Boy’s Clown

This was written some months ago.  I just found the draft and decided to post it.  Boy will be nine years old on April 29.

Art is included in Boy’s curriculum.  He also signed up for an after-school art class held on each Wednesday during this school year.  He is eight years old.  He is in the third grade.  He loves art.  He has an appreciation for beautiful things that surpasses that of most adults I know.  The one place he wants to visit in New York City is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I promised to take him.

The children in his art class are lucky.  They have a very talented teacher, and they are able to experiment with all kinds of media.  I think I posted a drawing of his once before.  Maybe I even posted the lovely kiln-fired ceramic platter he made for me at Christmas.  It would have satisfied any potter.  I was thrilled and amazed.

Today, when I picked him up at after-school, I saw a really cute, typical, happy-faced clown drawing lying on a girl’s backpack in the hall.  I commented how cute it was, and we walked on out to the car.  I didn’t notice that he had a sheet of art paper in his hand with the image facing away from me.  When I asked to see it, he said, “I don’t like it”.  That was an odd thing for him to say.  I asked why when we got in the car.  He replied simply, “It’s ugly”.   I let it pass.

When we got home, he left the drawing in the car, and raced off down the street to see his friends.  He yelled back over his shoulder.  “You can keep it.”

When I looked at the drawing, I knew why he thought it was ugly.  I knew he had been the only one to draw a clown whose heart was not in the job.  All his clown needed was a single tear to finish his story or a thought bubble containing an obscenity.  I suspect some friend told him it was ugly.  Boy is a happy child who started to create forts and castles and water-colored messes when he was barely old enough to grasp the biggest Legos and the brushes with big knobs like vegetable brushes.  Once he painted Pops’ hands and Pops painted Boy’s face with finger paints.  Boy painted murals on the bathtub sides too when he took his baths.

I will keep this clown.  I know Boy will like it when he is a man.  He may even smile remembering how he gave it to his granny because it was ugly.

NOTE:  The home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is about to be destroyed.  Save Undershaw is a project to save it.

29 Comments on “Boy’s Clown

  1. Another thoughtful piece. It reminds me of my wife’s observation of how many students arrive at high school intimidated about their creative skills. Liz hates hearing “I can’t draw/ act/paint/dance/play music”. Somehow we teach the spontaneous creative spirit right out of many of the young. We then spend time, energy, and money trying to get adults to learn/find it.


  2. how is it we could both use clowns in our recent pieces when i am pretty sure we both loathe them at least marginally? I love his skill though. I could barely draw my name at this age


    • I love “draw my name”. Me either. Kids learn so much more so early now. They’re really interesting at his age. I think we read more into what they do than is probably there. He’s a happy enough kid and so sweet. I got lucky, I guess. 🙂


  3. I love that sweet Charlie’s clown!!! I am SO HAPPY that he’s interested in art too!


  4. I have never liked clowns. They have always made me feel uncomfortable. When I was a child, some of them used to imitate mentally disabled people which I have always felt to be inadmissable – even when I was a child. Everybody else, including adults, would be laughing, but I just wanted it to stop. And when they were pretending to be drunks, which is probably more acceptable because drunks do it to themselves, I felt embarrassed that an adult lacked such dignity.

    An actor friend whose character in his plays was a clown, according to him (I saw him more as a mime but he insisted that he was a clown) said that a lot of people were frightened by clowns. I don’t think that they ever frightened me but I’ve never liked them. Boy’s drawing just about sums it up. Perhaps he feels the same way about clowns. (I should perhaps add that Thierry, the actor friend, never made fun of either disabled people or drunks – his plays were genuinely enjoyable comedy, with a bit of pathos sometimes.)


    • Clowns exhibit bizarre behaviors. What is the purpose of that? I can understand why small children are afraid of an adult who is dressed like a jack-in-the-box and behaves abnormally. I never thought they were funny either. I never enjoyed slapstick in any form. I was always reminded of people who make jokes about what is perceived to be a fault or a weakness in others and claim it’s “just a joke”. Humor is reality-based. Otherwise, it would not be humor.

      What is the song, “Send In the Clowns”? Or the Fools. It’s interesting that, from Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins back in the seventies, this song remains an iconic one. Children have a sixth sense for detecting fools.


  5. Oh lovely both the painting and the way you wrote the story….what i really loved about this painting is he didnt try to draw what most kids do…mostly kids draw a happy face no matter what they may be going through…and when some one draws this it makes me happy…the fact that kid chose to express whatever he felt about the clown or was going in his mind..
    there is one more thing and this may be because i looked at the clowns face for quite some time but have you seen how the clowns eyes looks directly at you and through you….


  6. First of all, as always, I love how you told this story. You captured Boy’s vulnerability with such wonderful sensitivity and your own respect for his feelings as well. I think so many adults would have pressed the matter (when he expressed negative feelings about it) and responded in a way that would not have allowed him to sit with his own feelings about the drawing or tried to convince him to feel differently in that moment. I love that you let it pass, that you let him have his own reaction.

    I think the drawing is incredibly striking.The vivid mix of colors (especially the blue and green in the hair) is especially interesting to me. The edgy arch of the eyebrows is a marvelous detail, too.


    • When you try to spare children from unhappy life experiences and deny the validity of their thoughts and emotions, you aren’t doing them any favors. He is generally successful and pleased with what he does. When he fails or is not satisfied, it would be worse than nonsensical to tell him that he doesn’t think what he thinks. That’s the fastest way I can think of to lose a child’s trust and respect. You know, people do that to adults too. “I know how you feel” is the worst of the affronts. When somebody is dying or has a loved one to die, I am far more likely to say, “That sucks!” And it does. But, then, I handle things with a heavy dose of gallows humor. Psychologists note “Pt. exhibits inappropriate humor” on the charts of folks like me. 😉


  7. This is a really great picture for a nine year old….he should encouraged to continue drawing.. It’s that good..the attention to details and the colors are outstanding..also, it’s all in the proper perspective..a talent I haven’t grasped yet!
    😌maybe a little wine could help.


    • I just heard some journalist/writer on CNN saying that she wrote phenomenal stuff after one glass of wine, but after three, she wrote junk. Maybe wine is the answer. I tried a glass of it “for my health” once. I finally figured out that the reason I couldn’t see the monitor was because the glass was too big. I gave it up.


    • He likes color. I do too. His mom does too. His dad draws very well. I think the kids are learning to draw first since I don’t see abstract stuff coming out of his art class. He loves art and designing stuff so I’m sure that will be a lifelong pleasure for him. Yes, Grannies do pay a lot of attention to the second generation. Maybe we’re trying to get it right the second time around? 😉


  8. THIS IS A WONDERFUL PAINTING. This child has talent and I’m not kidding. He knows without anyone showing him how to put his feelings into what his hands produce. This is a great gift. The best art is not that which reproduces a photograph-like image. Memorable artists are those who could let their insides interpret what their eyes saw, what they felt their world was composed of. So . . . Van Gogh, Picasso, Chagal, throwing before us what they felt compelled to show us–THEIR world, THEIR view of the ‘ordinary’, the ‘everyday’, but full of a unique passion which they likely themselves didn’t fully understand. I do hope this boy continues, and doesn’t get ‘schooled’ in ‘how to’ paint ‘properly’ etc. It is a wonderful painting.

    (Thank you for plugging this effort to save Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s home, George. It seems hard to believe no one has ever wanted it as their home–that it should remain vacant and in disrepair like this. Thank you again for posting.)


    • He always adds a little something of his own interpretation to whatever he’s told to paint. When I’ve asked him about it, he says something like, “Well, that would be there”. He always has a reason. I think he views clowns as sad people who behave in bizarre ways. 🙂 Who knows. My house is covered in paintings so it figures that he’d be interested in them. He’s asked me about them since he could talk and wanted me to hold him up to touch them before that. His own rooms and his whole house is full of paintings too. I suppose we’re interested in whatever surrounds us.

      Thank you for telling me about Undershaw. I am putting it on my Facebook page too. Maybe it will help.


  9. Well he certainly has a great eye for color, and the brown background makes the clown really pop. It’s so vibrant!! But what I really like about it is that he gave it to his granny….


    • Yes, that’s always the best part. He knows that I love whatever he paints or draws or sculpts. He always makes something for me. Ah, grandchildren are such a joy. I think Grannies have more leisure to enjoy the second generation! 🙂


  10. You are great keeping memories! But you are also making a wonderful job making those memories available for the next generation! I can imagine boy many years for now watching this drawing with a big smile and thinking of YOU!


    • I particularly like it that he enjoys art. I have paintings and etching covering every wall in my house. I carried him around before he could walk because he pointed and wanted to see them. We made up stories about them. His mother has paintings everywhere too and other objects. I hadn’t thought about it, but I suppose you’re right. It will be fun for him to see what he did as a child. Thanks, Ana


  11. I think it is darn good for 8 years old. I know a tiny bit about psych eval through child’s art. Most his age would not include suspenders and the fact that they contrast the shirt with horizontal lines vs the vertical ones show awareness and focus and attention to detail. Most 8’s would not add color or texture to cheeks or nose. He’s somewhat ahead of his peers in this area of thinking and planning. The cap fits the top of the skull perfectly. The facial features are realistically placed. I think most 8’s get those features inappropriately arranged to a degree. His heart may have not been on the job as you suggest(I doubt that) but his brain was sure kickin. I’d say he’s got a “math/design” dynamic quite advanced.


    • I never thought much about that. He designs complex forts and whatever those things kids make in shoe boxes with all kinds of landscape stuff and buildings and animals. I spend a fortune on those miniature trees and stuff to make those things with! He designs beautiful zoos on Zoo Tycoon that I couldn’t begin to imagine. I think those digital art and design programs are really good for kids. He is fascinated by design and art. I laughed that the thing he most wants to see in NYC is the art museum! I suspect that he hurried through this because he is not a fan of clowns. Then he saw how pretty the other clowns were and found his wanting. He usually is excited about whatever he drew or painted and tells me what he’s working on as it progresses in art class. I am happy that he appreciates art. He is a sensitive and extraordinarily kind little boy. And a gently giant. He’s five feet tall already. Of course, I am the Granny so I am a little prejudiced… 😉
      Thank you for your evaluation of this piece. I will tell him that a real grown up artist liked it.



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