Why I Feel Easels Are Vital For Young Artists!

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Captain standing at her easel with her painting titled “Sunset Della” June 2012

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Painting outside 

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This is a painting she made for me back in November, 2010 when she was 3 years old.  Because she was outside painting, she got inspired to add walnut leaves and pistachio shells, which give it terrific dimension.  I love it!

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Painting outdoors rocks!

ART FREEDOM!!!!  OH YES, LET THESE KIDS HAVE THEIR ART AND EAT IT TOO! (Okay, maybe just a little taste…..)

I was given an artist’s easel many years ago and it sat in my closet unhappily gathering dust. Well, my daughter, Captain, has been interested in art and painting and creating since she was 18 months old. I realized early that she needed to touch and use everything that was safe for her right from the beginning. That is when I made my commitment to let her artistic freedom go wild and I would be the one to run along after her and gather up the pieces. I also realized that it would be my responsibility to be sure she was exposed to many new ideas and techniques. Voila! That was all it took.

When Captain was about 2 1/2, I pulled the easel out of the closet and set it up for her. It sighed in relief and stretched its legs. It is a French-style easel, with adjustable legs, and it was pretty easy to drop it down into the right level for her. It was amazing! Someone commented to me that it seemed a little “advanced” to set up a “real” easel for a kid that age, but they were wrong. Why would I try to “control” her desires to create her own artwork, or think that I somehow know something more about it than she does, simply because I’m an adult?  Bulls@&t!  I say let them have it all, as long as they are ready to handle it and WANT it, whether it be age 2 or 92!  I also gave her (safe) scissors at a very early age and she never cut off her finger or stabbed herself in the eye.  I practice good parenting (I think) in that I supervised these new things.  I certainly don’t have to do that now.  Captain is 5 and does her own thing.  She comes up with amazing projects all on her own and has an artist’s secrecy many times while she is working.  We have provided her with an indoor small oak table with shelves to work indoors and outside is at her discretion. You can see this simple, effective set-up here.

Now, back to the easels.  I truly believe that sitting down at a table and drawing and painting is a very good thing for many projects.  However, there is something incredible that happens when an artist of any age can be standing up, their paper or canvas right where they want it, and at a good angle.  We hold the brushes in different ways when we are standing. We can be outside or in, and can find inspiration in different ways than sitting down.  Kids feel special when they stand (or wiggle and bop) at an easel. Try setting up an easel for your kid and turn on their favorite music, or something culturally different than what they have heard before. Paint to African drumming, Scottish clan chants, or grab some Tito Puente and go for it.  It rocks!!!

Or, how about a little quiet outdoor nook, where the sounds of the wind sway in the trees and you suddenly notice a robin jumping across the grass?

My point is, that it is so worth it to provide kids with good materials from the start.  You are wondering how much one of these easels might cost? Well, the prices can start at shockingly reasonable and shoot skyward from there.  I do have a few suggestions:

A very affordable, wooden desk easel: Art Alternatives Marquis Desk Easel sells for $15 on Amazon.  It is a desk model so it can be used inside too, and folds up nicely.  It doesn’t have legs so it would have to be placed on a chair, stump or something else for standing outdoors.

I prefer “adult” easels that are adjustable, as anyone can use them and they “grow” with the kids.  These start at about $70 and are everywhere online.  Melissa & Doug make a Standing Easel for $59 on Amazon.

Both Amazon and Costco-online sell the Kid Kraft brand easels that are super cute, quite sturdy, and they have storage space too. They run from $97-129. Scan Craig’s list, ebay, and whatever other local sources you have to find them for good prices.  Again, it is SO worth it!!

I also have one last, quick recommendation.  You can buy “kids” paintbrushes everywhere, but I find that a set of the “real” brushes, in varying sizes and styles, is way better, and often cost the same or even less than the kid ones.  I have been buying Artist’s Loft basics brushes at Michael’s Craft stores for years.  They come in sets of 12 for about 6 bucks and are terrific!

If I could, I would start a foundation to buy, and deliver, easels, paints and brushes to kids all over the world.  I just want them to have a chance to create with good quality “ingredients” in a world where the focus on the arts in everyday life seems to be dwindling.  I would like to throw out big kudos to all of the art teachers, artists, parents, and others that are keeping the freedom of artistic expression alive for kids.  They are the now AND the future, and they have so much to say….

A big, drippy, colorful palette of good thoughts to all!

Karen

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Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Why I Feel Easels Are Vital For Young Artists!

  1. Charlotte

    Love it – suddenly thought how nice it would be to take the kids for an amble, picnic and a bit of a paint. You know I’m a big fan of art freedom for kids so I’m all for this (we have one of those little cheapie blackboard/whiteboard sandwich boards atm so each kid has a side with butchers paper – but I’ve got easles on the wish list!). When we run out of shack walls I think I’ll encourage some artist’s gardening and break out the watercolours…I especially love raindrop painting – where you paint and then put the painting out in the rain for a moment and see what the rain paints (you can use powdered paint too). Do you paint as well? I hope so 🙂

    • Charlotte, I love to hear from you and love your perspective on art, kids, and well life for that matter. We are delighted to rain-paint!! Had not thought of something so fun on a rain day. We are due for more drops here in the Sierra and are waiting patiently to run out with our works to let Mama Nature add her flavor. Terrific idea! I will be honest in answering our question as to whether or not I paint. Frankly, for all those years before my daughter was born, I was afraid to try. I stupidly thought that art was for all those “other” people who knew what they were doing. When I had Captain, I began drawing things for her and then copying images, made from bits of paper, of things to put in the window to entertain her. I became fearless and will now try anything. It might sound very lame that perhaps I wasted so many years out of fear, but embracing my own creativity now, in my late 30’s early 40’s, has been life changing and I’ve never looked back. Funny that you asked as I’ve been working in a post about this :). Take good care Charlotte, and best of things with the new house construction. If you make it to the states, you must come visit Sequoia Forest!
      Good thoughts, Karen

      • Charlotte

        So many people (most parents tbh) tell me they gave up creative pursuits when they had kids, it is always great to hear the opposite occuring.
        Creativity is so lacking in the schooling here that I must admit I revell in adding a dash (or a ton) to pretty much every part of home life…oh and it depends on how messy you want to get but you can use pretty much anything to paint…we’ve disovered that riding your bike through paint and across paper (or the floor) makes awesome tracks lol
        I do want to visit the US sometime – I am so badly educated on it that I am going to have to go look up Sequoia Forest – just the name sounds magic though 🙂

  2. So true! Kids love to stand while creating. Just watch them at a table, they usually end up standing up! An easel provides a new perspective and movement. We have these great things at the museum called drawing horses. Basically, it’s a bench that you straddle like a horse and it has a board that you clip your paper onto. The kids love when we bring them out.

    You are also so right about having good materials. Bad materials can frustrate a kid just like they can frustrate an adult! I am also so glad to see you talking about scissors. Too many parents are fearful of giving them to kids. I talk about it in one of my posts too.

    Nice post!

    http://careyhernandez.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks so much! I love Behind The Marble Walls and respect your work so much. My daughter would FLIP for a drawing horse. I will take a peek and perhaps tackle an attempt to build one. I love your ideas!
      Good thoughts, Karen

  3. Well, you’ve inspired me! My daughter LOVES to draw, color, paint, etc. We have very limited space indoors, but I’m seriously thinking about an easel as her “big” present for her summer birthday, so she can work on her art outdoors. Thanks very much for the suggestions and links to specific brands!

    • Oh yay! I hope she loves it as much as Captain does! Thanks for writing, and happy, happy summer birthday!

  4. Both my boys are into art and I also let them go for it. They love the full body experience so we roll out long sheets of paper and they use their brushes, hands, and feet. Yes, it’s definitely a summer thing. I may get an easel for the indoor painting. You have certainly made a good case for it.

    • I can only remember one time when we used our feet… a great reminder to “go for it” all the way. Thanks!

  5. The colours in those paintings are just gorgeous! Thanks for sharing – those are some talented kiddos 🙂

  6. YES YES YES. I’m still new to the mama gig, my boy is 2 and #2 is on the way, but it amazes me how so many things about parenting we’re encouraged NOT to let our kids get really stuck into. Why is that? Because it’s messy? Challenges our ideas of how kids are supposed to be?

    As a formally trained artist myself, I swore even before having kids that I would give them free-reign and proper tools. My son and I enjoy doing relief printmaking together at the kitchen table. It’s good for him, and it’s good for me. I’m going to go dig out my easel, you’ve inspired me.

    BTW – your daughter is just about the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!

    • Stacey, Oh yeah to messiness, art and some slow food at the end of the day! I am so happy to hear that your son (and #2 in no time!) dive in together, and relief printmaking… we WANT to try this!! Any chance you’ll be posting about some of your projects? I think one of the most amazing things that a parent can do is to have art in their lives. That you are formally trained, and obviously in good spirit, will be fantastic for your kids. To grow up with the freedom to create…. ahh! Dig out that easel and take good care of yourself. I look forward to reading more from The Slow Foods Mama! Thanks so much for writing!
      Karen
      p.s. Thank you for the compliment to my kiddo- she’s a hoot to boot 🙂

      • Ya know, she looks it. She has a twinkle in her eye!

        Honestly I’ve never thought about writing about our art-making, but I will.

        My concentrations for my BFA were drawing and printmaking and I had a lovely mentor in a friend’s grandfather – you might be able to find some of his writing out there – his name was Bob Steele and he wrote extensively on the importance of drawing – real, free drawing for kids, specifically as part of language development. I see you homeschool so you might find his writing interesting, if you can’t find anything I can scan some and send it to you. He was so inspiring.

        Anyway, yes we have a messy house, but thankfully farm life is conducive to messy, loud living. 🙂 I tell him that being grubby is a sign that we had a good day! Printmaking is just MADE for kids, all we use is a printmaking roller and the back of a wooden spoon (which is exactly what I used in university!) For little kids, mono prints with dish soap and water colour is fun, as is relief printing with foam – either cut outs or soft styrofoam / insulation / relief drawing material that you can get at the art store. We’ve got a couple rainy days coming, you’ve got me inspired!

        Pleased to have met you – you seem a kindred spirit. Looking forward to following your blog. 🙂

      • Stacey, I will definitely look for Bob Steele online. If I can’t find anything, I will let you know and would appreciate a scan. Thanks for letting me know! I love that “being grubby means you had a good day”. Yes, we do seem to be kindred spirits and I hope we can stay in touch. I absolutely MUST explore relief printing with Captain and think it is awesome that you do this with your son. I love all of the things that you mentioned and will be diving in. I do hope that you decide to write about your art experiences, it seems to me that you have a lot to share, even if you are incredibly busy at the moment 🙂
        Take good care and I look forward to keeping in touch,
        Karen

  7. Definitely looks like you have quite the little artist on your hands! Very creative, and it is so important and wonderful that you are encouraging her creativity!

  8. Nice post! I completely agree with you about giving the kids “good” tools to explore their creativity — especially in those areas that they are already drawn to. I think it shows them that you are taking their efforts seriously.

    Also, thanks for the follow. I’m following you as well, and I’m looking forward to more of your posts!

    • I am looking forward to reading more of your posts as well. Thanks for the comment about the good tools for kids too!

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