Art & Crafts · Craft Projects · How To · My Art

Make Professional Artwork With Kids [Seriously!]

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About a year ago I poured a bottle of white primer over two of my paintings, completely erasing them from the face of the earth… and it felt GREAT. I hated those paintings. I made them when we lived in our own house… which we lost… for Charlie’s nursery… which never came to fruition (none of our kids ever had a bedroom until we moved to this apartment)… and every time I saw those damn depressing gigantic stupid canvases I wanted to punch them. Or burn them. Or cry.

…So I hid them away.

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One of the doomed paintings. Goodbye sheep and rocks!

It was almost six years ago that I locked them away in storage. In the time since then we lost several more jobs, moved numerous times and eventually landing in our current apartment. At the time it was almost entirely unfurnished and I started working extra vigilantly on writing product reviews so we could afford to buy decor and add some color to our cold, empty, sterile abode. I spent days wracking my brain to think of something “creative” (aka free) to paint and hang in lieu of expensive canvases (pallets? cardboard?) … then I realized that I already *had* expensive canvases.

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Clean slate. Here’s to new beginnings!

Being a typical boring white-walled, beige-carpeted apartment, I really wanted to add punches of color to each room. In the living room I chose to use turquoise and yellow accents and I knew the paintings would be detrimental in establishing the theme. I also knew I wanted to paint a subject matter related to nature …and that there was no possible way I would be able to pull off such a big project unless I got the kids involved.

Supplies

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Exactly the kind of stuff kids like to be involved with.

Once I’d made a game plan, I picked up some $0.99 acrylic craft paints (in black, yellow and three shades of turquoise), a big bottle of acrylic gel medium, a bottle of clear polyurethane and a couple packs of cheap brushes. Then I stripped the boys down and put them to work.

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It begins…

Prep

And yes, I strongly suggest stripping the kids down and covering any surfaces you want to protect. Acrylic is permanent once it dries. If it happens to get on clothes, immediately work some dish soap into the fabric and rinse with cold water (while the paint is still wet) to reduce the chance of staining.

Turquoise Background (Base) Color 

For this project, I poured each shade of turquoise into its own disposable container (old yogurt and butter containers are perfect!), added a squirt of gel medium to each one and thoroughly mixed. The boys were each given one of the containers and a foam brush. I told them to paint “big giant spots” until the whole canvas was covered and no white was showing (even on the sides of the canvas). Because they each worked with one color at a time, on different edges of the canvas, we avoided the typical “all the colors mixed together to make one clumpy color” effect that my kids usually produce when painting.

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Charlie adding some finishing touches to the first coat.

Once the canvases were completely covered, I put lids on the paint containers and let the paintings dry overnight. Then we repeated the process.

For the second coat (and each additional coat) I added another squirt of gel medium to each container and mixed it in before starting.This makes the paint slightly more transparent with each layer, giving a translucent ethereal effect… and also masks little fingerprints and imperfect brush strokes, making them look like an intentional texture!

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It’s all about the gel medium!

I told the boys to find the spots that are the same color as their paint container and “color them in again”. I also showed them that it’s okay to go a little over the edges onto the other colors to make sure the entire canvas is covered for each coat.

We did a total of five coats of paint, allowing them to dry overnight each time.

Add Black Branches

The next step was my biggest contribution to the project: Branches!

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Yes, I’m lazy and propped the canvas up on the empty paint bottle instead of covering the table again. I’ve had a lot of practice painting though.

I used a round detail brush and black acrylic paint (no gel medium!) for the branches. To get that uneven “branch” texture for each twig, gently twirl the brush in your hand as you paint each stroke. Take your time though. Don’t rush.

Yellow Fingerprint Blossoms

The baby needed to make her contribution to the project too. The solution: blossoms! …Fingerprint blossoms.

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My big hands, directing her teeny tiny little fingers.

Evie loved being involved, even if it took three days of fingerprinting her with yellow paint. It was the perfect punch of color though.

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Before and after baby fingers.

Clear Coat

Once the fingerprint blossoms were allowed to dry overnight, I covered both canvases entirely with a clear semi-gloss polyurethane protective coat. A simple acrylic clear coat would work well too, but I had some polyurethane left over from a previous project. I did two coats on each painting, allowing them to dry thoroughly in between applications.

Done and Done!

In the end, the entire project took just over a week, but the paintings look incredibly good hanging in our living room. The kids are extremely proud of them too, jumping in to explain how they made them themselves whenever a visitor compliments our artwork.

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These pictures don’t really do justice to the vivid colors (there was a bit of a glare) but I can assure you that they are stunning. If anyone tries this project, I’d love to see your interpretation. What colors did you choose? What subject? The branches turned out great but the potential options are endless. I’m considering doing a variation of this project for our kitchen too, in shades of lime green and yellow. Not sure of the subject yet though. Let me know what you think in the comments though!

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