Monday, July 21, 2014

Project: Art with Kids

My husband and I are both artists so it is no surprise that our kids seem to share our affinity for the arts. For goodness sake the girls are more comfortable in art museums than most adults we know. With that said, I think that anyone and everyone can and should benefit from the arts. I am not suggesting that you set your kid on a career path, just trying to raise well-rounded kids is the goal.  Eric and I have been making art with our kids since they had the ability to grasp a crayon and we have a few tried and true techniques that might be helpful to you if you want to introduce your kids to the arts.


The most simple way to begin, of course, is to sketch. Cordelia (age 4, almost 5) likes to bring along a sketchbook when Eric and I take long walks. Sometimes instead of walking she will still hitch a ride on the double stroller and sketch everything that she sees or dreams of along the way. She loves to show us her work. Elise (age 2) is happy to scribble and adorably holds up each scribble and declares, "I made a tornado!"

When Eric and I are at the art supply store we will often let the girls grab small canvases which are in the $2-$5 range. Then when the time is right we break it out and let them create. Sometimes they want guidance and other times they just want to do their own thing. If you want to give this a go there are a few things you will need:

pencil (or crayon or whatever)
canvas or watercolor paper
acrylic or watercolors
palette or a paper plate or really anything that can hold paint without leaking
Drop cloths if you are indoors, hose if outdoors

How to get started
1. If this is your first try just give your kid a paper and a pencil and let them have at it, just create without any end goal beyond the act of creation.

2. Depending on your child's interest/age/ability you can start with a simple sketch of something that she/he plans to paint. We learned that if you give a kid paints and a paintbrush before they know what they want to paint you will end up with a brown sludgy mess; totally fine for the little kids, but slightly older kids are more proud of an actual image. Although even Elise is able to do more than you might expect. She, before age 2, was able to make a mark with green paint for a stem and a colorful blob on top makes a flower. I suggest that you ask your kid what they want to paint and think of the most simplified way to achieve that goal. Much as we begin drawing people as stick figures trees can be brown with green on top, grass is is just a green smear, rivers a line of blue, simple stuff. Once your kid shows that they are ready for more you can up the ante a bit and you definitely don't need to be an artist to teach your child the basics, just think simple.

3. When you are done with the sketch, it may take 30 seconds or 2 days, depends on your kid. You can break out the paint and canvas. Sometimes I let them go crazy on a piece of paper first, just to get the wild thrill of painting out of their system before they are ready to focus on a project. I lay out the paints on a palette or whatever I happen to be using. I get a small amount of water for washing brushes (you can skip the water part for little kids). I make sure the area is secure, either there is some sort of ground-covering or we are outside with a hose at the ready. I usually strip the kids down, they enjoy it and it really helps with clean-up. In the summer I will use a water soluble, washable, paint and they inevitably paint on themselves before running through the sprinkler at the end of the painting session.


4. Guide your child a bit, this isn't a time to sit back and check Facebook. Give your kid tips. Teach them about mixing colors:
red+ yellow= orange
blue + red = purple
yellow +blue = green

You've now covered primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary colors (orange, purple, green). You can experiment with the color wheel even more if you like! Rainbows are great ways to use these colors too.

5. Encourage your child to step away too, to let paint dry, to come back and see what she/he might want to add. You can talk about the shapes that make up our world (sun is round, mountains can be triangles, houses can be squares and triangles). Encourage your child to look at the elements that comprise the big picture and then let them go. Yeah, sometimes you have to bite your tongue as they do something weird that might "mess up" a perfectly good picture, but the end result isn't really a painting is it?

6. Finally, give that kid praise---for their painting, patience, creativity, whatever and display their work proudly!

Sunset by Cordelia


Anne Jezek said...

Holy Moly, That's an awesome painting by Cordy! I'm super impressed! Way to go!!!

Sarah Purdy said...

Great tips! Cordy is very talented!

Donna said...

A budding Vincent van Gogh you have there.

Donna said...

A budding Vincent van Gogh you have there.

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