The Non-Super-Mum’s Approach to Creative Arts

I am sadly not one of those super homeschooling mothers who organises impressive art and craft projects for her children. I like to hop around the blogosphere enjoying everyone else’s beautiful photos and ideas, but rarely do I say to my kids, “Today we’re going to make… sew… paint… this.”

Instead I buy books and supplies, and I let my girls create by themselves. I am always on the lookout for good art and handicraft books. We have quite a big library of attractive books, the sort that are a pleasure to look at, even if no one feels inspired to use them.

Often the girls will browse the bookshelves looking for ideas. We have bags of fabric and threads and wool, shelves of paints and pens and paper, boxes of buttons and stickers and glitter and paste… I am always willing to buy any missing ingredients, and offer my help. My daughters have made rag dolls, sock animals, painted boxes, paper dolls, greetings cards, knitted bags and dolls and scarves and shawls, salt dough ornaments, and even clothes for themselves. Many times they have modified the ideas in the books to suit themselves.

All this is good… but yesterday we did something different.

I remembered an art project I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I knew if I got out my paper and paints, the girls would soon arrive to see what I was doing. I predicted they’d say, “Can we try that too?” So I invited them to join me.

  • We gathered watercolour paints, (the cheap pan variety), gesso (from the discount store), watercolour paper, pencils and erasers and
  • I went to Carla Sonheim’s blog where she has free art tutorials.
  • We found the right page for the instructions on how to paint abstracted flowers.

Then we began…

We painted splodges of watercolour paint all over our paper. Then we added gesso.

We added patterns with the handle of the brush.

The above paintings are all at the halfway stage.

We added some pencil details, and some pencil smudges between the flowers, before washing a layer of sepia coloured paint over everything.

The following photos show the finished artworks.

Our finished paintings don’t really look much like Carla Sonheim’s, but that’s okay. I don’t think it’s necessarily good to make exact copies of anyone’s ideas. To be truly satisfying, we have to take ideas, experiment and make them our own.

I decided on a project and then spent an afternoon doing art and craft with my girls. We had a lot of fun working together but I don’t suppose I will organise similar activities very often. But I will be available next time one of my daughters arrives with a book or an idea of her own and needs my help. I might even make a suggestion if I’m asked. And I’m willing to share my own creative projects with anyone who hovers by my side, curious to see what I’m doing.

The girls seem to be very creative despite my failures to organise interesting art activities. But then again… maybe they are actually more creative because I stay out of the way until needed, and don’t take over. I like this idea. If it were true it would make this inadequate mother feel so much better. Yes, I like this idea very much.

Perhaps I could show you all those wonderful art and craft books on our shelves. I could do that another time. I can never resist a beautiful book. Can you?

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    • Amy R
    • March 6, 2013

    Lovely. When you mentioned gesso, I wondered if your project was to paint a fresco…and that is basically what this wonderful "abstracted flowers" art is…right?

    In spite of my art background & leanings, I'm very lax about doing art with my children…now down to one child who is 15.

    Also, while I know there's a connection between wet plaster & paint & fresco, I've never learned how it's done.

    Thanks for sharing – and your photographs are wonderful, and helpful, too!

    1. Reply


      I have never tried to paint a fresco. I am going to have to do some research to find out how to do it! I do love working with gesso though. Before working on these paintings, I'd only ever used it as a primer to cover a surface making it ready to paint.

      I'd love to hear more about your own art. How's your Etsy shop going? Your small mosaics are so beautiful.

      Are any of your children interested in art?

      Thank you for your comments!

      God bless!

  1. Reply

    Those are really beautiful! What is gesso?

    1. Reply


      Thank you!

      Gesso looks like very thick white paint. I think it has chalk in it. It can be used to prepare surfaces before painting. We bought ours in a discount store from the art supplies shelf. It's easy to get hold of. I like how patterns can be drawn into the gesso.

      I wonder if you do a lot of art with your children.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Reply

    Great job on the pictures.

    I like doing art with my girls. We have a lot of fun trying new things together. Saying that they are always trying and making new things by themselves also. I simply tend to schedule something new to learn, when they haven't done any craft in a wee while.

    1. Reply


      I always love looking at your girls' artworks. Your photos, and also Lucinda's, inspired me to do this project. I tend to collect ideas and never get around to doing any of them. (It's just as well the girls don't wait for me but get on and create by themselves!) I'm glad I actually got the paints out. We had a great time working together. Yes, it is a lot of fun trying new things together. I agree!

  3. Reply

    These are so effective, Sue! The colours are really pretty. It looks like a fun project to do together.

    I'd love to see your books – I can't resist beautiful books, either.

    God bless, Sue:-)

    1. Reply


      I was surprised how different each of the paintings turned out. It was a very satisfying project. We've all got new pages of paint splodges waiting for gesso to be added. We want to experiment further!

      I will post some of our favourite books soon. Perhaps you could share your books too!

  4. Reply

    Love this idea! I have to find the gesso and then give this a whirl! I recently put together an arts and crafts area for my homeschooled 8 year old, only child. I am a former Montessori teacher, and while our school did have an art teacher who put together a weekly project, the true Montessori way is to have all the materials available on shelves for the children to choose and create their own artwork. So your way is very Montessori!!

    1. Reply


      The gesso is so lovely to work with. I hope you find some easily and give it a go!

      Thank you so much for sharing the Montessori way of art. I can now say I do things the Montessori way. That sounds much better than saying I'm too lazy to organise art activities! Maybe doing things our usual way, but every now and then organising an activity for all those interested, could be the perfect way for us to learn creative art skills.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope you'll say hello again another time!

  5. Reply

    That looks like a fun project. We'll have to try it out! My daughter draws &creates all the time, but I'm terrible at making the time to do it with her. We love Carla's books and were able to meet her and see her studio when we visited Seatlle last spring. She & my daughter even drew together and traded drawings. Super-nice person.

    1. Reply

      You've met Carla! What a wonderful experience for your daughter to draw with her.

      We have two of Carla's books and have very much enjoyed trying out some of her ideas. I have pages and pages of drawings of cats, after being inspired by one of her art lab projects. I can really understand how children get fascinated by one thing and need to spend time experimenting with this one idea. I could have moved on to other projects but I wanted to explore my cat drawings further. I guess the same idea applies to Carla's Year of the Giraffe. Sometimes we can be too quick to move from one idea to the next. Sometimes it's good to slow down and immerse ourselves with just one, testing it to its limits.

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog and stopping to comment. I hope you will say hello another time!

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