"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
I sometimes have the pleasure of painting with groups of loud, energetic kids at Sociable Art birthday painting parties. Cups of water get spilled, paint ends up in hair, and I have to raise my voice to be heard. You might be surprised to know that I find this chaos refreshing and inspiring. Why? When was the last time you observed a kid under the age of ten painting? Kids paint with reckless abandon. They paint freely without expectation and without the inner critic judging their work. Most of us have forgotten how to express ourselves in this way, but that doesn't mean we can't return to a state of carefree creativity.
Those of us who have weathered our share of years have become more cautious and unsure. We've all heard some criticism in our lives from ourselves and others. As a result, we've lost our creative confidence. We like having someone tell us exactly how to create our art step by step, so there is less room for error. That is, after all, why we like Sip and Paint classes. Unfortunately, by removing the room for error, we also remove the space for originality. It's time to find that child inside you and recapture that wild, untamed spirit. Your art can only benefit from this approach.
Below, I've listed seven general behaviors that I have observed during kids' painting events that differ from our adult approach to painting. Next, it is your job to create a painting like a kid using these behaviors.
1. Kids don't listen. I'm up there talking, and the kids are polite, but they are not doing what I am telling them to do. They don't take instruction well. I say, "Paint the vase white." They proceed to paint it whatever color they feel like painting it. Their artistic instincts have not yet been tamed. Forget about what you were told, do it your way.
2. They break the rules. They use unconventional colors. They mix them in unexpected ways. They use brushes in unpredictable ways. Leaves that were green on the example painting become blue on their canvas. They mix orange and blue which results in a muddy brown, but somehow they make it work. They just choose the color that speaks to them. Go on, be a rebel!
3. They have the benefit of not having been taught "how to do it". Technique teaches us that there is a right way and a wrong way. We get bogged down by technique. Kids have not had their artistic instincts tampered with yet. They will use paint and brushes in ways that you would never consider and in ways that an instructor would never suggest. Forget what you've learned and trust your instincts.
4. They paint fast. They don't take time to think. They just act. They don't stop to plan. There is none of the hesitation that comes with self-doubt. if I expect an event to last an hour and a half, the kids will always be done in less than an hour. Try painting quickly without thinking. For inspiration watch MarsupialPudding speed painting a night sky on YouTube. Don't think, act!
5. They are Fearless. They don't worry about the outcome before painting a flower stem, they just do it. If they don't like it, they just paint over it. They are not afraid. They make lots of mistakes. They are comfortable with it. To them, it is called learning. Be fearless.
6. They don't imitate. Their goal is to express themselves. When this is your aim, you create original art. For the most part, they still don't mind being different. Unlike adults, they don't wish to create a carbon copy of my art. After all, they see the subject differently, because they have not lost their artistic eye. They see it with no preconceived notions of how it should be. Originate, don't imitate.
7. They don't judge themselves harshly. When they are finished, they are generally happy with their work. They did not enter the exercise with the kind of expectations that adults put on themselves. No one has classified them yet as artistic or unartistic. This is what Picasso meant when he said, "all children are artists". Be your kindest critic. Give yourself a break.
So go ahead and be fearless. Paint like a kid. I think you'll be pleased with the results as long as you silence that annoying inner critic. If you are interested in the topic of children and creativity, you can find more interesting information on this page on the Family Education website.
The painting on the left below was created by a nine year old using the painting to the right (created by me) as an example. I like hers better:)