Evolving canvases are a process art staple in our house. I know for a lot of moms, process art and painting with kids can feel really intimidating, especially if you’re worried about a big mess! I am here to tell you that 1. You can do this. 2. It doesn’t have to be a disaster area and 3. It is so worth it!!! Really. You can do this. Here’s how.
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First , start with a canvas. You can go big, like the one shown above, or you can go way smaller. Whatever you’re comfortable with is a great place to start. This whole process is about non judgment, so start with yourself. Don’t judge the paints you use or don’t use, the brushes you have or don’t have, your discomfort level with getting messy. Don’t judge any of it. If you can free yourself from judgment and control for about 45 minutes, you can enjoy something truly amazing with your kids and they’ll thank you for it. Process art is about the process. There is no right or wrong way to do this. So try and relax. Put on some music and let go. If you can let go, your kids will be more free to let go too. Anyway, back to the canvas. Big or small, one or three, it doesn’t matter. Just get one. Amazon has a bunch canvases to chose from. Aaron Brothers has great sales if you catch them at the right time. Maybe the easiest and the cheapest way to get a canvas is a thrift store. You can find a used one and just paint over it. That’s what we did here. Trust me, your kids won’t care. They’ll actually probably think it’s pretty cool.
If you’re concerned about making a mess, definitely put a plastic tarp down under the canvas. A plastic table cloth from the dollar store works great. Maybe even put two, just so you’re not preoccupied with that aspect. Hey, put down three if you need to. An outdoor space is ideal for a large painting project. We used our backyard and put the canvas on the floor. Once you find a space, set out the canvas and a bunch of bottles of paint. I know paint has value and we want our kids to learn not to waste, but sometimes it’s really nice to let them just squeeze away carefree. You can purchase a multipack of non toxic tempera paints here and little paint squeeze bottles here. Ikea has a great multipack as well, and if you’re lucky you might find some really cheap paint at a local yard sale. Set out the paints, some brushes, whatever you have is fine, maybe a roller and some sponges, and let your kids start exploring. If you know ahead of time that all the paint will likely be gone by the end of this activity, you won’t worry about it. If your kids have never done anything like this before, you might have to get messy with them. Show them it’s okay. This could be a new experience you enjoy more than you realized too.
One of the things I love most about process art is the conversation and communication it brings forward. My oldest, Gigi, told me a whole story about a blue flamingo she was painting. “Mama, this is my area,” she said. “I’m painting a blue flamingo. I’m putting green and dark blue to make really darker green to make my blue flamingo.” We do painting a lot. It’s really exciting to hear Gigi’s awareness of color theory start to emerge. This is a direct result of this kind of experience. We talk a lot during the process. I use words like “I wonder…” and “I notice…” to talk about what they are doing. “I wonder what color you’re going to work with next.” I notice you’re doing a lot of big strokes side to side with your paintbrush.” Sometimes my girls will ask me to join in, but mostly they are content to just explore with the materials. Squeezing out the paint is definitely a favorite.
Process art is especially great for one than one child at a time. You could do this for an art play date, just make sure to give out smocks, old t-shirts or go shirtless like my D prefers. I think the pic below sums up her feelings on her experience. Her joy is unstoppable. And yes, we got right into the bath after this.
My last tip is to keep a water bucket on hand for washing hands, bodies and brushes. If it’s warm outside the water play becomes part of the art experience. On several occasions D dumped a bunch of water on the painting. At first Gigi was a little freaked but then I tried to laugh with her and said “wow, I wonder what the water will do to the paints,” and we watched it for a bit before she went right back to painting. I think the more ok, as adults, we are with things, the more our kids can be okay with unexpected things that come up. Life lessons through process art. I’m feelin it.
Process art can definitely take a little practice and getting used to, like anything else that is new, but trust me that it is so worth it. Gigi wants to hang her painting in her room. We left it out in the sun to dry and the paint cracked a little so I think I’ll encourage her to do one more layer before we hang it. Anyway, I hope this is helpful and I hope you give it a try! Just remember to keep breathing when your child decides to sit down smack in the center of the painting and roll around in it. It’s all part of the process : )
If you enjoyed this post and want to read about more ways to experience art with your family try Woodworking with your toddlers and Spring Watercolor Flowers. Both are really fun. And if you ever want to get a book about process art for kids check out any of MaryAnn Kohl’s books. She’s the mothership of all things process art. Thanks for reading along!
I love this!! You have totally inspired me to let lose, and take a chance on paint! Thank you for the weekend project!!!
LOOSE* not lose 🙂
Courtney!!! You’ve made me so happy!!! Please take a photo and send me! So excited for you to experience this!!! Thanks so much for reading along!
Meri! It looks fantastic and I’m so thrilled to be there, today, posting on your new site!!! You have to much talent, it’s a thrill to know you! Congrats!!
Yay! Thanks Gina! How perfect. You are my first comment on my new site. Thank you for all the love and support!
This site is fantastic!! You really are such an inspiration, so much so that I wish that I could jump into each post and take part. Your daughters are blessed to be raised in such a stimulating and vibrant environment- truly. You know, I’ve actually done this with my own little ones but on a MUCH smaller scale (both in terms of canvas size and mess). Anyhow, now I know that I need to do this again, in a much bigger and messier way. Thank you for the inspiration Mrs. Cherry! See you on Instagram 🙂 Danielle
Danielle!!! This is the nicest comment ever!!! Thank you so much!!! I really appreciate your kind words and take them to heart. Really, thank you. And yes, GO BIG! : )
I love this idea! I was inspired last year by Jean Van’t Hul’s book The Artful Parent and began doing process art with my kids. I was previously overwhelmed with the idea of what they could and couldn’t do and what the ultimate outcome was supposed to be. Process art takes that weight off my shoulders and just makes the activity fun! My 2-year-old does lots of swipes of paint here and there and then runs off to do something else. Giving her the same canvas to use repeatedly might be perfect for her… And save on materials! Why didn’t I think of that?!!
And as far as the mess goes, I have found that the messiest projects are the ones my kids find most memorable! The 2-year-old still talks about the time she and her big brother got to walk through paint outside! They slipped all over and ended up with paint everywhere. The paper was such a mucky mess we had nothing to show for it… But we have the memories!
Thank you for your blog and for what it inspires in families.
What a lovely comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. Process art takes all the pressure off so you can just be present with your kids as they create and explore. I’m so glad to hear about your experience!
wow good girl and great art