In these strange days of Covid-19 lockdowns, many of us have been thrust into the role of unexpectedly home-schooling our kids, often while trying to meet our own work commitments.
Suddenly, our days stretch in endless expanses before us - locked down in our own homes and trying frantically to come up with ways to educate, entertain, exercise and amuse our kids, all while meeting our own commitments and not turning into chronic daytime drinkers.
Craft is a pretty popular way to keep bored kids entertained, and I know my household has not been the only one bringing out the discount store canvases, scrap books, poster paints and glitter glue almost daily.
Disclaimer: I love all of my kids’ work. Really. One of my favourite things is a collage of my daughters’ finger paintings. I adore their stuff, but I also tend to hang it in my own spaces as opposed to - say - over the mantlepiece in the loungeroom.
As the owner of a wall art business, I have come to realise that what is worthy of the highest honour of all (ie, the mantlepiece hang) differs hugely from person to person. And so, I started contemplating whether it was possible to get my kids art elevated beyond random scrawlings in primary colours and to something a bit more mantle-worthy.
Here are the results of my experiments, in case you’re looking for ways to keep your kids occupied and also save yourself some cash on wall art this lockdown.
Create abstract splatter paintings outdoors
First up, head to your discount store and pick out canvases or paper, acrylic paints and - this is important - palette knives. Be selective with your colours. If you’re anything like me, your house is probably full of primary coloured poster paints (because they wash out, and you can mix them together and make ALL THE COLOURS, right?) But if you’re looking for something to match your own home decor, go and pick a selection of paints you want to see hung together.
You’re also going to need some empty plastic bottles. We used soda water bottles and drilled holes in the top, but using some empty juice popper bottles would be more effective and easier (note to self for next time).
Grab a background colour too - a light grey or other neutral of your choice and - before you get your kids painting their creations, ask them to roll the background colours out over the canvases and leave them to dry first. Now, disclaimer time again, this one needs parental intervention and the paints I used were not your usual washable kids poster paints. Do this somewhere you’re not precious about and put them in old clothes first.
Things are about to get messy.
Lay the canvas on the ground and put some big blobs of paint in the bottles. Add a bit of water, enough to create a reasonably runny but still paint-like consistency. Then, let the kids squirt the colours to their hearts’ contents. Use the palette knives to swirl and whirl the paints around (it gives a chunkier finish than using brushes).
So how did this end up for us? I had my three year old on the job and things were going great until she decided she wanted to just paint everything bright blue...
But older kids would be able to get some great, splattery abstract creations quite easily.
Unleash their inner nature photographer
Letting the kids outdoors with your smart phone may be a terrifying idea, but you’d be surprised the results they can get (depending on their age, of course). If you don’t have flowers at home, just taking a walk around your neighbourhood will usually be enough to find some gorgeous blooms. Let your kids loose with your phone and use portrait mode (if your phone has it).
When they get down underneath the blooms and point the camera up, you can create some interesting effects against the bright lights of the sky behind.
At the very least, it should keep them busy for a while and you might end up with some gorgeous floral art, free of charge.
You can print these and frame them with discount store frames for an affordable option, or get them printed by a photos to canvas printing service for something you can keep for a lifetime.
Hit the op shops
Ok, in these days of COVID, this may not be recommended - so check what the rules are first in your state. But, op shops are a total treasure trove of unloved and unwanted art pieces. You can buy canvses or framed prints for next to nothing. Bring them home and get the kids splatter painting again, or ask them to paint over the top. You’ll end up with some edgy and impressive masterpieces for a pittance.
Buy canvases that come with floating frames
A floating frame is a simple way to elevate a kids’ artwork to the realms of contemporary abstract masterpiece! EVERYTHING looks better in a floating frame. You can save yourself the trouble of getting your canvases framed after by buying craft canvases in sizes that have floating frames already made to fit off the shelf. Spotlight has a nice selection.
If you’re handy, you can also make your own floating frames by buying floating frame lengths (available at Bunnings) to finish your pieces.
Get your kids doing online art lessons
Depending on the age of your kids, getting them to follow some instructions in their creations can be a great way to get results you’ll all love. Search You Tube for simple painting lessons, set up a laptop or iPad in view of your painting space and let them go. Here’s a simple one I found, which relies on the same acrylic paints and palette knives I got at the discount store for the first project.