08:39am | 31/05/12

      Read an essay called The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe.  It takes the abstract expressionist scene of 70s New York apart quite devastatingly.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:22pm | 31/05/12

      Exactly, the above painting could easily have been done by a child, or a monkey. Yet it would have been worthless had this been the case. If an adult throws some paint at a canvas with cut in half bits of potato it’s a freakin master piece, especially if it looks as though a retarded infant monkey did it.

    • Robert says:

      02:03pm | 31/05/12

      @Admiral Ackbar

      Go and see Blue Poles in the flesh as it were and tell me you feel the same way.

      I thought the same thing until I saw it in person and was blown away by just how stunning this painting is. Worth every cent that was paid for it.

    • Dieter Moeckel says:

      09:31am | 31/05/12

      This sort of complements the Tory Shepherd article. We need to praise personal effort and activity without obscene over enthusiasm. Our children’s art is valuable at the time and may devalue with time.
      I advocate in schools and at home to have a few frames (real frames) and hang children’s art and replace it regularly. I like the idea of photographic it. With digital photography on a CD it’s not all that expensive is it?
      I remember when “publishing” was all the rage at schools and a very enthusiastic teacher “published” young bloke’s three sentence story, to which he said “WTF wants to read this S?” The same young bloke never achieved full literacy but by Christ he played football for a premier winning AFL team.

    • acotrel says:

      10:16am | 31/05/12

      If he had been motivated to study he could have become a scientist ! - ‘Poorer but wiser’ !

    • acotrel says:

      09:36am | 31/05/12

      Pro Hart did some useful abstract art using spaghetti as a medium.  If you owned it and got hungry…...... ?

    • Moira Byrne says:

      10:06am | 31/05/12

      Like Justme, I have a digital collection of all but the most special pieces. 

      I allow my kids to decide which ones are ‘keep-worthy’.  Most of the time they know which is special and which is ... ‘less successful.’

      I also use the more abstract art masterpieces for wrapping birthday presents.  Share the love!!!

    • Kika says:

      10:17am | 31/05/12

      I think I would keep a scrap book of my kid’s art. It’s always nice to look back - especially for like a 21st birthday party - and look upon their previous masterpieces. My mum kept some of me & my sister’s books we wrote in grades 1 and 2. Masterpieces. I will never forget my sister’s grade 2 piece de resistance of the Vampire chasing a boy called Marc (with a C - not a K. Had to be a C) but then got struck down with a case of bad diarrhoea. Haha.

    • sha says:

      10:27am | 31/05/12

      I have a one week rule…one week on the fridge and out it goes…with 4 kids its an awful lot of awful art to store otherwise.

    • TheHuntress says:

      11:09am | 31/05/12

      Nah, it’s cool. My boy actually took it upon himself to start throwing away his artworks to make more space on the fridge for future pieces. He was just about to throw away his merit certificates, which I managed to stop just in time. He couldn’t understand why I wanted to keep a few precious things (a really cool helicopter, a pirate ship and the merit certificates) ‘cause there’s lots more to come! I never thought I’d be a deranged parent who loves all the crappy drawings, but here I am! Anyway, my son sorts it all out for me now, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore

    • esteban says:

      11:35am | 31/05/12

      The art fairy comes to our house at night to take the best pieces. Unlike the tooth fairy the art fairy is too poor to leave money.

    • Black Poloneck says:

      01:22pm | 31/05/12

      WHen I get a piece presented for submission onto the fridge - I give it a fair but honest review, in front of the artist.  If the piece is deemed to be substandard it is binned, if it survives my harsh critique methods the artist can decide if it replaces the current item on the fridge.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free newsletter