Teaching Kids to Paint vs. Adults

August 3, 2015

As a painting instructor for over 9 months now, I have plenty of experience teaching adults who are unfamiliar with painting.


On occassion, children's birthday parties come up on my schedule at Brush & Bottle. I also recently began teaching a weekly kid's painting class at the Artistry Academy.


The differences between teaching kids and adults are stark. Here's what I've noticed:


Kids Will Tell You Exactly How They Feel


For my first kids class at the Artistry Academy, I taught an abstract Picasso Face. I brought an example of the painting so the students could see what they would be painting. An 8 year old girl came into class a little late, saw the painting, and proclaimed, "I don't want to paint that! It's ugly!" Time and again, kids will tell me exactly what they think. Adults, while very self-critical, typically refrain from criticizing me or the original painting.


Kids Want to Help 


When I start to pass out canvases, the kids beg me to help. They fight over who gets to pump the paint, who gets to help wash the brushes, etc. Adults, on the other hand, breathe a sigh of relief when I tell them that if they ever need more paint, just ask and I will bring it to them.


Don't Touch a Kid's Painting


Kids are fiercely independent and want to complete their artwork on their own. They want to do everything themselves and certainly don't want me demonstrating something on their canvas. Conversly, adults frequently ask me, "Will you just paint this part?" 


Kids Don't Want Advice


If I give a child any sort of direction, such as, "Try to get the paint to cover the entire canvas," they will glare at me as if I asked them to pull out some hairs from their head. Conversly, adults happily accept advice and will frequently ask how to improve.


Kids Paint Quickly


Kids just want to get their painting done. They paint quickly (which is also evident in their brush strokes). While I'm always having to tell kids to take their time, I'm usually trying to get the adults to pick up the pace a little.


Kids have a Short Attention Span


This goes hand in hand with the observation that kids paint quickly. They get bored quickly and do not like to continue to work on one thing. I find that anything past an hour goes too long and they need a drastic switch in activity. 


Adults Stress Out


Kids easily get lost in the process of painting. Before you know it, they're done and proudly showing off what they made. Adults will physically groan when I instruct them to paint something they find difficult. They will stress about correctly doing a particular piece of their painting, and sometimes over their painting as a whole.


Kids Don't Care if a Canvas is Completely Covered 


Kids frequently paint so quickly that they leave large portions of their canvases blank. I've pointed this out to kids on multiple occassions. They dutifully splash some paint on, but they inevitably still have glaring gaps that they don't care about.


Kids Make a Mess


This probably comes as no surprise. Kids will get paint everywhere when they are painting. I frequently have to warn kids that if they paint their neighbor, their brushes will be taken away. Adults are quite the opposite, fretting over the tiny bits of paint they get on themselves or the table.


Kids Overuse Paint


It continually amazes me how much paint kids will glob onto their paintings. The same thing happens when I tell them to mix tiny amounts of two colors. They end up with their entire mixing plates covered. Adults are the opposite. I'm frequently encouraging them to put more paint on their canvases.


Kids Love to Paint Animals


Many of the paintings that I teach in adult classes have optional animals that can be added. Adults express great fear at painting them and frequently opt to not include them. This is completely different than kids, who are always begging to add just one more animal.


Kids have No Concept of a Painting being Too Difficult


When I teach adults, they are frequently afraid that something is too difficult or above their skill level. Kids will just dive right in.


For all their differences, I enjoy painting with both groups. Their differences challenge me as a teacher and artist. This probably explains why I enjoy painting with teenagers so much. Teenagers are a delightfully difficult mix between adults and children. I cannot generalize about teaching teenagers like I have with children and adults. Every teenager is different. One will use very little paint and love painting animals. Another will love doing landscapes and make a huge mess. However, for all of their differences, I enjoy working with them. With teenagers, I can laugh more and use my humor to help them find the confidence in themselves to keep going.


In the end, the most rewarding part is when someone is amazed at what he or she has created. I love showing people what they are capable of, no matter the age.

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