Friday, June 17, 2011

Stress-Free Art ~ with Amy Hood

Amy, from kids in the studio, is here to talk about how easy it can be to expose our kids to art.  Real art.  Which I so appreciate.  Kids have way too many experiences with coloring pages, paint by number, and step-specific crafts, and I love any opportunity to see them thrive as little artists.  The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to break out the supplies and allow them some freedom to create!  

from kids in the studio

I have an art minor and a creative streak, so the art portion of homeschooling never stressed me out, but here’s the thing: Even without an art degree or formal art experience of any kind, it’s way easier than you think to set the stage for meaningful art experiences. I’m passionate about exposing kids to open-ended, process-oriented art. What does that mean, anyway?

  • Open-ended: There is no specific end result in mind. You don’t have to follow step-by-step instructions to make a specific drawing, craft, or project. In fact, the opposite should occur. You and your children should be open to seeing what happens.
  • Process-oriented: The focus is on the doing. Sometimes, you’ll get something you want to hang on the wall. Other times (especially if your children are very young), the time will be spent exploring and investigating a new material, with no product at all at the end. The opposite of process-oriented would be product-oriented, where the goal is to construct a pre-set project, with little creativity involved. If everybody’s project looks more or less the same, creativity is at a minimum.

from kids in the studio
The great thing about this approach is that the pressure is off of you. You simply need to step back, let go, and see what happens. It helps if you’re okay with things getting a little messy. I’m 37, and I make a mess when I’m creating. Creativity is rarely tidy. I definitely direct the experience a bit; I choose the materials, and sometimes the subject, but the end result is all in my kids’ hands.

When we began approaching art this way as a habit, I did more of the subject-choosing. These days I mostly introduce new ideas or techniques. Together, we are learning what various art processes can do, so we know how to get the results we want to fulfill a specific vision. Do we want charcoal, pencil, black and white or color, tempera or watercolor? After experimenting with different materials, we feel much more confident in choosing for ourselves.

from kids in the studio
Summer is the perfect time to experiment.  Either bring paper and drawing materials outside, or bring some nature in. Get an up-close look with loupes or magnifying glasses. Take time to really, really look, and then begin to draw. Try different media—chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolors—and see how that affects the finished piece. How is drawing the flower different than painting it? How about if you draw it and then use some paint? What if you use crayons and paint together? Does it matter what kind of paint?

That is the gist of what we do in our studio. Our pieces look different, although we do inspire each other. My children take different approaches to their artwork, and I never say how something ought to look. They are given time and space to think about what they want to do and how they want to do it. We’re discovering what sorts of materials and art-making the kids like best. And my children think of themselves as artists and creative people. Too often, we are stripped of this identity; we learn that “artists” are special people who do something unique off somewhere else, forgetting that we all have the capacity to be creative and expressive. Even if you can’t draw, you can be creative. You can provide basic materials and a space to create—not just for your kids, but for yourself, too.

~ Amy lives in coastal New England with her three kids, ages 2, 7, and 9. She blogs about their artistic adventures at kids in the studio and her own crafty pursuits at Salamander Dreams, but now that it’s finally summer, she’s looking forward to spending time digging holes and making sandcastles with her kids at the beach.

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