Art is such a rich and important subject. It boosts creativity, which is a must-have in future skill-sets.
Art is also a brilliant way of expressing oneself and developing self-confidence. The best thing about it is there is no wrong or right answer. It comes naturally to us from an early age as we start exploring mark making but one of the biggest issues is that children often get put off art by other people’s comments. In my experience it is best to say things like, ‘I love the way you have used that blue, tell me about your picture’.
Instead of, ‘wow, what have you drawn?’.
That way the child gets to tell you what they have created and isn’t starting from a place of thinking that you don’t understand what they have done. It is always so tempting to overpraise or comment on work incorrectly. I have heard numerous teachers say to children, ‘I think it just needs a bit more blue in the sky and you are done,’ without any understanding of what the child has created. I have always shared with my children that we all see things differently, I can show them techniques but how they use them will be how they want to express themselves and that is ok. It’s a bit like going into an art gallery, some people will love the likes of Andy Warhol for example and some people just won’t get it, that’s ok.
There are so many forms of art for children to get involved in, like drawing, painting, pastels and textile work such as sewing and knitting, even food technologies such as cake making. And with the likes of the internet, you can pretty much find out the techniques of any art and craft.
It is important to have a range of materials and mediums at home for children to explore, the better quality ones seem to last longer in my opinion, pencils are a classic example where the leads break easily in cheap ones and you end up forever sharpening them.
Children love exploring art and you can do lots of this through using everyday objects, painting with blackberries, creating your own paints from foods such as turmeric, painting on different surfaces from paper to glass, tarmac to stone and fabric or hair, even anything goes.
Some great topics within art to explore are; line, tone, perspective, light and dark, shape and space, colour, in particular colour mixing and understanding the primary and secondary colours, motion (kinetic illusion is fun), proportion and composition.
If you can encourage sketchbooks from a young age and take them out and about with you, children will record all sorts of interesting observations. You can sit in the park and sketch what you see, go somewhere specific to sketch, and basically follow any of your child’s interests.
Art can also be explored through graphic (digital) art such as animation, Anime seems really relevant to young people today. You can look at illustrations in storybooks, posters out and about, social media, magazines and even greeting cards, they are digitally made. There are a number of programmes you can use for free to create digital artwork such as Canva.
Photography is a rich, exciting and easy tool for children to use to capture their interests. There is so much you can do with photos/videos in terms of editing that really appeals to young people. Printmaking is also super fun, from potato printing to creating lino prints and then you have sculpting things. You can use anything from playdough to clay, bits you find out and about and scraps of your recycling, even soldering and welding things!
Most places have art galleries, with local artists displaying their work and you will find sculptures within most communities. Many galleries will be run by artists and they are normally very happy to chat about their work so encourage children to ask questions.
Art can be viewed as anything from product design to large scale architecture and sculpture. From wallpaper designers such as William Morris to fashion designers like Coco Channel, the breadth of study is vast and you can really follow your child’s topic interests.
Youtube has no end of videos explaining artists’ techniques, the lives of famous artists and modern artists sharing how they create their work.
Consider looking at some artists and exploring the timeline of art from cave art to renaissance, realism to cubism and art deco to contemporary art or outdoor art/sculpture, Banksy (graffiti), Goldsworthy (land/environmental art).
Most libraries will have a section on Arts and Crafts with a number of books exploring famous artists and showing how to create things. You can also watch documentaries about the lives of important artists like Kandinsky (abstract art), Mondrian (abstract – great for shape work), Matisse (use of colour, drawing, printmaking, collage and paint), Van Gogh (colour and brushwork, post-impressionist), Seurat (small dot work), Monet (oil and pastel), Warhol (pop art ) and Klimt (gold paintwork). There are many artists who have used art to tell their stories. There are some well known female artists like Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe (modern artists known for flowers), Frida Kahlo (Mexican self-portraits), Alma Thomas (colourful, thumb-sized rectangles) and Bridget Riley (Op art, black, white and grey, abstract) that are great to study.
Whatever topic, theme or subject your child is interested in you will find art fits in. There are a few examples of art within other subjects:
Science – painting observations of objects, plants, trees etc, colour mixing
Maths – symmetry, shape, space, measurement, perspective
Geography – art in different countries, exploring environmental art, use of plastics in paint
History – history of art from caveman to modern art, history of fashion, history of tools and materials and how they have changed over time
Music – draw, paint, sculpt to music and a whole range of music to explore how you feel when you are listening, how does it impact what you are creating
English – create poems based on artwork, write reviews of artwork, critique your own work, explore text, the font, the size and colour, create posters, look at illustrations in books
Below is a list of resources. It is not essential to have all the resources on this list they are meant as a guide to things you can look for in resourcing art, this list is also not exhaustive!
Drawing: Pencils (9H to 9B to explore hard and light lines), graphite pencils, charcoal, erasers, watercolours, oil pastels, chalk pastels, pens thick and thin, wax crayons, coloured pencil, inks, drawing/cartridge paper (ideally between 100-140 gsm), sugar paper, coloured paper, newspaper, wallpaper lining paper, tracing paper, blotting paper, old bits of wrapping paper, glue (PVA), decent scissors, ruler, pencil sharpener, a range of brushes, paints (poster paint, watercolours and acrylics), stamps, bits of fabric and ribbons.
As you do particular projects you may want more specific equipment like a screen print set, fabrics, specialist paint, canvas etc.
Displaying children’s work, just as you would in a gallery, gives work value, it doesn’t have to be forever, especially now you can use apps like Collage to upload images of all artwork and store it in your children’s learning portfolio, that way you don’t have to store sculptures and work somewhere!
This is the most amazing book full of great ideas for exploring drawing techniques with kids Drawing Projects for Children by Paula Briggs
Oak National Academy National Curriculum art lessons