Picture it…yours truly, an easel and canvas, standing on the side of the Venice canals, wearing a beret – I hold my brush out and close one eye to capture the angle of the floating buildings, lick my brush, and dip into the yellow ochre to capture the setting sun on the water.

Tourists, passing by, fall over themselves to buy these original paintings which allow me a humble living.

That is what I imagined for my future in fifth grade. I remember standing in the lunch line (probably staring at the back of B.J. McFatridge’s head) picturing my life outside of the confines of that line, that classroom, Artesia itself.

Now picture it… yours truly, at the front of a line, in a classroom, in Artesia. A variety of art supplies are at my fingertips as I stand in front of a class of 2nd graders, sweat on my brow, trying to captivate them with crazy voices and guide them through the artistic process of drawing a waterfall with oil pastels and blending watercolors. I read an article once on the rule of age 10. It suggested whatever you were passionate about at age 10 is what your career should be. This isn’t exactly what I had envisioned all those years ago but I am making a suitable living with an art career. It’s pretty fun!

Although my days are generally spent planning, prepping, and helping my students create their own masterpieces, quarantine left me with time at home to create art for myself and with my daughters, ages four and seven. I know it doesn’t always feel fun or relaxing to pull out the art supplies and let the mess magic happen, so allow me to offer a few pieces of advice on how to make painting enjoyable for both you and the kids.

Nothing inspires my children to make art like seeing me start my own project, so let’s start there. It’s important to keep a short-term mindset since these things never last long. Place snacks and drinks within your children’s reach so they can help themselves when they quit ten minutes in and you’re still inspired. Regardless of what paint I’m using, I make sure my kids are using WASHABLE paints. HA! That’s a lie but you’ll never regret going washable. I also like to make sure my kids have their own sketchbooks and they don’t use mine. Some things have to stay sacred, you know. If you don’t have a sketchbook, your painting surface can be many things: paper, foil, canvas. A cheap and easy option is always cardboard or old cereal boxes. I like to use dog bowls for water and washing brushes because they are hard to tip over and spill. Seriously.

Now that the little Picassos have finished their masterpieces, keep in mind that artistic hearts can be sensitive. Rather than saying, “What is that?” or taking random guesses, I like to say, “Tell me about your art.” Then they aren’t offended when I guessed “owl” when it’s really a portrait of Meemaw. The story and details kids put into their art might surprise you. If you make art with your kids, that’s awesome! Don’t worry about making a perfect finished product. Always remember these two important beliefs: Art is for everyone. Just like exercise, you don’t have to be good at it for it to be good for you. And, have a growth mindset since our skills and abilities are not set in stone. We can continue to grow and improve through practice; you just have to give yourself a little freedom to suck at something new (or something old but, I’m no quitter.)

Making art with your kids or just for yourself can be a challenge. So why go through all the trouble? Let’s wrap this up with some words of wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Art Supplies my Kids Have Been Enjoying

SketchBook

Any sketchbook or journal will do, go small and cheap. Is your fridge already full of drawings and school awards like mine? Tell your kids to keep their drawings in their sketchbook so they can see how much they’ve improved later – no need to tear it out and hang it up.

Magnetic Dry Erase Board

This one was less than $2 at Walmart. Throw on an “Art for Kids Hub” drawing video and relax for a solid 15 minutes.

Crayola Washable Paints

This paint washes off everything my kids have gotten it on so far.

Model Magic

I’ve spotted some single packs at the Dollar General. It’s less messy than Play-Do and dries hard when your sculpture is finished. You can get the primary color packs to mix secondary colors (always a hit with kids!) or use a marker to color on the white model magic and create your own colors!

Beados

My girls have made dozens of Beado masterpieces during quarantine. I did it with them the first time but, now it is an independent project, which I love!

My Favorite Art Supplies at the Moment

Although I always imagine making large, beautiful paintings, simple and small works better for chasing my girls around. These supplies are portable and easy to push out of the way when I have to clear the table for dinner. My kids also love to use these supplies with me. I ordered ‘em all off Amazon.

Article originally published in Focus on Artesia 2020 Summer edition.