Some simple solutions to common art teaching questions.
What do I do when our program has a very small budget? I am the Youth Services Librarian for the third poorest county in the US and the poorest in NC. This summer our theme is Be Creative but with our limited budget I guess that is what we will have to be in order to offer these rural children an exciting program. Anything you can recommend would greatly be appreciated. (from Shelly in North Carolina)
Hi Shelly, We would recommend an ecology theme for your summer camp, with projects using natural and recycled materials, which can be collected inexpensively. You will necessarily need to have some basic art supplies as well – tempera paint, paintbrushes, white glue, drawing paper, etc. The book Good Earth Art would be an excellent guide to many different art projects for a wide age range of students.
What do I do to help my child create a wall mural? I was wondering if tempera paints can be used on my child’s bedroom wall to decorate with and then later washed off the wall? If not I was wondering if you know of any type of paint that I can use that washes off wall so I don’t need to paint the whole wall over again. (from Bernice)
I have a feeling that any paint, washable or not, would stain your wall. Plus, you might want to keep the masterpiece. I have a friend who has worked with his son to create HUGE wall-sized paintings for the bedroom…they get sheets of insulation foam at the Home Depot or wherever…like 4′ by 8′ sheets, then coat the foam first with a matte finish white latex wall paint. The parent and kid then paint the foam sheet with tempera or acrylics and mount it onto the bedroom wall. The sheet foam is lightweight and inexpensive. Artwork is retired when the kid wants a change, and Dad then moves the artwork to the garage walls which have become an archive of his son’s art through the years.
What do I do when a child complains “I can”t draw!”?
Give this child plenty of other options and simply avoid “drawing lessons” for awhile. There’s plenty to do without drawing. Introduce clay sculpture, woodwork and 3-dimensional collage (assemblage) with glue and found objects. Try printmaking, fiber arts and collage. Stay away from the “pressure” of pencil on paper until the creative young artist naturally dives in again.
What do I do when a child is frustrated because their painting isn’t perfect?
The young perfectionist is often disappointed when their work doesn’t look like a photograph or some adult-made example. Introduce this student to abstract art, folk art and primitive art traditions…art forms in which the young artist can excell without being representational. Also be sure to present examples and models that are child made – not adult made.
What do I do when I have to combine Art and Music in a single program? I have been asked to teach an art and music appreciation class at a homeschool co-op. My training is in music education, so that part is no problem for me. I want to combine the two rather than teach art appreciation and then music appreciation. Are you aware of any resources that combine the two in that way? I’d rather not have to recreate the wheel if I don’t have to. (email question from Kathy)
We would suggest (for older students – 9 and up) a study of art history using the book Discovering Great Artists that presents hands-on projects from the styles of famous artists incorporated with great music of that time period…or for younger kids (ages 3-8) lots of hands on art from Scribble Art incorporating music of different styles (jazz, country, world music from different nations, classical, folk) during the activities. And for all ages, there’s musical theatre…with the excitement of a student production that combines acting, singing, playing music, creating costumes, sets and posters! One book that specifically addresses integration between music and art is Art Matters. This book covers quite a few curriculum areas along with music. Your homeschool co-op might find it very useful for all sorts of classes, as art is great way to involve groups of students of multiple ages, as is often the case in homeschool. Perhaps your co-op would be interested in purchasing the title as a resource for many different parents.
What do I do when a child won’t stop working and is messing up their perfectly good painting or drawing?
Hey – take yourself a break and let this child create. This child is doing exactly what he or she should be doing – enjoying the process of making art and being correctly unconcerned with the “product.”
What do I do when a child only draws tiny, tight little pictures?
All artists, kids and adults both) can benefit with “loosening up” exercises. Introduce a “quick draw” game, where the time spent on a drawing is limited to just a minute or less. There won’t be enough time to be analytical about the drawing, so the child can switch into creative mode. Try drawing with eyes closed…or drawing on a sketchbook balanced on top of the head. Try giant drawings with big pieces of chalk on large sheets of newsprint taped to the wall. But whatever exciting exercises you introduce, always keep it fun for the child.
What do I do when a child is embarrassed by people who ask “What’s your drawing supposed to be?”
Give young artists the power of the word “design.” Instad of apologizing that their drawing doesn’t look realistic, the child can proudly answer such common (but thoughtless) inquiries with “It’s a design!”
What do I do when an older student thinks that art is too “babyish.”
Put away the crayons and tempera, and treat this student to some grown-up art materials…a set of technical pens and a hardbound sketchbook, an acrylic or oil paint set with quality brushes and canvas. The child may be delighted to leave the “kid stuff” behind and head off into a new world of art explorations.
What kind on pens would you suggest I use for cartooning? (email question from Kimberly D, Andrew Hamilton School in Philadelphia)
Draw first with light pencil lines…when your cartoon is right, draw the final lines with black feltpen over the pencil. Later you can erase the pencil. The ones with a “brush” tip are especially nice. Experiment with different pens. The one you like best will become part of your personal cartooning style.
What do I do to to mix a paint similar to oil paint thickness, but using tempra and other ingredients? (email question from Karla M)
Use a homemade “finger paint” recipe to make paint with a thick oil-paintish qualities…useful with groups of older kids learning to paint with palette knife or other textural elements but without the budget to purchase acrylics or oils. Acrylic gloss varnish is a good ingredient to add to this basic paint because it makes the paint shinier and more elastic when dry. Experiment and discover your own favorite proportions of ingredients.
A Basic Finger Paint Recipe: 2 cups cold water, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 3 Tbsp. sugar, powdered tempera paint
In a saucepan mix the cornstarch, water and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens like a homemade pudding. Cool and divide into smaller containers. Color by stirring in powdered tempera paint, and a few spoonfuls of acrylic varnish if desired. Paint with stiff brush or palette knives onto matboard.