Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tips for Painting with Kids

I've been doing painting workshops with elementary kids all summer long, and I'm learning many things along the way that can help kids create beautiful paintings, especially in a 2-1/2 hour time frame. I'm doing three workshops this week- peacocks, pears and a floral still life. I always teach in acrylics and students use a 16 x 20 canvas.

1) Always practice first-break painting down in to basic shapes and practice on a sheet of paper. I emphasize that it's about shapes, form and beautiful color, and not to worry about making it look "perfect". I want them to enjoy the process.

2)Sketch out under painting in watered down paint. Use baby wipes to erase mistakes.

3) Use premixed, inexpensive paints-when I do a 12-week session, I always let students mix their own colors, but during my workshops I just use a variety of colors in the inexpensive acrylic craft paints. There's always a lot of waste so I spend the extra on a canvas and use the less expensive paints.

4) Use big paint brushes-Kid's always default to the small skinny brush, even when painting big areas. I give the brushes to them as we paint, that way they are always using the correct brush. We save the little brushes for the details in the end.

5) Mix on canvas-Especially when painting backgrounds, give kids three similar hues, or even a white to mix in. It creates a more interesting background and shows the brush strokes.

6) Give step by step instructions for the basic painting-each painting will still look unique. Let them add their own creative flair at the end.

7) Signature at bottom-Before letting students sign their painting, but sure and explain the signatures are not to take away from your art or be the focal point. I always have one who signs their name top center in black-ugh!

8) Paint the edges-Let them have fun decorating the edges for their own creative frame.

9) Take breaks- I always let them have a snack and short play break. 2-1/2 hours in a long time to stay focused on one thing.

10) Step back from painting or move on to something else-If a student is frustrated with a particular part of their painting I encourage them to just leave it and move on to something else. When they come back to it later they usually have a better perspective.

11) Use tabletop easels-Kids think it's so cool to have their own easel!

12) Have water, rags and wipes in reach.

13) Remind them to keep brush "clean" while painting next to darker/lighter colors-wipe brush often.

14) Use paper plates for paint palette.

15) Paint big and focus more on shapes, form, value and color rather than detail.

  In my workshops there is never time to apply a top coat, so I always recommend that parents apply a clear varnish after the painting is completely dry. I usually use the Delta line and just brush on one coat.

I'll be posting this weeks lessons soon!



  1. I love, LOVE the pears! How wonderful!!

  2. Very well put, " not to worry about making it look "perfect". I want them to enjoy the process " . I see kids sometimes thinking their artwork isn't good enough, but that's not the point. I think it is very important to have kids involved in the arts, especially when everything is very technical now of days. This is why I think it is a great idea to buy easels for kids . For one, they can draw, paint, and color on the easel and not the walls , and two, it allows them to use their creativity to express themselves freely.


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