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