Saturday, September 21, 2013

Encouraging Young Artists

Recently my sister came to me with a dilemma. Her daughter (my darling niece who is almost 8 and very interested in art) was presented with a chance to do an after school art class. Awesome, right? Okay, here's the dilemma: the classes were quite expensive and this little cutie is already doing tumbling and dance classes and she plays soccer and she has 2 younger siblings. So you can see that my sister is already very busy! What to do???

Normally I would not argue against an art class. But here's the way I see it. This little one (and her wonderful mother) is already spread pretty thin and even if you, yourself, are not an artist, you can do art at home with your kids or grandkids!!

I was lucky to be raised in a time when teachers still had time for art and schools still had funding for it, but kids today do not have this luxury. And even if you don't feel like your child is going to someday be a famous artist living in New York or Paris, art is an amazing skill to have. Art can help you in so many other fields (engineering, advertising, interior design, to name only a few), art is therapeutic, and art is something you can do your whole life that will bring you joy and peace.

To sum up: Art is amazing!!

But I do know that many parents are intimidated because they aren't artists (my sister included). Doesn't matter!! Kids will love the projects you do with them and they will love you for helping them develop their creativity.

The two things kids need most when it comes to art are encouragement and access to supplies. Encouragement, you think, I can do that. But did I lose you on supplies? Don't run away yet. Supplies can be simple, inexpensive and only as messy as you're comfortable with.

I promised my sister I'd send her a list of things that might help her encourage my niece in art and I'm posting it here in hopes that it will convince someone to create some art and memories with their kids.

1. You need stuff. Children need access to supplies. They need paper and pencils and crayons that they know are okay to use whenever the art bug bites them. Could you set aside a shelf or drawer just for supplies? It can make a world of difference if the child doesn't feel like they always have to ask for a piece of paper. They may even enjoy having their own art bag that they keep on the back of their bedroom door. It doesn't have to be full of fancy things. A simple sketchbook, a pencil and some colored pencils or crayons are wonderful. Add in a cool kneaded eraser (a great tool and kids LOVE them) and they'll feel like a professional artist.

2. Don't be afraid of paint. Watercolor paint is very inexpensive, requires very few supplies and is easily cleaned up. Those little basic Crayola kits you can buy are a great place to start. If your child is a little more advanced, step a few aisles over to the art supplies at Hobby Lobby and Prang makes some really nice sets that are still very economical. The brushes that come in those sets are okay for very young artists, but once children want to do a little more detail work a package of nicer brushes would be great. Again--we're still talking like $4.99. They don't need sable brushes with gold leafed handles! Lay some newspaper down, get a little cup of water and some paper towels and you're good to go. 
Also, even many "grown up" artists today use those small (CHEAP!) bottles of craft paint you can get at craft stores. And the same thing goes--inexpensive brushes, newspaper, water, paper or wood to paint on--and you're set.
3. Use what you have around the house. In my paintings I use the insides of junk mail security envelopes, old receipts, newspaper, magazine pages, old tax guides I found at work...it's called mixed media for a reason. Teach your child about up-cycling. Have them do a drawing on a cast off envelope or old book page. Children can create beautiful collages using old magazines and a glue stick. They can group things by color or simply tear out pictures of things that they like or that "speak" to them. 

4. Have a collection of art prompts. This could be a list or a jar full of scrap papers or anything like that. An art prompt is anything to answer the question "what should I draw?" or "I don't know what to draw". It could be something like "Draw a dog that's as big as a skyscraper". They can be open ended sentences, "Today I..." and the child illustrates it. There is no right answer and the prompts are there just to spark imagination. (For more ideas see this POST. I also highly recommend this game). 
5. Draw and paint with your kids. Unless you tell them and until they're tweens they will NEVER know you're not a great artist. I still remember my mom teaching me how to draw a swan from a number 2. I thought it was amazing! And my mom would never describe herself as "artistic". If you really want to wow them, do an online search for drawing lessons FOR KIDS and practice. Don't be embarrassed--adding the words "For kids" basically just gives you simplified lessons. If you learn to draw a monkey or a dragon or an airplane in just simple, basic shapes, your kids will love it! (When we were kids, we'd ask our dad to draw a portrait of us and he'd draw a monkey and we thought it was HILARIOUS!!) Paint a simple flower with watercolors and your child will think it's a masterpiece! 
You CAN do this!! (Source)

6. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Ask things like "Tell me about this drawing...", "What is this puppy's name? I love that you colored him blue. Why did you choose blue?", "Could you teach me to draw a butterfly like that?", "What colors did you mix to get that beautiful, bright orange?"...you get the idea. Let them know that their art is important to you. There are a million ideas for displaying kids' art online so I won't go into that. But I will say by simply framing something your child created and hanging it in your house, you are letting them know that you value their creation and you enjoy their art. I was moving some things around to clean in my bedroom and my daughter said, "You're not taking that down are you???" of one of her art pieces that sits atop my husband's dresser. She is 11 years old and the art piece is from probably 2nd grade. But she still loves that it has a place of honor in our house.

Have I convinced you?? Have I encouraged you? Go out there and do some art with kids--it's a great and utterly rewarding experience!!

3 comments:

K Hyman said...

Great advice! I always tell my students that practice makes the artist just the same as in sports. Having the supplies readily available makes it easier to practice. If there is already an interest; a child won't have to be encouraged to be creative, it will come about naturally.

Natalie Simons said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you!! I feel like I can help Cam now. You are the best sister and artist ever!!!

lola davis said...

Thanks for sharing! This page was very informative and I enjoyed it. fine art auction San Francisco

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