About a month ago I decided it was time to let my toddler paint for the first time. I had previously bought a painting smock online and I found some washable watercolors so I prepped the kitchen table and we started painting.
I talked with her about the colors, tried to explain how you put your paintbrush in the water, then the paint, then onto your paper. It went…ok…for a while. But she was barely two so I don’t know what I expected to happen. She did that for a bit and then started mixing all the colors and despite my process techniques, did what any two-year-old would do and mixed everything together in no particular order. By the time we were done her fingers were covered, the table was soaked and I was so glad I had that smock!
As I watched her start painting on her own I couldn’t help but notice how expressive she was. Every stroke she made on her paper was an explosion of energy, from the colors she used to the marks she was making. And because she’s so little there was no form or theme, only expressing her excitement for colors and playing with something new.
What if we all painted like a toddler?
We talk about art as being fluid or an expression of our emotions but how often do those emotions get stuck somewhere between our brush and the canvas because we are trying to conform to an idea we have in our heads? We make a sketch, we have a scene in mind, we sit down and try to re-create what we think will be ‘the masterpiece’ when maybe the true masterpiece isn’t that at all.
Although I am no expert in painting quite yet, I have noticed that some of my best painting days are ones where I don’t seem to have much of a plan. Instead, I let the plan come to me. It seems counterintuitive but it works!
When I let the plan come to me I relax into the painting and let it be whatever it needs to be. Sometimes it’s a mess of colors, other times I’m applying layers of textures, or scraping away a layer that was covered up previously. I don’t think, 'oh today I’m going to be painting a blue waterfall,' and then stick only to that plan. I have to allow the painting to tell me what it needs to be.
So every once in a while try painting like a toddler. Don’t think, just play with colors, play with your brush and the water, allow yourself to make a huge mess, and put all of your energy into having fun and enjoying the process.