How To Raise An Artist

September 17, 2013 by

How to Raise an Artist - 10 Easy Steps to creating a home that nurtures creativity and expression. Free and simple ideas that anyone can do!



All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  – Pablo Picasso


Today I’m talking about creating a home that encourages creativity and art!  I get asked ALL the time how I promote Art in my home – and here are a few very simple and easy things that I do to create a home that welcomes creativity and expression.

I hope this encourages you!  Let me know what you do to promote art in your home!




1) Have Quality Materials Available – Always:

I heard once that the way to encourage your child to play piano is to place the piano in the center of the home.  That way, the child sees the piano as something of value, and will be encouraged to play often.

That’s how I think of art materials.  I leave them out (yes, even with a toddler) so my children can stumble upon them at all times.

I have art materials in every room.  Simple plain paper and crayons in some rooms  – nothing fancy.  In other rooms, I have paints and oil pastels available which are IN reach of my big girls (ages 7 and 4) and OUT of reach of my toddler.

Crayons and pens are always available to use to draw. Is it messy?  Sometimes, yes it is!  😉  But it’s a small sacrifice I’m willing to make in the name of art!




2)  Display Their Work:

Put your child’s artwork up in EVERY room.  I can’t think of one room in our house that doesn’t display our children’s artwork.  Some of it is in a frame, and some is scotch taped on the wall.  Yes – we have it on the fridge, too!  Everywhere my girls look, they see that their parents value and appreciate their art.  During the day, we’ll point to different works of art and talk about what they were thinking or feeling when they created it.

We rotate out drawings as more come in – and some (my favorites) are pretty much permanent fixtures on our walls.  I love that the art in our home has so much personal meaning to our family.  It may not be Monet – but it’s even better than that to me!




3) Develop An Appreciation of Artists From A Young Age:


It’s never too young to teach your children Art History.  We started taking Paprika to Art Museums when she was just a baby – and we still take everyone to Art Museums often!  I know that we have that opportunity living in Los Angeles and trips we’ve made elsewhere – and that if you live in a rural setting, things look different.

What I’ve done when I can’t get to an Art Museum is log onto the computer (or iPad) and seek out those great works of art for my kids to see online.  There are so many amazing resources available for kids.




4) Encourage Your Child:


After reading this article, I changed what I said to my girls when they’re drawing.  Instead of commenting on the colors they use or their technique – I simply started saying:  I love watching you paint.  I love to watch you draw.  I love to watch you create.

It’s a powerful thing – simple, authentic encouragement.  I have watched my children blossom just by saying those few simple sentences.  It’s amazing – try it!


5)  Stay Away From Crafts and Coloring Books:


I know this is controversial and I am going to get some panties bunched up here!  But seriously:  Do you think Van Gogh glued cotton balls on popcicle sticks and called it art?  No, he did not.

There is a time and a place for coloring books and crafts – but it’s not art. Instead, use crafts as a jumping off point – and freely put materials out for children to create their own designs.  Instead of paying all that money for coloring books – why not just use simple paper and have your child draw their OWN coloring books?  I swear, it’s just as fun!


6) Think Outside The Paper:

There are so many amazing ways to create art – not just with paper and markers.  If your child has access to a computer or iPad/Tablet, there are literally hundreds of programs that can be used to create art!

My children regularly use Microsoft Paint to draw on the computer.  It’s an old program that practically everyone has on their computer – but never uses!  Ginger (age 4) started using it when she was just three years old and could spend hours drawing her own creations.  If you have a color printer, you can even print out their drawings!  Or you can upload them to be printed online.

My point is that you don’t have to run out and buy the fanciest, most expensive software.  Take a look at what you already have and you may be surprised to find that you have programs you already own that your children can begin using to create art.




7) Have Private and Public Spaces To Create Art:

This is HUGE for us in our house.  Like I said before, we have art materials available in EVERY room in the house.  I make sure that even our toddler has access to crayons and paper whenever she wants them.

Now, it gets very noisy in our house sometimes.  We live in a small beach bungalow where space is a premium.  Our house is about 1300 square feet for 5 people and a dog!

I have found that often my older girls need quiet spaces to create art.  So, I have a room in our small house – where they know that they can go and have it absolutely quiet to create.  We call this the:  Art Studio.  That sounds official, right?!  Incidentally, it also doubles as our office, guest room, and laundry staging area.  But they don’t know that.  To them, it’s the Art Studio! Ha!

My girls know that when they need quiet to concentrate, they can always go into this room and paint, draw, get out the messy materials…and their toddler sister won’t bother them.  I’ve even installed a lock on the inside of the door that they can lock for privacy (but I can also easily unlock it from the outside).  This keeps out the Toddler Tornado – and also is a signal to others that “serious art” is being done inside this room and to respect that.  In other words:  Do Not Disturb! :-)




8) Don’t Worry About The Mess:

Really!  It will get messy…and that’s okay!  I know it’s hard to get out the paints and know that half of them will end up on the floor.  But these messes are worth it.   There will never be a better time than right now to help your child create.  If you wait until the right moment comes up and all the stars align, it will never happen.  Even after you’ve JUST picked up and mopped the floor – it’s a great time to paint.  It’s always a good time to paint!  And if you can take the paints outside (weather permitting) – then even better!




9)  Welcome Imperfect Creations:

One of my children is a perfectionist, and she would get so frustrated when she was drawing because her vision never matched what she could do on paper.  Paper after paper, I’d find crumpled on the floor.  She would curl her mouth into a frown and sometimes cry.

Aside from art lessons, lots of practice, and even hand/eye coordination catching up to a child, there’s not a lot we can do in the short-term to overcome those frustrations.  They happen to everyone!

So, what did I do?

I gave her the permission to make mistakes.  Literally.

I sat next to her and held her hand and told her that we ALL get frustrated sometimes.

And that:  In Art, There Are No Mistakes!

Then, I got out a piece of paper and drew next to her.  I “made mistakes” (I don’t like calling them that because there ARE NO MISTAKES).  But anyway – I showed her that my vision wasn’t coming out the way I had hoped.  And then I improvised, and changed things.  I laughed about it.

It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually she stopped balling up those pieces of paper.  And she started drawing – voraciously!  Now she draws and paints all the time.




10) Affirm The Artist In Every Child:

This last one is so, so simple!  Every child needs to be reminded by the person they respect and look up to the most in this world (YOU!) – that they ARE an artist!  There’s nothing more that they need to do to become an artist – they already ARE an artist.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my 4 year old’s face light up when I say to her:  You are a GREAT artist!

Just like that – she is inspired to create art…to make real her own vision.  And that’s what it’s all about.  With those simple words, I am doing more for her than a thousand art lessons could ever accomplish.


I hope this post encouraged you!  Please let me know in the comments or on Facebook what you do to inspire Art in your home!

P.S. Are you on Pinterest?  If you are, I’d love for you to follow my boards.  :-) You can find me here.




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  1. I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!! Yes to EVERYTHING. And I totally agree with your point on Van Gogh + popsicle sticks;)

  2. Crystalyn

    I can’t agree anymore. I love this book… because it helps me get out different mediums for them.

  3. Nikki

    Cute post

  4. Alisha

    I love this-and its ironic because I was JUST thinking that I need to read something about how to foster Shelby’s love for art, because I am not artistic at all, and despite me she still manages to find ways to be creative. She will dig in the trash to find new things to use! I have art supplies for her everywhere but have a few issues, because she goes through all of them in one day, she doesn’t clean up her messes and she is wasteful. (draws one line on every paper or uses an entire glue stick). Any advice? It is driving me crazy, lol but I don’t want to take her art supplies away! putting them up and efforts to keep them away until she picks up have not worked! I am the opposite of artsy!

  5. Erika

    i hear you! when we’ve had that problem in the past, what I’ve done is ration out supplies – so there are still supplies, but then for example – with crayons…if I get new ones, I will only put out a few in the box and put the rest of them up for a bit. With paper, I have “nice” paper that they can use for more in-depth projects – but they know it’s not for doodles. For doodles, I get big reams of copy paper on sale – so like 1000 sheets of paper for $5…then put stacks of that out at a time. I also make little “booklets” out of the paper…I’ll explain that in an upcoming post. For the glue sticks – if you see something is being over-used, then you can just hold that back after she wastes it. She will get the hint! 😉 I bought a bunch of glue sticks wholesale a few years ago – they are up in the top of the closet hidden and I bring one out every so often – they know that if they waste it, they might not see another one for awhile, so they respect it…

  6. Erika

    thanks! :-=)

  7. Erika

    Haha! You get me!!! :-) I was worried some people might get mad about the Van Gogh popsicle sticks – as I said, a time and a place for everything…but let’s not fool ourselves. 😉

  8. Great post Erika. I did most of those things too, and, even though I wasn’t consciously creating an Artistic Environment, people always tell me that my home was such.
    No 4 is one I wish I had known about before!

  9. These are all great ideas and give lots of food for thought. Thank you for sharing on Mom’s Library, I’ll be featuring you this week at Crystal’s Tiny Treasures. Have a great week!

  10. Great suggestion to ration the supplies! I think kids get overwhelmed when there is too much to choose from as well.

  11. What an inspiring post! I love that you hang your kids art in every room and talk about what they were thinking and feeling when they created it. Great idea to let them see you ‘make mistakes’ and lightheartedly change it. I’ll be sharing this!

  12. Joanne M. Annecchini or Joanne Annecchini FB

    I love this !!! Thanks for saying it is ok to have kids art all around the house. I love watching my grandchildren grow and develop as their art changes from year to year. I am preparing more space for my daycare children inside and out. Mixing sand and paint is so much fun. It really does need to be outside. I would like to meet you one day.

  13. Erika

    Crystalyn, I will check out that book. You always know the best books to get – how do you do it?!!! :-)

  14. Beautiful article. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful points. I still think craft is important! But to everyone – their own!

  15. What a great article! I especially love the “There are no mistakes in art” part. We just finished an especially messy puffy paint experience here. And I found myself thinking, Why can’t she just create pictures like other kids. Why the need to paint with her feet? (LOL – really!) But that’s just her technique, I suppose. Sharing this article!

  16. Tricia

    Hi there…Love your article and agree with almost all…but I had to stick up for the popsicle sticks part!!! Ha ha…you knew someone had to right? First of all, I would never put crafts alongside coloring books…anything which does the imagination part for the child is not in the same as creating art..but using arts and crafts supplies…glitters, sequins, popsicle sticks, yarn, glue etc etc…those are fantastic supplies to make three dimensional art creations…my five year old often makes “set pieces” or cities and I would never discourage that as an unartisic activity. He loves to draw and paint and often the first thing he says upon waking up is “Can I do an art project?”
    I understand the art projects my toddler does in preschool with popsicle sticks and cotton balls are more of the following-directions-fine-motor-skills variety of craft project which I do not put in the same category as a drawing or project my child does by himself, coming from his own imagination…but I guess I just dont judge it too much and have a huge stash of all sorts of supplies and am so happy I’m raising kids who enjoy making art as much as I do. I look forward to reading the article on encouragement…learning specific ways of encouraging children is such an important art form itself.
    One thing I haven’t done…and would be hesitatnt to…is to encourage spending time on the computer using their art programs. i guess I feel wary of my kids being in front of a screen…and also I think it becomes look at what the computer can do rather than what I can do by hand by myself….we belong to MOMA and they have a great kids program and in the kids room they do have computers where the children can “paint”…..maybe I will change my mind after we try it there a few times….thanks for the good article!

  17. This post is fantastic. I will definitely start saying “I love to watch you paint” to my daughter – such a great idea. I’m pinning this!

  18. robin

    Well said!

  19. Thanks for the post! I am an artist, and one of my daughters LOVES creating! And I totally agree with most of what you’ve said, but gleamed a couple of new insights. Thanks!

  20. Wonderful, useful post.

    I know you’ve getting grief about popsicle sticks and I agree that adult-led “now glue this and insert this” crafts aren’t creatively stimulating. As you suggest, we’ve always kept as many free-form supplies on hand as possible. Around here popsicle sticks have become airplanes, houses, puppets, and much more. Which is the point you’re making!

    Sharing this on FB. Thanks.

  21. Erika

    that’s what i meant! you just put it better than i did – ha! :-)

  22. Babett Horn

    Let them get messy! NEVER did I buy spill proof containers or paint with water etc etc…I have 3 grown, extremely creative and artistic daughters. Paint, photography and cooking…they excel. I let them feel it, smell it and we talked A LOT about art and artist and they went to museums in Balboa Park, San Diego Ca at 4 & 5 years old. We listened to classical music and chose the mood of the piece and painted to the mood. We lived in a 3 bedroom apartment…our “gallery” was the hallway and their art was prized and framed and hung. I now have a 2 year old grand daughter and the minute the freezer paper roll comes out she yells “Paint!” and jumps up & down and claps her hands. Children are artist and we need only let them be.

  23. Renée

    Hi there!

    I loved everything about your post…except for the opinion that craft is not art! I am a potter, and the daughter of a potter, who is the niece of a printmaker and a potter (the list goes on). There is an extreme misunderstanding about craft. I teach my students about the materials we harvest from the earth like clay, wool, & wood, along with versatile techniques in sewing, paper maché and paper craft. These materials and skills teach children how to handle tools, create objects and reach goals. We use the pompoms, feathers and googley eyes to enhance and animate our creations, but please don’t confuse your readers by saying that craft is something not worthy of the title ‘art’.


    Renée Sala
    Director of Crafty School of Art

  24. leah

    When I was drawing with my kids they often got frustrated that what they did didn’t look like mine. I switched to using my left hand so that my drawings come out shaky and “imperfect” no matter how hard I concentrate!

  25. leah

    One more thing… any suggestions for how to keep everything from getting spread all over the floor all the time? We’re also in a very tight space- I have crayons, markers and paper around but inevitably they get stepped on more than they get used! When you say you keep supplies in every room, what does this look like?

  26. Anita

    I’ve never commented on a post before but I really love this post. I’m a graphic designer and a perfectionist so number 9 really spoke to me. My 3 YO is showing similar traits so some good advice. Thanks!

  27. great post! I used to be a early childhood educator before staying home with my daughter (now 14 months old). I used your tips every day with the children in my class. I think art is SO important to the developing, creative mind. I plan on doing all of this with my little one now. We have actually already started with trips to the art museums and some finger painting!

  28. Riley

    Love this post. I don’t have kids, but I’m an art teacher, and I was that child that got extremely frustrated when I made mistakes. I use the book “Beautiful Oops” to teach about making mistake in art. “Ish” by Peter Reynolds is also good for that topic!

    (And I totally agree about crafts not really being art, but they’re still fun to do every once in a while at home :) )

  29. I just came across this post, and absolutely LOVE it. Generally speaking, I agree with you about separating arts and crafts, BUT as a mixed media artist, I can’t say that popcicle sticks don’t have a place in art, because guess what…I have used them in my own. Other than that…I agree with everything you say!

  30. I came across this post recently, I am an Art teacher and I give emphasis on drawing in my classes. So I totally agree with No coloring books. Personally I am not very fond of crafts, and i know most crafts include only glueing stuff together, but some crafts are very creative. So I think it depends on the craft project wether its part of Art or not?

  31. Stephani

    For parents whose kids may be a bit reluctant to start, or tend toward perfectionism, author Peter Reynolds has two great books to help them along. “The Dot” and “Ish” are two favorites of ours. We check them out from the library every other month or so.

  32. Jessica

    Just a comment about coloring books.
    I think if you choose books with quality illustrations or print artists line-art from online, or even line-art versions of masterpieces it can be beneficial to your child in the long run. I believe this from personal experience When I was a little girl I LOVED LOVED Barbie coloring books. Back in the day I was mesmerized by their flowing 1980s hair and elegant limbs. Later I developed an intense interest in figure drawing. There’s a clear connection in my work to those early coloring books. Prolonged, consistent exposure to art helps build a visual language. What’s more prolonged than coloring for hours inside the lines of great illustration?

    ALSO- ADORE THIS POST. I found it on Pinterest. I want to show it to all my parents! I’m an Art Teacher! :)