Tuesday, March 30, 2010
How to Help Kids Enjoy Art
Above: Max hard at work on a complex pencil drawing. Left: Does this look like fun or what? Hannah, Alyssa, and Megan create masterpieces.
While in the Richfield area for a watercolor workshop, my son Jon and his wife Jolynn invited me to conduct a mini-workshop for my grandkids and their home-school group. So I hauled up ten palettes, three fist-fulls of watercolor brushes, some tube paints, pencils, lots of heavy paper and ten neat watercolor boards with grandpa's "special" watercolor paper mounted and ready to go.
The excitement level was high as I lavishly laid out all that good stuff, and told them they could use whatever they wanted, as much as they wanted, and there were "no rules." Children don't need any direction discipline when it comes to art -- they are naturals. All they really need is fun materials, space to work, and the freedom to create.
Art does not mean the same thing to kids under 12 as it does to adults. Children's art is NOT about conveying realistic images of nature. It's a language for them to describe and explore their feelings and thoughts, and their understanding of the bigger world around them. They readily adopt "symbols" to tell all about their experiences. These symbols aren't meant to resemble real objects from nature. So it's pointless for adults to intervene and try to help them with shadows, perspective etc. The kids don't know what you're talking about and it's meaningless to them until about the Junior high school years.
So how did my "Kids Workshop" turn out? Well, after two hours they were still going strong, and didn't want to quit. Later that night, they wanted to do it all again. My recommendation to parents, is just provide lots of materials in an appropriate place, and turn them loose. All kids know what to do.
Just a quick note to parents: Watercolor is usually a very poor medium for young children because they have difficulty controlling it. A wonderful back-run enjoyed by an adult artist is often perceived as a "goof" or mistake by a child. Kids usually feel more comfortable with crayons and markers because they are learning to gain control of their environment. And copy paper is really cheap. Rave about what they make and let them tell you all about it. Then pin their work up on the fridge for everyone to see. They will love it, and by the time they are ready for art lessons, they will still love it!