Adult Art Project, Art Project, Kid's Art Project, Messy Art, Process Art

Sometimes Art Is Messy

Charcoal cloud low res

So one thing that I find I am constantly saying is, “Sometimes art is messy.” In our culture we tend to have a fear of mess. This fear can act as an inhibitor to our creativity. We tell our children, “Don’t make a mess.” We tell ourselves, “I can’t do that it is too messy.” Sometimes though it is good to embrace the mess, to let it in. When we let go of all that control we can begin to feel free to be creative. In my last post I wrote about sensory art play for infants and toddlers. It is probably the messiest class that I lead. It is a ton of fun. In order to enjoy it though one must let go of the need to be tidy. It is a pretty easy sell for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, It is somewhat acceptable for very young kids to get messy. They after all are messy with pretty much everything they do! It is a much more difficult sell for older children,  and even more difficult for adults. My argument though is that there is a time and a place for being messy, and that it can be quite freeing to our creative nature to allow ourselves and our children to embrace the creative mess on occasion. After all, “Sometimes Art Is Messy!”

messy hands collage
Messy hands of all ages enjoying the process of art.

Some of my favorite projects are the result of messy art. Once you let go and embrace the process of messy art, some really cool things can happen. For me this is where art meets mindfulness.

  1. You get in the flow. You become in tune with the moment.
  2. You let go of a need for control. You let the process unfold.
  3. You have fun. When you are not so worried about controlling the art, you are able to just enjoy it.

Fluid Acrylic Art

 

Fluid acrylic or ink pours like the one in the video above are a perfect example of letting go and embracing the process. This is a very messy technique and it is quite difficult to control the outcome, but if you can embrace the mess and let go of your need to control it then you begin to realize just how interesting and enjoyable it is to watch paint move! Sometimes you love the finished painting, and sometimes you don’t. Not all art is meant for a gallery wall or even the refrigerator. I find this method of creating to be quite therapeutic. For me it allows me to become present in the moment. It gives me a reset and a change in mindset and attitude.

pour collage
Fluid Acrylic Pours

String Painting

A favorite messy art project of mine is string painting. I have done this project with preschoolers, school age children, and adults. This method is always fun, always messy, and always satisfying! I love how they turn out. They remind me of my favorite flowers, the calla lily.

string art collage

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Shaving Cream Marbling

Who does not love playing with shaving cream, right? It has a pleasant scent, and fluffy texture, and best of all it is so much fun to use as a marbling medium. Once you have marbled your papers you can use them in so many ways. They can become collage papers for future projects or backgrounds for more detailed paintings, or even journal pages.

paper marbling collage
Shaving cream marbling is fun for all ages.
finished marbled pages
Finished Marbled page and a collage using marbled papers.

Scrape Painting

Scrape painting is a favorite of mine for younger kids. I use this a lot for preschoolers and elementary age children. It is a great way to explore color mixing. It is quite messy but I love how these turn out! I could see adults having fun with this as well, I sure do!

scrape painting collage
The scrape painting process is super messy, but fun!!
scrape painting finished art collage
Finished scrape paintings always remind me of the art of Eric Carle.

Blow Painting

I have written about blow painting before here.  It is a super fun messy art project that is worth mentioning again. It is absolutely something that you have to let go of expectations and control to be able to enjoy. Young kids are really good at that. Older kids and us adults, well sometimes we need a bit of help in that area. I typically do these types of projects with preschool and elementary age children. Sometimes we turn our splatters into more “refined” art such as paint monsters or flowers. With adults I mostly have done blown paint with alcohol inks, but the idea is the same and te results are similar!

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Preschooler blowing paint splatters.
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Flower blown paint art by elementary age kids.
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Flower blown art by me! Made with alcohol inks

I hope that you and the kiddos in your life will try out some of these fun messy at projects at some point. Yes they are very messy, but the mess is worth the experience.

A fun little bit of info: The name of this blog Art-Breaks, came from some of my experiences with messy art! Last year, when I still had my art studio, my friend used to pop in on her lunch break for art time. We made some huge messes during these short little art breaks. We experimented with acrylic pours, and string art mostly. Several of the photos above are from those little breaks. I wish we were still able to do them. I miss it so much. Anyway these little breaks were so important to me that I named this blog after them!

Feel free to leave a comment, question, or little story about your experiences with messy art!

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Kid's Art Project, Messy Art, Preschool Art, Process Art

Sensory Art Play

Messy Baby Art

I was first introduced to the idea of Sensory Art for kids when I lived in Portland, OR. The class was offered at an art studio called Art A La Carte that I frequented with my kids. Though my kids were too old for the class I fell in love with the concept. When I moved back to Knoxville in 2015 and opened my studio,  I felt like such a class would be great fit here in Knoxville. I first began offering sensory based art classes at my studio, The Basement Community Art Studio back in 2015. Messy Baby Art Classes were geared to infants (Sitting-24 Months).  Since 2015 the class continued to grow and grow in popularity. I have had the privilege of working with so many infants and toddlers through this program. When I accepted the Job at the MUSE Knoxville  in 2018, I added a similar class there, Mess Maker Mondays. Though this class is slightly different, it has continued to offer a sensory based art experience here in Knoxville.

Messy Baby 1
Sensory art can be a full body experience.

Sensory based art is something that I am deeply passionate about. I believe that fostering this type of experience from a very young age acts as a building block to support creativity and creative play as a life long habit.  So that begs the question…

What is Sensory Art?

Child development experts agree that young children learn best when their play appeals to their senses. When children engage their senses during play, they build powerful cognitive connections. They begin to learn about the world around themselves. Young children and infants uses all of their senses to take in stimuli from the world. When they are provided with an environment rich in sensory experiences they are able to make more of these types of connections. Being able to explore this way stimulates movement from the child and strengthens their motor skills and coordination as well.
As the child plays you can add language to their experience. Give the proper names of the tools they are using. As they reach for a tool, name it. “Sponge.” or “Feather.” You can also name the colors they are using. Simply say “Blue.” when they use blue paint… Keeping the language short and clear allows them to begin to make associations between the language and the object. It is much more clear than saying something like, “Yes, you found the blue paint. Can you use the feather to paint blue on the paper.” Simple language is best.

messy collage
Sensory art play is fun for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers!

Setting up a Sensory Based Art Experience at Home

During our sensory art classes we like to offer a variety of tools and materials for the child to explore. Basic everyday household objects make great painting tools! Possible ideas include:

  • Wooden spools
  • Toilet Paper tubes
  • Bits of Yarn
  • Corks
  • Sticks
  • Pine cones
  • Leaves
  • Food (potato, celery, apple) all make fun prints
materials collage
Using a variety of materials provides diverse sensory experiences. 

Look around your home and find items with an interesting texture that are safe for the child to explore. Try to offer them a variety of different shapes and textures to explore during their art play. Be sure to use child safe, non toxic art materials. I love Blick Student grade tempera paints, they are non-toxic, gluten and peanut free,  and washable. Using a variety of tools offers the child multiple sensory stimuli, plus it provides opportunity for further language acquisition when you name the tools as we discussed above.
There are wonderful art products out there for young children that you can purchase through stores or online if you wish, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can find some amazing DIY art supply recipes for tiny artists online. From craft dough to edible paints and more, the internet is filled with great ideas you can make at home with common ingredients found in most kitchens! Have fun exploring and setting up your child’s sensory art projects (This can be a great creative outlet for you too)!

Where to create?

 

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Standing at an easel or wall can be a fun way to explore paint for toddlers and preschoolers. 

Provide your child with a variety of ways to explore the art materials as well. Once the child can stand consider painting at an easel. If you don”t have an easel you can tape paper to a wall at their height. You may want to use a drop cloth or larger paper behind the paper they are painting to contain the mess and make clean up a bit easier.
If your child is not yet standing simply spread out paper on the floor for them to paint on. Remember older children also enjoy working on the floor from time to time as well! Working on the floor can give them the opportunity to work much larger, using large motor movements which can be a nice change for older children.

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It can also be fun to involve your child in the clean up!

If you are concerned about the inevitable mess consider working outside on a nice day or use an old sheet/drop cloth on the floor under their work. When the art time is over simply fold away the drop cloth and store it for next time! Another fun place to create art is in the bath tub. When art time is over just clean the baby and the mess up at the same time.

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Working at the table, splattering paint on rubber bands. 

Tables are always a great place to explore art materials, but try to provide variety for your child with their art play. If you usually paint at the table, consider trying a new spot. Often as children get older, most of their art is done at a table. This limits the size of their art as well as the motor movements they use to create their art. An occasional change in location is always exciting and keeps their art experience fresh and new!

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Large sheets of paper on the floor are always fun!

 

Keep in mind that art is messy, and the mess is part of the fun! Learn to embrace the mess as your child creates. With a little planning the mess can be easily contained and relatively easy to clean up as well!

 

Prepare for a mess

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Crawlers enjoy exploring the slippery textures.

Sensory exploration in art is often very messy, so be prepared. At the studio we recommend letting our youngest artists paint in their diapers or an old onsie. Older toddlers and children we recommend wearing old clothes paired with an art smock or apron. Most children’s art supplies are considered “washable” however, I have noticed that they do not always wash completely out. So, it is best to dress in clothing you are not too worried about. Adults facilitating messy art should also dress in clothing that can get painted…because it very likely will, lol.

Drop cloths such as a painters tarp or old sheet can help protect the ground or table around your art area, making clean up a bit easier.

Most importantly have fun and embrace the mess!

Check out this fun little video from one of my classes!

 

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Adult Art Project, Art Project, Kid's Art Project, Process Art

Abstract Watercolor Project

 

Abstract watercolor

Check out this is a fun and easy project to get your creative juices flowing! This project is geared towards adults, however I have done this with kids as young as 9 before and it has gone really well. Children just need to be old enough to follow instructions and patient enough to work through the many steps.

Here are the supplies you will need for this project:

  • Watercolor Paper: I like 140# paper but you could use a 90# paper as well. This project does work best with paper made for watercolor paint.
  • Watercolor Paints and Brush: I used prang student grade watercolors and they worked fine. Just note that the better quality watercolors you use the more vibrant your painting will be!
  • Painters Tape
  • Rubber Cement
  • Black Ultra Fine Tip Sharpie
  • Hair Dryer (If you are impatient like me)

watercolor resist supplies

Step 1

Use Painters tape to tape your paper to your work surface. This will help keep your paper from warping as much, and it will create a nice finished looking border edge around your final piece.

Now drizzle rubber cement across your page. Let it dry. Rubber cement dries pretty quickly but you can use that hair dryer to speed it along. It does need to be fully dry before moving on to the next step.

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Step 2

You will be working with three colors for this project. I would suggest using colors in the same color family to avoid mixing brown unintentionally.

  • Warm colors: Red, Yellow, Orange
  • Cool colors: Blue, Purple, Green
  • Analogous Colors: (Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel) such as Blue, Green, Yellow

Tip: Colors that are opposite on the color wheel tend to make a muddy brown hue such as red and green or purple and orange…

Begin painting with the lightest color of the three you have chosen for your piece. So if you chose blue, yellow, and green, begin with the yellow.

Paint with your first color across part of your page. Leave some white space for the other colors later. Allow the paint to dry (Use a hair dryer is desired). 

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Step 3

Drizzle more rubber cement across your painted surface. Allow to dry completely.

Step 4

Paint with the second color. Paint across some of the white space you left previously but leave some white space for your third color as well. With the second color paint over part of your first color, allowing the two colors to mix and layer. Dry.

Step 5

Drizzle more rubber cement across your newly painted surface. Dry completely.

Step 6

Paint with your third and final color. Fill in the remaining white space. Paint over portions of your first two colors allowing the colors to mix and layer. Leave some of the colors unmixed as well. Once your are happy with your composition allow your work to dry completely. You can use the dryer for this as well, but make sure to dry it completely before you move on to the next step. 

3rd color

Step 7

Using the pads of your fingers rub off all of the rubber cement, revealing the colors/white page beneath. This process takes a bit of patience and elbow grease!

rub off rubber cement

Step 8

Use your sharpie pen to outline some of the shapes created by the rubber cement resisting the paint. This will simply highlight some of those shapes. You do not need to highlight all of the shapes. Simply pick a few of the most interesting to you! Be creative and have fun! You can also doodle in some of the shape if you wish…you are only limited by your imagination.

Watercolor restis play pen

Step 9

Pull up the tape revealing the crisp edges of your finished piece of abstract art. Enjoy your masterpiece!  

I hope you enjoy this playful project as much as I did! I would love to hear your thoughts or see what you came up with if you feel like sharing! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Watercolor restis play
My finished piece. It looks like some sort of space dog I think, lol!

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Adult Art Project, Art Project, Kid's Art Project, Preschool Art, Process Art

Blow Painting: Process art for kids and Adults!

Blow Painting

Blow painting is a fun process art activity for multiple age groups. Simply change the type of paint or pigment used for different effects and for different age groups. Read on to find out the general process plus check out my top 5 favorite projects using this technique! There are projects for preschoolers, school aged kids, and even adults…so read on.

 

Be sure to check out my top 5 favorite blow paint projects!

 

For this project you are going to need:

  • Thinned paint or ink, depending on the group you are painting with. More on that later!
  • A dropper or pipette
  • Paper or canvas, the type used needs to work well with the choice of paint/ink you are using. Being sure to use a high quality substrate that matches the intended project will always offer the best results. For kid’s projects I like to use a 90# mixed media paper or a watercolor paper. For adults I might use the watercolor paper, canvas, or specialty paper depending on the paint medium being offered.
  • A drinking straw.
  • Optional: Additional items to finish out your project, i.e googly eyes, glitter, sharpies, ect.

Process:

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  1. Prepare your paint. I love to use liquid watercolors but watered down tempera paints work well also for the first three projects. The 4th and 5th projects require their own special paints and papers/substraits.
  2. Drip your paint/ink onto your paper using the dropper. 90# mixed media paper or watercolor paper work best for this project. Thinner paper tends to rip too easy.
  3. Aim your straw at the paint drip and blow into the straw, allowing the paint to spread and splatter.
  4. Try turning your paper as you blow through your straw to spread the paint around more.
  5. Continue to drip paint and blow through the straw until you are satisfied with the result!

You can enjoy this projects as it is or extend it with one of the following project ideas to finish it out!

Check out my top 5 favorite blow paint projects below!

 

Project 1: Blow paint monsters

blow paint monster collage

Recommended Age:  Preschool – 9 years

Simply add one or more googly eyes to the paint splatter to create a blow paint monster. If the paint is really wet you can probably just add the googly eyes to the wet paint, otherwise you may need to use a dot of glue on each eye.

 

Project 2: Flower Gardens

flower collage

 

Recommended Age: 6-12 years

  1. Direct the children to aim towards the middle of the page to drip the paint and blow the splatters out. Encourage them to make several splatters, allowing colors to mix.
  2. Next give them some green paint. I like to use a couple of different shades of green to create a bit of depth.
  3. Have them hold their paper up or prop it up on an easel. Ask them to create the stems and grass for the flowers by using the gravity painting technique. Hold the dropper at the bottom of their blown out flower and allow the green to drip down the page.
  4. Create a few leaves by blowing through the straw at the green stem in a few places.
  5. Optional: Once the paint has dried completely allow the child to add details to the flowers or accent certain shapes using ultra fine point sharpies.

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Project 3: Blow paint portraits

hair collage

Recommended Age: 5-12 years

  1. Have the child draw a bald character on a piece of paper, being sure that they leave room for the hair! I find that a bust (head and shoulders works best for this project).
  2. Have the child use the dropper to drip the paint on the hairline.
  3. Use the straw to blow the hair out and away from the face.

 

Project 4: High flow acrylics on Canvas

liquid pour collage

Recommended Age: Teen- Adult

For this project I like to use canvas panels as opposed to paper. Canvas panels are also cheaper and a bit sturdier than stretched canvas. They do not tend to droop the way a stretched canvas might under the weight of pooled up paint. You can use high flow acrylics or you can make your own by adding a bit of elmer’s gel glue and water to your acrylic paints. The consistency should be similar to pancake batter.

Tip: These will take a long time to dry so I have found it useful to place the canvas in a box as I work. Gift boxes work well for this. You can also use plastic bottle caps to hold the canvas panels off of the bottom of the box so that as it dries it does not stick to the box.

  1. Set up your work space by placing the canvas on a level flat surface. See the tip above for ideas incase you might need to move the piece prior to drying.
  2. You can either pour your high flow acrylics directly onto your canvas or you can add smaller amounts by using a dropper/pipette as described above in the other projects.
  3. Use the straw to help move the paints around you canvas by blowing into it. You can also tilt the canvas and allow gravity to move the paint.

Note: Part of the fun of this type of painting is letting go of the control. Allow yourself to enjoy watching the paint move and flow. Remember that often the paint will continue to move a bit as it dries, so it will likely continue to change form as it dries.

 

Project 5: Alcohol Inks

alcohol inks collage

Recommended Age: Teen to Adult

For this project you are going to need a few more specialty items:

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Alcohol Inks, my favorite brand is Ranger.
  • Yupo Paper
  • Small plastic paint pallet
  • Droppers/pipette
  • Straw
  • Optional: small paint brush, old plastic gift card, alcohol wipes

Process:

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  1. You can drip inks directly from the bottle onto your yupo paper if you wish.
  2. Use the straw to blow the ink around. The ink will continue to blow around until the alcohol evaporates.
  3. Alternately you can mix a few drops of alcohol with a few drop of the ink in your pallet and use the dropper or a small brush to add it to the yupo paper.
  4. Play with ways to manipulate the ink by blowing through the straw, painting into it with the paint brush and more ink or even plain alcohol, or scraping it with the plastic card.

Note: The inks can be reactivated with more alcohol and reworked.

*To clean up your alcohol ink tools use the rubbing alcohol rather than water.

I hope you enjoy these projects as much as I do! I would love to hear your experiences. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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Until next time,

Signiture

Art Project, Preschool Art

Gravity Painting with Preschoolers

Paint the Rain

One of my favorite projects with preschool aged kids is gravity painting. There is something so rewarding about watching paint drip. The kids alway have such a great time with this one! This project is very easy to set up and can be done easily at home. Keep in mind that it has the potential to be quite messy though so if you are worried about a mess you may want to try this one outside!

gravity painting collage

You will need:

  • Small jars
  • Eye droppers or pipettes
  • Washable paints, I prefer liquid watercolors though tempera paint works well too.
  • Water to dilute paint.
  • Paper to paint on. I like to use a watercolor paper or at least a 90# paper for durability.
  • Drop cloth for floor or table if painting inside.
  • Some sort of easel or wall that you can attach your paper to.

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Set up:

  1. Prepare your space by covering the floor and or table where you will be painting.
  2. Attach your paper to an easel or wall. Be sure that it is at the correct height for your child. They should be able to comfortably reach the top of the paper.
  3. Prepare your paints by mixing with water. Paints should be thin enough to be collected in the dropper and to drip. I like a fairly watery consistency for this project. Just make sure that you have enough paint to give a rich color.
  4. Place one dropper or pipette into each color.

A note on paints: For this project select 2-4 colors of paint to work with. Be sure to keep your paint colors in the same color family in order to avoid brown drips…unless brown is what you are after! Warm colors: reds, oranges, yellows work well together as do cool colors: blues, greens, purples…

Spilled paint
Remember messes are likely!

For this project I love to tell the kids that we are going to be painting rain! So I tend to choose dark blues, purples, and turquoise colors to paint with.

Process:

Gravity painting collage1
A mom guiding her child to squeeze the dropper by gently placing her hand over his to demonstrate when to squeeze.
  1. Invite the child to paint. As I said before, I love to tell the kids that we will be painting rain. This is a fun way to relate this project to their life experience a bit.
  2. Show the child how to squeeze the dropper or pipette in the paint to collect the paint. I like to really slow this down and exaggerate my movements. Ex: Say, “Squeeze” and very slowly squeeze the dropper in an exaggerated way.
  3. Then say “Let go,” and while the dropper is in the jar completely remove you hand from the dropper, showing the child your empty hand. This is important for children who do not yet have experience with droppers. Otherwise they tend to continue squeezing as they lift the dropper and the paint comes back out before they get it to the page.
  4. Next demonstrate lifting the dropper out of the paint. Point out the paint in the dropper to the child. Finally show the child how to hold the dropper at the top of the page again. Say, “Squeeze” allow the paint to drip down the page.
  5. Hand the dropper to the child and say, “Your turn.” It may take them several tries to collect paint and get it to the paper. That is OK. Unless they are showing signs of frustration allow them to continue exploring it unassisted. If they seem frustrated, repeat the above steps or gently guide their hand as you demonstrate.

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Exploration is key here. Allowing the child to fully engage with the tools is the goal. It may take some time for them to master the tools and they might instead try to paint with or draw with the dropper. All of that is ok. They are exploring something new and relating it to their previous life experiences. Most of all have fun with this project. If the child loses interest, don’t force it. Perhaps try again later. I have noticed that some children respond better to a project the second or third time it is introduced. So don’t worry if your child is not interested, simply try again at a later time!

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This project is a great exploration for older toddlers and preschoolers, but it can also be extended for older children. I have done this project with kids up to 12 years old with great results. For older children try having the child paint a landscape or an umbrella type rain scene on their page first. Then you can have them add the rain to finish it off. Kids of all ages enjoy watching the paint drip!

gravity painting collage2

I hope you have a blast with this project! I would love to hear your experiences with it. Feel free to leave a comment.

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