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Ideas for artistically gifted child

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
DD seems to be pretty artistically gifted. While she needs no encouragement to draw and create, I'd like to provide her with more materials and ideas. We have the obvious stuff--markers, colored pencils, watercolors, clay. What have your artsy kids enjoyed working with? I'd like her to just have more things at her disposal that she can run with and do whatever with.

Book suggestions with project ideas are also welcome. I prefer open-ended ideas.

I've considered art lessons or art class, but don't know if this is advisable or necessary for a 5yo. We do have a "How to Draw" book that she likes, and she sometimes chooses to copy from it. She is pretty adept at this, but I can't decide if it's a bad idea to give her preset ideas of "how to draw a tree" and so on. She is for the moment generally happy with everything she draws, so the book is just for fun, not because she's anxious to refine her technique. Thoughts on this?
post #2 of 27
Well, I am certainly no expert on the subject and I can find little info on what to do with my own artistically gifted child! However, I can say what's worked for us.

My daughter is just a little older than yours as well, she just turned 6 yesterday.

As far as materials go, I try to make sure that anything we have available for her to use is good artists quality. It can be incredibly frustrating to find that the crayons don't colour in smoothy or that the markers bleed. The right kind of paper for the right kind of tool makes a huge difference. I think part of that is mine is also a perfectionist though.
We make sure that materials are always available and organized. So, we have a box for crayons, one for paints and accessories, one for pens, piles of paper...
I don't know if your have pastels or not but they were a revelation to my daughter who loved that the colour was so bold and immediate and that they are a really flexible as they can be blended to shade as well as combined and blended. Regardless of all of that, you may find that yours starts to gravitate to one particular medium. For the last year my daughter has only done ink drawings with no colour.

Beyond the materials, most important for us is making sure that there is always space to create at a whim.

Our favorite art books are The Art Book For Kids and book two of the same.
They are fabulous book all about art and the artists with text that is child friendly but not at all condescending, they give real insight into how art is made and what's behind it all. I really like that children are expected to give their opinion on the pieces and that no answer is "correct".
These books really helped what my daughter was frustrated at not being able to do specific things perfectly and also when she came to the realization that she was talented (she started comparing her work to other kids who she felt didn't measure up). It helped her realize that there are all kinds of ways of creating art and that there is no right way of doing it.

Aside from that we also really like 'Lives of the Great Artists'
There are suggestions with each artwork on things to do that relate to that particular piece. They are mostly ideas rather than instructions. An example would be; in the section about Turner who painted amazing skies the suggestion is to create a painting of the weather outside.

I'm really not keen on things that give detailed instruction and my daughter seems to respond best to inspiration and ideas rather than specific projects. She also seems to work out emotion through art so we do try and encourage her to draw if something was exciting, sad, unusual etc. through the day.

She has been to art classes but I think the value in that can really depend on the actual class. The ones that she went to were held at the university in the art gallery. So, while they were meant for kids, they were small and offered technique and inspiration rather than instruction. I was really impressed that they used proper art materials as well and the kids did etchings, print making, sculpture, learned about colour (hot-cold), learned about design and spent a lot of time looking at the art in the gallery and learning about what was behind all of that.

We spend a lot of time at galleries and museums and even have gone out of our way driving for almost 2 hours to see a Henry Moore sculpture that sits on a hill in the middle of nowhere. It was a great trip in fact because it was something that you could touch and feel and the scale of it was huge to her. There was also a great story about how Henry Moore was told that he was doing it all wrong as the classics were what was taught at the time.
post #3 of 27
I'd just keep doing what you are doing - providing her access to various art materials and let her go from there. Do you have a specific art area where she can work, and keep her papers, paints, scissors, glues?

If she develops in a specific area, give her access to those types of materials. For example, if she is into sculpting, clay is fine, but an origami set or a model airplane kit might also be interesting for her.

My favorites growing up - left over boxes, foam bits, bubble wrap.... all that stuff can be used to make really cool forts, barbie hotels, boats, planets... whatever she is into. I also went through a lite bright stage. And one of the drawing tablets that work with magnetism, so she can keep making new drawings.

For later- plastelina (sp?) - modeling clay that does not dry out. More expensive than play-dough, but rich, vibrant colors and the texture is so much better - you can make incredible details. And because you can take them apart and make something else, or let a favorite piece sit out for a week and then take it apart.... it is a different type of learning experience.

For much later - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Worth it's weight in gold for countless reasons. Especially if she is going through the "has to be perfect" phase - usually pre-teen, when she has expectations of a certain composition, perspective, proportion, and she is not satisfied with her results.

My biggest tip is that if you give her art lessons, have NO expectations. Especially if she is a perfectionist. My parents sent me to art lessons, first at the high museum, later with a local artist. They never pressured me directly, but it did cost them money and I felt I needed to perform. Whether it came subconsciously from them, or my own internal perfectionist traits, I do not know. But it is horrid trying to be open, free, creative, natural, when you feel an art piece of a certain calibre is expected at the end of the hour. Some of my worst work was done at these times, as opposed to the countless hours I spent in the basement, on my own, just investigating, and being able to destroy the works I did not like before anyone saw them.
post #4 of 27
Cray-pas, real watercolors in a tube, watercolor pencils (draw then use a brush to blend the colors,) lots of different weights of paper, charcoal pencils, good quality brushes of different sizes and shapes (round, flat)

Taking colored tissue paper, ripping pieces and covering a piece of paper, misting the pieces with water color enough to transfer the color to the sheet of paper underneath, allowing it to dry.....pulling the pieces off.

Reggio inspired works with wire.

Making mobiles with "junk," basically transforming every day stuff into collages.


Some other good ideas:

Of course, the big inspiration comes from visiting an art museum.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the great ideas! I've been considering stockpiling junk materials for her to build with, since she is into making 3-d worlds, but am wondering what kind of glue to use that is safe for her but will hold--ideas?

I've thought about pastels but am worried they will be a huge mess. She always has marker all over herself--won't pastels be much worse in terms of getting the color on carpet, furniture, etc?

There are suggestions with each artwork on things to do that relate to that particular piece. They are mostly ideas rather than instructions. An example would be; in the section about Turner who painted amazing skies the suggestion is to create a painting of the weather outside.
This is exactly what I am looking for--open-ended ideas that she can take off from. She loves for us to give her "drawing challenges."

I will get some Plastelina. The clay we have is not that good.
post #6 of 27
My now 5 yo dd is artistically gifted. Early on we found it was necessary to invest in the best quality pencils and colored pencils, not necessarily because she required them "artistically" but because she was CONSTANTLY drawing and coloring and when I saw how hard you have to push on cheaper colored pencils to get any decent color to come out of them I was concerned about her actually injuring her developing hands. So look into softer artist-grade colored pencils like Prismacolor, Derwent Coloursoft, and Blick. They are not cheap and sometimes we have found that Prismacolors are so soft that they break frustratingly when sharpened. But if you have a kiddo who is coloring and drawing a lot at that age, they are much easier on the hands. (FWIW, our favorite seem to be the Derwent Coloursoft, they have not broken as badly as the Prismacolors and are slightly fatter.)

Also, oil pastels are a favorite. Especially when combined with watercolors.

My dd just likes being challenged to copy the drawings in her favorite books, magazines, and cartoon shows. I have SO many drawings of the characters (ALL of them) in Word Girl it's not even funny
post #7 of 27
Oh, I forgot to add, you may want to order some free art catalogs. I'm not a very artistic person so I really didn't know what was out there until I looked at them. Try http://www.dickblick.com
post #8 of 27
Pastels are fine... We've had good sucess with them, and even my 2 year-old who get everything everywhere within 2 seconds is good with them.Susan Strikers anti-coloring books and Young at Art are really cool-- good ideas about painting with rollers, etc. http://www.susanstriker.com/

And I've found having a copy of Drawing on the Right side of the Brain: http://www.drawright.com/ to be invaluable. We've had good luck adapting the exercises for both my older son and my 5 year-old. Her book on color theory, although not quite as good, has been fun to have around as well.

And going to art shows and talking with working artists has been a blessing. I think that knowing that being an artist is a real job and has its own set of joys and challenges helps my kids put it in perspective--especially my oldest son who is perfectionistic. Sure there are the world famous artist, but most of them didn't even achieve that until they were dead. Waiting around until you are dead is too late.

So fame doesn't equal good art. Since there is so much art out there, and like 90 per cent of it is not going to be that great, but people are still trudging away, trying to make it better, always improving.

That and just draw every day, whether it be for 5 minutes, or 5 hours....
post #9 of 27
How accessible are the supplies? How much free time does she have during the day?
Those are two big keys for artistically gifted kiddos.

post #10 of 27
Thread Starter 
Her basic supplies (pencils, pens, markers, paper) are all out at all times; she has two art stations, one in the living room and one in her own room. Unfortunately her less frequently used supplies are not that easy to access. I've been trying to come up with a good way to store them neatly (and securely--her 16mo brother is VERY interested in her art supplies!) so she has freer access.

She does have lots of free time. And she uses it for art, for sure. She'll be in school every day come fall, but at home with me from 2pm on. She often draws first thing on coming home from school, as I think it helps her calm down and transition.
post #11 of 27
My daughters drew incessantly on the whiteboard with dry erase markers. It is a nice medium, but the markers can stain clothes.

What we did for them is use a large baby gate and blocked the area off. The girls could climb over the gate to draw, and ds would not ruin their drawings. Ds could not get in.

Maybe something like that would work for an art area for her.

post #12 of 27
art lessons are great for kids. depending on the teacher.

my dd got a scholarship in a class. and she had a ball. mainly coz of the equipment she got to use. more stuff than i could invest in.

i would dearly love to put her in a drawing class because now at 6 i can see she is looking for guidance.

somethings i have done. when i discovered how much she enjoyed painting easter eggs, not dyeing them, i let her paint on them with non toxic paints whenever i get them from the store. it has gotten old now, but somedays i am surprised by coloured eggs in my fridge.

we have a pad of paper (tiny to medium) with a box of coloured pencils and pencils in various stations all over the house and the car and also in the bathroom.

she loves gluing so we do a lot of paper cutting or tearing and creating collages. lots of glue and sparklies. lines of slightly thin glue that she can put on a paper and then move the paper to get the glue the way she wants to.



various colours rubber bands.


nail polish to use on paper.

my dd is a doodler and a painter. she loves mixing colours and discovering what happens with them. so i have many different types of paints.

face paint and my make up (seh loves not just colouring herself but me too). she loves taking a lipstick and eyebrow pencil all over her body.


drawing in mud.

shaving foam and a car window.

dusty car windows.

long balloons to make into shapes with blow up 'gun'.

i guess i was also looking at arts and crafts.

that clay that you bake in the oven. both coloured clay. as well as one colour that you paint on the colours to.

if your child enjoys getting messy like mine does, if you can have access to a potters wheel, oh they will be in heaven.

different kinds of beans to create a painting.
post #13 of 27
Pastels are messy, but I remember loving them as a kid. Basically, the same guidelines you had for paint would work for pastels (smocks and vinyl tablecloth to work on).

I can't think of any other supplies that haven't already been mentioned.

The Creative Family by Amanda Soule might be a great resource for you to read, she has a lot of great ideas and a really wonderful approach to art with kids. Lots of her stuff is crafty as opposed to art per se, but I would have found some of her suggestions for embroidery and sewing and stencils fun to do as a kid.

one cool thing my parents found for me when I was a pre-teen, was this portable drawing table. It was about a 24 X 20 drawing surface, that opened up to hold paper and other flat materials. Above the drawing surface was two little compartments for pencils, pens, erasers, etc. It was brilliant and it meant I could draw anywhere -- in front of the tv, at friends' houses, at the park, in the car. A smaller version of that might be fun.
post #14 of 27
I'm an artist.

Cheap materials are very freeing. Yes sometimes it's nice to have the good stuff, but most of the time that is limiting.

If mom buys an expensive pad of paper that has 20 sheets, then you can't draw 5 pictures a day or it will be gone in a week. If you have expensive real artist brushes you need to paint carefully and gently so they don't get ruined. If you have a boxed water color set gret care must be taken not to muddy the colors. Now all of these are great lesson in how to care for things, but if they are you every day art stuff, it becomes scary to experiment.

Where as, if mom gives you yesterdays new paper, chip brushes from the hard ware store and a few big bottles of tempra paint, you have dozens of sheets to try stuff on. No one will scold you for mushing the bristles to see what you can make them do. You can suirt out just enough paint for the day then throw away you newsprint palette with the muddied colors and have fresh vibrant one tomorrow.

So here is my supply list:
  • Old news paper
  • printer paper
  • cheap paint brushes (not the one with plastic bristle made for kids though or inexpensive "artist" brushes, those are crap. Cheap chip brushes and stiff bristle brushes.) (If you watch many adult professional painters you'd be surprised how often they use brushes from hardware stores instead of art suppliers.)
  • side walk chalk
  • etch a sketch (no seriously, it's very liberating to shake away mess ups, and its limitations force you to be creative and plan ahead)
  • Aqua doodle
  • old phone books (not just as paper, but also handy for flattening stuff)
  • Plain old crayola markers in all kinds of color
  • A stick and dirt
  • digital camera (I know the initial investment is high, but yay no film cost so she can shoot away at whatever catches her eye.)
For adhessives I recommend double sided tape, Aleenes Tacky glue and Yes Paste. Anything that works better is either toxic (fumes not just if you eat it) or dangerous (hot glue guns are great, but trust me it hurts.)

Some of the best art instruction I got as a kid was watching painting shows like The Joy of Painting on PBS. Most instruction meant for children was pretty basic. Though, I do reccomend Mark Kistler's videos for learning about perspective (I didn't learn it from these videos, since they came out when I was in colege, but they looked good to me.) I was incredibly shocked when I attended my first college level drawing class and I was the only student familiar with 1 and 2 point perspective. Scarier still was that the instructor wasn't familiar with 3 point.

Crafty thing, can also be more relaxing than fine art stuff. For instance, weaving is a good opportunity to explore color interactions and texture with out the pressure of creating a story/image. So I would provide craft opportunities that are seperate from artistic preasures.

Finally visit museums. Art, science, whatever, she just needs to see a lot. Let her bring a pad and pencil to the museum so she can sketch the art (this used to be commonly done by art students.)
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
I have The Creative Family but have found it is not the greatest for someone really uncrafty like me. A few cute ideas, but the sewing projects are more for adults.

Interesting POV, eepster--I see what you are getting at and that may be valuable to keep in mind as she gets older. At this point she seems completely confident in herself (she sometimes says that things didn't come out like she wanted them to, but she never gets upset about this) and would not worry about wasting materials, but I am anticipating that eventually this lack of self-criticism will end. She does not actually use good paper--too expensive and wasteful, IMO, given that she goes through many sheets a day. We just recycle office paper. What we have done is provide her with many different sizes. She really likes quarter-sheets made out of 8 1/2 by 11 paper, and we have some giant paper too.

What is a chip brush?

Thanks for the glue ideas. I don't want her to get frustrated when things fall apart (I can remember this frustration from my own childhood!)
post #16 of 27
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post
What is a chip brush?
http://www.jamestowndistributors.com...ct.do?pid=2118 $12/36 comes to $0.33 each, cheap enough to happily ruin (and I didn't even look really hard for a bargain, I've picked them up cheaper locally at sales.) OK, went back and clicked on a second promising looking link and here they are cheaper (but with less description http://www.epaintbrush.com/products_c196084.html.

I use them as-is some times, but if you give them hair cuts you can get more controlled effects. Notch them out and you can get thinner broken up lines. Make them uniformly short and they function as stiffer brushes for making bolder more controlled movement. Needless to say I have never altered a $20+ brush I got from the art supplies store.

Here's an article about brushes: http://painting.about.com/od/artsupp...BrushHairs.htm. There are a few things to keep in mind. Really "good" expensive soft bristle brushes need a very delicate touch to work the way they were meant to. Whereas a stiffer brush like a very inexpensive boar bristle brush is easier to control. I've been known to pick them up at the dollar store (and yup, I sometimes alter those as well.)

BTW: Cheap brushes do not work for water colors. I love them for acrylic paint or ink, and they will be great for tempra, but water colors need softer bristle, and cheap soft natural bristle brushes are useless. The bristle splay apart and are impossible to control. I would reccomend getting medium priced synthetics. A higher quality synthetic while slightly more expensive than a cheaper natural brush is a huge step up in quality, since the bristles will be well placed, not just grabbed and jammed.

Though truely high quality natural brushes are better than even the best quality synthetics, they start around $20 and go up fast. Also they require more care to keep them in good shape, and a very delicate touch to control them.
post #17 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the brush advice. I wish you could come with me to the art store and show me what to buy! I had only gotten as far as figuring out that kids' paintbrushes are total trash. I bought her some brushes at an art store just randomly--whatever was cheap and seemed interesting.

All I have for her is watercolors--not the cheapest kids' ones, but maybe the next step or two up from cheapest. Would you recommend other kinds of paint at this point?

We actually need to set her up to paint more, since she does create totally different things in paint, but it's difficult since her brother gets very frustrated if he sees her doing something he can't do. (Not sure how to let a 16mo paint inside, though he may be ready for painting on our outdoor easel, but then they couldn't both work at once. I let him draw while seated in his highchair, which he does ask to do all the time. I think I may have birthed two of these. This is funny since I'm not artistic at all, though I love to look at art. My grandfather was an artist, however.)
post #18 of 27
One thing that the girls found fun were water color pencils.

Dewitt makes some. They can be used as colored pencils, or if you wipe down some watercolor paper with water, it has some fun and interesting affects. One can avoid some of the brush issues that way.

One, of course, can use brushes in conjunction with them.

I like this before/after picture

post #19 of 27
Originally Posted by loraxc View Post
(Not sure how to let a 16mo paint inside, though he may be ready for painting on our outdoor easel, but then they couldn't both work at once.
I have an 18 month old who wants to do the exact same art projects as his sister. I let him fingerpaint and use Elmer's paint pens (cheaply made and the kids go through them quickly, though they can be refilled). Sometimes I get out popsicle sticks and globs of paint and let them work together that way. Then I don't have to worry about DS ruining brushes or dumping water/paint. I haven't been brave enough to let him paint with jars of paint, brushes, and cups of water so DD can do that kind of thing when he's napping.
I really prefer that they play with playdough together--much less of a hassle.
post #20 of 27
Thanks for starting this thread, because I just collected a lot of very interesting ideas for my artistic 5 year old too!

I'm going to second (third?) the suggestion about quality materials. For example, my daughter was trying to mix and blend colors with low-quality "children's" watercolor paints. The pigments don't hold up. She was so happy when I invested in some artist-grade water colors. We talked very carefully about how to only squeeze a little bit, and she's been very responsible with them - we also got a pallet with a plastic cover, so she can save paint for a few days that's already been squeezed out. Same thing with pastels - we laid out some simple rules, and she's very good about it. However, she's super hard on brushes, so we just get the cheap ones.

She's also big on "projects" so we have a ton of junk around to play with - shoeboxes are great as starter items, plus stickers, pipe cleaners, etc. She asked to have her own art studio a few months back, so we cleared out an area in our front entry way, and have given it over to her art stuff.

When I'm burned out on helping with projects, we have used the Kumon craft books. They're mostly simple to moderately challenging cut and paste projects, but I'm not a very crafty person by nature, so they are a good backup.

Finally, we also signed our daughter up for art classes at our local museum. What I like is that they take on bigger projects, spread across three weeks' time, with multiple steps. She learns more technique, and they use objects from the collection as inspiration.
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