(Note: at the bottom of this page can be found Introductory Remarks. It is a short essay on how this society is unfair to children and why. If you wish, skip down to Introductory Remarks at the end of this page below.
Babies and Kids
I learned from birds and animals that the best thing in life is having babies. Bison, Elephants, Whales and Ants as well as Deer have babies, and so do Redbirds and Orioles and every other species. Life is babies and they are too taken for granted, made fun or disparaged by men, who seem to think they were not born too. Having children has changed me in profound ways.
The process of birthing is amazing, and though for a time, if one births in a hospital, one abdicates control to nurses and doctors, they are really not in control. They offer a margin of safety, but I could see the baby was in control, something in the mothers body decides with the baby that birth will be now, and no one really understands how that happens exactly.
Yes, the babies changed my life in huge ways, and my thinking. When my daughter was born I saw this happen right away and it has never stopped, 12 years on now. The second child divided me somewhat, — for instance, how do I teach them both at the same time? But he is as amazing as the first.
In what follows I will be sharing Haiku and drawings and paintings about having babies and a family. Since the rise of modernism critics, gay and strait, have condemned art about children and babies as sentimental or cliche. But then many have said, rightly I think, that curators, critics and art dealers are parasitic on artists. Vincent thought critics and art dealers are “dealers in men”, by which Vincent meant, I think, that they are not very good examples of human beings. Vincent was ruined by them. and when they realized they could profit from him, they endorsed him. It is the culture of capitalism that teaches them to exploit those who create. It might be hard to believe, but even critics, museum curators and art dealers were babies once. It is the critics and makers of art markets who have betrayed their own childhood, not honest artists. Art Markets merely make money, whereas artists try to tell the truth about the matter, even if it is about babies and kids.
For me, over more than the last decade, I have been primarily concerned with babies and children. I have little or no respect for the art world. I’ve been doing this as culture increasingly exploits children, with TV, cell phones, clothes, marketing schemes, bad education, and many other ways. Americans ruin schools with the lie of “no child left behind”; they make universities unaffordable and put kids in positions where they are indentured servants to banks. The cynical use and abuse of children is not just part of art markets, it is part of capitalism as a whole. Charter schools, privatized education, for-profit universities, these are all part of a business and profiting scam that exploits and hurts kids and their parents. Yes, children matter more than the power instincts of men, and is very important.
For most people, animals and birds around the world, raising children is the primary activity, and has little to do with money, is often done at a loss and women and fathers often help other families raise their kids and charge nothing. This is about evolution, family, love, sex, rearing babies, teaching children, learning to live. It is not about making the rich richer. If you want to know how messed up this society is, look at how they treat children. They refuse free education, trying to profit from kids and force religion on them, and thus harm the future. Geese are far better, they baby sit each others kids, they teach them how to fly and migrate, and the whole flock prospers, not a few greedy men with a need for too much.
So I have painted pregnancy several times.
Two details of a larger work, on being pregnant
inside my spouse’s belly.
Is that it’s arm or maybe it’s feet?
coming toward us under her skin.
Pelvis too small.
Easier for other animals,
who do not stand upright.
but how they birth suggests
This is a detail of a larger work I did shortly after my daughter was born. There is nothing in the world like having a child if you are ready for it. It makes you aware of all nature as your support and source. It puts you in touch with that new person like no other. I put her in the midst of nature, because she came out of it, and we held her to us, as close as we could, day after day…..Him too….
Changing Diapers at Two Weeks.
do it for a long time, talk, bond
diapers are not about diapers.
detail of larger painting of my daughter
not from cows,
one nipple and the “other side” —
they called out for the other one.
detail of Drawing
Playing with one nipple,
then the other,
between thumb and first finger,
if Mom does not mind.
walking yet, playing with his feet
Not walking yet, playing with his feet.
She is only two here. We were in California when I made the studies that are the basis for this, though I did the painting in Ohio. She had a bouncy chair, but we used it as a bed for her naps. Her Mom made the crochet blanket she is sleeping under.
We lived in Loleta then, near Eureka. I drove everyday to drop my wife off at work, bringing our daughter with us. Loleta is a quiet town full of cats, flown over by tens of thousands of Brandt Geese and shorebirds certain times of year. After dropping Mom off we did things around town, got a muffin and coffee, played at the gazebo, went to the boardwalk, talked to homeless people, learned about birds, Sea lions or Harbor Seals, went to the library, bookstores, galleries, parks, zoo or museums, and then home. We were always busy, playing in sprinklers or viewing gardens of peonies.
She usually fell asleep in the car. I would whistle a gentle rendition of
Brahms’s Lullaby. One of my favorites, which she nearly always put her to sleep. By the time we came home I would carefully carry her into the house and put her in her bouncy chair. Both my kids napped until about age 3 or 4. This is one such nap, the afternoon light coming in behind the star covered curtain. At night, Night Herons came back and roosted in the Redwood tree outside that window, and they would wake us up in the morning with their many sounds.
the naked child crawls–
Issa probably thought of the Japanese Red Poppy, but I am now thinking of the much more interesting California Poppy, which is orange or yellow, a wildflower. One of my favorite flowers of all, it grew outside the window of the above work, and she loved them as a baby and saw them often.
The painting does not talk about the Issa poem at all. But the soft skin of my baby, and her gentle sleep under the stars on the curtain, suggests something similar to Issa’s poem: the preciousness of life, the very thing that the money experts laugh at, and makes bankers scoff and corrupt art dealers look condescendingly down superior noses. It always amazes me how the world works, innocence betrayed by the rich, who amass prestige out of their own corruption.
Yes, this painting is about the innocence that the guilty hate. To them, childhood, the most precious thing in life, is an empty cliche. The horror of life is those that think this way. New York art critics or Andy Warhol would find such an image beneath them in their skewed and corrupt view of the world. This is why I could care less what art critics think, as I have never liked a lot of the art they like or even think what they call art is art. Warhol, like Duchamp, moreover, was just another con-man working for the rich, not worth thinking about. The same is true of most artists coming out of the NY art world in the last 30-40 years. But a child sleeping, however, or crawling in the flowers as well as the light on the petal of a poppy, or the stars, truly seen, these are things that are really special and worth living life to witness. Issa had a real intelligence about art and life, as this poem, below, shows. New snow is innocence, and innocence utterly lost on art critics and the Warhol’s of the world.
Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
is not art.
Showing the beauty of a real child sleeping. That is something else entirely.
I do not mean to say that my mother was perfect. No one is. I wrote this Haiku about that.
My daughter is eleven
and she teaches me to love spiders.
One has to learn to forgive life its many excesses and dangers. It is not easy to do, the worms and the spiders, dangerous fish and the Grizzly’s claws. I will be working caring about the dangerous things on earth the rest of my life. But if science will help, by all means use it, as I used it, when I found out that I am allergic to Deer fly. My arm swelled up as big as my leg. I could not breathe. Anaphylactic shock. A doctor helped me overcome it, and I hardly swell up at all anymore.
Both my kids drank mom’s milk till they were four. I I fed them from a bottle like this. for two years, each, when my wife was at work. I used it for four years. I like being a full time dad, and realized over the years how much men who do not do this lose out. I was glad to read recently that there are many men caring for children these days, just like me. Corporate hierarchical jobs are distorted and, in various ways, inhuman. Caring for babies taught me how ridiculous these puffed up positions are, stealing from the lower classes, stealing from babies and the old. CEOs do not work much and what they do is mostly mental. Grossly overpaid, they should not be paid as much as they are, indeed, CEO’s, CFOs and other men of this sort would be well retired positions across the entire spectrum of jobs, and their income should go to the people who actually do the work.. They are not needed and they do great harm. Perhaps such male posturing, greed, prestige and violence made sense when there were still saber tooth tigers. But now that they have wiped out most of the predators on earth, it makes no sense at all. We need to stop making hierarchies and prejudicial systems of privileged men, and increasingly, women, that benefit the few at the expense of the many. We don’t need presidents, kings, Prime Ministers, CEOs and the like. We never did. They need power and excess wealth, and we need to squelch their needs and share the wealth.
I was sorry when giving them milk was done, as feeding a baby is such an intimate and bonding experience. One gets good at getting them to sleep with a good book to read them and some milk. I read them selected Mother Goose, I edited out all the violent ones. They also liked Harold and his Purple Crayon, the Little Engine that Could, and Good Night Moon, and later, books with pictures and information, Bill Peet’s books, among many others.
I knew I would miss it, so I did a painting of the bottle of milk they drank from, with real Mom’s milk in it, not cow milk, which is for calves. But they kept drinking their mom’s milk from her until they were about 5 years old. Chimp babies do about 4 years on the breast. So it is logical to do 4 or 5 years for a human animal. Most humans do not realize they are animals too. Many women do not feed their babies on the breast long enough, due again to corporate propaganda, jobs and the selling of artificial milk products. Strange how women’s bodies became a vector for corporate control. We resist that and did what we thought was right.
and they are so big now,
why do I never see them grow?
The self portrait is still a thing I struggle with now and then. I’ve tried different formats. This is not the best one I have done of me, but that of my wife and 8 month old daughter is pretty good. I worked on this over many years, starting it in 2005 and changing it again last year, 2015. I am still not sure it is done.
She started wearing glasses at 6 months. The doctors thought she might go blind in one eye. I have never saw such a young child wear them, but they do exist, as I have seen more recently. We worked with doctors on her eyes for 8 1/2 years. They are much better now.
I wanted to show us walking in the sunlight, coming towards the viewer, all three of us happy. I loved the wrap that my wife holds the child in. I wrote it too, for many years. It was beautiful and we often used it when was both she and her brother were small. There is no plastic in it, and it is natural and they feel your bodies warmth and easily fall asleep in it. When they are small it even covers their face, so they can sleep along time, with plenty of air to breathe, but they can hear your heart to, and your voice, closeup, to be reassured all is well and safe. My wife is wearing a very simple baby carrier made of lovely cloth, very colorful.
Hard to get the color right on this work. I did the best I could. The actual color is somewhere between these two attempts.
My son sleeping and his mother napping. I made the frame out of a single piece of Black Cherry, if I recall. One of my favorite frames. The painting has nothing to do with the Virgin Mary, who I think never existed.The Christian religion does not own the image of the mother and child. Indeed, it stole it. It has been one of my favorite things in life to watch a child with its mother. I love this one and it hangs over the fireplace now.
Smiling Without Teeth (2016)
He was about three when I did this. It is called “Nearly Done with Diapers” (2011). We bought a beat up,old high-chair and sanded and refinished it, and it looked great, We put some pillows on it, and he used for for a long time, till he was five, as had my daughter before him. We never used a crib or cradle. They slept with us, when little. He liked small animals like the ones at his feet, which we still have. The viewer can see the milk bottle painting above in the background of this work and on the refrigerator is a drawing of a little girl under the rainbow, done by my daughter. I like the light coming through the window onto his small figure, which is already strong and manly like despite his small size.
yogurt all over his nose and cheeks.
My Two Year Old
My two year old says, disgusted,
“that bread has crumbs on it”
I say, “all bread has crumbs on it”
he says, “all bread has crumbs on it?”
“Yes”. I say
My daughter Riding a Trike (2016)
I explore the relationship of my two kids in some works. His little body here, about 2 years old, is perfect. He could not use the pedals on the trike yet, so his sister is pushing him under the maple tree in October. She was about six then. he is not yet two. I found the trike in someone’s garbage, on the street, and I pulled it out. I brought it home and cleaned it up. It was one of their favorite toys. Most of their favorite toys were free or handmade.
She is five nearing six here and he is probably one and a half. She likes him, mostly, though not always. This Haiku applies here. I thought this was Issa’s Haiku about kids and fighting. But actually it was me who wrote it. I get things mixed up sometimes.
Now the house is so quiet
with one of them sick
I actually miss their fights.
When one of my kids was sick and there was no trouble in the house, I realized I love everything about them, even the things I did not like. I am not sure how they learn through fighting, but somehow they do. I try to redirect them. Maybe eventually, they learn to live with others and to control their own impulses somewhat.
Downtown with her Dad.
Proud to walk with her in the stroller,
I am present with her interests,
even when people look at me funny.
She and I and a Stroller in the Aviary
A milkbottle in the stroller’s cup holder.
Exotic birds all around us.
We sit on a bench and
“No, I don’t want my red coat on”.
as her teeth start chattering.
I’m finally happy at 51,
as she runs up to me and grabs my legs,
I love this painting. I have written about it elsewhere. His hair at two was blonde. After trying more than once I finally got something of the silkiness of it, here. There is nothing as finely innocent and beautiful like the hair of a young child. He seemed in a sea of grasses and flowers that I let grow out back. I painted the figure this from a photo, as there is no way to get a young child to pose this way. But the all the grasses and flowers were done from life. What life there is in a field! Children are more or less helpless at this age and one does everything for them, but here he is exploring on his own, loving the flowers, the warm air, existing. I always get excited when I look at this one, it is full of life. I feel I did not even paint it, it painted itself. I enjoy my best work as if I did not even do it.
He uses this towel after a bath or shower. I like the pudginess of that age, more than one year, nearly two. They are aware of so much, yet still know so little. The first year, they are as if still in the womb, their bodies are made for milk drinking and growing. The second year they start to walk and talk and turn into little people. Their brains are already advanced. It amazes me how they learn so fast.
Her First Plum
My daughter was maybe 1 1/2 years old here and we were in the garden out back. There was a small plum tree there, in fruit. I told her they were plums and picked one. She picked it up and immediately began to devour it, without asking at all. I managed to get a photo of this as she puckered up. She has always been a fruit lover and could easily eat a full container of strawberries at age 2.
A year or so ago I did some works in Chinese sumi ink, including the one of my daughter eating a plum. Great stuff. It is subtle and I can see why Chinese artists spent the last thousand or more years trying to explore all that can be expressed with it.It does not have the color range and blendability of oil paint, but it has a great tonal range. It is a hard medium to use, and though I only did maybe 10 things with it, I could see it takes years to learn to use well.
I ask for a tiny bite of apple
“can you cry for me?”, she says
I pretend to cry
She gives me a little piece.
We have canoed a number of the rivers in Ohio. This is the Grand River, a wild and protected river in northeast Ohio.. I did this from the back of the boat. not that easy to draw in a moving canoe. I worked on it some more at home. They were trying to keep the canoe steady for me, This is a sketch I might do a painting of one of these days. I don’t like competition or blood-sports much. But sport that involves just one’s family or oneself, like skiing, ice skating or canoeing are great. I saw beds of freshwater clams out here, and hoped to see the Mud Puppies,– big salamanders that live under the rocks of this river,– but I didn’t.
the whole world of animals.
I understand why.
It is not just about freedom.
she holds reigns right, then left.
Old and young
in a crowded bookstore,
My son, has a good sense of humor.
Furnace Run. The cleanest Creek in Cuyahoga Valley. Art critics like to make fun of Bridges like this, a ‘hackneyed’ image, ‘cliche’, etc. But that is their own empty lives showing. Actually this is a real and historical bridge. It is a fine part of our history and as I worked on it, I lingered a bit over the inner construction of the walls and trusses of the bridge. Anyone who scoffs at this has an empty head and a tiny heart.This is real and we ate veggie dogs here and the kids love playing in water, He was in his underwear and she in yellow shorts. Wonderful rocks here too, we studied geology. These figures were done from life, which is not at all easy and I had to work very fast and kids do not stay still long.
This is another bridge and my family waiting for a train at twilight. Bridges are not just between land and land, but between mind and mind.
Why do I like bridges so much?
Thoughts in steel, the span, the river,
the reach to the other side.
How to teach them about existing,
when there are so many colors to draw?
The work above is just an acrylic sketch on ordinary paper. Not a good idea in general to work with acrylic on thin paper. It wrinkles badly. But I wanted to do a sketch of her drawing and it got more complex than I intended. So I worked on the light in the right background and hallway, and was pleased with that, so I kept it. I particularly like the light through the widow in the back. Later I added one of her dolls, Josefina. My wife made pajamas for the doll that matches her own.
This is an oil painting. My son at age two. Notice the same metal cahirs appear in both works. those are their metal chairs. This is the same kitchen as the work above, indeed, he is sitting in the chair next to wear his sister often sits. Here I have included our cat Paws, who was already getting old and ill then. He died a few years ago. My son is reading a book, which was actually a book about Chimps and Jane Goodall, but I changed it into a book about his own life. I hope it will be a good life. On the wall to the left is my son and my hands reaching toward each other and my daughter’s hand reaching to the stars
My 3 year old son says he is tried
because he stayed up
Here is the picture of her hand and stars that appear in the above painting. I think this was done when she was five. It was one of the best of a series that we did, starting in California. She helped on these, not only doing the hand but stars too. She loved having her hand painted, and pressing it one the paper.
When she was four or five my daughter loved this poem for kids by Robert Lewis Stevenson. They both loved swings and we had a number of public ones we often went to, so they could play. Kids need to play often.
Ever a child can do!
pulling snow sleds
up the slope…
the children are laughing
Yes, I had not read this Issa Haiku before I did this drawing, last year. But it fits in perfectly. I love Issa partly because he loves children and insects as well as other small things and beings. This was a girl’s birthday my daughter knows, but I never got to draw the person whose birthday it was. The kids move so much I did a few figures from life and others from a photo. My daughter appears more than once here.
We often have gone here to go on bike rides, eat lunch, play in the sand near the river and look at the eagles flying around their nest.
Hoop Rolling or Trundling was a child’s game played at least as far back as the Ancient Greeks. It appears on some Greek vases. My kids have played it and enjoy it too. Old toys are often their favorites. Plastic toys get put in a corner fast.
on the porch
shiny with reflected sky.
You can see rain on the wet deck referred to in the above Haiku. The pumpkin poem refers to seeing the sky on the face of the pumpkin after a rain. This is not of that, but it is similar, a variation as it were.
I take them out to watch the rain
under the over hang.
Thunder rumbles the wet deck.
A close up of the above work. I did not do any drawing, I think. I drew with the brush, which I only do occasionally. Drawing with paint is harder than pencil and less forgiving, but when it goes well as here, it can be better than pencil. The shadows of the hands are just so and the shirt is very economically done. I especially like the face, which has her character. It shows her concentration, her drawing hand, how she holds the paper down.
Clear and Luminous
I watch them swim in summer creek
sunlight glinting on their wet shoulders
Playing in Creeks. There are some clean creeks, though many have been ruined by human selfishness and greed. But I still tell the kids not to drink the water. Many creeks have chemicals, e-coli and other things that hurt human health. But we have found a few clean ones, and they have fun in them. I love seeing them swim there.
through Water and Rocks
Kids playing in living water,
alive as they are, moving,
bubbling and going fast.
MK, jan. 2017
My wife watching the kids swimming at a beach
The kids on the right, middle girl, my daughter and son, won this one. The older boys, on the left, tried hard and lost.
The Question about War.
I try to teach him how horrible war is
yet he loves guns and makes new swords.
Why do boys do this to each other?
I have thought about this a lot. When boys play swords or war it is not about killing, but about the fun of the activity, the rules, the engagement, the play, in short. It is not dangerous until they get older. Yes, it prepares them to be used by older men who want them to die for them. I do not see honor in that. But it is clear to me that i must let him do some of these things, while I express doubts about it, and get him to see the danger in it. Hopefully all that I explain to him about the horrors of war will never be forgotten. I do not like it, but have been forced to accept it just because he is a boy and it cannot be stopped. It can by guided however and that is what I do. I am not the first father who doubt the wisdom of guns and war, nor the last to understand the good this once provided to ancient people’s, who were often i real danger from other tribes or animals. This is really an observation of a behavior that has its bases far in our evolutionary past. But the threat of violence from other tribes or animals is mostly gone. One must work to thwart the tendency to violence in boys somewhat. Now it is the politicians one fears, the CEO’s, the police, the money grubbers, randowm crazy people and the hunters of wealth and private property fanatics with their guns.
Peaceful Archery. Our kids, ( Oct. 2017)
This is a detail of artwork that appears on the Blog page called Violin Studies 2013-2016 Click on the foregoing hyperlink to follow to the page. This was some years ago, of my daughter when she first started violin in a more serious way. I sandwiched her in between two cloisonne vases which I love. Cloisonne is a fine art practiced by the Chinese and involves copper wire inlaid with enamel. It is a very permanent and lovely form of art and lasts a long time.
Age 6 and 7
I often draw in their violin classes, which I attend. these are two such drawings, the first one done a year or so before the second in which he is older. I had a lot of trouble trying to do the right bow hand on the drawing on the right. The hand is slightly too big still, but at one point I was concentrating so much on the drawing that I did not notice I put in 6 fingers. I had already done the hand five times, probably, and was still not happy. I took the extra finger out and redid it a few times. The hand is still too big, but I decided to leave it, as it can’take any more erasing and the form is roughly correct. Drawing often involves such self-awareness and self-correction. Sometimes one must compromise with one’s own imperfection. It is a process of discovery, fidelity to what one sees, as well as self-correction, and this makes it a scientific or empirical effort. Drawing is a mental/physical skill— an ability to look hard at reality, as well as to feel what one sees. It teaches feeling the real with the mind and hand.
One of the drawings of my daughter playing violin in class. Music teaches order and math, life, freedom and dedication to an art. It teaches them listening and belonging to a long history of thought, peace and harmonies.
and more recent changes to this, done in 2018:
This is a composite image. each person was done separately at different times over a number of years and then added to the stage, which actually occurred as a number of concerts. In other words,. this is real, though it is done over a few years, during more than one concert. Some are done from life, some form photos, and some from both. My son and daughter are the third and forth standing from the left. I love the Suzuki program and way of teaching. It is a method of teaching that is not competitive and relies heavily on experience, individual and group learning form teachers and others of all ages. It is very effective and teaches the kids to really love music, the virtue of helping each other and the involvement of parents. Shinichi Suzuki was a brilliant teacher. His philosophy is a good one, and his insight that just as people learn their mother tongue, so they can learn music is not only true but a great contribution to a naturalistic theory of education.
My Kids and their Teacher, under Monet’s Bridge
Violin at 12
Telemann for 4 Violins, 5/2017
I think my son was four here. His first baseball team. This is one of my first sketches of him doing this. His mit was too big and he had no hat yet. He is standing in left field here, hoping someone will hit him a ball that will go by him. and he will run after it along with two or three other kids and there will be a tussle about who gets to thrown it back. But the throw will only go 10 or 15 feet and other kids will get to throw too. The parents at games for this age are endlessly forgiving and no kid really understands what they are doing. This usually makes it delightful.
In contrast this is this year, my son was 7 and here is a catcher. The batter who I drew over most of a 3 inning game is made up of different kids. there were a lot of ‘lefties’ on that team.
Her team won this last summer(2016). This is her at bat. It does not much matter that her team won, but it was a lot of fun. Baseball is a lot safer than football, which I do not like much. I did a blog entry about these drawings here:
This landscape was done entirely from life, though the figures were mostly done from photos. It is called the Emerald Valley because there are so many greens here in the summer, but here I am calling it the Family Portrait, which is also accurate. I like the simple architecture of this bridge, which does not obtrude on the beauty of this place.
One of my favorites, done a few years ago. Fox Glove can be an invasive. But here it is not. I planted these in the back yard near the park. My daughter loved them so I started painting her there with them. I blocked in her figure, but had to do some of it from a photo as she could not pose for very long. It took days to do the flowers and the trees, which could pose for me much longer.
It took them both a few years to figure out how to ride a bike. We started with training wheels. But at a certain point one has to take them off and let the child attempt it on their own. It did not work with my son that first summer. He tried maybe 5 times. So we put the training wheels back on and tried the next spring. His sister helped me teach him as he rode on a path in the park, and he made it. He went along way. This is him this summer, 2016, doing a small “wheely”. “Dad you want to see me do a wheely”, he says. This is what he showed me.
We tried various schools. The public schools have been ruined by Presidents and industrial education, ‘teaching to the test’, republican anti-unionism, and the bogus program called ‘no child left behind’, which is a lie of sorts, whose ultimate aim is to privatize the schools. For profit education bloats the administration, which is really unnecessary as this can be done very effectively and cheaply by the teachers themselves. Few administrators are actually necessary in education and they inevitably over pay themselves and harm schools. Education is best when it is about the kids and not about making money for administrators, or sports or financial speculators, or companies that gouge kids for textbooks. Profiting from kids is immoral.
We tried Montessori schools, and Maria Montessori got some things right about education, but it allows too much for administrative autocracy and arbitrariness.The director of the school in the Montessori system was too much a “CEO” and served herself more than the kids. We had definite proof of that. So we left that and started homeschooling, which we like very much, though it is alot of work. Hands on learning and learning by doing (Dewey), are increasingly rare. Factory learning and computer long distance learning, which corpratize kids and make them uneducated, working drones is far more common. What is common, of course, is the institutional abuse of children, teaching them to accept this abuse as adults, so they will work for overpaid and unnecessary CEO’s without complaint.
A lot of homeschooling is Christian based and denies evolution. I do not admire “Classical Conversations”, which is a sort of homeschooling for profit with cultish overtones. But we are not doing any of that. Darwin and science are important to us. We go everywhere and teach all day and often at night too. The kids do very well at it, and it teaches them self-reliance and self-purpose, by which I mean being able to think on their own, use evidence and not rely on authority . My model in this is graduate school, which is too much for smaller kids, but elements of it are good for all ages . I use drawing a lot, and regular math, to learn thinking processes. Drawing is ultimately the pursuit of knowing, Da Vinci was right about that.
The great thing is that we get to design our children’s days, teach them everything we can. We work on math often, English grammar, science and history. We do experiments with water, study species, insects, tracking, physics, spelling, history, reading, and writing. Nature. Both kids have done an evolution time line with their own drawings. So they both learn to draw as part of inquiry and learning. We take them to factories where they see industrial bread baking. They saw a factory where they make saw blades. We go to parks to do tracking and nature observation. We go to cities and towns few ever see.
Home schooling is an adventure. We do Science Olympiad every year. So far we have done bird identification, made a musical instrument, human anatomy and insect ID, among other things. We go to the local art and science museums often. They take violin seriously and do gymnastics. We talk to them endlessly about everything, so there is little that they are kept from or uninformed about, including politics. We do not lie to them, as many parents do. We are making them ready for life and allowing them to live at the same time. They are never forced to sit in desks and be ignored by the teacher. In industrial education teachers are forced to have too many students in their classes.
Cicadas, July 2016
This painting is almost entirely about my kids, believe it or not. These are the 17 year Cicada that came out this last June. It was truly amazing and went on for probably 5 or 6 weeks. We were studying insects a lot last winter and spring, so it was perfect that Cicada come along. We did Science Olympiad for the last several years, which involves my older child in endless study. I learned a lot about insects too. There were thousands upon thousands of the Cicadas in our yard alone. We learned their whole cycle by observation, which is always the best way. Even recently, now that it is winter and the Cicadas have been gone for 6 months, we see their dead branches that the females have cut to deposit their eggs in, and the larvae drop out of them or the branch falls to the ground. Some of the dead twigs are still up in the tree, 6 months later.
They wrote haiku about them
17 year Cicadas
One on my bare toe,
one on my hand,
one on my arm, tickling me
By my 7 year old son
17 year Cicadas
Little Red Eyed Cicada,
orange veined wings,
perched on my shoulder.
by my 12 year old daughter
Basho wrote a good one about Cicadas too.
not showing it
in its song.
My daughter at 8 years old said,
“Daddy, why do worms and snakes
have no feet?”
I wanted to keep this question as surprising as when I first heard it. I’ve done alot of reading to try to find her an answer. Did snakes come from land or sea reptiles? The popular theory at the moment is they came from land reptiles and adapted to live under or near the ground and crawl though tunnel like structures in the ground to get their food, rodents mostly, –hence their ability to smell well in the dark with their tongues. The lack of fossils makes saying this with certainty rather difficult. The competing theory has them coming from sea reptiles. There have been DNA and genetic studies which suggest a land origin as well and one in which limbs and genitalia are changeable. Even today there are snakes that have vestige limbs, like Lizards. I am hardly going to try to answer this here, if I could that is. The point being that my daughter asked a very good question, for which I only have uncertain answers.
Another day she asked. “What does Octopus poop and pee look like?” Another great question. I can’t answer this at all, yet.
Last year, at 11, she asked me, “what is thinking, how do we think?” this question too is beyond me, though I had her look at a book about what is known on the brain. I explained neurons and axons and so on. But that does not get close to really saying what goes on. Areas of the brain do not quite cover it either, and when I explained Dementia disorders to her, she was even more confused. We need to look into this further. No one knows the answer yet. But we know more than we did 100 years ago.
Anyway, she impresses me in so many ways and I have only mentioned a few ways here. The above work, a portrait of her, in pencil, done not that long ago, but based largely on pictures.
This is from a more extensive work, below, called ‘History’. It is a personal history of course, or alludes to that. My mother and grandmother, wife and children are on the wall of my studio. A drawing of Da Vinci is on the wall too, as well as a warblers nest, a candle and a section of an orange. There is a sketchbook with a drawing of a sculpture supposedly by Praxiteles, from CMA. It is probably not by him, as one can see in the essay I wrote about the myth of Praxiteles. In any case, the floor of my studio is made into the plains of North America and the Forests of Africa by a Bison and an Okapi. The studio, where I sit now, is place devoted to imagining and thinking about the real world.
We have a lot of trees, some of them very old, and they lose branches. So, we burn twigs and small branches, once or twice a year . We make a time of it, roasting marshmallows and eating them. We add the often charred or browned marshmallow with a square of dark or milk chocolate put between crackers. Tasty, and the kids have so much fun. I even let my son throw a stick on the fire, sometimes.
It was a complex work to do and took quite a while. I had to use photos for the figures. But the rest is from life.
I was thinking of this one for several years. Not sure what to call it, so for now it is just “Firelight”. That is our house in the background. I started with that by drawing it from life. There are some mistakes in the structure, but it is more or less right. The structure on the right is the family room/studio and bed room we built based on our own design. We built a lot of it ourselves, though for the main structure I hired two very good carpenters. I could not have gotten the main beam or framing up by myself. I also needed help on the drywall, electric and insulation.. But I did a lot the cutting and the design of it and it was quite interesting and a real challenge. But the painting itself is mostly an effort to celebrate our family again. This is my favorite thing to do. There is nothing more in life than this that matters as much, unless it be animal and bird families as well as ecologies.
It is important for families to stay close to ecology, once they became unmoored from healthy ecologies if they lived in cities. In cities s much human centered conflict happens, the world became rife with problems.
live on in nature and thought,
looking out from my eyes
in my remembering.
Her World 1
Moving away from her childhood.
She still loves the doll behind her
But she loves to read now.
Her World 2
Growing day by day,
from sunshine in the sheer curtains
to the Milky Way,
the world both inside
and outside her life
is becoming hers.
Most modern art is in service of “post-democratic” dictatorships, CEO’s and the 1%. What you are about to see here is my art, which is the opposite of this.
To begin with, there is no controversy or “problem” about children. Children are amazing beings who need good people to guide them. The only ‘problem’ with children is actually the problem of adults and their inane ideologies, selfishness or greed. The ‘controversy’ in history regarding male adult’s poor treatment of children cannot be ignored here, as much as I wish it could. People who do not have children are certainly valid people, but they tend to not understand the service to others and so tend to revolve around themselves. This is convenient for the “masters” of finance, since they do not want communities or families, but rather, they want everyone to be atomized individuals who buy as much as possible. I found out from caring for young children that women are much more likely to share than men are. to care for each others kids on occasion, to understand that every other mother needs help. This is true in the animal world too, for instance many species, such as Canada Geese, watch each others kids. The repulsiveness of free market ideology is that it does not share and is the enemy of cooperative social welfare. Val Plumwood showed this clearly in the book Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. She writes that we need to develop an
“environmental culture that values and fully acknowledges the non-human sphere and our dependency on it, and is able to make good decisions about how we liveand impact on the non-human world.”
Most of the harm that comes to children, women and animals comes from men. This is due partly to their wish to mate, but at the same time to pretend the consequences of mating do not exist. Males tend to think they exist as a law unto themselves with no consequences.There is precedence for this in the animal world, of course, male cats for instance. This should not be controversial, but it is and is rarely discussed. Most extinctions of animals, global warming, and starvation of children comes from hoarding, dictators, armies, guns or corporate exploitation, all largely male activities. The seas are being destroyed by men. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the only biological biomes that can be seen from outer space, is being done in by businessman caused global warming. Tuna, Cod and Salmon are declining precipitously because of male centered markets.The potato famine in Ireland in 1847-48 was largely caused by English landowners and businessmen, who could have fed the starving Irish easily, but preferred to hoard the large stores or grain and meat under their control. They killed 1 million Irish by eviction and starvation and 2 million were forced to emigrate, often swindled onto bad ships and died of disease or starvation at sea. It is not too different than what is going on in Syria now, due to another bad leader by the name of Assad. “President” Trump proposes something similar with his racist war against Muslims and Latinos and his depriving millions of health care while giving money to the wealthy. The Janjaweed, an armed militia, working for a tyrant named Omar al-Bashir, for instance, have killed hundreds of thousands of mostly sedentary people in villages in Sudan, often storming in on camels and shooting women and children in villages. Bashir has been convicted of Genocidal behavior. These are an extreme examples of a very common occurrence, the privileging of males over others; thier need to harm others to prove their own power.
In America, kids are abused by capitalism, which gives them a bad education system that tacitly assumes education is of much less importance than military generals and mercenary defense corporations, as well as corporate CEO bonuses and salaries–all mostly male activities and agencies. Men serve themselves and harm kids while they do it, impoverishing the future. Kids are the future. The idea is to destroy public education so a few men men, or women, can profit from private education. There is a parallel privileging of girls if they become like boys with the questionable aim of making them power hungry just as capitalism makes men. Why this absurd preference for male dominated enclaves which deny consequences? It is typical male centered behavior, even if women do it. Taking from ordinary women and the future of children and giving to rich males or corporate females is what corporate politics in America does best. It is shameful, and it is destroying the little that is left of democratic actions in America. Democracy can only be sustained by education of the electorate. This requires independent schools and teachers, academic freedom and critical thinking. Educating to make corporate or religious clones is merely to make ideological non-thinkers, who endorse injustices.
CEO’s have put away 35 trillion dollars of untaxed money in off shore banks. That money belongs to us, not them. The worst offending CEO’s should be deported. They have moved 14-20 million American jobs to India, China, and many other countries. Latinos are targeted with taking American jobs when they have done nothing of the kind, CEO’s are the guilty party here. By rights CEO’s should be deported, not Mexicans. Yet Latinos are now being scapegoated and deported. Trumpcare promises to care only for the wealthy and the healthy, and to harm the poor and middle class. Freedom for CEO’s, high taxes and burdens for everyone else. This has to stop, it is unjust, and is ruining the earth. Christian groups support this cruelty, and help the rich at the expense of the poor.
In the legal case called”Citizens United” the idea that money is speech, means only the rich can vote. That put Trump in office. We now have a corporate state, not a democracy. Corporations are authoritarian entities, and should be made illegal, and forcibly made democratic. Citizens United was created because an erroneous law born falsely out of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Corporate Businessmen sought to exploit the definition of persons spoken of in the 14th amendment which applied to ex-slaves—not to corporations. Corporations are not equal persons under the law. They are not persons at all. The judges in this case actually never said the corporation is a person, it was written into the record by a corrupt railroad man, who wanted to exploit a law freeing slaves for his own greed. The idea that black people were not whole people was an absurd fiction to begin with, making them whole persons was not intended to make fictive entities like corporations persons. This is a horrendous abuse. Corporations are not persons and making them persons is now destroying our democracy in the Cabinet and polices of Donald Trump. Making money speech is a natural outgrowth of the original and grotesque abuse of making corporations persons.
It is a fact that most of the violence around the world is committed by men. But it is not just violence that results from over-valuing men. The harm that comes to children is also due to male hoarding, competition, selfishness, love of hierarchy and systems of myth and religion that serve men or women who adopt male behaviors. Global warming, species extinctions, over fishing, pollution, violations of human and animals rights, displaced populations, these and most of the other problems that plague the world are do to men and their greed, ambitions and irresponsibility. CEO psychopathology, party leaders, mullahs, kings, corrupt governments, are at the heart of many harms done around the earth today.
Thus, the majority of things that harm children have to do with men positioning for power. This is a big problem in the world, men having too much power. Many men understand life very superficially. This is not just the case with some male humans, Polar Bears and Lions can both be a danger to their kids too. These is something anti-social in the fact of testosterone, a hormone that in excess encourages a mafioso of greed and unjust privilege. I do not mean to say that all males are bad. Far from that. Rheas, Foxes, Penquins, certain Marmosets, Seahorses, Great Horned Owls, Jacanas and many other species are all excellent fathers. Some human males are excellent fathers too. But human hierarchy seeking behaviors, violent aggression, harem making, and the sublimation of aggression into state actions and wars, are among the worst, most destructive aspects of human nature. E.O. Wilson advocated somewhere that the testosterone aggression tendency be genetically removed by intervention, one way or another. Some feminists have suggested euthanizing destructive men, who harm women and children or start wars, or exploit others. I don’t see that as a good thing, as “euthanization”– a much misused word– actually means mercy killing and what is proposed is not that. Murder is no solution and merely transfers the destructiveness to women.
I suggest, instead, a world wide educational method of schooling for peace. Part of this process would be to encourage male involvement much more in the care of babies and children. History should emphasize those who kept peace, and promoted peaceful uses of knowledge rather than “heroes”, “CEO’s” or “Presidents” who killed people or helped create inequality or wars and nation states, for instance.
Male humans do not do very well when they try to dominate life processes like birth or DNA. They mess things up, motivated by greed or selfishness. Nature is not an arbitrary dictatorship like a corporation. Corporate structures clearly encourage male psychopathology and unfair hierarchy. Corporations should be entirely gotten rid of or regulated into docility. Speciation insures the survival of the most members of the most species possible. Capitalism is the opposite. It insures the survival of the fewest, the most gross and the wealthiest. When capitalist redesign life to fit their need of excess profits they destroy natural systems. The make grossly over-sized fish held in cages to become fish meat. The make cows with extra stomachs, mice that grow human ears on their backs. There are corporations that want to profit by any means necessary. I bring up these genetic distortions to illustrate that we live in a dangerous world deformed by male excesses, and having babies occurs in the midst of much that would destroy it.
It is a very fragile and risky thing to have babies in our time. So much is against children. Many men resent sharing and think the world owes them excessive riches or power. They take the future or children and do not blink, they take the health of fragile old people and do not blink. The world owes them nothing and they prattle about their threatened “freedom” to steal the the liberty of others. Their wealth is simply an illusion that they need to be divested of, downsized and taxed heavily so that others may prosper too. In the 1960’s thee rich made 27 times the average rate of their poorest workers, now they often make 250-300 times that amount. This is rankly unfair. The problem is that they have to be regulated, controlled, and actively prevented from doing what they do, and how is that to be done, when they try to be sure to control the reigns of power that would prevent them form hoarding the world’s wealth and destroying the planet that is left? There needs to be a radical change in male behavior and education. This is obvious.
I am aware that it is unusual to be a full time dad. Dads are supposed to be devoted to money, bringing home the dead meat, the proverbial “bacon”. I am vegetarian and not a capitalist hunter. I cared for my kids while my wife was at work, and we do it together when she comes home. She has a flexible schedule, which helps a lot. But I was very proud to have done this and I am still doing it. I have been aware the whole time that this goes against cultural norms. A few have praised what I do, which seems right to me. But others have thought me lesser for doing this, and some women have thought me out of place. This is because of the conventional biases. Such views are irrelevant, even if painful to me at times. There is not only a sort of testosterone poisoning, but an estrogen poisoning too. Women as well as men can have narrow and prejudiced minds. Our male centered system keeps women in little coveys of manageable and capitalized child care, taking profits from families and giving it to over-paid men. This is a really bad idea that is abusive to females who give all they can to their kids for free. The best things in life do not involve money..
What kind of society do we have that overly rewards crooks? Men like to profit from others who do things out of the goodness of their hears for free. It makes no sense and is backwards. Men can raise children and do a good job at it too, for free, and they should be praised and rewarded. The crooks should be heavily taxed. I have known women who sadly never had kids and wanted them and would have been good mothers, as well as men and women who hated kids and never wanted them and it is good they did not have them. It would have gone badly. Conventional wisdom is sometimes very stupid. I have known women who should never have had children, as well as men who were great fathers. The notion that all of us are the same is silly. One size does not fit all. Women can do what men do and in many instances, do even better than some men. I wish to say all this at the beginning, since it is controversial, and to get it out of the way. It should be obvious where I come down in these controversies. I do not favor the usual sexist roles our society dictates, and nor do I shy away from celebrating children. Indeed, I do not admire those who have prejudices against children, or see children as things to exploit. I find such people to be among the most dangerous to our planet.
How someone regards children and animals is a huge indicator as to who they really are. Indeed, I have told young women who are looking for a mate to look at the men they meet in terms of how they relate to children and animals. If they dislike or do not relate to either, stay away from them. Males who are all about business, hunting, hierarchy, myth or religion, corporate control, freedom for them, professional pretense, guns or money are toxic. Societies based on men controlling women, creating a caste system that denigrates them, taking away health care for everyone, condemning women’s right to choose, forcing them to wear certain obscuring clothes, destroying their sexuality, while lionizing male needs for violence, corporate hierarchy and religious control, are repellent to me. I say all this at the beginning to alienate such people from this text, as well as to prepare the sympathetic reader for the beauty that follows. This has been one of my favorite of pages to do, and perhaps the one I worked on the longest. But it is not meant for everyone.
(A note on the Haiku )
The Haiku in this exhibit are partly written randomly as notes in a journal, as it were. But, on the contrary, some of the Haiku here were written for this blog page. A few were written by my kids. I use a few Haiku from Issa and Basho. But I have not written any Haiku based on the Japanese 5, 75. syllable scheme. I have studied Japanese somewhat and it is a very different language than English. Each letter in Japanese is a syllable. English is much more variable. The syllable counting done in English rarely works for English Haiku. Many of the haiki I have written are a picture that evokes something. But I have not always done that and some of them are really Haiku that are not pictures as much as they are thoughts or questions. English lends itself to expanding the Haiku form in just this way, while still retaining the genius of this form, which is its devotion to realism.
Part of my reasoning for using Haiku is that we home school our kids. Haiku is great for kids, it gets them in touch with nature, observation and writing, as well as getting them in touch with their senses and recording what is going on around them.
I find that Haiku corresponds closely with Realism as an art form. It evokes the facts, and often does it with simplicity and beauty. It does not avoid the ugly. For instance, one of my son’s favorite Haiku, because it is funny, is this one, that says,
A horse just went by:
from the horse droppings.
I do not remember who wrote this, it might be Issa or Basho, but here it is combined with my son’s seven year old imagination, perhaps. He has changed it. I changed it a little more.
Another Haiku I would like to paint someday is:
a little boy
shows another child…
This is about as perfectly imperfect as Haiku gets. But this is not a page about Haiku, it is a blog page about babies and children, which uses Haiku to help illuminate the content of the paintings and drawings. It is a great teaching tool. This needs to said here, and I have said it.
Now on to the art and poetry.
All images and text copyright, Mark Koslow, 2017. Nothing may be copied or used without authors permission.
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