Art Journaling for Kids + Teens

 

"The artist must possess
the courageous soul
that dares and defies."
Kate Chopin

We are art role models. 
I want to share with you examples of art journaling that kids can do on loose paper or in a bound journal. My kids started art journaling simply by playing around with the art materials that I had on the table. And that is really what it is all about - playing with art materials. Focus on the playing and exploration. Don't worry about the way the finished pages look, because the benefit is from the DOING, the EXPERIENCE of CREATING.  

"stories," my younger daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 8.  watercolor paper, neocolors

"stories," my younger daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 8.  watercolor paper, neocolors

The sky does not need to be blue. 

The key word is PLAY. If you want to work with kids to inspire them to start a journal, or a journaling habit, let them see you play in your journal! It is so much fun, and your exhuberance will inspire them to try something creative.

"love," my younger daughter created this 8x11" page when she was 9  black card stock, colored pencils

"love," my younger daughter created this 8x11" page when she was 9 
black card stock, colored pencils

Art journaling is a creative outlet for kids that love the freedom of a blank page and the adventure of exploring color + images + words. The ability to decorate their thoughts on paper.

I'm a self-taught artist and a mom and have taught a number of art classes and workshops. For example, I teach watercolor taught an art journaling workshop for local high school art teachers, a gelatin printing workshop to The reality is that making kids follow strict instructions for art projects can zap their enthusiasm and innovation. The benefit comes from doing art rather than generating a perfect page or outcome. 

As kids get older, they often get concerned with what others think, get more critical of their work, less free with their creativity, more likely to worry about "rules" for whatever form of art they are doing. That's why art journaling is important. It focuses on the DOING not the RESULTS. Kids, especially tweens and teens, are more likely to play creatively if you don't give them constraints. Please don't see art journaling as an assignment, with rubrics and requirements. For moms who art journal, it's also a wonderful way to stay close and keep the lines of communication open -- by arting with your kids.

Here are the materials my kids use for their art journal pages & doodles:

⧠ Gelly Rolls. Colorful gel pens, fun and versatile. See All About Gelly Rolls.
⧠ Neocolor wax crayons. Fun & flexible drawing/painting materials, brilliant colors that can be used with water or without. See All About Neocolors.
 Watercolors. Two watercolor pan kits I recommend for kids that are 5+ {old enough to hold the brush and treat their painting kit carefully i.e. not flood with water or smear adjacent pan colors together}. Pelikan watercolor pan sets -when my daughter was in 1st grade we incorporated art journaling into our book club and used these paints. Koi watercolor pan sets - lovely color, great feedback from the students in my watercolor classes that are using Koi.
⧠ Pencils. Colored pencils and ordinary #2 pencils.
⧠ Paper. I have an entire post about art journaling materials, which includes paper and journals. I think it's important to note that you don't need to work in one space. For example, you can have a stack of watercolor paper and several journals {maybe one for painting and mixed media, one for sketching?} going at the same time. 

My kids use many of the same materials that I use for art journaling. There are exceptions. For example, they do not use artist quality acrylics with their hands, because these are not non-toxic. 

Some ideas to consider...

Document the story. Take a few photographs of the kids working, to show how the work unfolds. Learn about how your kids work. On the back of their artwork {especially for pre-writers} you can document the date, the child's name, the mediums. Ask the child to describe their work. Now that my daughters are teenagers they love looking back at the notes on their work. Here's what was written on the reverse of a very pink page that my daughter did when she was 3: "The girl did a twirl." 

This concept of documentation is part of the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia. I enjoyed watching Documentation: Transforming Our Perspective, a 15 minute video. "A conversation with several leaders of Reggio Children and the municipal infant-toddler and preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy about the practice of documentation and its role in teaching and learning." Thank you to Lori of Project-Based Homeschooling for the link.

"candy," my older daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 12 watercolor paper, neocolors, oil pastels, watercolor

"candy," my older daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 12
watercolor paper, neocolors, oil pastels, watercolor

Release control over the outcome of your kids' art projects. Kids benefit from less control more creative freedom

Art Journaling is an activity that parents and kids can do at the same table, using the same art materials and found items. Each person's page will blossom individually. Kids can explore the idea of combining imagery with colors and words in an unstructured format. 

For younger children, try to create an environment that fosters creativity while balancing freedom with responsibility. Here are some things that you as a parent or art teacher can do:

"without paint," my older daughter created this 9x12" page when she was 9 watercolor paper, neocolors, watercolors

"without paint," my older daughter created this 9x12" page when she was 9
watercolor paper, neocolors, watercolors

Use gentle reminders. "Let me show you how we rinse brushes in the sink." "We keep beads in this box on this shelf." "Remember to put your finished work in this basket." "Keep lids on your markers when you aren't using them."

Share art material techniques. Younger children might not know how to hold a pencil or a brush or how to prepare watercolors for painting You can work together to show kids how they can make new colors by mixing the colors they have. Kids will figure out soon enough that a bunch of colors mixed together will result in brown. The thing is, they might like brown! My daughter was quite happy about her brown birdhouses. Let kids experience the act of mixing red + yellow = orange but also let them know that pink + yellow = orange! But it's a different sort of orange:) Or try dark purple + white = lavender. I often suggest mixing just two colors together, rather than 3 or 4, but it's really up to the kids.

Protect your art space. We don't have a dedicated art space in our home, so we use the kitchen floor or breakfast table. When my kids were tiny, we painted in the kitchen at a cheap plastic table with a drop cloth on the tile floor underneath us. I asked the kids to stay in the kitchen until we cleaned up, otherwise we might have orange acrylic footprints leading out of the space. If they didn't want to paint any longer, we stopped. Protecting the workspace means less worry about mess, less stress and more patience!

Facilitate. Balance freedom with guidance. Put out colors that will work together, no matter how the kids use them. You don't have to put out 25 colors; nor do you have to say that the cow has to be brown. Turquoise cows are cool too.

Keep suggestions open-ended. There is no "right" color, "right" pattern, "right" way to do art. Ask questions like, "Would you like to add another color to your painting?" "Are you finished with the background?" "Would you like to add any words?" "Would you like to try a smaller brush for that?" 

Facilitate. Balance freedom with guidance. Put out colors that will work together, no matter how the kids use them. You don't have to put out 25 colors; nor do you have to say that the cow has to be brown. Turquoise cows are cool too.

"alphabetical order," my younger daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 12.  bristol paper, PITT artist pens, index cards

"alphabetical order," my younger daughter created this 9x12" art journal page when she was 12.  bristol paper, PITT artist pens, index cards

Manage children's expectations. Focus on process {the "doing" part} not product {the "end result" part}. The goal is not perfect art.

Manage "customer" expectations. If you are a teacher, that's likely parents & administration. Talk about your approach to art; letting kids have freedom while learning about mediums and techniques. The goal is not "cookie cutter art" where all of the kids do the exact same thing. 

Please don't "fix" or "finish" a child's artwork. The truth is that this not your artwork. It is the child's artwork. I do not believe in altering a child's artwork, like, ever. You could put it in a frame {if the kid is OK with that}. Do not draw lines around his/her work, erase his/her work, add a blue sky or tell him that the grass should be green.

Don't copycat. If you really must teach kids to paint in the style of Van Gogh, teach the brush technique and let them paint what they wish as long as it is within the boundaries you set - i.e. using a specific style - medium - type of brush. Requiring them to use deep mustard yellows and create a sunflower is basically copy work. 

➸ How to start an art journal? Art Journaling 101
➸ Materials for art journaling? Art Journaling 102: Materials