Before I had children the artist in me thought I would have paints and various art supplies always available to my children. So that they could express their creativity whenever the urge would strike them.
Then I had children and realized how messy they can be while pursuing their artistic endeavors. And the artistic side of me came into conflict with the somewhat anal side of me.
I try to set aside a block of time a few days a week for them to explore painting, drawing, oil pastels, and various other messy crafts.
I make a distinction between art and crafts. Art is something that we create without as set goal in mind. Art is approaching a subject with creativity and looking at things in new ways. Creating art means that sometimes the end result isn’t as wonderful as you imagined, but that the doing is what matters.
Crafts are completely opposite. They are working towards a specific end goal. An example that comes to mind is the handprint turkey that every school child in America makes for Thanksgiving.
I think both of these things have places in children’s creative lives. Both teach different things and work different parts of the brain. Sometimes children want a little direction. And sometimes they just want to make something that looks like something,
Having said that, I am not a good crafter. I don’t follow directions well. Gluing eyes onto little pom-poms annoys and frustrates me. I don’t really want to make anything out of tampons.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that we almost never have coloring books in our house either. I just don’t really get them.
I like watercolors for their ease of use and clean up. I always buy PRANG. The colors are vivid, unlike some of the slightly less expensive brands like Crayola. The price difference is only a couple of dollars and it worth it.
I sit with them when they are creating and give subtle direction. I will say things along the lines of, “Hey what do you think it would look like if you painted a design on one half of your paper and then folded it together?”
or I will set out unusual things to paint with and see what sort of techniques they come up with. Toothbrushes, q-tips, sponges are all examples of this.
Show the children paintings by famous artists that used interesting techniques. My children can recognize Jackson Pollock, Claude Monet, Picasso, and pointillism. Set out a bowl of fruit and ask them to paint it realistically, then ask them how they think Andy Warhol might have done it.
Most important of all, don’t praise how “good” you think they did. Or offer suggestions for how they can improve that drawing and make it look “better.”
Instead say things like, “I like that color choice,” or “That is an interesting way you approached your painting,” or “What do you like the most about it?”
And when they do create something special, put it in a frame and display it.
This painting was created using the paint on one half of the paper and then fold it so it prints on the other side of the paper technique. I love this one. It has been matted, framed, and been hanging in our home for over a year now.