6 Essentials to Inspire Your Young Artist

By Tim Chambers

Based on a recent survey, ten out of ten kids love to draw! I asked kids at my recent art workshop for a show of hands to the question “Do you like to draw?” Every hand went up. It was unanimous. (No animals were hurt during this survey, though some of the kids did get paint on their hands and clothes.)

Seriously, most kids do enjoy drawing, and it shows in their work and their enthusiasm. We love to hang our children’s art up on our walls, our refrigerators, and in our offices. They remind us of what it means to do something for the pure joy of it, don’t they? We frame some of our kids’ art, and even years later, they evoke a smile when we look at them.

I grew up watching my father do wonders with a plain canvas or paper. There was always an ample supply of art supplies and art books in his studio. My dad’s steady encouragement, instruction, and resources are a big reason why I followed in his footsteps as a professional artist. Many of us have children who love to create, though without an artist in residence to guide them. I’m here to give you a few ideas. Read on for practical suggestions about what you can do to cultivate your child’s art interests.

1. Stock up.

Unless you don’t mind new masterpieces on your walls—not hung, but actually on your walls—then you need to stock a plentiful supply of materials. I recall my father telling me to stop and clean my palette when it was full, for otherwise my creativity was stifled. I think the inverse happens when it comes to paper supply and kids. A stack of blank paper is an invitation to create! For younger kids, purchase packages of copy paper (500 sheets costs about $3 at Walmart). For your more advanced artists, a good quality sketchbook is ideal. Get a spiral-bound one filled with acid-free paper (about $7 at www.dickblick.com).

You will need plenty of crayons and pencils to transform those blank sheets into something glorious. Crayola crayons offer a wealth of rich colors for young children. For older kids—those who have enough motor skills to write—a set of colored pencils is ideal. I recommend a good quality pencil that offers deep, rich color. Again, Crayola pencils are among the best I have sampled.

You should also have plenty of regular (graphite) pencils on hand. The old standard #2 pencils (typically yellow with the pink eraser on end) are just fine. Advanced children can opt for graded pencils for more control in shading. Grades range from soft (B) to hard (H). I advise my students to purchase several of each of these: 6B, HB, and 4H.

A good pencil sharpener is partner to pencils and crayons. Nothing dulls creativity like a pencil without a point! My favorite is the Alvin Brass Bullet Pencil Sharpener available at www.dickblick.com.  Less than $5 and works like a charm.

Though I discourage erasing during the drawing process, instead teaching them to work with a light hand before shading, a kneaded eraser does come in handy at times. All of these supplies can be found at your local art store or online suppliers.

2. Look.

My daughter often comes into my studio and moseys about. I will ask, “Hey—would you like me to set you up to draw or paint?” She always gives me an enthusiastic “Yes!” So I get everything she needs—pencils, paint, palette, etc. (I have an area reserved as a work area for my children), and then comes the inevitable: “I don’t know what to draw.” All dressed up with no place to go!

Just as watching others do their craft can inspire us, whether it be an Olympian on the balance beam or an artist working on a canvas, we, too, can cast a vision for our children. The Scriptures are chock-full of examples of this. Sharing drawings and paintings of artists past and present can inspire kids and give them something to aim for, though not necessarily as a standard. This is how I oftentimes will spur my daughter when she draws a blank—I bring out the books of art history.

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