Setting up a space to paint freely doesn’t have to be stressful logistics. All you need is a space where it’s permissible to do some acrylic splashes around. Best one is an art studio of course, but if you don’t have one, the garage is second best space to go. Layer the floor with plastic from builders warehouse, and if necessary cover the walls and surrounding objects as well. Get some old t-shirts to use as cloths to wipe a mess, a box full of thin surgical gloves for you, and you are good to go. If you have no garage – the garden is the 3rd place to do some arty mess. Wherever you decided to set up, remove anything that is precious to you. If you constantly worried that something will splash here or over there, the child will pick it up and the free expressive process isn’t free anymore. Fearless art – the object of the exercise – is lost. When creative process started, subdue all negative emotions towards any mess, spilling, splashing, mistakes or damage. This is your child’s moment, it’s free from any reproach, and word “no” does not exist in this space (except when anything self-harmful is happening like eating the paint).
This is the space in the house attic we set up for Tallulah in the beginning, in our previous house:
This is Tallulah’s second space in the new house, under the parking roof, outside:
Our new house in Hermanus is much smaller. In the beginning I let her paint in my studio, but since my studio is also a space where I collect and display my vintage finds, that quickly became an issue for me, so I moved her under the roof of a parking spot. Well, seeing that she is having her 1st solo exhibition before me, I might just reconsider who is the more successful artist and we’ll have to swap places! Here is my studio:
Yep, I am not into Jackson Pollock type of expression, so splashes of paint on my collections is not a happy thought for me.
When choosing paint, craft acrylics or student acrylics in smaller jar is a good way to start:
Choose 3 primaries: yellow, magenta, dark plue, then also white and couple of extra colors and you are good to go. Buy few empty plastic jars and mix few colors yourself: create lighter shades of above colors by mixing them with white, and mix some colors together for additional colors.
We started with this amount of colors (plus yellow and white):
And 3 years later arrived at that amount (top photo are pourable mixes made by me, and bottom photo are pains we bought, there are no paints in liquid forms sold in SA that I know of, so I have to mix them. But it you live in US – lucky you, just buy the pourable ones and save yourself all this trouble):
We also bought cheap metal spoons and wooden sticks to stir and mix paint:
Adding water, if we want to mix more liquid form of the same color, to pour it on to canvas (this preparation better done BEFORE you start the session, the baby will not have patience to wait for you):
Have a bucket with water at hand to though used equipment in:
If you leave it to lie around till end of the session, and until you bath, dry and dress the baby, acrylics will set on it permanently and you will have to through it away. Better leave things to soak in there until you can get to washing them later. As the baby grows up, she will start throwing things into this bucket automatically and even help you clean them afterwards.
Cloths and paper towels must be at hand lying around. Tallulah learned to grab it and wipe her hands by herself, several time through the process. In the beginning you will have to do it for her, or hands and fit become too slippery to carry on:
Canvas can be of any size you choose, or you can go for canvas boards instead, they are cheaper and easier to crawl over. You can give them to baby white, or prime them with any color like on below picture, or let your baby prime it herself, which she will love doing from about 2.5 years old:
We started painting just with one household brush and hands. As you progress, get several household and artist brushes, sponges and rollers for fun variety in applications:
Improvise! There is no right or wrong to apply paint onto surface. Tallulah grabbed some wooden sticks that I bought to mix paint with, and scratched them onto the paint to create patterns. She also dipped my metal spoons into paint and dripped the paint off them onto the canvas.
All this seems like a huge amount of trouble, but once you got this stuff in place, your sessions will flow effortlessly. It’s all there: just go and create!