Young at Art

I have a very active 3 1/2 year old, he's always on the move. I have fantasies of him sitting at a table and painting for longer than ten minutes at a time but that's only happened a handful of times. He likes art but he is very quick about it, a few scribbles or swipes of a paint brush and he declares "I'm done!" He's a minimalist I suppose.  No matter how much I encourage him, he doesn't like to get paint on his fingers and insists they be washed immediately if so much as a speck gets on them. Let's just say I was a little envious when I saw this video. This little girl (who's momma is an artist) is not afraid to make a mess.

Inspired by her video, I devised a little project of our own. I pulled out a large canvas and asked him everyday for 4 days if he wanted to work on his painting for a bit. He worked for a few minutes each time until he declared "I'm done!" I let him pick the colors and his brushes/tools. We started off with a few colors on a paper plate, and since he tends to mix all the colors on his palette together, it resulted in some interesting base shades. The next few days, I mainly gave him one color at a time so that they could remain distinct and not turn muddy. We used acrylic paints, some were his cheap washable colors but most were my nice ones. We even used a little leftover house paint (because why not tie in the colors of my bedroom hehe!).  He really liked my metallic gold paint and went a little crazy with it, he might have covered the whole canvas with it if I had not suggested to switch to a new color.  I showed him how to use a skewer, a comb, and an old credit card to scrape through wet paint to develop texture and expose the colors in previous layers (he liked this a lot). He used chip brushes,  a patterned roller, sponge dot brushes, scribbled with oil pastels, dripped fluid acrylics and spritzed ink onto the canvas (he needed a little help to squeeze these). Every now and then I would flip the canvas because he was too short to reach the top. He even used his fingers a little (hooray!). One day he said he was painting a dragon ("see the fire mommy?"), and the next day it was an elephant!

It's fun to watch young children make art and not second guess themselves at all. He just makes a mark and moves on. He painted over things without a second thought (making me cringe a few times when he covered up a good bit).  Maybe I'm a little biased, but I like the way it came out. He finished it off with a hand print in the bottom corner and I wrote his name and the year. I'm going to hang it in the hallway right next to his bedroom.

I think it was so successful because he only likes to work a few minutes at a time. He doesn't over-work things muddying them up. He slaps some paint on and is done. For kids who like to keep going, maybe you can set a timer telling them that you will work on the painting just for a few minutes each day allowing some time for it to dry. Acrylic dries really fast so you can even go back to it later in the day. We actually had 2 sessions a few days too. And if it gets too muddy one day, no fear, there's always the next day. The more layers, the more interesting it gets. We will definitely be doing this again.