Teaching Teens to Paint

May 17, 2015

Every Tuesday I head over to a local shelter to run a painting class. It is a temporary home for boys and girls aged 12-17 who are awaiting foster care placement, court hearings, etc. While I lived in Hawai'i, I worked as a substance abuse counselor for teenagers on probation. Since moving to Arizona, I have missed working with teenagers and thus approached this shelter about voluntarily running a weekly class.


I'm so happy I decided to go through with this idea. I have taught four classes thus far and absolutely love it.


There is a woman who is in charge of weekly enrichment activities for the shelter, so she is always present when I teach and ensures we have all the supplies we need (though on a side note, if anyone would like to donate some canvases, we could really use them!). 


Every week, I show up and the teens have a choice to participate or not. The amount of people painting ranges anywhere from 3-10.


For our first class, I painted and brought a mountain scene I thought would appeal to the teens. Through teaching at my regular job, I have found that people get much more excited about painting if they can see ahead of time what they are doing. 

The teens loved this painting. They actually fought over who got to keep the original and the replica I made.


For the next week, I asked them what they would like to paint. They requested a desert painting.

This painting was not a hit. Haha. I have found that most of the teens can happily paint for an hour. After that, they're restless and want to do something else. This painting simply took too long and the style didn't really appeal to the guys. 


The next week they asked me to teach them outter space.


This painting was very popular. The teens especially loved using the toothbrush to do the stars. It was also a great painting to teach because once they knew how to paint one planet, they could easily do the others.


My boss at my job also liked this painitng and commissioned me to make a replica to teach at the studio.


As always though, some teens still got frustrated. One guy threw down his paint brush and yelled, "F*ck this!" as he walked away. He was at least nice enough to come back and clean his brush and area up. Since I've worked with teens before, it really didn't phase me at all. 


I appreciate how raw and open teenagers are. I think that adults experience emotions of the same intensity, we've just learned to control them a little better.


I'm grateful to have an opportunity to provide teens with a chance to learn something fun and possibly therapeutic. My Grandpa Paul bought me paints when I was 15, and I used painting from then on to deal with my emotions. I hope that the teens can find a similar escape in art. I may not be able to help the difficult situations they are in, but hopefully they can learn an additional way to cope through painting.


This past week, the teens asked me to paint a panda.


They loved painting the panda. I cannot take pictures of the teens, but here are some of their cute paintings. Unfortunately, we cannot afford large canvases, so they have to paint on tiny ones or acrylic paper. They still do a great job though.

This coming week, they've asked me to do an ocean theme. Actually, one guy has asked every week to do the ocean, but he kept getting out-voted by the other teens. He finally got his wish and even got to choose what will be in the water (he'd like a great white shark).


I'll make the painting tomorrow probably. I'm looking forward to returning to teach. 


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