When the kids were little I really struggled with the idea of letting them do art at home. It was one of those things (like playdoh and collage) that these things just create so much mess …and work..for me to clean up after 10 minutes worth of painting. However over the years I have come to find little ways to work with the messy creative arts process that allows them to have the experience of painting at home – to create that mess – and for me to stay relatively sane in the process. However, occasionally I do some painting – and whenever I have my painting things out, the boys also want to join in and create alongside me. My big boy in particular absolutely loves to be doing whatever it is that I am doing that is crafty.
Smocks are the absolute first essential – especially because i often let the kids paint using high quality acrylic paints – which just don’t come off as easily as other paints might.
My second big essential is a large piece of clear plastic (which I originally bought for a sewing project) that I drape over the table – you can just see it in the picture above. This way they can be messy with less stress.
Thirdly – Lots of paint brushes, rollers, scrapers and other painting implements.
Four – Good quality painting materials and mediums – Artist paints, Canvas, watercolour paper etc – when the kids paint on good quality mediums, they get a better result, they can put lots of paint down and the canvas or the heavy paper can cope with it. I also let them go back to the paintings and work on them a second and third time – helping them to see the artistic effects that can be created through layering and pulling back colours to reveal those underneath. I often buy a few canvases when they are on sale in Lincraft or Riot and tuck them away. I think that it is important to use high quality paints (though not necessarily expensive paints) when the kids are painting. This allows them to experience the way that colours blend and the speed at which acrylic paints dry. When using watercolours it allows them to experience the different effects that you can achieve with watercolour paints.
I personally find it hard to just let them paint without interrupting their creative process, especially when I know that if they put two (or four or six) particular colours together that they will get mud…or when one is intent on using the sponge roller to apply every colour and they just all blend into each other. The appease my own sense of wanting to jump in and ‘help’ them I will generally only offer them a specific colour palette – or if they want a particular colour I try and steer them in the direction of a colour that might work a little better. The two of them have such different personalities when it comes to artistic expression, the little one just puts the paint down and has fun, not worrying what then end outcome will be. The big one has intent and gets very cross if something happens that doesn’t match his intent – but it is all part of the learning process and I think (and I hope) that these things help him in learning that not everything works out the way we plan it too in this life.
So as to not ‘waste’ the canvas, if I am feeling inspired, I will sometimes go in afterwards an alter their painting – probably not the best things to do with the big one’s paintings but with the little one I can get away with it.
So this is after a few layers of paint put on by the little one, I went in with some moulding paste and a stencil and added some texture, lifted some colours back and used some alcohol inks. It’s still not finished but I have lost the inspiration for it right now, but when it is done we will have a lovely collaborative art piece. Really for them it is all about the process…and memory creation. That’s the most important thing.