Archives for April 2008

Open Studio, 27: The How-To Edition!

We were slinging paint in The Painted House today…which means it was a good day. The kids and I worked on our collaborative piece–now called Partly Cloudy, a name inspired by my son’s preoccupation with the weather and decidedly a little pessimistic but whatevah.

As I have mentioned here before, I love children’s art–and I’m talking art by children who haven’t been told to draw something or that the sky has to be blue and the grass green and don’t forget to draw a plume of scribbly smoke coming out of your house’s chimney! I’m talking pure color, no inhibitions, beauty of line for line’s sake. This is best, uh, exploited with very young children. C’mon, harness their care(FREE) creativity and get some real original art up on your walls!

This is so simple and when you are done, your friends will gasp at your chic painting, thinking you have blown your children’s college savings on a real Cy Twombly . Anyway, most of us can’t afford to buy original art by those narcissistic, moody creatures called artists–hence why we artists are all starving, such is our plight. Thankfully, my walls are bedazzled with paintings from every major period in my favorite artist’s oeuvre…uh, me; but otherwise, I would be in the same predicament. Spend $1000 on a sofa or $1000 on a painting? No wonder we artists are dirt poor.

So this is what you do to have a beautiful abstract expressionist painting ready by dinner:

1. Get a large canvas–the larger the better to make a bold statement and fool everyone that this is hi-falootin‘ art. Or, do a series of smaller canvases to hang together. Get the gallery-wrapped canvases so you can hang it without a frame and have that I’m-so-cool contemporary art feel. Dick Blick online has great prices on canvases–the cheapest ones are fine. Just make sure to get the ones with a deep profile, meaning the canvas sides are at least 1 1/2″ deep.

2. Next cover the canvas in two or more colors. Regular house paint would be just fine–that is what I use. This step just ensures that all the white gesso, or primer, is covered on the canvas and gives a nice base on which to turn your kids loose. I let my son help me with this step to take advantage of his serendipitous gestural marks. He painted the orange and I came in with the pink around his marks.

3. Now lay the canvas down on the floor with a box of cheap non-toxic oil pastels. You can do what I did and put it in the formal dining room where all the fancy-schmancy stuff is and let the kids go crazy. I cooked dinner while they scribbled and doodled to their hearts’ content. At first my son stated that he was drawing a toilet (what?) in an apparent channeling of Marcel Duchamp, but he quickly changed his direction and began weather “imagery” (scribbles). Whew. A combination of older kids’ art, who are usually obsessed with realistic imagery, and the lines of a toddler would also be great. And, not only did I have an original painting in the works, but I also had peace and quiet while I cooked dinner. Genius!

My view from the kitchen while I cooked seitan and roasted lemon-dill potatoes.

4. When the kids finally get bored with the activity, you can either hang it as is or do what I do–refine and enhance their beautiful child-art innocence. Sometime in the near future I will go over it with oil paints to isolate/enhance their gestures and lovely passages of line within the painting. If you don’t mind a little mess, you could also give your kids some cheap brushes and acrylic paints–those little craft paint tubies (Delta Creamcoat, etc) work fantastic. Lots of colors for little money. (Cheap seems to be a theme here!)

Voila! How great is this? Toddler art is all about color, line, and gesture. I could stare at this for weeks and still find new passages that I love.


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