top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Never Forget Neverland

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Children are innately creative. Up to a certain age, they live in dreamland and everything they do is make believe. With all their whimsical and radical ideas, how can we be creative just like kids?

blobs of watercolor
Abstract artwork by Adam, 3 years old

Small Wonders

A community experienced a huge improvement on their public infrastructures as well as their lifestyle as a consequence of a city planning project that included children’s radical creative inputs. During a TEDTalk, Mara Mintzer proposed that children’s opinions should be considered when making major decisions in building a community because, despite their diminutive size, they are a vital part of society. That for sure we can attribute to their quirkiness. Furthermore she emphasized that children should be viewed as citizens of today rather than of tomorrow.

A group of children eating ice cream in park
My art pupils in the summer of 2002

Before venturing into the big world of adults, I taught art to kids aged from 5 to 12. Albeit challenging, they were the most delightful people I have ever met. In fact all the kids I have encountered were. One boy, named Karlo, was car-obsessed. It didn’t matter what the day’s theme was, he would find a way to incorporate cars in all his drawings and even made up stories about them. It was genius, he stood out! That is nonconformity. One of the oldest girls struggled to belong to the group though she was the most talented. With encouragement, she eventually learned how to assert herself and speak more freely about her artwork. I was told she pursued Fine Arts in college. That is perseverance.

"One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye." - from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Paper cutout of a green maple leaf and a yellow duckling
My husband's school artwork

Wisdom of a Fox

I do not have children and I am far removed from family and friends with kids therefore I cannot speak as a doting parent. I am writing this from the point of view of a grown-up who was once a child. I told you about my kindergarten teacher who saw my coloring style strange and I cannot count the many times I was called a weirdo. Even my husband wonders why I laugh over almost everything. You see, even good people forget about Neverland, while sadly some never heard of it.

The ever curious but innocent, heartless and yet empathetic nature of children should be the core of every human being. They are not scared of adventure, of trying new things despite having fears that are mostly based on external stimuli anyway—from adults who wanted to shush them (okay, protect them, too). Unlike children, our fears as adults come from within—developed from many years of torment, disappointments and disillusions—also induced by our elders. Subconsciously those fears have crippled us to dare or even go for our innermost aspirations. You want to be writer? Be a journalist. You want to be a yogi? Be a nurse. An artist? Study architecture—always the more practical versions of our youthful dreams. It has become a vicious cycle.

Artwork by Henri, 4 years old

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Unlike grown ups, children are daring up to the point of being heartless. Children can hang onto monkey bars, ride a bicycle and bathe in the rain clothed or not, without so much care in the world. They have a voracious appetite for fun and play, which radiates through their infectious giggles and careless creativity. They babble and doodle their hearts out for the sheer joy of self expression.

To a rational adult, they speak and act silly. But to children that’s all the knowledge they have acquired in their young life and yet they can still point out the brutal truth through their raw observation of the world around them. Wasn’t it a child who blurted out that the vain emperor was naked?

A drawing of a colorful bird standing under the sun
Technicoloring by Sîan, 4 years old

Through the Looking-Glass

A curator once asked me why my artworks have mostly dreamlike and fanciful themes. My answer was because apart from the lucid imageries I see in my dreams and even in my waking thoughts, I retained that childlike wonder. At times I even behave like one—intentionally. Am I detached from reality? On the contrary. I had my fair share of ugliness in this world, wherein I have been both a victim and likewise a perpetrator. Isn’t there so much chaos, uncertainty and suffering in this world already? Do you need to be reminded of these each time you enter a gallery or browse the Internet? Do you want to see the real world? The news as well as many other artists are already doing that for us. My argument is: Isn't viewing art meant to see a world different than ours with a guarantee that we return to our mundane lives after we have been visually satiated?

Some call it escapism; for me it’s redemption. I would like to believe that through my art I could make anyone in the world smile even for just a moment or remind someone who lives in darkness that we still live in a colorful world full of wonders. After all art is therapy and like children, we are all and still innately creative. We just need to remember.

A black bear slouched on the ground watching an elf boy play a flute in a leafy forest
"Fascination" by Michelle Carlos | Marker pens | 2017


bottom of page