Passing It Forward

2 Apr 2014

"Don't you just love green?" asked our young friend while we painted. In that one instant, that expression of the pure joy of color, he brought us back to the real reason we became artists.

"Yes, I do. In fact, I don't think there is any color I am not for. Is that your favorite?" I asked.

"Yeah, but not the only one," he sagely replied.

What a wonderful thing it is to be reminded of the purity of a child's creativity. At Drew's age, he has not been taught theories and has not been told the "right" ways of drawing and painting. He just paints the world the way he feels at the moment. He is not worried about the quality level of his brushes and Prang paints either. With remarkable concentration for a seven year old, he painted with us for hours, and was finally forced to clean up for dinner. He reminded me so much of myself at that age. I resolved then that I would encourage his painting in any way I could.

John and Drew plein air painting in Rocky Mountain National Park.
John and Drew plein air painting in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The next day Ann, Drew and I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and up to Sprague Lake to paint. We had our plein air painting backpacks and Drew had his. I loaned him some good Richeson watercolor brushes and a spare John Pike palette filled with artist's paint and supplied him with Arches paper. This was one of his first real plein air painting experiences, and I wanted him to have all the advantages. Utterly fearless, he dove right in to drawing Hallett's Peak and its reflection in Sprague Lake on his paper.

"What colors should I use?" he asked. I must confess that I have never been asked that particular question before. What he meant to ask was how to get started - water, mountain or sky first. Careful not to tread too strongly on his own ideas, I suggested a way to work and what colors to begin with. That was all he needed. It kind of took my breath away to see him just go to work like that. Part way through the painting I showed him the different kinds of marks our brushes could make and how different amounts of water can change the way the paint flows. I can't say that advice made any technical difference to his painting, but I found out later that he memorized what I had said.

I have not had the opportunity to meet many children who are as serious about making art as Drew is. As much as I enjoy teaching painting to adults, helping a child is immensely pleasurable and gives us the satisfaction that in some way we may be able to make a difference in a young artist's life. Who knows what he might become?

Which reminds me - we need to send him a good set of paints and brushes before he "grows out of it". 

Please join us on The Artist's Road for more interesting and informative articles, step-by-step demonstrations and interviews with well-known artists.

--John and Ann


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jbqdgq wrote
on 5 Apr 2014 10:48 AM

Would like to see some of Drew's paintings.

on 5 Apr 2014 11:48 AM

I agree, I would love to see some of Drew's paintings.  That is what I hoped would be part of the article.  I have a 6 year old grandson who is VERY serious about his painting,  and I would also like to encourage him as best I can to enjoy painting and be free, unconfined by other's opinions.

rasz wrote
on 5 Apr 2014 4:58 PM

I bet Drew's paintings are amazing. I spend time with my son's 6 year old step daughter "doing art". I love watching her color, use markers, paint or draw. I do the same right along with her. Since I have never had classes on right or wrong ways to create or paint, I am just as free as she is. I hope she stays this way.

Seeing art through a child's eye is inspiring. I would love to surround myself with kids just making their own art, whatever that is, because children teach us not to take creating too seriously and make it all about FUN!

Thank you for sharing your story about you and Drew. It was beautiful to read and know there are others out there just letting kids find their passions before life tells them they aren't doing it right!

artyone16 wrote
on 5 Apr 2014 7:32 PM

I was eight years old when my Mom took me to an art teacher. The teacher said I was really too young for her to teach, but I guess my enthusiasm won her over. She was great. I never learned the names of colors or techinical terms, but I learned to draw and paint according to what I saw. That was over 60 years ago. I have painted professionally for many years now -- and still don't worry about the names of colors. What you are passing on is the freedom for Drew to paint what he sees and feels. It's a gift.