One of the ways Impressionism revolutionized the art world was by taking the creation of art from the studio to the outdoors. In fact, Impressionists have been called “open air” painters, because they took advantage of the mobility offered by the invention of tubes of paint and went outside for inspiration. Following this art movement’s love of the outdoors, I was inspired to paint with my children outside in honor of Earth Day. Since Earth Day falls on a school day, we began our project over the weekend.
Due to the fact that it snowed here this weekend, my six-year-old daughter, three-year-old son, and I picked some flowers to inspire our painting rather than draw them in their natural location. We did set up our paints on the covered deck and worked quickly due to the cold temperatures. Using chalk to sketch out our ideas, we then covered the canvas in “crazy” colors for the underpainting.
The following day, with snow on the ground, we painted again on our canvas. Bundled up in jackets, we found inspiration in the beauty around us and the diversity of our weather. A few days ago it had been 77 degrees; now it was 32 degrees. We switched places on the canvas many times, with everyone’s hand touching all parts at one point or another. This was especially challenging for me as an artist, but I had to let go and remember that it was a joint adventure, and the goal was not the product, but the process. We are still not done with our Earth Day masterpiece, according to my daughter.
There are two things about this project that I think is unique. One is that young children usually do not get to work on canvas with grown-up art supplies. The other is that young children are often contained to the indoors when creating art. I hope that this project will inspire my daughter to take her art outside, and reflect upon the outdoors as she gazes at our painting on her bedroom wall.
There are many great art projects you can do outside with your children. Collecting natural objects such as leaves and flower petals is fun, and the collection can be assembled into a collage. Driftwood, pine cones, acorns, etc. can be used to make a hanging mobile; or simply going outside and sketching in the warm sunshine can be very pleasurable. One thing that all of these projects have in common is that they inspire children to create art and express their appreciation for the natural world.