Wednesday, August 06, 2014

creating with a kid

If you follow me on Instagram or frequent my blog you will know that we spend A LOT of time making art as a family and I get asked lots of questions about our process. Once in a while I like to share my thoughts on "creating with a kid" here on the blog. (Please note that I am not a childhood development expert or a kids' art teacher- I am simply a mom who is an artist!)

The older Lucy gets and the more time we spend making art together, I am learning so much about the entire process of what it means to learn, grow and develop creativity! At two and a half years old, Lucy seems to be developing her own preferences in color, techniques, supplies and process. We have suddenly moved out of the "toddler making a mess for the sake of making a mess stage" into what seems like a real understanding of the art making process- she now spends a lot of time focussed on one project, requests specific colors, thoughtfully applies lines and brushstrokes onto her surface and has a knack for creating a narrative (all of her art has a very detailed story behind it). 

It is becoming more and more evident that this kiddo really enjoys being creative- and THAT is the ENTIRE reason why I have been making art alongside Lucy since she was born. I believe creativity and the ability to think in a creative way it one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and while I am always evolving as an artist and mama, I am learning so much as I watch her develop her own creative voice. Today I thought I would share a few recent discoveries:

I continue to believe that giving Lucy independence and freedom has helped her develop her own creative voice. Instead of telling her when, where and how to make art, I continue to give her the choice, with no pressure, to make art. I always invite her to draw, paint and craft, I give her choices of materials, I invite her to be part of the projects that I am working on (even work in the same surface), I let her use special supplies and I let her sit next to me and work. While some days she would rather play legos, most of the time she is ready to dive right into a drawing or painting session. 

As someone who teaches art for a living, I've had to find a balance between telling her what to do and letting her make discoveries on her own. Thankfully I am a teacher who believes in a "hands off" approach- I like to demonstrate all kinds of techniques and supplies and then let students decide what appeals to them. I strongly believe that regardless of your age, some of the most profound creative discoveries happen when experimenting on your own and without a teacher correcting or criticizing you. This is my teaching style and it is the way that I try to "foster" Lucy's creativity. For example- I take time to show her how I pick colors, use supplies, mix paint, apply paint, etc and then give her the freedom and choice to work with the things that appeal to her. For a long time she picked anything that made a big mess (who can blame her!) but lately she's been making more calculated creative decisions that are less about mess and more about her individual art making process.

Along the same lines of staying hands off with teaching, I personally take it a step further and avoid at all costs drawing specific things for her. It is easy to sit down and show her exactly what a flower looks and how to draw one- but at this age I want her to feel confident in interpreting what she sees. Instead, I like to ask her what she thinks a flower looks like and when she slops black and brown brushstrokes all over her canvas and calls it a flower, I don't correct fact I am thrilled and inspired! I know all too well there is only one time in our lives when we think 100% in abstract and colorful ways and that is when we are kids. As we get it older is it hard to hold onto abstraction and expression and often get caught in the trap of feeling pressure to make art look exactly like something. Watching Lucy paint a giant purple brushstroke with hot pink splatter and then call it a shark swimming is such a great reminder of how wonderful raw creativity can be!

Something I get asked more than anything is how do I deal with the mess and what about her clothes?!?! To be honest paint on stuff still doesn't bother me. I know from my own experiences that when you are in the groove and lost in creativity you will make a mess. I don't ever want Lucy to feel like she can't relax and get lost in the process because she might make a mess so I just continue to embrace it. Sometimes it's stressful and a pain to clean up but overall covering surfaces with drop cloths, wearing painting clothes (most of her closet is painting clothes) and just going with the creative flow works for us. The latest development is that better dexterity has resulted in less mess (the kid has got control over a paint brush now), also involving her in clean up has become a great teaching moment!

More than anything, I want Lucy to witness the love and passion that both Andy and I have for making art. As she has gotten older and can communicate better and better, we've had so many cool opportunities to answer her precious toddler questions like, "mama, why you pick that color?",  "mama, what is that picture of?", "papa, can I use your pencils?, "mama, why you making that?". These are the simple moments that have inspired bigger conversations about what it means to create, why we create and how important it is to do something that you love. We've never cared if Lucy grows up to be an artist, we simply want her to know what it means to be creative and to love what you do.

You can check out all of my creating with a kid posts HERE

To follow my entire journey as a mom and read more about our creative collaborations you can visit the Life With Lucy link in the right hand column.


LL said...

Lucy's paintings are beautiful and inspiring! There are a few that I'd be happy to be the owner of! How long until Lucy gets her own online store? :) (Despite the smiley face, I'm not even kidding!)

jabbott said...

lucy is so cute, and its nice you embace her input x

Val said...

Number one, she is so beautiful! Two, she has an amazing sense of color and focus for a toddler. And three, I love the combination of your intricate flower drawings and her colorful paint patches!

Ashley said...

I love it! And have say you have inspired me so much with continuing to make art while having kids. I've been following you since Lucy was a baby strapped to the front or back of you while you created. Although my kids are older, watching those days makes me think back to when my youngest was little like that. I wasn't creating as much as I am now but I still strapped her own to get things done around the house. Involve more in my creative journey my youngest daughter has followed along like such. And this pass school year she told me I don't know why I didn't get the art award, " I always help her clean up". I thought it was so darn cute. She knows part of the art process is cleaning up.

I believe watching your process of creating with a kid is so valuable to all with kids. It's shows how much they learn just by being surround by something, whether it be cooking, singing, gardening...taking time to involve them goes along way!

Giggles said...

Such an inspirational loving message for all parents! Letting your children create at will and without too much direction is a gift you give them. It will be amazing to watch her style evolve from the ground floor up without preconceived idea of what something should look like! Very exciting! For all of us who read your blog too!

Hugs Giggles

CathyB said...

I think it's wonderful she has this opportunity to make this wonderful art with her Mommy!!

baby-shoes-socks said...

This is the cutest thing ever!

Amanda said...

Thanks for sharing this!! Your post are always so inspiring!! I have a 20 month old, and finding it challenging to work on my art unless he is taking a nap. I guess I've just been so scared of the mess but I actually am finding alot of inspiration from his art and I find myself imitating his style!! After seeing your post, i'm more open to embrace the little messes he may create- If he can continue to grow and enjoy creating it is totally worth investing in some magic erasers to scrub those crayons off the wall ;)

Leanne said...

Lucy's the cutest kid in blog land!

Nanci Hersh said...

I love how you break this down... as artists we want to share our passion with our children, as teachers we recognize the value of the arts for all children. You demonstrate this beautifully in this post.


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