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  Grandma’s (click to enlarge)


   Granddaughter’s (click to enlarge)

It went something like this:  “Grandma? What are you going to do with these bottles?”

“I am going to use them to draw and paint because they really help artists improve their seeing. ”

“I want to paint them!!!!” Please?”

That was all it took. I have been sharing creating art with my Granddaughter ever since she was a little older than one. I made a few rules for myself, early on.  I told myself that I would not interfere with her vision and listen carefully to what she said. I also decided that she would use my professional materials and I would need to be vigilant so nothing would go in her mouth that shouldn’t . The only exception to the second rule was when we would find something “Awesome” that was made for children and we, both, could not resist trying it.  There is nothing I dislike more than seeing a child given inadequate tools to create art.  If the color is not bright and the materials are difficult to work with, how many would be inspired to continue? Oh well. That’s a bug-a-boo of mine.  The last rule was that I would NOT push her. I would offer to share creating art with her, but not make her.  This has worked for us.

The above project was done over a period of three sessions (one a day.)

We drew our still life. I suggested she look carefully at the objects I had grouped on the table and that she pretend she was tracing their shape on the paper. She immediately got up from the table and began drawing the objects as I began mine.

I said, “Why are you moving around?”

“Because I want to see the bottles.”

“You can sit and draw what you see of them from your seat.” I responded.

“But I want the whole bottle,  Grandma.”

I watched her circle the table and draw each one. Note I have eight glass objects and she does, too.  She studied each object very diligently and drew with such care. She then sat back down with her drawing in front of her and looked over at mine. I heard a little gasp.

“What’s wrong?”

“Mine doesn’t look like yours.”

I looked over at hers and said,  “Oh. You did each one as a study.”

“But it doesn’t look like yours!”

“That’s GREAT!. That means it is your perception and not mine!  Art isn’t about your work looking like mine, but about you creating something from inside you that is just from you! Yours is not supposed to look like mine.  There is not a right or wrong unless you decide there is a right or wrong when you draw and paint.”

I can’t tell you the joy I felt as she  looked at me and said, “I like that.”,  as she pointed at my drawing. She then said, “I like this, too”, pointing to hers. “What is that line on yours?”

“What line?”

“Behind the bottles.”

“Oh, that’s the table line. It makes it look like the bottles are sitting on something.”

“Can I have one?”

I handed her the ruler. “Of course.”

We, next, painted our still life drawing with watercolor and allowed it to dry overnight. I pointed out to her some of the things I noticed in her drawing like how she got the perspective correct for the openings at the top of her vases and bottles; the way they actually looked. The one vase curves outward at the top and has a rather large bowl at the bottom. She got the tall and straight one and the oval looking one beautifully.  The other thing I was amazed with is that she had them proportioned pretty well in comparison to each other.  Sometimes I think we rush children too much. They do not “see” the same way we see. We often rush to judgement in our desire to perfect them and don’t give them time to grow in steps. I forget what approach in art it is to circle objects and put the shapes together. Does that have something to do with cubism?  Did my Granddaughter just do a little of that to organise what she saw sitting before her? Her shapes aren’t perfect, but either are mine. She was studying them or she would not have the perspective correct or the proportions.  I have viewed art like she has created, above……. and it makes me want to search through old classics and modern art and all there is out there to connect. I guess my point is that I learn every bit as much from watching her as she does by watching me.

The other thought that comes to me is how important it is to share anything with our children and Grandchildren. Anything! Fishing, bike riding, swimming, reading, cooking!  Their exposure to sharing what we do is so valuable. We are helping them to communicate, learn something they can do in their spare time their entire lives and we are offering them a way to have confidence in themselves. …and probably much more.

We allowed our paintings to dry overnight and the real fun began. We cut all sorts of rice papers up and glued them to the surface of our glass objects we’d drawn and painted. We used acrylic matte medium with a little water in it and applied it to the support and collage papers, overlapping the rice paper shapes as we went.  After allowing that to dry overnight, we again painted the glass objects to achieve the finished paintings, above.

If you click the above images, you can see the different textures of the rice papers we used.





  1. Leslie, there’s a little lump in my throat because of the time, love, patience and care you’ve given to your granddaughter. To know someone listens, accepts, broadens and enhances is a gift at any time in life, but imagine having that from such a young age. Oh I certainly do understand your comment about what she gives to you…there is such abundance between you. This child is already enhanced – and think of all the opportunities yet to come. She is going to know about wings.

    • About the *other* art work , you clever Grandma…it is so interesting to know and see how these were put together. I marvel over paintings of glass – especially clear glass. (In glass art, I love the lines in clear “Antique” glass. That would be a challenge to paint, I would imagine.) I enjoy the close-ups…like seeing that your granddaughter has a different paper on the openings for her bottles. To catch those unique moves must put your heart in overdrive.

      • Thank you for your input, this comment. I had not noticed her switch of papers for the openings! I will need to show her your comment and reinforce that you picked up on that, Amy! I think wanting to share this experience was inspired by your recent two posts in regards to your two friends. It is infectious. Thank you for that about “wings”. Oh how I want that for her and everyone!
        Glass, especially clear glass, is just as effective in helping us improve our seeing as is self portraiture. That’s my opinion, anyway. Antique with all the little lines? Wonder if the abstract lines in masa paper could help to pull off something like that?

  2. What a lucky granddaughter! I love this! Whew…. thanks for sharing so much of this recent experience with your little one. This is the kind of interaction that not only nurtures, but fuels creativity. What a powerful duo you two are.

    • You know, because you create so freely, how very tight I can become. I look at my Granddaughter’s work and I admire so much of what she does. She helped me to speed up because I had to keep pace with her for fear of slowing her down! 🙂 I don’t even remember choosing my colors, either. See? You are right! It is a duo and we feed off each other. Thank you, so much, for your comment this post, Chris.

  3. This is so beautiful Leslie. In all the time I have been following your blog I think it is the most wonderful post you have ever written. My inner child thanks you xx

    • Kirsty,
      It is wonderful to hear from you. I miss you posting and think about you, often. Thank you so much for this comment. It is difficult for me to post something like this. I don’t know why, but thought, perhaps, others might benefit from an occasional sharing of what I am watching take place with our creating art together. If it fuels someone else to share with their Granddaughter or Grandson, I will be ever so happy. Your comment on inner child? Thank you!

      • I’m still reading. Recently did a ‘120 do what you love challenge’ which I shared with my Facebook friends. Now I’m doing another 120 days working towards a joint exhibition with my daughter and am writing a blog each day about it. Already up to Day 30. Delving into my shadow while redefining myself as an artist 🙂 I love your work and your generosity. Am planning to look back through your blog for some technical advice and inspiration xx

      • First of all, thankyou for letting me know of your challenge and work with your daughter. I have read your challenge and will get caught up. I have always! considered you an artist, Kirsty. Never a doubt in my mind. You “SEE”, you see. I hope some of what I have shared, here, can be of assistance. Let me know if I can be of furthur assistance.
        Thank you for the visit, comment and info regarding your new blog!

  4. This is such a nice story. I make art with my younger sister and my 8 year old cousin and it’s always such an adventure. Your granddaughter has a wonderful sense of color. This is a nice post.

    • Thank you, Ronny! I’ll bet sister and cousin really get to create from the ground up! My Granddaughter would get such a kick out of some of your whimsical faces and interesting collages. She has a sketchbook and uses colored pencil, graphite and markers in it. She gets a new one as soon as one is filled. Never a dull moment!

  5. I do hope I will come across with a similar situation in my life in future 🙂
    I am overwhelmed by your way of handling this little artist and a big thumbs up for that!
    I sense a feel of freedom in her painting that we adults are most of the time scared to use.. both are lovely in their own ways Leslie!

    • Oh, I hope you get an opportunity, too, Padmaja! Too soon our children are exposed to control and the “hurry-up” finished project. I hope what she gains from our sharing together is the understanding that it does not “have” to be that way all the time. You are right about that freedom that we seem to stifle in our search for reality. Sometimes I feel as though we take the honesty out of our subject and are in constant search of it. Not so for the child. Allowed to, they just lay it all out there. Thank you, Padmaja!

  6. These are both so lovely. It was so inspiring to hear you say hers did not have to be like yours. Such freedom that gives a child. I am amazed at her color selections. My daughter had a wonderful art teacher in elementary school and she has a great sense of color and design. He let them experiment with a lot of things. On the other hand, my son had an awful one and it took him years to get over her rigidity and criticisms and enjoy art again. They both had a good stained glass teacher in high school which they do to this day. It is amazing what early experience in art can do. Your grandaughter is very lucky.

    • I know what you say about teachers as I taught in the public schools, once upon a time. Some teachers become tired with the challenge of it all and teach the subject, mechanically, instead of the children inspiringly. It happens in the adult world, also, in workshops and continuing education programs. Our children can’t choose and, in the hands of a tired teacher, often become uninspired. I have to say, however, my situation with the Granddaughter is much easier because we have a larger block of time to explore and we are related. I know it would take a great deal of planning and patience to share, like this, with 30 classroom students. I teach adults who WANT to learn what I bring to class and that still takes a great deal of time to explore and offer them interesting and creative techniques and assignments to support the direction each individual aspires to. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Ruth!

  7. This is so beautiful on so many different levels. How lucky your granddaughter is to have a Grandma like you–who is “allowing” her to become herself! To give her space and yet gentle guidance.

    I think you both are lucky, Leslie–she has an accepting student in you!

    • You hit in on the nose, Gayle! I listened to my own parents’ joy in sharing with my children and wondered what they meant about the special relationship they felt they had with their Grandchildren. At that time, I thought it was just that they did not have to deal with the other things of being a parent. Well, I have had my Granddaughter while my daughter works for the last five years, five days a week so I am doing many of the things I did as a parent. I am here to attest to the fact that it “IS” different and that my parents were correct. They bring something different to a grandparent that they don’t with their parents. She listens to me differently. We are lucky together. Thank you for this lovely comment!

  8. The handing over of techniques learned over time will help your granddaughter blossom in art and spirit. When other artists compare her increasing talents to their works they will be amazed and somewhat overwhelmed that she knows so much at such a young age. Your patience with her and with me as a reader is appreciated. Write on, paint on, and teach her to be even greater than her teacher. Then sit back and smile proudly.

    • I think I remembered you said you are a teacher, Dan. I often see that reflected in the lessons you share through your writing. Also, your last sentence kind of gives that away. Only a teacher can understand the joy, felt, of watching a student surpass their own skills. Thank you for that and your encouragement!

  9. I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than spending time with the grandchildren. I learn more from watching and conversing with them by just allowing them to be who they are. You are a star for the time you spend with your granddaughter creating artwork and allowing her to express herself rather than telling her how to do it. Both paintings are excellent! I love it, as well as the heartfelt story.

    • I see you, too, understand this something special with grandchildren. Thank you for this comment. I pretty much only guide her with how to handle the mediums she wants to work with. The rest she creates on her own, sometimes asking questions. I notice that she watches me a lot and I will, sometimes, describe what I am doing while I work. There have been times when I have seen her try things on her own that I have talked about previously. It is a joy to watch. Thank you for your kind comments.

  10. Thank you Leslie, I was honestly entertained and entranced by your blog, almost as if I was there whilst you both prepared, discussed and decided between yourselves how you would do your drawings. I spent a lot of my childhood with my Grandmother and have always felt that I had a special bond, a loving and understanding one which has served me well through my growing life. I feel your granddaughter must count herself so lucky to be able to join in and create with an understanding and patient person such as yourself. I actually experienced a glow of happiness at the loving bond you two share. (and what a couple of lovely Watercolours too) xPenx

    • Thank you for sharing about your relationship with your Grandmother. I do feel there is a special bond that develops between grandparents and their grandchildren, especially when a lot of time is shared together. Oh, it would be so much fun to have a video of her walking around the table and eyeing each glass object, individually; and her questions were so right on! I could only use words and am not the writer that you are. Thank you for this comment. I hoped I wrote clearly about what took place.

  11. Both still lifes are fantastic! I especially appreciate the granddaughter’s Matisse-like take on the subject. Quite a talent you are growing there, Leslie. The wise way you are approaching the watering and feeding this talent is producing visible results already. I’d love to fast-forward 20 years to take a peek on what she will be painting then.

    • I took time out, before answering your comment, Alex, to study Matisse and Matisse-like images. Thank you. That helps give vision to what my Granddaughter was doing. I knew I had read about artists taking the approach my Granddaughter took to this exercise, of studying each object individually and all around for their likenesses; and arranging them in some sort of order. That helps me to store information to inspire my students as well as her and MYSELF! Oh how I hope I am around in 20 years, too, to see if she will include creating art as one of the activities to explore the world around her. Right now, in quiet times she gravitates to her sketch book and colored pencils. Thank you for your praise of what we are doing, here. 🙂

  12. What a wonderful learning/teaching moment. thank you for sharing this. I think both paintings are awesome. I too, went to look a Matisse and found this site You may find it interesting. 🙂

    • THANK YOU! I am so glad you took the time to find that! There will be no end to new ideas for us, so big hugs to you, Louise. We will do that cut paper project, too. She loves to use scissors and glue.
      Thank you also for your positive comment for our work! Now, I must go and look at some more of that blog you found! 🙂

  13. That sure is wonderful to be able to share such things with the younger generations huh… I’m still very much at the sharing stage with my kids at the moment, but nothing gives me more pleasure than when one of mine develops a common interest… and my eldest (11) loves to come out with me on photography expeditions… She’s also got an eye for art too, but takes some encouragement when what she draws / paints / photographs doesn’t look (in her opinion) quite as good as dads… She enjoys it though, and with a little more encouragement will be quite the artist…

    Love both the paintings here.. and it’s so funny that your granddaughter wanted to “see” the bottles while she was drawing them… It’s great that she’s not tied down with rules and the like yet… How old is she btw ??…

    • My Granddaughter is 5, Brian. I think the older our children become, the more they want to get to that end-all vision they think they can produce in an hour or two. Now? I think she has that special something that young children seem to possess of being wrapped up in the experience rather than the end result. When I think about it, that is what it is for you and for me, something about the experience and the challenge. Our favorite pasttimes haunt us that way as we search for that perfect picture. I hope that is where I can serve some purpose if she decides this is something she would like to continue. I can always talk to her about that. I remember your post sharing about your daughter and I think she is doing great! I don’t mind you passing that on from me to her.
      Thank you for your comment on our paintings, too. It cracked me up to watch her circle the bottles so she could “see” all sides. …and it was really hard to not chuckle when she asked me about the line and if she could have one. 🙂

  14. Yes I think another budding artist in the making Leslie, and what
    a wonderful painting (BOTH)… And may I say that she seems to
    have picked up on your talents very well indeed…

    An excellent posting Leslie and thank you for sharing this one…

    Androgoth Xx

    • Wow, Andro, thank you. I think, as loose and free as her images are, she is going to teach me a thing or two. 🙂

  15. This is an amazing post Leslie.
    Both still lifes are beautiful, so nicely done! I especially love the granddaughter’s Matisse-like take on the subject, great work!
    Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

    Marinela x

    • I will make sure to read your comment to my Granddaughter, Marinela. She will be so pleased! Thank you. 🙂

  16. What a rich experience and fine memories you are building here, a priceless gift. It makes the tears well, and you’ve started her so young, handling all with such love, tenderness, perfection. Thank you for sharing this on your blog. Hugs!

    • I guess it was inevitable that she would want to do this as she comes here, daily, and sees what I am working on or what I have in supplies. Little ones seem to always want to explore what their elders do. This time we have had has been five short years and when I started I thought it would drag. It has been anything but that. One is easier than two and three and four children, so I had the best of everything. Do you sense that I will miss her this fall as I will only have her for two short hours, due to starting school? 🙂 Thank you, Jamie.

  17. How fun! I used to love to do creative things with my nieces and nephews when they were little. One of them told me that they loved me because I was like a big sister that never grew up. I’ll always remember that as one of the greatest compliments I ever received. Thanks for sharing this and reminding me of the important stuff!

    • Oh my, YES! Those are the greatest compliments, Beth. They are the driving force that pushes us to share more, I think. You are a free spirit. I see it in all that you do. It’s wonderful how the important stuff just seems to creep in there no matter what we share. Thank you!

  18. What a lovely relationship you have with your grand daughter Leslie – I feel privileged that you have shared this little vignette with us! And also, what a talented little girl! I love the abstract shapes and colours she has used – definitely ‘a chip of the old block’ (as we say in England 🙂 )

    • We say that saying, here, in the US, also. I think that was something our forefathers brought over with them? You help with all I try to share with her, Lynda. You have providedme with a rich take on art and their different forms and the different artists. I thank you for that and this comment.

  19. I just LOVE both of these ! You are a fabulous Grandma!!

  20. I know nothing about painting techniques, but I was fascinated by your account of these parallel creations. Can we expect to see other pairs of grandpainting down the road?

    Steve Schwartzman

    • Love your word “grandpainting”, Steve! I see you are what I would call a wordsmith, fashioning the new from the old. I’ll share this idea of grandpainting down the road and maybe you have coined something that will spread around. Your photography? Wow. You bring meaning and life to wildflowers. I am not a flower person but was fascinated with your imagery that digs into the abstract and the soul of them. Thank you for your visit and your comment. “grandpainting”, fantastic.

      • I was looking for a word that would apply to the people in a grandmother-granddaughter relationship in the same way that sibling applies to brother and/or sister relationships, but I don’t think English has one. But what the words grandmother and granddaughter have in common is the grand, so I attached that to the activity you shared and came up with grandpainting. It has something of the ring of grandparenting, which I don’t think existed till relatively recently but is becoming common. Maybe you and your granddaughter can have a grandpainting exhibit at a galley some time

        Thanks for your kind comments on my photography. I’m really happy that you “get” my approach of delving into the abstract and the soul of native plants.

      • I love the idea of a grandpainting exhibit, Steve. Thank you.
        On the topic of flowers. I don’t spend much time with them. You have shown me, through your photography, where I wasn’t “seeing”. This may open new doors for me, in time, if I visit enough and let what you portray begin to filter in.

  21. Grandma and granddaughter are both excellent artists. I love how you are teaching her and letting her have her own vision while encouraging her to paint and draw.

    • As you know, there is never a dull moment when we are adventuring into something. She has been better for me than anything I could do for her, truth be known. In time she has adjusted my vision and I am sure there is more to come, Ha! Thank you, Carol.

  22. dear leslie,

    what an inspiring post you have here! i wish i could be that child learning so much from you in a splendid, loving and non-possessive way. she is indeed blessed to have you in her early life wherein she will value art as her evolving lifestyle. her painting is absolutely gorgeous and i could feel the genius is like a pheonix rising. absolutely great, great, great! 🙂

    • Wow….speechless to your comment about “phoenix rising”, Marvin. Thank you so very much. You have made my day that much brighter. I was just saying to Carol that my Granddaughter has probably taught me more than I will ever be able to teach her.

  23. Hi Leslie!

    It’s been a while since I’ve commented on your blog – a long while! I’ve visited from time to time, and as always I have enjoyed your works very much. I just had to tell you (and I hope you are not offended by this) that your granddaughter seems to be just as good an artist as your are. I think her painting is wonderful, the color of the glasses is enchanting. I’d love to hang this on my wall at home, looking at it every day!

    • Heavens no.I am not offended atall. I have framed three of her pieces and she teaches me so much. This sharing we do is good for both of us. I thank you for this visit, Camilla, and I shared your comment with my Granddaughter. Wish you could have heard her say, “Really?” and see her grin. You made two people very happy with your visit to this blog today. Thank you.

  24. This is such a beautiful, caring story. Your wisdom and care in this matter of coaching your grandaughter is quite breathtaking. The guide watches and learns from the learner. Thank you for telling this story. I love both of your works.

    • This was one of our last projects, Stephen, before she started Kindergarten. I hope to have her for a block of time to continue our work together. We have such fun. Thank you!

  25. Hey Leslie – I have posted this on my twitter page – it is such a wonderful illustration of how the learning process should work. I hope that is OK with you. If not I will take it off. Also. I would like to create a link to this posting from one I wrote on setting a task for someone. May I do this? All the best – Stephen

    • Of course it is perfect that you share this! I often like to think that that is the true purpose of this blogging that I do; to share so others might get an idea and try something too! Thank you for helping me to spread the fun! 🙂

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  1. […] My Granddaughter and I recently spent a Saturday, together, working on an art project. I am beginning a watercolor and rice paper collage class and my Granddaughter remembered that we had done this together once before. […]

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