How to start fearless art with your child.
Where to paint?
If you don’t have a studio, next best place is garage. Cover the floor with plastic or don’t bother covering, it’s up to you. The place you choose will inevitably be covered in non-removable acrylic paint. Get in terms with this fact and just go ahead. The benefits for your baby is greater than the regret of garage floor covered in paint. If there is no garage, garden, balcony, patio are next good options, but probably only in summer. In looking for the place the motto should be “anything is better than nothing”. Don’t say “I don’t have space”, make a plan. Empty your guest room, if you have to, and ruin it, for the sake of your baby.
What to buy?
Canvas, we recommend to start with lowest quality commercial canvas, anything bigger than 16’X20’. Tallulah uses usually between 28’X36’ cm, and 36’X44’. If you can afford bigger and better, go for it, if not – you will still have amazing success with your baby. Like many people insist, size does not matter after all (and some will disagree, I know.)
Brushes. I give her couple of artists brushes, but majority she uses are cheap brushes that you buy at hardware stores to paint your walls with. Tallulah love them. They are wide and make large expressive marks. (She prefers to paint with her hands though…)
Paint. You can go for inexpensive craft acrylics in small jars – it will definitely work, or student quality acrylics. Latter are more expensive but pigment concentration is higher in those and it will produce better quality artwork with fully saturated bold colours. Buy jars, not tubes, so that baby can put her hand in there. Both heavy body and fluid acrylics. There are no fluid acrylics in South Africa in nice jar sizes, so we have to painstakingly make them, by mixing with water and shaking. If you live in US, it should not be a problem. Heavy body or normal consistency student acrylics will be good to paint with brushes and hands, while fluid acrylics are great to sprinkle, spray, pour and drip.
What to prepare for painting session?
Besides 1 canvas, few brushes and few paint colors:
Several cloths at hand are essential, to wipe hands and feet, spilled paint and other accidents.
Rubber gloves for you to wear during session.
Large bucket with clear water, to drop in anything that needs soaking before you have time to properly wash it: brushes, stencils, sponges, etc. If you leave them lying around until the end of session, they will dry up and cannot be recovered. Your baby will paint, your job is to silently step in and rescue that abandoned brush into a bucket of water to soak.
Small bucket of clean water in case you want to add it to a paint to thin it down.
What to wear?
For baby and for you any old comfortable clothes that you are not worried to get paint on. Both you and the baby will be dirty after the session. Even if you don’t interfere with her process at all, just picking her up after that and carrying her to the bathroom will get you full of acrylics. Acrylics are easily washable off the body, but on the clothes it’s permanent.
How long should each painting session last?
Until you can see that your baby is tired and lost concentration, which can happen any time between 10 minutes and an 1 hour. The sign with Tallulah is when she stops painting on the canvas and starts painting on her feet, hands and whole body. I let her do it for 5 minutes and then take her to the bath.
How often to paint?
Currently we are painting 2 times a week with Tallulah, each time asking her if she would like to paint today. Most of the time she says yes, when she says no, we don’t press. Once a week is a good way to start.
How to wash the baby?
Put her in the bath and remove her clothes right there. Gently wipe her body with a sponge or cloth, full of baby soap. Acrylics come off the body easily. Wash hair with baby shampoo like you usually do. We do not recommend to use oil based or enamel paint. They can be harmful and hard to wash off.
How to clean up the equipment?
All art equipment, e.g. brushes, rolles, sponges, stencils etc, must be dipped into a bucket of water during session as soon as baby abandoned one of them and moved to the next. Be on standby to do that necessary saving, or these things will be unrecoverable. After your baby is bathed, dry and dressed, you can take all the items from the bucket and wash them in warm water with soap.
What if the baby tries to eat acrylics?
Tallulah never did, but if you noticed the attempt, tell her this is not food. Babies are clever, she should not repeat. Painting session has to be supervised every second. If any amount of acrylics swallowed, seek medical help immediately and try making art few months later, when the baby is more mature.
Do I have to be an artist or have creative skills to start this with my baby?
In my opinion, no. It’s not about your skill, or what you can teach her or show her, it’s about uninhibited, untainted, uninterrupted fearless expression of your child, who will find her way without you teaching her anything. In fact, she will teach you. However if you feel like exposing your child to more than just paint and a brush, you can watch art videos on youtube to see what artists are using, and go ahead introduce your baby to sponging, roller brushing, stencilling, stamping, ink-spraying, etc. Possibilities are endless and it’s up to you how far you want to go. Just give it to your child, she will figure it out but exploring and having fun.
Do I have to start big to have the right effect? (Large canvas, lots of paint…)
If you can afford it – start big, why not? If budget is tight, any scale of this type of art making will benefit your baby. Main goal is: uninterrupted, fearless, exploratory, spontaneous art, which can be done on any size surface and with any medium.
How to achieve the look of Tallulah’s paintings?
I did not see many kids doing the same thing, but the few I observed displayed totally individual style of making art, due to many factors involved (personality is one of them). So your baby’s art will be different from Tallulah’s no matter what, but it will be just as great.
What if baby put brush covered in yellow into bucket with red?
She might, in the beginning, but it is not a disaster. Surprisingly, Tallulah learned quickly that if she needs to use another color, she must take a fresh brush. Show it to your baby, they are smarter than you think.
My baby is already 3 (4,5), is it too late to start?
It’s never too late to develop under the influence of fearless expressive art without boundaries. Some start at 60, and become great artists.
What to avoid during session?
Any negative remarks or prohibiting something (unless she is about to eat acrylics). Do not say: “don’t paint on your hands”, “don’t make your face dirty”, “don’t touch your hair”, “don’t spill the bucket”, “what have you done?!!!”, “oh no, you just poured ALL of this bucket onto canvas, now this paint is finished”. You have to forget the words “don’t” and “no”. It will be hard, but the freedom of expression here is the key. The baby must feel she can express herself without fear, reservation or reproach from your side. Sometimes Tallulah makes a mess and looks at me with questioning eyes, as if waiting for my comment. I usually say to her: “Ah, that’s fine, carry on!” She knows the same does not necessarily apply to real life situations though.