10 Great Ways to Encourage Your Gifted Young Artist

Published with Permission

Written by HEather Idoni



My husband is a gifted artist who never had formal training or even a single art class. He is known locally for his magnificent large-scale reproductions of works by Renoir, Monet, John Singer Sargent, and Gustave Caillebotte. For him, painting has been a relaxing hobby for more than thirty years. One of my five sons is very similar to his father, so when I began to see his talent blooming at an early age, I enrolled him in some ongoing art classes that had become quite popular with local homeschooling families. He went to one class and absolutely hated it! While other kids were pleased to be told what to do, he rejected this method of instruction. Based on the experiences I have had with my artistic husband and son, I began to explore other ways to encourage and provide resources for my gifted, independent artists.

A few years ago, our Homeschooling Gifted Email Group received a question from a mom asking for suggestions about ways she could assist her young son, who was showing an exceptional and natural talent for drawing. I thought the answers given were excellent, so from them I have compiled ten great ways to encourage your young gifted artist!

1. Provide your child with a quiet, well-lit area and room in which to work privately. Give him space to organize his supplies in a cabinet or stack of drawers. Find an artist’s desk that can be tilted, or provide a small easel, as desired. A desk with shelves above is handy for organizing paper supplies—and a lamp can be mounted beneath a shelf to provide extra light.

2. Furnish your budding young artist with a variety of drawing tools, colored pencils, charcoals, and other media to explore. Purchase good quality supplies and avoid materials that are marketed particularly toward children. For example, invest in Prismacolor pencils instead of Crayola pencils, a sketch pencil set instead of the typical yellow pencil, and artist-quality watercolors, papers, etc. Child-oriented materials can be discouraging when the level of detail and vibrancy of color that the artist is envisioning cannot be achieved. Many websites that offer quality materials for artists are available, so shop around for the best prices.

Purchase inexpensive kneading erasers of various sizes, as well as a vinyl eraser. Both types erase much more thoroughly without leaving bits of residue behind, and the kneading eraser can be rolled into tiny tips to erase even in very small areas without damaging nearby details.

Get top-quality paints by Artemis or Lyra and excellent brushes—sable hair if you are using oil or acrylic paints. Buy beeswax crayons if the student likes crayons—they’re a lot of fun to work with.

A flower/leaf press is also a good investment. Collect things in the natural world and preserve them in the flower press for later work, to accompany decoupage or painting or for use with other artwork. Get some clay and beeswax modeling wax for sculpting projects.

Tempera paints are also easy to work with and are completely suitable for use by young students. Provide your student with a ream of white paper (the appropriate weight for use with paints).

3. Provide inspiration by gathering age-appropriate art magazines, as well as picture books that incorporate art by award-winning illustrators. Have friends save old magazines that might have interesting photographs to inspire artwork. Purchase high-quality art posters featuring work by the student’s favorite artists for him to display in his workspace.

4. Plan trips to art museums—or visit virtual art museums online! Take the young artist to museums to see the masters’ works; whatever towns you travel to, go to their museums. Take along sketchpads so that your student can sketch drawings of the work he views in the museum; it is a common art practice to learn from the masters by “copying” work in the museum. With a pad and a charcoal or pencil, the student should be left to do his work for as long as is possible—undisturbed. Do call and request permission ahead of time for your child to sketch his representations of the artwork he views; some museums have special policies about this—a few do not permit it.

Many art museums now have virtual exhibits you can view online. Recently a few museums have added an extraordinary amount of visual detail to these images, and it is possible to zoom in more closely than ever to see brush strokes and textures. In fact, these days you can get closer to many famous paintings online than you can by actually viewing the piece in a museum!

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