Izzy, 9 and Hattie 6 drew their house as a surprise for Mummy. I fetched the girls from school and I set them up with a little bench each to rest the board on, and a cushion to sit on. They were excited about going to their own house secretly instead of coming home with me.
Session1: Advance planning (5 minutes for them, longer for me)
After planning the project together and talking about the secret gift for Mummy and Daddy, I stretched a piece of paper for each of them and we soaked tea bags in water and gave the paper a brownish tea-wash.
I had cut bamboo pens with square ‘nibs’ and had black Indian ink. Below is a link to some bamboo pen instructions I found:
You can also draw very successfully with a kebab stick that has had its point bashed around. It gives quite a sensuous line. If you have no ink you can use cake colouring, but it is not waterproof so you can’t paint over it..
They sat outside (Mummy & Daddy were at work) and we chatted about the bricks, the roof etc. I suggested they draw the front door then left them to get on with it. If you tell them too much, they become dependent on you guiding them every step of the way. They wore old shirts and their cooking aprons.
Hattie is very careful and concerned about smudging, so she turned her board upside down to do the roof. But the TV aerials were “reflected” so that when she turned it back the chimney was on the left instead of the right. She is also quite quick to wail “I have ruined my picture” and needs reassurance.
Izzy draws quickly and confidently, (sometimes too quickly), happy to get a general impression of bricks, plants and bushes. After a while she got tired of doing the fiddly brickwork. She is quite flexible about ink runnels and spills and observes well, drawing accurately.
Fingers became quite inky and black. We were tired and decided to finish off another day.
It was another two weeks before we could get on with these; finishing the ink drawing and adding colour.
They carried on drawing the bricks in ink ‘from memory’
I gave them diluted watercolour to paint the bricks.
They painted the white window frames in acrylic with a brush. You can improvise with a cotton wool bud and emulsion. We used watercolour paint and small sponges to add the grass and foliage. The watercolours over the tea wash has given everything a lovely muted look – Isabel happily sponged the greenery with a sea-sponge but Hattie found the sponge ‘yukky’ and didn’t want to use it, so she used a brush.
I love the way the way both little artists have interpreted their home as very large. You can see how they copied the windows, but also got a bit confused with the front door and steps leading up to it. The bricks were a lot of work. When you are very small and the sheet of paper is big it’s easy to put a window or door in the ‘wrong place’!
I think both houses are very expressive and could easily illustrate a Charles Dicken’s story!
Teaching primary school children art
A few points about my approach to child art:
Inspire the children – It MUST be fun. Think about their hobbies and interests to engage them.
Give the kids excellent materials if you want beautiful artworks. Well, the best you can find, if its lockdown. What about those extra rolls of wall paper? Even when you improvise, if you are using the back of a cereal box, cut it into a neat rectangle.
So many so-called children’s art materials just don’t work. Coloured pencils are pale, crayons insipid and waxy. But fortunately, Sharpies are great and indelible! Let them use your own precious adult materials for their homechooling ‘art lesson’ under your supervision provided they aren’t toxic. They can use their own stationery when they are playing informally.
I try to give kids materials that can’t be erased – permanent markers, ink etc. They seem to accept this rule and it means that they think about what they will draw as each line is a commitment!
Plan your sessions and keep them simple. It’s impossible to teach everything in one sitting, so choose what it is you want to teach and make the rest easy. I mixed the colours using tube watercolours and gave them heavy watercolour paper as it was not stretched in advance.
Set an attainable goal and Limit the time spent on the project Even if they want to go on with something, limit the time. Try to extend it to 20 minutes, but longer than an hour and depending on the child. Even if they are enjoying it, they’ll get tired, make mistakes and get fed-up.
Encouraging and talking to them about their work
I relax them and chat about what they are doing. Do not tell them to draw neatly – accept what they do. A better comment is: “Tell me about your drawing” Make them feel really good and encourage them – but be sincere. e.g. “I really like the way you gave all the apples stems and that you noticed that is how they grow. And they look so yummy you just want to pick them and gobble them up etc. etc.”
If the children have strong views about how they want to do it, that’s fine.
Younger Children are nearly always happy with their creations, but when they get older, they become discerning and critical. There are a few ways around this and one of them is to get them so absorbed in the task that they don’t judge their work. If they persist in being critical try doing pattern-making or tracing instead of realistic drawing. We are spurred on by success, not failure.
Don’t be precious about the results – EVERYTHING a child draws or paints with care is great. And sometimes the stuff they draw carelessly is also great. Try not to interfere with their creative process.
Snatch the work away the minute you think they should stop – give them more paper for more art if they want to carry on; but at this stage intervene for the sake of ART! You can always distract them with a snack time.