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Tag Archives: childrens’ art


The paintings, above, are gouache resists. It is a process involving the use of ink, white gouache and watercolor. I enjoy experimenting with all sorts of images when I create these. They all turn out different. If you would like to try this I have a tutorial here.

My Grandchildren have been back and forth this summer sharing all sorts of activities with me. This summer I taught them how to grid a portrait from a photo reference, size their format for proper dimensions and grid their watercolor paper to help them draw their Dad’s.

The following is what they came up with.

9 year old

The photo reference for the above portrait was from a Christmas photo.

10 year old

The above photo is the same Dad as the 9 year old’s but at a recent rock concert (making a funny face).

11 year old

Photo taken at rock concert.

I was amazed how easily they caught on to gridding and how happy they were when they saw they could see where to put their drawing lines in relation to the grid lines. They needed very little help from me. Noses and mouths were what they needed help with, but not much. We used a very simple grid and  divided the paper into 9 sections. I have described how to do this in this post. It was a great exercise in math. They were able to see how math can be important in everyday activities. Children soak things like this up so quickly!


7 yr old

7 yr old

8 yr old

8 yr old

9 yr old

9 yr old

I have been spending the week with my three grandgirls again and it has been chock full of summertime fun. We used the rain day to settle in and draw and paint. The above is what they came up with. They each selected a reference they liked from wet canvas reference library and set to work drawing them and then tracing over their lines with the “Elegant Writer” I have been experimenting with.

Next, they activated the ink lines with a large round watercolor brush filled with water. The next day, they painted in their scenes. All three girls really liked working with this pen and want to do it again. It is great for talking about lights and darks with children. I also think it is a pretty good introductory exercise for teaching watercolor.

I always look forward to seeing what the girls come up with. I do have to help them with seeing angles of lines and widths of things. I talk about shapes and that it is sometimes better to break their subject into shapes and show them that the space between the animals legs or between the bars on the canoes is a shape. I try not to confuse them with too many technical terms all at once, but we did talk about shape, negative space and dark and light this time.

paytonsabner    6 yr

sedonashorses  7 yr

polarbear 8 yr

The above paintings were painted by my three Granddaughters this past weekend. Yes, I have created watercolors and drawings with them since they were little. Their Mothers have also encouraged them with their art. One thing I did not do, however, was purchase less expensive paints, brushes and paper for them to use. I find many of the student grade papers and paints uninspiring, often resulting in dull colors, brush hairs falling out into paintings and paper that tears or won’t hold up to multiple glazes or layers.

All three of them begged me to be able to paint and helped me to tape their paper to the board. The oldest ran for my pile of photo references. They used to select pictures from their coloring books that were easier to draw but would have none of that this time. The 6 chose a portrait of Abner, my daughter’s dog, the 7 chose a photo of my daughters three horses and mini donkey, and the 8 chose a photo of a polar bear! I said, “Are you sure you can do these?”  The 8 said, “Yes. We can draw them by feeling the edges of the lines while we draw!”  They have all practiced drawing with a continuous line, before. I helped a little, but not a lot! Mostly just to point out an angle of a line or a bump on a horse knee or jaw. The drawing of the polar bear was totally unassisted! I cautioned them about rinsing their brushes before they went back into the palettes for their colors and that was all she wrote. They were off and painting!

Insert, here, praise for their art teachers. The conversation around the table started to revolve around what their art teachers had taught them in school. One Granddaughter stating that her teacher taught her that a painting was just lines, shapes and then add color! Another said her teacher had told her to use bright color and another talked about her teacher teaching them to use the whole page.

And they didn’t get bored! Thank you to all those Moms and Art Teachers out there who recognize the value of creativity for our children.  They may never make a living creating art, but they are learning skills that will stick with them a lifetime about exploring, creating and making choices. Plus! They will have one more thing they can enjoy doing in their free time!




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.


My intent was to begin with a cruciform design created with washes of wet-in-wet watercolor.


Next, I experimented with different rice papers and tore them into strips and glued them to the surface of my paper, dividing my page into foreground, middleground and background areas. I made the glue from 3 parts acrylic matte medium stirred in with 1 part water. The glue should be runny, not thick. I am careful to not use too much glue in this process and try to keep it just on the papers. If it is allowed to pool in puddles around the papers, it dramatically changes the look of how the paint sits on untouched portions of the watercolor. paper.  I wait for the paper to dry or dry it with a hair dryer prior to moving on to the next step.


In the above step, I went back into the painting with color. I was careful to use colors I had already used in order to avoid too much muddying. I began to envision a large rock formation in the upper right quadrant. I could see a shape, in the distance, that could serve as another rock formation and enhance the depth of the landscape.


I knew I needed to develop a foreground and middleground for the distant rock formations. I mixed a dark from the greens and reds I’d used for my initial washes and began to carve out the lower edges of the rice papers. I did this in strips, thinking about the striations of rock.  I allowed this to dry before moving on.


I painted in the two rock formations in the background and darkened the the greens between them. I decided the foreground area was too large and bland and needed something to enhance depth. I glued down more textured rice papers in abstract tree or shrub-like shapes. You can see them, faintly in the foreground and middleground of this step. I again waited for the paper to dry.

redrockcollage finished piece

For the final step, I painted these shrubs and trees using my darkest darks, created from the reds and greens I’d used for lining the striations.

My Granddaughter liked many of Gerald Brommer’s compositions she viewed in his book on this subject. She decided to draw a distant house and paint and create a pretty colored foreground to the house.


She drew her house and stream and painted large washes of greens, various shades, into the foreground. She painted her blue wash for the sky, and while the wash was still wet, dropped in some yellowy-green wash behind the house to attract attention to it.


She then glued down all types of rice papers in torn shapes and glued them to her foreground green washes. She had more fun choosing all the different papers and glueing them down. She was pressed for time, so she dried this with a hair dryer.

houseinfield finished piece

Then, she painted her foreground area with colors she chose from my palette. She painted in her stream and used colored pencil on her house in the background. Oh! She outlined the house and the windows with a black sharpie.  My Granddaughter is seven.  I am always amazed by a child’s ability to create.

The above process takes time, so don’t rush yourself if you should try this. I enjoy the freedom and the shove to explore that the rice papers bring to a painting.

More posts using rice papers can be found here.

  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.




I have been visiting  two blogs that post beautiful watercolors on a surface called Masa paper.   Here is an example of one of Susan Cornelius paintings on her blog titled Conversations with the MuseThe other paintings  have been on Myrna Wacknov’s blog  titled Creativity Journey.

My next step was to go in search of a good tutorial that outlined the steps I would need to take to create a Masa paper painting as I could not attend either of these artists’ workshops.  I found a good description on Jeanette Jobson’s blog here.

My Granddaughter had been asking me if she could do another art project with me and I thought that she might enjoy the idea of crumpling and wetting a piece of paper, re-opening it and painting on the surface. I did have to help her quite a bit with the process, but she enjoyed every bit of the crumpling , soaking , painting, and glueing.

   Granddaughter’s Masa painting

   Grandma’s Masa Self Portrait

I am currently working on another and taking step-by-step photos of the process and will post that as soon as it is finished for those of you that would like to try this.  Until then, Jeanette’s directions are very adequate to follow. The only thing I am finding is that my drawings are washing off when I crumple the paper and wet it. I can’t draw dark enough for the image to survive all that. I suppose I could use waterproof ink for the drawing but may want to lose edges in the final stages of the painting. I may decide to do the drawings after I have the toned masa paper mounted on the watercolor paper. I like the idea of using this crumpled and toned Masa for collage or just for another surface to create drawings and paintings and other collage work on.  Endless possibilities!

Today my Granddaughter and I worked on another painting idea from The Usborne Complete Book of Art by Fiona Watt.  We changed it up a bit, and added a watercolor wash to our paintings as well as a little wax resist but the technique with the acrylic paint came from her idea in the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone’s art library,  young and old alike.

The first thing we did was to draw a ground line across the bottom of our paper (140 lb Arches coldpress)  about one fifth up from the bottom.  We decided to include a moon or sun in our cityscape and traced a circle using the bottom of a small spray bottle. We then colored that in, applying pressure,  with a white crayon to act as a resist to the following wash. We then created our watercolor wash using two colors.  We thoroughly wet the paper, first, with a one inch flat brush and then fed in two colors. My Granddaughter used diox violet and cerulean blue in the wash pictured above. She stroked in her colors one next to the other (one inch flat brush) and tilted her board so the two colors would run and mix  together. We were careful to wipe up any water and pigment surrounding the edges of the paper so they would not run back into this wash, creating blossoms.

While we waited for this wash to dry we:

Cut out different widths of corrugated cardboard strips about 3 to 4 inches in length to be used as our brushes……

Chose to use our set of heavy body acrylics

and layed out the tubes on some paper towels with their respective caps above them so we did not mix tube caps when we went to store them away. She chose the colors brilliant blue, phthalo blue, diox purple and white.

In the next step, we squeezed out short ribbons of the four colors, in no particular order, along that ground line we had drawn earlier.  We then picked up a cardboard strip and used it like a brush, dragging the ribbon of acrylic upward.  We worked this way moving from the left side of the paper to the right to avoid getting our arm in the paint. Lefthanded artists may wish to work right to left.  As we did this, we changed our cardboard strips from wide to narrow to create variations in the shapes and heights of our future buildings.  We discussed things about light and dark, tall and short and if we needed to change a color or two in areas that looked too boring. 

We also pulled some of the pigment below the groundline.  This stage was then allowed to dry completely.

                                              Granddaughter’s Finished Cityscape

The final step was to take black and white acrylic and paint with the edges and corners of the cardboard to furthur define our paintings.  I was amazed at my Granddaughter’s creativity at this stage. She talked about what was the road and when she was painting windows. She created a walkway between buildings.  When she saw me put in a streak of white at a diagonal she decided she needed one, also, and reached for a wider section of cardboard and did it.  This was a  fun and creative afternoon for the two of us and I can envision so many other scenes that can be created this way. The book gives an example of painting a castle.

                                                      Grandma’s Finished Cityscape 

Grandma’s colors were bronze yellow, cadmium yellow medium hue and cadmium red light hue.  The watercolor wash was aureolin and halloween orange.

 click to enlarge

Yesterday it snowed all day.  To celebrate the occasion, my Granddaughter and I sat down to do an art project. I recently purchased a wonderful book titled “ The Usborne Complete Book of ART Ideas” by Fiona Watt. My Granddaughter has paged through it, daily, and selected exercises she has wanted to try. She is 4 and a half (it is important to note the half, she says).  She has been fascinated with drawing homes and buildings, lately.  One section had a lovely example of city buildings that could be rendered using wax resist and watercolor and she asked if she could do that. We, first drew rectangles in pencil using a ruler and discussing the shapes we were creating. Yes. I have to help her hold the ruler and guide her. This is an exercise that I sit right next to her and help her with as she goes and is one that we do a little and come back to. Her attention span is back and forth. She then colored in the rectangles with different colored crayons and added the moon and the stars with crayons. In the next step, we mixed a large amount of prussian blue  watercolor and another container with a large amount of harvest gold (quin gold). She covered the sky and a portion of the buildings with prussian blue and finished the buildings with harvest gold using a large flat watercolor brush. We then allowed that to dry.  In the next step, she looked at the reference in the book and drew in her windows, doors, steps, and fences using a black crayon. To finish our snow day painting, she spattered the snow in with a round brush and white acrylic gesso.

After she went home, I decided to paint my own “snow day” painting.

One of my students  loaned a book to me that had a technique in it that I had not tried before. He thought I might like to see what I could do with it. Thank-you, Henn!  The book is “Painting Buildings in Watercolor”  by Ranulph Bye.  To enhance texture in brick and cobblestone and stone, he uses a technique with oil paint and turpentine.  He masks off everything that he does not want to texture with frisket paper. He then mixes three colors of oil paint with turpentine and splatters each color separately onto a pre-wet (with water) area that he wishes to texture. I do not have oil paints but have waterbased oils and turpenoid. I decided to texture an entire piece of watercolor paper using this technique. I mixed, separately, prussian blue, raw sienna, and sepia with some turpentine and splattered them onto my pre wet 140 lb coldpressed watercolor paper.  I took it one step further and dragged my flat brush through the paint splatters. The above is what I achieved. Believe me, this is horrendous compared to the beautiful texture that the author of the above book achieved. I liked it, though, and saw a painting wanting to be brought forward.  I went in search of  winter landscape photo references on wet canvas and came up with two that I liked that I thought had compositions similar to what I saw in my splatters.

 click to enlarge

The above is the painting that came from my textured paper . What I really liked about this is the fog was already there due to the texturing and I just filled in all the negative shapes that were darker in value.  I splattered titanium white watercolor with a toothbrush to finish.