1. Provide lots of art mediums. We exposed our children at an early age to art mediums such as water colors, acrylics, pastel crayons, washable pens, clay, and different types of paper (including the butcher paper with which we covered the dining table!) And thanks to grandparents and friends, at birthdays and Christmas, they were always well stocked with art supplies! No worries here about expensive furniture because everything we had was artist friendly (shabby chic!)
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2. Expose them to great art. At a young age we began to expose them to Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and many of the Great Masters. It kindled a desire for them to draw everything from still life, to detailed mansions, landscapes and portraits. We visited Art Museums in small towns and universities, such as the Blanton Museum of Art, The Elisabet Ney Museum, (the famous sculptor) and others.
We went to see the painted churches of Texas made by the early Czechoslovakian settlers. And from the time our children were small, we began taking trips to the library to discover artful children’s books. Some of the favorites that delighted are mentioned at the end of this article. I combed the shelves to find books that not only were excellent lyrically, and beautifully worded but also had exquisite art. As one illustrator mentioned in her bio, each page should be able to stand alone as a single work that could be framed and displayed. Finding excellence not only in reading but also in the visual aspect became the standard.
3. Proudly display their work. Of course, the refrigerator was and still is always a revolving art display, featuring their latest creation. But we also made the effort to get some of their work framed and made featured art wall spaces in our home. It was always fun to involve them in every aspect of creating a large collage of their framed work. It entailed the whole experience of going to the frame shop, picking out the complementary matte color and frame. It does not have to cost a lot to get your child’s art framed. Often I purchase second hand thrift store frames and spray painted them black or white to offset their brightly colored art.
4. Draw and paint with your children! Even if it’s just going to the library and checking out art books such as “Drawing a Likeness” by Douglas R. Graves, or “How to draw…” books (—we checked out all of the art books at our local library!) Or pick out some pretty note cards by Thomas Kinkade; find an inspiring picture and work through the steps with them. It is so rewarding when you come up with the finished work that you’ve done together. I recommend if you are doing a copy of a landscape painting, begin with the general outline in pencil of whatever you are copying. Then, take a watercolor set and add colors for sky trees, flowers etc. and finish with the details in a small thin brush. Remember to let the layers dry in between.
6. Take them outside to draw! This is one of the practices I learned from our daughter’s first art teacher, Ms. Wofford. It is a whole lot more interesting to pick a bouquet of flowers, put them in a vase in front of you and draw what you see rather than draw one dimensional flowers that look more like a circle surrounded by teardrops! Alexandra Day, Illustrator of the popular “Good Dog, Carl” series said that “Painting was a popular family recreation, and almost every family excursion included one or more easels and a variety of sketch pads, chalks, paints, and pencils.” It reminded me so much of our family when our children were younger. Sidewalk chalk drawing is great entertainment for small children. So take them out to the park and let them draw landscapes, or to a cute outdoor cafe in the town and let them draw architecture, but above all, just enjoy being creative in the outdoors!
7. Don’t forget to praise them! Affirmation is important. You can’t assume that they just know that you like their pictures. Affirm and reaffirm them of your acceptance. It’s easy to do when they are young because you are so involved, but as they get older and their art changes with them, bolster their confidence by going back to the way you did when they were small. Maybe purchase a small gift such as new pens and a sketch pad. Take an excursion to see a new art museum or a favorite old one for nostalgia sake. Sit down with them and look at their work and listen as they explain all of the details. Plan a day trip somewhere and then draw what you see together. Whether it’s the beach, the mountains, or a park in your neighborhood, remember encouragement and praise go a long way !
Recommended “Artful” picture books for younger children
Katie and the Sunflowers
Recommended “Artful” and biographical books for older children
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please let me know in the comments below!