What do I do with my artistic child?
I’m often asked this in my dms and sometimes an email or two.
My answer is simple and cheap, but first a little background:
I’ve taken art classes since I was five, my parents graciously giving me classes for literally as long as I could remember. I loved art rooms — they were a sanctuary in some of the saddest times in my life. You could be wild and funny, sad, or angry. The canvas and paper didn’t care. I was so grateful to get a small art scholarship to a univeristy when I was seventeen. I spent many hours in the dark art studio basement that made up our art department, and I often would walk into the cafeteria, face and arms colored in paint and chalk.
One of my college art professors was a lovely soul named Mr. Craft. I kid you not, that was his name. Mr. Craft had a real addiction to handmade Persian rugs and was often searching for the best ones like a madman, but that’s another story.
He was as every bit as artsy and fumbly and spectacled as you would want an art professor to be. His lectures would make me weep as we would explore the depths and tones of a Monet. He giggled at an artist’s playful hues. He cried as he explained Van Gogh’s “Waiting Room.” He breathed art.
He told me a few times: “Please don’t ever give your children coloring books, give them blank paper. Give them reams of it.” Now, let me be very fair. I have given my child coloring books or pages, but his wise words sunk deep. Children are capable of more imagination and better compositions than we dare give them credit for. We go through reams in our household, and the few coloring books are largely ignored.
“Please don’t ever give your children coloring books, give them blank paper. Give them reams of it.”
Let them observe or simply express their own imagination. Classes, online and in person, are wonderful of course, but good art classes will only hone in on those foundational skills of imagination and observation. Above all, help foster that budding imagination. When a child shows you a drawing, give your full attention. Help them to see that what they've made has value to you. Ask open-ended questions and prompt discussion: "Tell me about what you drew." "What is going to happen next?" "How did you think of this?" Allow the artist to speak. So when parents ask me how to encourage their budding artists, I tell them the same: “blank paper, reams of it.”
On a personal note, it's been an honor and treat to paint for so many of you over the past few years. It fulfills something deep in my being to create for others. Thank you for this. We are working on some art units and tutorials for the homeschool community. Until then, happy creating!