The Challenges of Painting for Children

One of the things that drives me insane these days is the whittling down of the arts in our elementary school.  Music and art are no longer extra classes that grade level kids are exposed to.  Instead they are just extras teachers teach if they have the time.  And to the teachers’ credit, they are doing an amazing job teaching these things that are out of their wheel house.

This whittling down of extras within the school is one of the main reasons I volunteer at my kids school as much as I do.  With a degree in theatre, ballet, and music, plus the whole art thing, I know I can bring something to the classrooms that may be missing.

Well last Friday, I dove into a new project at our school.  Live demos.

Yes, I can and do go in and teach these amazing kids cool art techniques, but my middle child’s teacher wanted to try something different.  She asked if I could come in and show them what I do with mix media.  Obviously I said yes.

Then fear set in.  I mean kids are honest.  Kids ask hard questions.  Kids get bored easily.  This was going to be tough.  The good news was my biggest fan, my middle kiddo was going to be sitting there cheering me on.

Now, let me be honest.  Planning a canvas that you need to get done in 30 minutes or less while talking about art, is no easy feat.  I figured I needed to do something fairly easy that needed little attention to fine detail.  I also knew I wanted to somehow put each of the kids names onto the canvas.  And I knew I wanted to cram as many mediums into the painting as I could.

sample of my pack up
  sample of my pack up

So I came up with a plan on a small 8×10 piece of paper and headed into the class with a plan to use, chalk, paper piecing, molding paste, stencils, acrylic paint (I only took in blue, red and yellow and mixed my colors live for the kiddos), spray ink, gelato, drips, splatters, and watercolor, and stamping.  I also pre-watercolored, spray glittered, and punched a whole bunch of fall inspired leaves with all the kids’ names on them.  Needless to say my bag pack was intense.  Especially since I packed a bunch of my finished art to show them different mediums individually.

Needless to say, 7-8 year olds are really fun to work in front of.  They asked really engaging questions.  They oohed and awed at the spray ink through the stencil and the dripping high flow acrylic sprayed with water.  They all worried that their names would be forgotten or mis-spelled.  (They were neither forgotten nor mis-spelled).  And I keep waiting for the glazed over bored kid look and it just never happened.

However one spirited young man complained loudly at my over use of alphabet and number stencils and stamps.  He felt they were too babyish.  I guess you can’t please them all.

completed work after 30  minutes of live demo
         completed work after 30
           minutes of live demo

I can’t tell you how much fun it was.  I think I was more excited by their enthusiasm then they were by watching me.  However, thirty minutes happens really fast.  I am not use to creating that fast, and was grateful for my plan.  Without it I would have failed.  I am also grateful I took my head gun to dry sections while I answered questions.  I did have to take the canvas home to finish up the sides and correct the mistakes on the grass I made.  I also finished gluing all the leaves on at home.

IMG_2287
  Ready to go back   to the classroom

When I took the canvas back in on Monday to donate it to the classroom, the kids were over joyed.  Even better other teachers at the school, having heard about or seen the final product of the first demo have been contacting me about when I can go in and do one for their classes.  My next one is next Tuesday for a bunch of Kindergartners.  I won’t lie, they scare me even more than the second grades, and coming up with an idea for them has been a little daunting.

But if it gets these kiddos to think about art in a new way, I’ll do what ever I have to, to make that happen.

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