On last Monday morning, our grandson, Carsen, had a school holiday, part of the district’s extended Thanksgiving schedule. His mother, who teaches at the school, wasn’t so fortunate. Teachers had to report to work; students were off. So, Carsen came to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa. He’s ten years old now — his eleventh birthday will be in January — and he enjoys creative projects. Before he arrived, I had already gone on-line and found a perfect “winter scene” art tutorial for us to do together.
The project is called “Frosty Tree”, and it’s from Nicole Miyuki of Let’s Make Art.
If there’s one art lesson I have learned by now, it’s the importance of watching a tutorial all the way through before trying it. This is especially true if you’re planning to share the project with children. This was, of course, originally a tutorial for an art “subscription box”, but the materials required were very basic. A few colors of acrylic paint, a bit of sponge, a round brush, paper, paper towels, and a cup of water.
I set up the video so that Carsen could watch the project step by step. I’d already viewed it, I knew how to complete the painting, but I wanted Carsen to learn from someone else, not Grandma. I also wanted him to hear — and hopefully appreciate — a few things from the tutorial.
If you watch it, you’ll probably be as pleasantly surprised as I was when Nicole Miyuki shares an important tip for getting started. Raise your right hand. Say these words:
I am brave.
I am kind.
I am creative.
What a beautiful way to help a child’s development, not merely as part of an art project, but as a way of increasing confidence for any task, as well as pointing out the importance of kindness in all that we do. Even as adults, reciting these words at the start of an art project might make for a great beginning.
The other point that impressed me is how she talked about making choices. “Do you want more blue in the sky?” she asks, and she then goes on to say that it’s fine to do things a little differently. “This,” she says, “is how you become an artist.” Later in the video there’s a bit of talk about other possible variations. Maybe adding lights to the tree. Maybe adding a star — or even a hat! Of course, I was thinking about glitter, too, or using metallic paints. But mostly, I wanted Carsen to understand that he’s free to make choices in art. Even when we’re creating a “ready-made” project, he can still exercise creative freedom.
It took me such a long, long time to understand that point. For so long, my “art thinking” was so limited that I felt any deviation from the “instructions” marked my art as a failure. That’s not how it works. While it is important to understand and follow basic directions in art projects, we don’t have to rigidly follow every step in the exact way we’re shown. By making our own choices, we become artists.
Even now you’ll find my art a bit “stilted”. I’m learning to loosen up, but when I see my “frosty tree” side by side with Carsen’s, I feel more freedom and creativity in his.
I think Carsen is well on his way to becoming an artist, and the project was a lot of fun. It’s perfect for our winter holiday season, so maybe your family would enjoy this art project, as well. Here are a few things I’ve learned about sharing art with children:
- Definitely DO view the video all the way through. You might even want to do the project on your own first before sharing it with others.
- Assemble everything, and be prepared for possible accidents. Our table was protected. Carsen “borrowed” one of Grandpa’s old T-shirts to cover his clothes. We had paper towels and water close at hand in case of any spills. Knowing that we could easily deal with any “accidents”, we were able to relax and enjoy the project.
- Make it a family project. For this “Frosty Tree” project, Grandpa chose not to try painting, but he still joined in by taking charge of the video.
- Have snacks ready. This particular project calls for a “Snack Break”, but even if it’s not included as part of the instructions, a quick break helps kids stay interested in the project and allows time to step back and look at the work in progress. It also allows for “drying time”, if needed.
Oh… we completely forgot to paint the moon in our scenes! Carsen says “That’s OK,” and I agree. At this point our paints and brushes are put away, and Carsen has moved on to other things. He’s happy with his painting just as it is. He considered adding glitter but decided he liked it without it, and we all know that “knowing when to stop” is a big part, too, of becoming an artist.
Yes, I’d say Carsen is well on his way.