Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Over Already???

I can't believe BraveGirls Art Camp has come to a close. I can't believe that on Monday morning I was so nervous and worried and wondering just how I would fill twenty hours, and it zipped by so fast we hardly had time to breathe. I can't believe how hard I fell for these six girls. I can't believe, once again, how much they taught ME. I can't believe what an amazing week it has been.

Today we started by playing for a few minutes. Some girls hula hooped, some painted on the easels, some cut words to describe themselves out of magazines (artistic, creative, smart, pretty, humble, everyday amazing--those are some great words, no?) and one or two jumped on the trampoline. Then it was time to get started. Each girl had a glass jar at her spot at the table. I instructed them to paint the jars white so they would dry while we had circle time. We sat on the floor and I told the girls about my special box. I told them they were going to look inside the box and give the person inside a compliment or two. I asked them not to peek while the person next to them was taking her turn. I started. I opened the box and said the person inside was smart, beautiful, funny, and has a really good singing voice. Then I handed the box to Courtney who handed it to Hayleigh (who gasped when she looked inside the box!), who handed it to Abigail, to Ava, to Lindsey, and to Madi. I heard words like pretty, smart, good sense of humor, brave, and awesome(sauce).

Then Madi handed the box to Mary. Mary looked at it for a long time without

saying anything. She finally said very quietly, "I can't think of anything to say." I asked her what was inside the box and she whispered, "A mirror." Then I said, "Well, what compliment can you give that person?" She looked back down and didn't say a word. Suddenly Abigail said, "She's smart." And Hayleigh said, "She's a good drawer." And Lindsey said, "She's brave." And Ava said, "She's nice." And Abigail said, "She has pretty bows for her hair." And with each compliment Mary'ssmile got bigger, and tears filled my eyes. Without knowing it they had just exemplified the meaning of this exercise beautifully. Because then I told them that if we cannot compliment ourselves, it is very hard to find a reason or the words to use to compliment others. And when Mary was at a loss for words to describe herself, all of the girls who had already spoken about themselves were easily able to fill in the blanks for Mary. It was a perfect moment. Truly perfect.

Then we talked about sympathy and empathy and remembering that sometimes someone we come across just might be having a bad day or is lonely or hurting and so they lash out or act

in mean ways when really they just want a friend. I asked them to carry the mirror lesson with them and remember that every girl is a leader, and curious, and strong, and serious and spirited and brave. She may look different and talk different, but inside each and every one of us is alike. And we all want to shine our light into the world. I explained that the jars we had painted were lanterns and that they would paint designs on them and we would add a candle. They could put it next to their beds or on their dining room tables as a reminder of their special light. So we got to work...
After snack we got started on self portraits. The girls had done their sketches yesterday so they sat on the floor at the piece of canvasI had laid out for them and sketched on the canvas. We had lesson in how to create skin tone with paint, and talked about how each of us has a different and unique skin tone, no two are exactly thesame. We looked at examples of faces and talked about where to place features and how to draw hair. They got started and, once again, blew me away with what a great job they did. I told them it was the very first time they would be trying to paint themselves, and even the master painters have a hard time with portraits to don't worry too much, practice and patience make you a better artist. They worked diligently and the results are fantastic.

Lindsey captured her eyes perfectly, large and dark brown and so expressive. Ava added an outfit that was perfect for her bold and bubbly personality, and gave herself the ponytails she wanted to wear today but didn't have time to do before she left the house. Madi worked so hard to get her beautiful curly hair just perfect. She had loved her sketch and wanted to repeat the work, and I think her painting was even better! And Mary, her perspective was fantastic, she put herself slightly to the side of the page and painted a pink background and she was so proud of the way she improved the eyes on her painting compared to her sketch, and the hair--so wonderful--she chose to glue a flower in her hair, just like the one she wears every day. Abigail attempted to paint her whole body, she gave herself a great dress and the perfect smile, and flowers! And Hayleigh did what Hayleigh has done all week--she focused and she painted completely without any inhibitions. She boldly put paint on the page and used colors that weren't realistic but were as bright and sunny and playful as she is! They answered my challenge and created portraits above and beyond my wildest expectations.
We had a quick hula hooping contest and quickly ate our lunches. I asked if it would be okay while we were eating if I shared each of their art journals with the group. They enthusiastically allowed me to hold them up and share each page, and they oohed and aahhed when they saw each other's work. Then the girls asked if they could tell me what they loved about camp this week. I was touched that they wanted to tell me and they each loved something different. It was fun to recap the week, and then they gave me some great ideas for things we could do in the future.
The last hour of the day I had a special event planned. My friend Paul Del Corral is studying to become a professional juggler. I invited him to come today as a treat to perform and to teach the girls to juggle. He totally WOWED us with his talent. We're not just talking about juggling three balls, we're talking 25 different tricks and juggling pins and rings and he's this close to perfecting juggling 5 balls at one time. He was so patient and kind and encouraging and all the girls got a chance to try juggling and a few of them actually almost got it.

We talked about how much time and patience it takes to learn. How you have to deal with lots of frustration but if you are determined (Paul practices five hours every day!) you can learn to juggle, as a matter of fact you can learn to do anything you want to do if you set your heart on it. They girls and I had a blast watching and learning from Paul. I also told them that Paul is a musical artist as well. He plays guitar in a band called The Scott DeCarlo Six and we listened to their music--and Paul's background vocals--as we juggled.
It was a great day. As the girls left I gave them each a big hug. Even though I was sad to see them go, I was filled with joy for all we had accomplished together, all we had learned, how we bonded as a group, and all the ways they had made me laugh and reminded me how great it is to be a girl! Mary, remember what I told you this morning: I'll always be young at heart! I hope you all are, too . . .
(Special thanks to my assistant Courtney Conte who is going to make a great art teacher one day, and to Paul Del Corral and Nella Cicchino who helped me make today really special. You guys are the best and you have my undying gratitude! You fill my world with AWESOMESAUCE!)


  1. Dear Amy,

    Thank you. What you are sharing with these BraveGirls are thoughts, actions and ideas for girls of all ages! I have tears in my eyes of joy on with how creative and wonderful these girls are. My heart swells in pride that my best friend is providing this environment for them.

    I sit here 4,000 miles away completely connected to BraveGirls Art. Thank you (and the girls) for making us all stand taller and be a little braver.

    All my love,

  2. Amy,
    One of my favorite poems is "On the Other Side of the Door" by Jeff Moss. I thought of some of the lines today as I read your blog:
    On the other side of the door
    I can be a different me.
    As smart and as brave and as funny or strong
    As a person could want to be.
    There's nothing too hard for me to do,
    There's no place I can't explore
    Because everything can happen
    On the other side of the door.

    On the other side of your door, for your brave girls, everything was possible. Amy, you have a gift and I truly hope you will continue to share your many talents and inspire more young girls (and boys).


  3. mmmm....loving all the windows into the bravegirl week.
    you have touched each one of them. they will carry this
    with them always, just as you will.

    so proud of your tinglegirl.