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Homeschool Art Lesson: Painting

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Girl Painting
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Homeschooling lets you make art a regular part of your children's regular learning experience. Here are some tips from Australian homeschooling parent Jean Watson for introducing your children to the joy of painting.

Fingerpainting

Fingerpaint is a great way for young children to learn how to mix colors. It's easy to get started.

  • Let them work directly on the table, protecting it with a white plastic tablecloth or a piece of smooth white board.

  • All you need to start are the three primary colors -- red, yellow and blue -- and black or white. Put out only three colors at a time. Then show your kids how to start blending the colors. Let them play and make their own discoveries. Background music can help them get in the mood -- soon their fingers will be dancing.

  • With older children, discuss the nuances of tint and shade, the color wheel, and esoteric things like the differences between different types of red. Mixing skin tones is especially challenging. If you're not sure about this, have a quick read about color theory for artists.

  • Some children don't like getting their fingers slimy. If yours is one, don't fight it -- just provide a rubber or silicone bowl scraper to use instead.

  • If you or your child want to save an especially nice pattern or color mix, make an imprint by laying some paper on the goop and peeling it off. But the product doesn't really matter, because fingerpaint is an experiential thing.

Tempera or Poster Paints

For painting pictures, tempera (Compare Prices) is the most versatile and economical option. Here's how to use it at home:

  • An easel is nice, but using sheets of paper on a table is fine too and easier to manage with multiple children.

  • Put a little of each color into clean jelly jars to reduce waste. If your artists run out of a color, you can always give them more.

  • Put a separate round brush in each jar. In general, the younger the child, the fatter the brush. Little kids just want to get that paint onto the paper. When they start to add more details, add a fine brush to each jar.

  • As kids begin to blend colors often, replace the in-jar brushes with a cheap plastic tray to use as a mixing palette, a jar of clean brushes of mixed sizes to draw from, and a jar of water to catch the used brushes.

Acrylic Paints

When your children have been working for a while using a palette with the tempera paint, try them on acrylics as a special activity and see what happens. If they are able to do more with acrylics, it's time to switch. Otherwise, put it away and bring it out every so often as a treat.

  • For home use, buy a good variety of colors in smaller tubes, but get a larger bottle of white.

  • Now is the time to start working with warm and cool tones such as reddish-brown umber.

  • Make sure you include several skin tone bases.

  • When you make the switch to acrylic, it's also time to upgrade to a wider range of higher-quality brushes, and proper art paper.

Advanced Painting Techniques

Older kids may be ready to move up to more expensive but more expressive types of paint.

  • Watercolor is a very difficult medium to work with. It's best to avoid it until your artistically-inclined teenager is begging for it.

  • Oils are expensive and not necessary except for talented senior students. If your teen wants to try these, get some advice from a good art supplies shop as to what you need.

  • Gouache (Compare Prices) is a less-challenging option to oil paints if your older student is itching to try something new.

  • Silk painting (Compare Prices) is expensive but an exciting special activity for any age. The results can be used for needlecrafts, making dress-ups, lining gift boxes during the holiday season and so on.
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