I realized today that we don’t have a single coloring book in our house. Honestly, we don’t even notice. We had a few awhile back, but Plum hardly used them. She does, however, go through stacks and stacks of white paper.
I never really enjoyed art class as a child. I felt like I was swimming in deep waters while only knowing how to doggy-paddle. It was always very intimidating for me. There was a self-portrait assignment in grade school that I cringe to remember. The paper mache, the coil pots, the watercolor picture of a bowl of fruit. Within the set confines, I muddled through it as best I could. I preferred writing stories or designing blueprints for dream homes. And later, photography and paper crafts.
Looking back on my experience (my perception of my experience) in art classes, I feel as though I missed out. The pressure for the product overshadowed the joy of the process. What keeps us coming back to the creative – painting, writing, photography, dance, music – should be the process. The freedom of it, the striving, the pondering, the mulling, the practice. The mess of it all. Of course the result is important to us. That is the goal we are striving towards. But joyless process will only produce empty works.
So, while I do not by any means consider myself visually artistic (in the sense of painting, drawing, sculpting, etc), I try to be proactive with process art being a regular part of my children’s lives. (Little Bear’s current art project is called “Food smatterings”. He works on this daily.)
Here are some of the Intentional things we do:
Accessibility and Freedom
Just as books are readily accessible and spread around the house, so are art supplies. Blank paper, crayons, colored pencils, stamps, and stickers are always out and ready to use. In the playroom, markers, construction paper, and dot paints are always on the table. I try to rotate some other materials for added variety.
We have an art cabinet in the dining room, which is where most of our creating happens. I (finally) organized it this month and really dedicated it to art and learning materials. This has been huge in making a regular art habit, as everything we need is right there. Paints, oil pastels, glue, watercolors, beads, buttons, scissors, stamps…(The cabinet can also be locked because some things still require supervision.)
Plum draws and writes on a daily basis now. Art melds with play. Play instigates art. Having supplies available promotes independent creating, when the mood strikes. We don’t do a lot of crafts. Rather, we try creative projects that respects (and stretches) Plum’s skill level and allows Plum freedom in deciding the outcome.
Exposure to lots of materials/techniques
Every week I write down 2-3 art experiences that I’d like to try with Plum. It can be as simple as playdough with birthday candles or painting pasta noodles. One day I unroll a huge sheet of butcher paper on the kitchen floor. The next, we make a collage with colored tissue paper. There are so many great books and blogs for ideas. The Artful Parent (blog and book) is a favorite, and has tons of great, simple ideas for kids. I prep materials the night before, if needed, and set them up at the table during a lull point the next day.
Talking about Art
I’ve adopted the unassuming question of “Can you tell me about your picture?” when Plum shows me her completed project. Ever make the mistake of incorrectly guessing what a drawing is? Glares. Frowns. And immediate shut down from further conversation about the piece. Not that I’ve experienced that 😉
I love children’s drawings. Seeing the progression of scribbles to shapes to people to pictures with background stories…it is a delight to me! And what better way to show appreciation for a child’s work than to display it.
The fridge is our go-to place to hang up artwork (Revolutionary, I know). It’s immediate recognition and display. I usually ask Plum what she’d like to do with her projects/drawings when she’s finished. Sometimes she wants to hang them up, other times not. I let her decide which ones are fridge-worthy.
Other paintings are framed in these easy front-open frames (easy to change out as child grows). I’ve also started snapping photos of the projects that are particularly eye-pleasing. Some artwork is cut up and turned into bookmarks and magnets (makes great gifts!). Some are saved in a bin in the basement for future perusal. A few are recycled that night (like I said, Plum draws everyday, multiple times. It’s a constant weeding out process).
Leaving my Insecurities and Joining In
Oftentimes I can get a good few minutes to myself while Plum is busy with her art. I’ll sit next to her with a coffee and a book while she’s happily immersed. Nearby enough to assist with any potential messes. Sometimes she wants me to join in. We make the oil pastels talk to each other. Then they draw together. Last week we drew a jungle together. Next time Plum paints, I think I may pull up a canvas, too!
I’ve never been secure in my drawing ability. “I can’t draw” is a phrase I have said a lot in my past. But I’m keeping my mouth shut around Plum. My insecurity need not get in the way of an exploring artist.
In the broader sense, we engage in art when we bake and cook, when we sew and knit, when we build forts and make thank you cards. Everyday is a chance to create, to express, to problem solve, to explore and understand the world. To share and enjoy the beauty in the world, and to praise the Creator of all good things.
Please join me next time for my last Intentional series blog post!