Splashes, Smudges, and Spills: The Dumpling is Now a [Self-] Published Artist 

When the Dumpling first started finger painting, I didn’t have high expectations after seeing that her primary techniques consisted of slapping, smearing, ripping, and crumpling paint and paper together. She proved to be a prolific artist and whatever survived the production process was whimsically lauded as “abstract art.” jigg and I proudly framed and shamelessly shared our daughter’s colorful messes with family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who was willing to admire them. They played along in our ruse by comparing her work to modern artists, asking for copies, reserving future pieces, and even offering commission.

Since everyone seemed to be on-board the “fake it until we make it” boat, I wanted to take the game to the next level: convert the Dumpling’s work into a book and enable her to claim the title of being a published artist. Besides, I have been looking for a good coffee table book lately.

After laying each painting out, I saw how much of the Dumpling’s personality embodied her work, from her obsession with a particular color (she went through a phase where she only wanted blue), to her impatience with dotting paint (she preferred pouring it), to her stubbornness to follow my instructions (hence the mess). The compositions also showed an amusing progression in her thought process. The amount of paint used was indicative of her interest level; white space showed trepidation while total color coverage signified her full embrace of the medium. In one instance, the Dumpling was looking for fresh space as every inch of her work area was used. Without missing a beat, she flipped over her existing piece of paper and continued on her newfound, blank canvas. Although unintentional, it produced an unique effect.

My DIY book binding project.

What started out as ordinary toddler art turned out looking like a legitimate portfolio. In hindsight, we never had to fake it. It just took my mommy goggles time to focus, some proper image cropping, and several hours of my labor (which mommy normally charges a pretty penny for) to bring out their fully glory.

To capture the spirit of her work, I titled her book, Splashes, Smudges, and Spills.

Click here to read Splashes, Smudges, and Spills

I already have plans to have the next edition of her book professionally printed in hardcover. Let me know if you want to get in the pre-order.

(I’m being serious!)

Painting with the Dumpling: Difference Between Modern Art and Smeared Crap

The Dumpling recently showed interest in learning colors, so I set up a series of activities to help explore her newfound curiosity. I have been waiting to paint with her for some time but have held off in fear that more of it would end up in her stomach than on paper.

The four ingredients used in the homemade finger paint recipe were flour, water, salt, and food coloring.

I set out to make my own edible finger paint because I found comfort in knowing that whatever the Dumpling could potentially put in her mouth was indeed familiar and non-toxic. I also purposely stayed away from any recipe that required sugar as an ingredient – just because the paint was edible didn’t mean I want to encourage the Dumpling to eat it!

The Dumpling at work.

I kicked off the art session by naming each of the four paint colors available and showed the Dumpling how to dab paint with her fingers onto a piece of card stock. At the beginning, her art seemed promising with bright splashes of color that channeled Pollock. To encourage dialogue, I offered her only one color each time and kept the other jars of paint out of her reach. This restraint forced her to ask or point to a different color she wanted to use.

The fine line between art and a colorful mess.

The Dumpling eventually got tired of dotting paint and started smearing globs of it on her work area, face, and arms. In the end, I had a very colorful child to clean and a painting the resembled smeared crap on canvas. I mean that in a quite literal sense because everything just turned brownish.

While the Dumpling learned about colors through this activity, I got a refresher on color theory and how brown is made, which apparently is all the colors mixed together based on empirical observation. I also discovered that timing is the difference maker between my daughter creating art versus something that looked like doo doo. The key was to switch to a fresh piece of paper before she had the opportunity to turn everything into a mess.

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Super Mario Party (top); Murky Water (middle); Waves Crashing on a Beach (bottom)

From the onset, I was excited to finally start my very own collection of bad kid’s art. When I framed her work, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the finished products actually looked!

Even though I was careful about not letting the Dumpling eat paint, I’m now eager to see if she would have rainbow colored poop tomorrow.