Dad, you’re a tough art critic…

Father of two, Michael Arnold looks at alternative options to binning your child’s mounting artwork collection…

I may have been a little overenthusiastic in purchasing a professional artist’s easel and brush set for my two-year-old, but I’ve always been big on encouraging my kids to be as creative as possible. And when I found myself wandering past the row of art supply shops on Le Loi, I just couldn’t resist.

It turned out to be a great idea – we got set up on the balcony in the relative cool of the late afternoon, her wearinga painting apron and beret, me playing some inspiring music and trying my best not to be annoyed at her for paying more attention to mixing all the blobs of paint together on the palette instead of applying them to the canvas.

Eventually she seemed to get the point, and over time, she managed to turn out a healthy pile of masterpieces – each individually named, dated, and signed by the artist herself, the signature sometimes obscuring the entire painting. This wasn’t the full extent of her oeuvre, either – I was rapidly compiling a collection of sketches, mixed-media collages, painted statuettes, brown Play-Doh sculptures and even full-scale 3D paper and string installations, each representing different phases in the artist’s career. Priceless works, all of them, for any would-be collector – although it was quickly becoming obvious that the practicality of maintaining my daughter’s personal art museum was going to require rather more cupboard space than we had available.

Education

The problem of how to deal with a child’s artworks is perhaps one of the most common parenting challenges there is, alongside where to send them to school and how to prevent them from getting a disease. For those more sentimental among us, the guilt that follows the heartless disposal of a study in crayon executed by your own flesh and blood can be so overwhelming that it can see you getting up in the middle of the night to fetch it back out of the trash just to make you feel like a better parent. For my own part, I tried to convince my eldest that the best storage facility for some of her more esoteric creations was the bucket-shaped art repository under my desk – but she was too clever to fall for that and burst into tears. From then on, whenever she presented me with one of her creations, she would always open by begging me not to use the “art repusitty.”

One has to be sensible, however and most parents would be very well- advised to draw the line somewhere. My recommendation is to institute a category system to help make the tough decisions. Divide the works into three: those that are to be kept in permanent archive ready to be exhibited at the artist’s 21st birthday celebrations; those that are for temporary display on the fridge door or for hanging from the light fixtures until new creations move in to replace them; and those for (discreet) filing on the dark side of the moon.

Beyond the Fridge

 

The trouble only really begins when you run out of fridge real estate for category-2 items. One of the more ingenious solutions to this problem I’ve seen – especially useful for parents of high- output wunderkind – is to establish a whole art wall somewhere in the house, where there’s enough space for a floor-to- ceiling display. Special bonus points go out to parents who involve their child in setting it up: hanging colorful display cords, beads, and novelty hooks all prepped for the exhibition.

While you’re getting creative with yourdisplays, don’t forget that you live in a city where professional art framing is about as cheap as it gets. For those masterpieces truly deserving of the name, there’s little to stop you from wandering along Tran Phu and getting your child’s best-of-the-best series squared off into matching deluxe hardwood frames, and it won’t overly affect your coffee budget. If you want tobe even more ambitious than that, talk to the artists about getting a large canvas print made of your favorite. At a cool four by three meters, Junior’s latest My Family watercolor may well become a prominent talking piece dominating the lounge.

Too many artworks to have framed? Why not publish a book? We’ve all seen the lavish wedding albums that are a must-have for local newlyweds (if you got married in Vietnam, you’re likely to have one of these already). Drop in to any of the wedding photo studios that are everywhere in the city and get a quote for producing a handsome volume of your child’s artworks with a plush leather cover. If you’re looking for something a bit more down- to-earth, it’s also relatively inexpensive to have a book designer lay out a smart- looking, perfect-bound volume of artworks and photographs of your child. Our own magazine offers a book publishing service that can handle work like that – drop us a line if you’d like the details.

Of course, the clever application of modern tools can help you to throw away the cake and eat it too. No iPad-wielding infant is going to complain that you’ve tossed out her stack of paintings if you’ve taken the time to properly scan or photograph them first and load them onto an app like Artkive or Canvasly.

Your digital collection can be putto a number of creative uses too, with numerous local and online services offering custom-made products emblazoned with any photograph you care to upload. Try turning your child’s best artworks into a carry bag, set of mugs, deck of cards, t-shirt – anything. Create cute name cards for passing out to new friends at school who want to exchange phone numbers. Placemats, mousepads – many countries even allow you to order genuine custom postage stamps printed from any photo you send them via email. With the commercial art world ready to create any object you desire based on your children’s innate creativity, never again will you be stumped coming up with new presents from Vietnam for the grandparents. Of course, you could always just send them the originals – grandparents tend to have mighty big fridges.

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