I’ve talked about why the opportunity for process-based art is so important for kids (part 1, part 2, part 3) and about how making time and space for a family art habit was so valuable for not just my children, but for myself. Unsurprisingly, process-based creativity is important for adults, too. But I hear, and read, a lot of adults who just don’t know where to begin. What kind of paper? What kind of paints? What do we do with them? And most of all, “I can’t draw. I can’t paint. I can’t teach my kids art.”
If you have endured the typical education that marginalized the arts; if you were discouraged early on from pursuing anything creative; if you internalized the idea that art “wasn’t for you;” or if you’ve simply never had an interest…if any of these reasons, or others, have left you lacking in confidence that you can start an art habit with your children as an adult, I’m going to argue that you can. I received no encouragement in art from any teacher from kindergarten through high school, at which point I was told not to take anything more than the one semester of art required to graduate, because the Bs I received in art would lower my GPA. Somehow, despite that, I persevered in thinking of myself as a creative person, and when I found myself pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was already paying tuition and take an art class too.
In retrospect, I was pretty brave to sign up for that class. I think I even recognized that at the time. I felt kind of inadequate, but determined. And that class’s professor encouraged me to the extent that I ended up minoring in art. In my drawing classes, I often had to work for three or four times longer than the other students to get the results I wanted, but I loved sinking into the activity, even though it was hard work for me. I remember spending the better part of an entire Saturday drawing a skeleton. It felt like minutes. I believe this was the first time in my life I experienced flow, finding such joy and meaningful concentration in hard work.
I’m telling you: You are capable enough right now to sit down and make art alongside your kids (even if you think you can’t). If it only takes one person’s encouragement and that person hasn’t shown up in your life yet, I will be that person for you, if you’ll let me. Make some space, make some time, because we’re going to make this a habit. I’ll be here every Wednesday. You can join in at any point—just remember to start where you are.
This week’s task is simple. Think about joining me and spread the word, if you feel moved to do so. Check out my (new) materials page, where I’ve shared some of my favorite art supplies to have on hand. These are not necessary to begin, so please don’t feel overwhelmed. I’ll be back next week with a simple activity to get us started (and I promise it uses at-hand, everyday materials). I hope to see you here again next week.
Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a world of good.
— Cennino Cennini