Painting with a Child

Posted on June 9, 2008

I am fascinated, watching my son painting. He has no hesitations. He know what he wants to paint, what colors he want to use. After painting some bold mountains in browns and golds and coppers he then announced he wanted a blue. Not just any blue. The Ultramarine he had chosen at the store. He started painting a bold blue line – a river between the mountains. I wasn’t so sure about it, but I kept my mouth shut – it’s his painting. About five minutes later I realized I was a scaredy-cat and he was right – it looks fantastic and here it is.


My son, who is five, is allowed to use my easel, which I set up for him, and he has his own brushes – a cheapish, $10 set of 6 – and his own acrylics (student grade). He uses my old wet-and-dry palette and I buy canvases or canvas boards for him. Then he paints as he likes. I ask that he wears an old t-shirt of my husband’s as a smock and I have to do most of the clean-up afterwards but I get an extended studio time in return!

As he worked on the sky he started explaining what he was doing. He pointed out that “far off it looks as though the sky reaches the ground even though it’s really above us.” Wow. I think he figured that out for himself, and now I begin to understand why all kids start out painting the sky at the top of the page.

I, meanwhile, am working on ‘stained glass’ paintings, following an impulse. My grandad was a stained glass craftsman and I guess some of that fascination with light and color is genetic. I’m using layers of acrylic mediums tinted with transparent fluid acrylics – here are some photos so far.


I guess I am a ‘process’ painter, right now at least, because I do tend to think of how I want the paint to look before I think of what I want the painting to be ‘of’. I need to find a way of marrying the two somehow. Last fall, one of the exercises I did at Glassell was about painting one, ordinary object in three different styles – focusing on how the paint was applied and mimicking the style of three artists. I think I can use that exercise now using one of my ‘themes’ as the ‘what’.

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