Today’s prompt is “educational toy” and my mind strangely leapt to the unlikely candidate known as a Lite-Brite. This little invention came along in the late 60’s and allowed you to create artistic masterpieces that literally glowed by jamming multi-colored translucent plastic pegs (shown in this doodlewash) through black paper. All of this happened on top of a rather unsightly box that housed a standard lightbulb to produce a glowing effect through the pegs. As a kid, I ended up playing with a Lite-Brite long before I ever took my first drawing class, so this was my first experience learning to find the contours that make a thing look like the thing you intended. The pixellated creations didn’t allow for much detail, so you had to learn how to abstract them into their basic shapes while choosing the appropriate hues. And no matter what you made, the end result glowed in vibrant color and so it was guaranteed to look cool!
Although this little game could hardly qualify as painting, in my little mind at the time, I was indeed painting masterful luminescent art. Each little glowing peg I placed was like a stroke of the brush and, diligently popping in my pegs, I would eventually manage to make something amazing appear. Mostly, again, because of the glowing nature of my medium, but I was certain nobody had ever created a sailboat quite as incredible as that one. Interestingly, I was proud of everything I created as a child, but today, I’ll consider some things a failure and hope the next painting is a little more successful. Little Charlie never once worried if what he made was wonderful, because he already knew that it was. It wasn’t there before. I’d made it appear there, and therefore it was magical and amazingly good. There was never any doubt.
I’m not sure quite when I managed to lose this extreme level of confidence in my art. Perhaps it was that time later in art class when I was told there was actually a proper way to draw and paint. Maybe it was even before that when my creations where not just lauded by my mother, but actually seen and judged by my friends. Whenever it happened, today when I’m feeling uncertain, I just like to think back to my time with those little Lite-Brite pegs. Everything was possible and nothing could stop me from creating that stunning glowing fish or that perfectly symmetrical flower. I had no concept that this wasn’t real art and felt the power of my creativity with each little colorful glow. Many, many years later I would discover watercolor and once again enjoy the fabulous effects of a luminous palette. Still never worrying too much if what I’d created could actually be considered art and simply letting myself get lost in the wondrous experience of painting with light.