Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
With the success of websites like Etsy and Zazzle, it’s easier than ever to remain an artist as an adult. In fact, a 2011 report from the National Endowment of the Arts found that 1.4 percent of the American workforce are considered artists of any kind.
As a parent, though, it can be difficult to walk the line between encouraging our children’s passion and letting them know that they could make a career out of their art. Our culture has started recognizing art school as a good choice for some students, and the Internet has made it easier to get your art in front of potential clients and buyers.
If your children have an interest in art, here are 10 ways to help them grow into artists without taking the fun out of their art:
Point out art in places that your kids might not have noticed. Show them notebook covers, book jackets, coffee mugs, stationary, magazine illustrations, and cell phone covers. It’s important that your children see the need for art and realize it doesn’t only exist in museums. Point out the art in your city. Sculptures, statutes, murals, and even billboards require art.
It’s important for your children to meet adult artists and see that they are normal people. Animators and video game designers can seem mythical or unobtainable, but if you know someone who does art or design in any capacity, let your children learn about how they make a living and that they didn’t simply luck into their job.
(Some children can be shy around adults, especially when discussing something they are proud of, so take care not to put them on the spot in front of a stranger.)
Sometimes it can seem like drawings or paintings are either good or bad, and it can be frustrating to make a mistake that cannot be fixed. Remind your children that not every art project has to be a final product. Encourage your children to doodle and keep experimenting with different ideas and mediums as a form of play.
Sometimes they’ll make something impressive. Other times they might decide they don’t like charcoals or drawing horses. That’s okay, too.
Tutorials on sites like Youtube or SkillShare can provide a great foundation for learning specific skills. But discourage your child from making comparisons between their ability and the teacher’s. Remind them that the teacher had to practice for a long time to become that good.
Also, watch that your child doesn’t lose their creative “voice” by simply mimicking what they’ve seen. Mimickry can be good for learning, but allow their attention to return to topics, mediums, and styles that interest them personally.
Our culture tends to put art into a separate category from other school subjects because it’s not required, or it’s only taught for a limited period of time. Remind your child that they will still need math to make their own canvases or handle the business side of their creative lives. They’ll need English to write proposals, grants, and artist’s statements.
While artists may not need science to be artists, they can use the subject for inspiration, whether they paint spacescapes, illustrate books about scientists, or sculpt abstract representations of illnesses.
If your child is struggling in history, perhaps drawing the event will make it easier to remember the details. Perhaps they can find an Instagram account that covers the topic visually.
Consider letting your child open their own Instagram account to share doodles or comics or half-finished sculptures. Show your children Etsy or other websites that let you upload art to sell. Point out what sort of items are for sale and for how much.
Let this serve as inspiration for their own work. If they’re old enough, help your children set up an account to sell their own work. (Make sure to right-size expectations so they don’t get discouraged if their sales aren’t immediate or don’t amount to much at first.)
Most people have moved on from the idea that selling your art is “selling out,” but some people still believe that art is personal and should only be sold to certain people. Remind your children that making art on demand is a fine way to make a living, and that it’s important to set the price accordingly.
Some artists make a living wage from their art alone. Others have a second job to have more financial stability, more variety in their day, or less pressure on themselves to make a lot of art.
All of these options are reasonable and depend on the individual and their situation. But it’s important to downplay influences who say your kids shouldn’t even try to be an artist at all.
If your children start making art about snakes, it’s not your place to tell them that snakes are gross. If a drawing isn’t as perfect as you think it could be, take a step back and decide whether you have anything constructive to say, and whether your child is ready for constructive criticism.
Perhaps you’ll feel dismayed if your child starts losing interest in art. If you force art on them or continually express your disappointment, they may lose interest in you as well.