Artist Boy began drawing, seriously drawing, obsessively drawing, when he was not quite four years old. If he had been a musical prodigy we would have given him lessons. If he had been a budding athlete we would have signed him up for soccer. But there’s not much you can do to support a kid who just wants to draw all day long. The one thing we could do is simply make sure he never ran out of paper and pens. We bought reams and reams of copy paper — legal size, which he always used landscape-oriented, like a widescreen tv — and never hassled him about using both sides or not wasting it.
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When I was a kid, we drew on “scratch paper.” My dad brought it home from work. The paper came stapled together, several sheets per booklet, with typewritten or mimeographed text on the back. We thought it was normal for art paper to have text on the back, and it always seemed perfectly proper to have the staple in the upper right corner. Whenever we ran low, we’d ask Dad to bring home more scratch paper, and very soon we’d have another teetering stack of the stuff in our art cupboard.
I’m not sure how old I was when I realized the recto was actually the verso and started reading the “backs” of our scratch paper booklets, but I’m sure I was still in elementary school when I discovered that they were well worth reading. My dad is a professor of clinical psychology, see, and this was back in the day when Freud was still considered one of the cool kids. I was gobbling up Rorschach and TAT responses, case histories, student papers and exams, drafts of his own work, and getting with it a heady dose of Oedipal conflict, dream interpretation, and neurotic drama. Totally age-inappropriate, of course, and I’m sure I never told Dad I was reading it. :-)