Art and Kids!

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 I wrote this article for our local parent newsletter.  They asked me: "How would you feel about writing an article for parents who want to integrate more art into their child's life?  Especially for people who don't think of themselves as artistic but maybe have a child who enjoys it or is drawn to it?  Some do-able ideas for inspiring art and creativity around the home? Let me know if I'm totally talking crazy, but I think it's something our membership would be interested in..." 
This is what I wrote.  Let me know what you think!

What was your favorite thing as a child? If it was art then you probably don't need much help finding fun art activities to do with your kids, as a matter of fact you probably jumped at the chance to get creative!  But if your child loves to do art, and you never had that inclination, it might be hard to get enthused about making art with him or her. That's how I feel when I play with my athletic daughter, who knows how to cartwheel and do other athletic feats of derring-do.  She pushes me to try new things at the playground, and I usually end up having a great time (if I don't break or twist something that is.)  

I certainly hope that with some simple suggestions that you will break open that pack of colored paper that's starting to get light with sun damage, and pick up those unused crayons, chalk and paint and have fun!  First of all, the way you talk to your young artist is probably more important than what you actually do together when you create. The young artist doesn't need to hear “that's good”, the child enjoys the process and removing judgment is probably the best favor you can do him or her. Similarly, if he or she wants to paint the sun green or the snow pink let them. We don't need to judge, this is your child's work, and you just need to let them get on with it. Your job is to gather the supplies, set aside the time, and handle clean up. Your child's creativity, a nice cup of coffee for you, and some peaceful music will take care of the rest. But it is even better if you try too to make art and show them your process.  Reserve judgment for yourself too and don't forget to mention "happy accidents" a lot. :)

So now that you're both busy what can you talk about? Ask them what they are doing, it will provide a fascinating window into what's going in their lives. Questions like “what is your painting about?”, “why did you decide to use that color?”, or “what's the story behind this part of your drawing?” will be illuminating to you and help to validate them as artists. Artists make choices and this line of questioning will not only bring you closer but help your budding artist understand that process.

Some fun activities that you may want to add to your artistic line-up include watercolors, clay, using chalk outside on a nice day, and making sculptures out of the recycling bin. I like to take my kids for a walk and talk to them about the colors and shapes that we see. It is a great way to model how artists see the world and then translate that into art. It perhaps sounds harder than it is but a simple handful of leaves, some seashells, or grass brought indoors all show you nature's amazing palette. Try making and matching the colors that you see, just remember all artists see things a little differently. Play with the colors – white makes the colors more pastel, black makes them darker – and experimenting with the colors makes the artist more informed and in control of their media.  Using colored paper also adds a different twist, and combining media such as crayons with watercolor, or chalk with pencil is a lot of fun.

Places to go that will provide inspiration for your budding artist include the library, The Peabody Essex Museum of Art in Salem, any Boston gallery or art museum, and watching videos on artists. I really like these stories, they are insightful and can generate some fun experiments.
·         The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
·         Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
·         Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
·         Linnea in Monet's Garden (check out the video too) by Christina Björk and Lena Anderson
·         Art by Patrick McDonnell
·         The Art Lesson by Tomie de Paola

Other than that if you find that your child's artistic endeavors exceed your own and that they would like some more guidance I will be starting art classes – both private and group lessons – for artists ages 8+. I think anyone can do art but like anything, more time and training equals better results. I could show you how to make something but instead the goal of my classes will be to take the artist where they are, and when ready provide the instruction to elevate his or her art to the next level. And have fun doing it! Which hopefully you will have too when working with your young artist. They instinctively tap into their creativity which is an on-going source of inspiration for us all!


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