Collaborations with my Toddler 

When my young son, around the age of two, began showing interest in making marks and scribbles, I soon recognized that the qualities of an untrained hand could meld with my own sense of sophistication and control. The work during this period involved setting up situations that allowed his continuously evolving handwork to directly encounter mine and to both disrupt and collaborate with it. The result is a fusion of differing skills, desires, and levels of artistic awareness that speaks of inter-generational imprinting. By authoring the work in a way that resists the notions of a singular creator of artistic genius, as well as presenting forms of documentation, such as video, alongside the paintings and prints, I invited the viewer to question how creative acts intersect with our preconceived definitions of "art" and "artist." 



The Bathtub Rituals 2011


This video depicts the process involved in making the piece "Pink 



Pink Tiles-2011

Acrylic and Watercolor on paper (2 sheets) 

43 by 30"

After giving Zachary the opportunity to blast liquid colors at

the half-completed montypes, the paper was thoroughly soaked in

colors. The reverse side took a chance imprint of the tiles, resulting in

the finished piece shown below.







"Let's think of some 'up' colors, some yellow."

"Yellow makes up the yellow." 

- Zachary Gilbert from "Colors" 6 minute digital video 


These Wittgenstein-esque remarks are from the mouth of my 4 year old as he smears red, blue, and yellow acrylic paints across a raw canvas. Trying to grasp what he intends in his speech provokes my own explorations of color terminology and art talk. What is an "up" color? What did he mean by that? Was it something to do with positional orientation, heightened emotion, or perhaps the color's correspondence to movement or music? This implies also there are ​down colors. Deep and foreboding colors? What about right and left colors? The yellow glare of the sun is overhead as he plays outside. Is this why yellow is an up color? Up colors: shiny, intense, bright, and joyous, evoking sky, warmth, and open space.

To make up the yellow, with yellow, the color is self creating: or imagining itself, or seeing itself imagined? Maybe he meant that yellow is what it is. Yellow is fundamental; it cannot be mixed from other colors. It seems to disappear into green as you mix them together. The green is made up of yellow and blue, but using lots of yellow to try to change it back fails to do so. Then, green makes up the yellow, and the yellow is gone.

Working alongside him, including his marks among my own, entering into a special  (collaborative) relationship: my interaction with him becomes a double-sided exploration of color, language, markmaking, and intention. I study his use of words and language and compare it to my own, to see how he is becoming socialized. Over the years spent creating art with him, the recordings show how his personhood emerges and merges... a yellow mixing into green, never to return to complete yellowness, but hopefully never completely forgetting what it was like to be an ​up color.


Decision made:

to share time, space, materials with Zachary

to include the marks of the child. 

to become something other than the traditional solitary artistic author as well as something different from usual modes of collaboration. 

to acknowledge the inherent inequality of a situation involving vast differences in experience, expectations, abilities, intentions, and desires…

to confront/ examine the romanticization/ idealization of children's creativity, namely innocence, naivete, energy, aimlessness, colorfulness,….

-from sketchbook notes, Michael Gilbert 2009-2010.



Colors 2011- Painting 1 

40 by 50 inches, acrylic on raw canvas



Colors 2011 - Painting 2 

24 by 48 inches, acrylic on primed canvas



Colors 2011- Painting 3

19 by 35 inches, acrylic on raw canvas.

Balloon/Bath 2011

acrylic on tan paper

22" by 30"

detail showing outlines of popped balloons