Until recently, if you had asked me whether or not I’m an “artful parent” I’d have said no. I mean, my kids draw stuff and cut stuff up and tape it back together and whatnot, but I don’t break out the paints all the time, nor do I allow glitter. But one thing I really liked about The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity–Includes over 60 Art Projects for Children Ages 1 to 8 was the author’s emphasis on art being more than just making messes. It is about making messes somewhat, but art is also studying artists and looking at great art, listening to great music, reading great literature, and enjoying nature.
But you probably wouldn’t pick up a book like this if you didn’t at least sort of want to get more into art projects. While I enjoyed the philosophical bent of the book, the suggestions for further reading (for kids and adults), and thoughts on generally living an artful life, I really appreciated the project ideas billed in the subtitle.
So far we’ve only tried one of the projects, but the kids went to town with it. We had Katie’s Sunday Afternoon out from the library, so we read a little about pointillism and saw some examples of it. Then we talked a little bit about the method, and I set out paints and paper and q-tips as suggested in The Artful Parent. It was really fun, and, more to the point, the kids REALLY got into pointillism and now they are finding examples everywhere. I made notes of lots of other projects to try, and look forward to building them into our days in the coming months.
As a final note, The Artful Parent gives great suggestions for art supplies–including helpful tips on what things to buy cheap and what to avoid. If you’ve looked at art supplies, you will understand why this is helpful! There really is a gamut out there of varying prices and qualities. I appreciated the insight.
I read about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in A Whole New Mind, and I was interested to learn more about how drawing techniques can help you to think and problem solve better. I’ve dabbled in painting and have tried a couple of times to teach myself to be a better artist, but nothing ever clicked. Many art books present exercises of things you should draw, with a little bit of academic prose on topics like perspective, and then when you can’t automatically do it, the implication is “oh well, I’m just not that good at art.”
This book, however, actually walks you through, step by step, how exactly to LOOK at things, where to put your eyes first, what you’re looking for, how to precisely, exactly, absolutely DRAW. The author teaches a five day course during which adults who begin the class drawing like five year olds end the class less than a week later drawing better than many art school students.
One thing I particularly liked about the book was the way the author explains how to move from your left brain to seeing with your right brain. If you’re a staunch left-brain person, this could be a major break-through, but even if you tend to move freely between sides like I do, it’s helpful to realize that there are actual concrete things you can do to break out of a creative block or challenge your own thinking. The ideas in the book, while presented in the context of drawing, have application in all sorts of creative and problem solving realms.
I also felt like the instructions were so clear that the book could be used with kids. I haven’t decided on this yet, but I think I might try some of the techniques with my children when we get into our fall term of school.
If you’re interested in reading about art and great artists with kids, we have loved:
- The Katie series by James Mayhew – A little girl named Katie visits museums with her grandmother and has interesting adventures jumping in and out of famous paintings. This is a fun and memorable way to learn about different artists, time periods, and schools of art.
- The Child’s Book of Art and I Spy books – By Lucy Micklethwait, this series is excellent for beginning to really study detail in paintings. You can use the books for very small children, or add more depth and detail with older kids.
- The Mini Masters Board Books about Art for Babies – Even tiny tots can enjoy great art! And their older siblings can begin to recognize famous works by various artists.
- The Anholt books – These stories are fictionalized tales about famous artists, incorporating the style of the artist’s works as well as many of his or her most famous pieces.
- Drawing With Children is supposed to be the gold standard of teaching children to draw. To be honest, it didn’t resonate as clearly with me as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain did, but it does have very good and clear lessons for beginning to learn about how lines and shapes are formed. We’ve never gotten much beyond those lessons, but perhaps we’ll get to it this year.
- Discovering Great Artists has projects loosely based on techniques or forms used by great artists. So if you’re studying a particular artists, you can look up a project to do that would be a tie in. They vary in quality, but we’ve done some good projects from this book.