Why I Love What I Do

Painting Birch Trees

When I first created my art workshops for children, I designed it with the intention that each child would be free to express themselves artistically. I wanted to help foster the growth of the artist in each child. Actually, to help foster the absolute essence of each individual child.

There are so many times when I can’t help but smile widely as I have the opportunity to watch this happening in these workshops.

I had one child who was only five. Five years old. Seems so young when I think about all she’s accomplished thus far artistically. When we first started the workshop, she was so displeased with all her work. She’d often crumple it up and even one day, she ripped her large piece of artwork down to this tiny square because that was the only part she was happy with and wanted to keep.

But then that all changed. We were drawing roosters and learning for the first time how to draw using a gridding method. It’s a challenging concept when initially introduced, especially for the the very young. This child had all but given up, but we spent some time on it together and it was like a light was turned on. Her drawing that day was amazing considering her initial struggles. Like many days in the workshop, my mouth dropped open in awe. Sometimes it just takes the slightest bit of encouragement and guidance and that little artist jumps out inside and shouts, “Here I am! Watch me go!”

Chloe Rooster

There are many children who come to the workshop expecting to be told “what to do” or “how to do it” and they’re often surprised when I reply “I don’t know. It’s your project, it’s for you to decide.” My goal is to always keep instruction as limited as possible to be sure not to stifle their creativity in any way.

Art is truly about self expression. Whatever that may be. So I try to stay out of the way in a sense (I’m there if they need me, though) in order to let their creative juices take them where they need to, so they can create the project they are envisioning. Often this can be in a totally different way than I may have envisioned the project going. And that’s actually a good thing as it expands the way the group as a whole in the workshop think and create. And it also expands my thinking and creativity as well.

And it is constantly reminding me why I don’t give too much instruction as it puts them in a box creatively. Suggests there is only way to do a certain project. And so many weeks, these children knock my socks off with the ideas they come up with and the possibilities they see when it comes to their artwork.

Siebren Colors Mitten on Whiteboard

There’s a whiteboard I often use to explain a concept for our projects. The children have their own whiteboards to draw on and I generally reserve this larger board for instruction purposes only. During our mitten art project Seibren had a creative idea. He drew a mitten on the board and designed a colorful pattern inside it. If I had stepped in and told him not to use the board I might have missed this spark taking flight.

In one of our preschool groups, Ezra wanted to create and decorate an envelope he planned to send to someone. That’s art in the making. Some workshops are “planned” lessons but these impromptu inspirations invite even more flexibility into the children’s art. And creating envelopes turned out to be lots of fun, too.

And in one afterschool program, there was just so much creativeness. We were working on Birch tree tape resist projects. And at some point (and this happens for many of us some days as we are watching these young artists) there was this noticeable creative hum in the room. It’s wonderful to experience. To some entering the center they may think it’s chaotic at times with so much going on, but if you’re really observant you’ll see it. And feel it, too. It’s this sort of semi-quiet hush that happens when the children are so utterly involved and connected to creating their artwork—it’s like an extension of themselves coming to life.

We have a lightbox in the room. It’s a small box that lights up and you place a piece of paper on top of something you want to trace. Tracing is a great way to learn to draw, as you follow the contours of the drawings.

Elephant on Lightbox

The children really seem to love this activity. Two children came up with something new though. Liam and Mikey realized they could take a few of the drawings and combine them to make their own. So they could trace the dog from one paper and the hearts from another. Then they went even one step further and started to create their own drawings so that others could trace them.

And there was Michaela who realized she could rip her tape for the birch tree project into pieces to make branches on her trees. Just wonderful! There are countless times this happens, that their ingenuity catches me by surprise. I wanted to start this page so I could share some of these special moments with all of you, too. Each child has a story actually. I hope to share more of these priceless moments with you.

Children working with pastels