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.
*This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
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!