"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
~ Pablo Picasso
We adult artists can learn a lot from kids: they are generally very good and intuitive about composition and mixing colours and have no preconceptions and thus work from a much more right-brain approach. For that reason very young children are brilliant at abstract art, and their figurative art is free from deliberation and over-working. You rarely see a child hesitate before a white sheet of paper; they jump straight into it with abandon. We were all like that when we were little. Then comes the point where someone tells you the sky is blue and the grass is green, and that is when we start to lose that pure creativity. Once we attain the notion of concepts, we are more limited. A child's universe is full of wonder and discovery, excitement and potential, and this translates into their art-making. So in a sense all artists attempt to go back to the state of early childhood.
On a more practical note, here are two tips for painting with children:
- If they aren't wearing old clothes and you don't have an apron for them, someone suggested this great solution: Take a medium-size bin bag and cut a hole for the head and two small holes for the arms in it (and make sure the kids roll back their sleeves). Don't leave them unsupervised, and store the bin-bag-aprons somewhere safe.
- Poster paint and the like are fine (and cheap) for everyday art-making, but children really like the creamy consistency of acrylics (and oils, but acrylics are more child-friendly and dry fast), so occasionally it is nice to let them use those, along with grown-ups' brushes (I once bought a set of brushes for children, and the bristles were made of horribly scratchy plastic - it was very frustrating to paint with them, almost impossible).