My painter.

I let Camilla paint for the very first time last week as part of our now-daily Craft Time.

Painting for the first time.

I had been looking forward to this day for a while and it did not disappoint. She loved it.


I looked around the internet for a little while, trying to find tips for painting with toddlers. But in the end, I just went with my gut and what I had on hand: a nice sturdy brush, some real watercolor paper, and three colors of nice gouache that I mixed with water. (Purple is her favorite, so of course there had to be purple.)

I thought the single color cups would be less distracting to work with than a whole palette of colors, although I did buy one of the classic Crayola watercolor palettes on Saturday and we have used it as well.

The thing that made me so happy about her first paining is that she very naturally started using the brush to make good lines. Now, I thought for a few minutes about being a touch-feely-exploratory art mom but rejected the idea pretty quickly because I don’t want Camilla wrecking the nice tools that I’m letting her use. I don’t mind if she does some finger dipping or paint pouring at the end of the session, but I think I’m doing her a disservice if I don’t teach her as much painting technique as she can handle at this age. For her, that pretty much means (a) only painting on the paper, (b) not scrubbing the brush around and wrecking the bristles, (c) not splashing water everywhere with the cups, and (d) trying not to dip the brush in every single color when using the paint palette. If she can do those things, I am perfectly willing to buy her decent paper and let her use some nice brushes. (If you are letting your child paint for the first time, please please don’t use those horrid floppy little brushes that come with a paint set. Buy a nice fat brush with bristles that come to a good point and which actually holds some paint. I don’t know why kids are supposed to be able to learn to use watercolor with those terrible brushes.)

So far, scrubbing the paper with the brush (which I refer to as “scribbling”) has been the biggest temptation. But she didn’t discover that until her second painting.

For the first one, there was enough fun to be had just dipping the brush into the different colors.

She had this pleased / intensely concentrated look on her face the whole time.

At the very end, I light her pour all the colors into one cup to see what happened. I don’t think she cared much about the color change, but she is obsessed with pouring things right now. Her favorite game of all time is to stand at the kitchen sink with a collection of cups and a trickle of water and some watered down soap. It is referred to as “hands” (because it usually happens after we wash her hands) and she requests it about twenty times a day. Anything involving paint in cups inevitably gets poured into one container, so the paint palette is a nice alternative.

First painting.

I know I’m the proud mom, but really…isn’t this a very nice first painting? I think it has a very pleasant abstract quality. I gave very little direction, other than asking her to try the green instead of the purple and giving her a new sheet of paper when I thought this was done enough. (Remember: less is more when it comes to children’s paintings!)

Second painting.

This is the second painting. It’s a little lighter because she decided to start dipping the brush in the paint and then the water. Also, you can see exactly when she discovered how fun scribbling is. To counteract that, I now specifically suggest that she make either lines or dots, the two kinds of brush strokes in her repertoire.

We’re painting again today, and I hope to get to the store this week to stock the little bit of space I’ve carved out of a kitchen cupboard for Craft Time. I want playdough, a big set of crayons, some tempera paint, and a lot more paper (I just noticed that Joann’s sells long rolls — that might be nice). Eventually we’ll probably try to make playdough and all that, but given that we’re working around an 8 week old baby and her uncertain nap schedule I’m cutting myself some slack.

More masterpieces to come.


3 thoughts on “My painter.

  1. This does stir vivid memories in me…your mother… I still have (somewhere) your first identifiable drawing when you were 2 1/2 years old of an airplane. I think it’s in pen. I wish I could say I carefully cultivated you, but I think you drew it on the back of a computer punch card. I makes me so happy to see YOU enjoy Camilla’s painting, because I remember the intense joy I got out of your creations. I still get intense joy out of your creations! I love you, Mum

  2. We sure enjoyed seeing Camilla’s art. I think it’s great she has a favorite color already. It will be such fun seeing what kind of art she likes doing most. Just as some pianists start early in life, maybe Camilla will be driven by a natural passion for art. She’s certainly got the genes for it! :) Wonder what if would look like if you asked her to paint something specific? …
    what the before and after pictures would look like if she did the first one without instruction and the second one with? Your post was so interesting. Thanks. Great job, Mommy!

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