“This Is How You Become an Artist”


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.




    1. Yes, it’s fun to do art with children. I love seeing how free and spontaneous they can be. I think that helps me let go a bit of my “rigid thinking”. πŸ™‚

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  1. That is the beauty of Art. Any Art. You need to stick to the basics so it turns out the way it’s supposed to, but how you get from the beginning to the end is up to you! And young minds are the best starting place for creativity. Go Granny!

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  2. I like do arts with kids too. See I have a nephew(the 9yrs who names Liac to my cat) he likes drawing , he gives me some of his works and I put them on the wall in my bedroom.
    Another thing he likes is working with me. Basically I draw something he likes with pencils and he colors them after.

    A little problem is he draw his stuff with a ruler. He told me every his classmate fest the way he does.
    β€œ are you guys doing architecture?”

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    1. I guess maybe he’s developing his own style in art, and who knows, maybe later on he’ll put the ruler aside. If you have a chance, take him out sketching with you, somewhere in nature — a lake, a hillside, something that doesn’t have a lot of straight lines. πŸ™‚

      I learn a lot from doing art with our grandchildren. It’s fun to see how they think and how they approach art projects.

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      1. Because they are short LOL
        Did you think of out a camera on Flower Child , it’s will be fun.
        Liac is 1.125kg with her weight. About 2.5pounds.
        I treated her last night with bugs medicine for preproduction. She didn’t know what I’d done to her . Just a little drop on her skin of neck.

        I am considering cut her nails. lol

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      2. She is still a tiny kitten! It will be so much fun for you to watch her grow. One thing I miss about adopting Flower as a adult (she was about 1‐1/2 years old) is that we never got to see her as a kitten. I am sure she was cute. We do wonder what happened and how she found herself out on the streets as a stray. Someone found her wandering around and took her to the shelter. She was not very well-behaved. Most people want to adopt kittens instead of adult cats, so Flower stayed at the shelter for several months. A family then adopted her at Christmas last year, but they said she was “too mean” and took her back. She was there another 6 months before we adopted her. She is now very lovable!

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    1. It’s fun to do art projects with the grandkids. There is a fine line between “follow the directions” and “make your own creative choices”. I try to find projects that allow for both approaches.

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