At Project Kid, our mission is to open kids’ eyes to different ways of crafting. We want kids to think outside the aisles of a craft store and really explore to find their materials to help them build and design something that they can play with, wear, use or even just display (I mean, it’s art, right?).
But today I want to talk a little bit about process art which has a different focus. I love Meri Cherry’s definition:
Art that’s all about the making and the doing, rather than the finished product. Process art doesn’t mean there isn’t an amazing product at the end. There very well could be. It just means that’s not really the point. We’re trying to get kids and their adults to find value in making and doing, where they are making decisions, taking risks, thinking outside the box, taking their time, working with challenges, cultivating connection, and building empathy. Those things are the point.
I have always struggled with sharing projects that have such nit-picky instructions because I worry about kids’ fear of failure. When I wrote the draft of my first book, I kept all of the instructions very loose and open, hoping that parents would be encouraged to let their kids make decisions. But as editors do, they were afraid that parents would get frustrated with the lack of specificity, so I added the details back in. As much as possible, I always say—make it your own! Make choices! My way is not THE way, it’s just how I was feeling that day!
Here are a few of my favorite process art masters and some prompts and projects that you can pepper into the crafting that you do with your kids.
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1 SELF PORTRAITS
This is the perfect activity…all you need is a Sharpie, watercolor paints, paper and you! Once the permanent marker outline is down, you can paint over with the watercolor and let the colors flow! Image via Meri Cherry. I love the idea of doing these at least once a year to see how kids’ self-image changes.
2 WACKY WOOD SCULPTURES
Another gem from Meri Cherry are these delightful, open-ended sculptures. I’d suggest using Aleene’s® Tacky Glue to really hold it all together. But with oil pastels, paint, and gluing on little doodads, each one comes out totally original. And there’s no pressure to attain a certain skill level…this project (like most process art), really meets there kids where they are.
3 DRAWING STICKS
This idea from Art Bar Blog is genius. Tape markers or paint bushes to a stick from outside (or dowels if you have them), and tape paper to the floor. Challenge the kids to make some art by holding the sticks with their toes!
4 ENVELOPE CITY
I adore this project from Art Bar…it reminds me of an envelope house project that appeared in my first book! When a child can see that the shape of a traditional object references something else, that’s when my heart sings…like how an unfolded envelope looks like a house.
Color some of the wide wood craft sticks to look like people and set up a little play village! Markers, crayons, or oil pastels work just fine on these!
5 RAINBOW SQUEEGEE PAINTING
I think this abstract painting is frame-worthy, and you can also cut it up to make postcards, gift tags, or shapes to make a pretty garland.
6 CONTACT PAPER COLLAGE
The only thing you may not have already in your home for this one is clear contact paper—get it! There are so may creative ways to make the contact paper collages from Art Bar…I want to get started immediately! Magazine clippings, cupcake liners, string, newspaper, or paper scraps of any kind!
Just let kids put their materials down on the contact paper (sticky side up of course) like it’s a big piece of scotch tape. It’s probably a good idea to use some paper masking tape to hold the contact paper down to the table so they don’t get frustrated with it curling up on itself. The end results are so varied and fabulous!
7 PAINTING RECONSTRUCTIONS
I love how Katie Vernon cut up old paintings to make new assemblages. If your child makes something that she really rejects, encourage her to look at it another way. Maybe it was meant to be a different shape? Maybe it was meant to have eyes painted on it to turn it into a monster? It’s so hard talk them off the ledge when they insist on bad-mouthing something that they made, but there are so many ways to reconfigure what we create into something new. (Also, how beautiful is Katie Vernon’s work?)
8 STICKER PROCESS ART
There is no denying that stickers are fun. I love this idea from Tinkerlab of drawing a frame and using office stickers, available online or any office store, to create an abstract composition. Consider adding some drawing lines to connect shapes and give the piece some different line weights.
Definitely explore the websites of these creative women for endless ideas! The beauty of process art is that I think you as parents or caregivers will be inspired to start playing around with materials in experimental ways!