+ By Patty Speakman Hamsher + Photos by Emily Karcher
Children ask questions, seek answers, and explore in an unfettered, uninhibited way that adults often sit back and marvel at. What if we never stopped expressing ourselves the way we did as children; would we still become adults? Would the world be teeming with artists and smudgy, paint-streaked countertops?
Daphne, Georgia, and Reed Eckman are siblings and artists that float on the freedom that comes with having time to create. The three are engaged in and energized by different media. They’re happy to share what excites them most about tapping into their own creativity.
The eldest of the group, Daphne, is a 12-year-old watercolor artist. She’s in love with the simple strokes and splatters that lead to the layered and misty detail of the cards and magnets she paints. A young entrepreneur with her own online business, she was drawn to the unexpected nature of watercolor. She says watercolor forces her to let go and follow the flow of the paint and water.
Daphne takes art classes as often as they are offered at ArtFarm, an unassuming, somewhat tucked-away space right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of uptown Annapolis. ArtFarm is the vision of Stacey Turner and Alison Harbaugh, artists who have joined forces to change the artscape of Annapolis. They offer a variety of classes and visionary events, and feature a stellar gallery space where artists display their work.
One of Daphne’s favorite ArtFarm projects came after a study of artist Maxwell Gordon, whose acrylic paintings tell a hidden story. Daphne explains that the veiled narratives set against a grey background are not at first obvious. “You have to look inside the painting and yourself to find the meaning that comes to you.” Following Gordon’s example, the young artists spent a whole class trying to create the perfect grey background using orange and blue; then they created a painting to represent an allegory of their own creation.
“Teachers are fortunate, because sometimes, if you are very passionate or lucky enough to have students like the Eckmans, you get to feel like your lessons, and therefore your thoughts, are going to be remembered and maybe become part of the puzzle that puts together the next great artistic breakthrough,” says Turner, who has instructed the Eckmans for several years, both at ArtFarm and at her former space, Already Artists Studio.
Bright-eyed and chatty, Georgia, the middle sister of the artistic trio, is a lover of clay. Georgia creates small polymer clay figures full of intricate details and bright colors with a skill that seems as beyond her years as the hopeful surety with which she speaks. “Most of the time, I get my inspiration for art from things around me—things that have happened in the day or even things that people have said,” says Georgia.
With Turner, Georgia and Daphne did a project based on the works of modern artist Maira Kalman. “Her style is very wild, but inside the lines,” Georgia explains. The students created portraits that Turner says were very successful. “I think the lesson taught them just what I wanted it to—that they can create works that are reaching for more without abandoning what they already have.”
The youngest Eckman, Reed, has been painting and creating alongside his sisters since he could manage it. He declares his favorite medium to be clay, but also enjoys the texture of yarn and hand knitting. He taught himself to knit while his mom and older sisters participated in a yarn workshop. He is already wise to the creative process in an astounding way: “I get ideas from my head,” says the five-year-old. “I use clay or I paint and get my ideas out of my head and see them.”
Megan Eckman, who homeschools Daphne, Georgia, and Reed, enjoys how free her children feel to express themselves through their art. She encourages them to follow their interests, and seeks out experiences such as art classes as well as voice, guitar, and other lessons and workshops about town. She also recognizes the value in giving them the space to explore. “Children are so naturally creative that I feel when they are given the opportunity (free time) and the tools, they’re well on their way,” she says.
For the Eckmans and many artists, a space like ArtFarm is valuable and rewarding, a gathering place to work on what they are driven to create and possibly meet up with like-minded people who support their endeavors. Just as corn grows more fruitfully when surrounded by other stalks, artists need their community. And sometimes it’s the smallest brush wielders that give the rest of us the most inspiration.