In the most recent children’s art class, we painted on easels made from pizza boxes. Most children I know love painting and want to do it over and over again, but sometimes it is good to try the same activity but in a slightly different way. There is no need to buy an easel that could be pricey or may take up a lot of room in your house, so we used pizza boxes! Get the largest box you can, open it up and secure it to the table. If you don’t want to get paint on the table, cover it with a vinyl table cloth or paper (also secure this to the table), then tape the pizza box down so it does not shift around. In the most recent ArtStarts class, children were initially offered only blue, yellow, and red tempera paint, 12 x 18 inch white paper and a variety of brushes. Once they got started, their creativity was flowing! They discovered all the new colors they could make: green, purple, various shades of red, brown, orange, shades of blue. I think this part of the painting process is so valuable. If children are given all the colors (primary and secondary colors) they may not have opportunities to discover all the new colors they can make. They need to see the colors mix on the page to learn how to make all the other beautiful colors in the world. Even when they make brown or other shades of red, this is a discovery that can be pointed out to them. You don’t have to say “Oh that is so pretty,” instead say “Wow, what color did you make?”, “You did it – you made green!”, or “I wonder how you made that color.”
Another valuable aspect to these art classes is that it allows children to experience the painting process over and over, not just one time. They are not limited to making only one painting but are instead encouraged to do at least 3 or 4 depending on their level of involvement. Some may be very focused on 1 painting, adding more and more paint and more and more color. Others may need to do 2 or 3 paintings before they really begin to open up to the creative process. In this class, we started with paint brushes which at times can limit creativity, especially in older children who may feel that there is only one right way to paint or that their painting has to look a certain way.
After painting with traditional paint brushes for a while, I offered some texture painters and paint rollers to students who were ready to move on. All of the sudden the painting process took on a new meaning and the process became more important than the product, which is what I really think drives creativity in children. Easel painting is a fantastic art activity for children that can certainly inspire creativity and capture children’s attention. We will definitely do this again in an ArtStarts class!