Family Adventures: Drawn together

Despite the fact that Sweet Husband and I are two make-it-with-your-hands kind of people, we rarely have “art time” with the Kid. It’s not for lack of desire. (I happen to think that coloring with crayons is one of the most relaxing activities on the planet.) It’s just one of those things we forget to think of in the mish-mush of two jobs and a pre-schooler.

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For a whole month we dedicated 10 or 15 minutes after dinner to pulling out our art supplies and drawing together at the table.

One of our more successful attempts to remedy our art deficiency happened last fall when we did a month-long “Family Draw.” While different families do it differently, we decided that for a whole month we’d dedicate 10 or 15 minutes after dinner to pulling out our art supplies and drawing together at the table.

It ended up being such a nice transition between dinner and cleanup/bath/bedtime. The Kid scribbled, I doodled and Sweet Husband practiced drawing the scrolls he engraves on metal at work. We were mostly quiet, focused. It was a pause to breathe.

We liked it so much, in fact, that we’re planning another “Family Draw” month this fall. With the days already getting shorter and school supplies in the bargain bin, it’s a great time to take stock of your art cabinet and plan some family art time of your own. Here are some tips and ideas to get you drawing.

Before you start, consider what art supplies you might need. A pack of crayons or colored pencils and some plain computer paper will get you far, but if you hit a good sale, consider markers, chalk or watercolors. Check out all different kinds of paper from huge sheets of newsprint to smaller, thick card stock. Or make your art time more 3-D with glue, washi tape, stickers or clay.

That’s a big list, but remember that you certainly don’t need all of those things. As anyone whose ever tried to paint with the cheap, plastic pallets that come with “kids” watercolor sets knows, quality trumps quantity. A few tubes of good, liquid watercolors are better than 101 wan, crumbly paints. Eight bright, bold crayons are better than the mega box of the waxy kind that snap in half when you apply pressure.

Also, think about what you want to use to store your finished art and works in progress. I wanted identical sketch books so that the Kid wouldn’t decide that ours were “better” and — because the Kid is small — they also needed to have large pages. After years in art school, Sweet Husband has gotten picky about the type of paper he draws on — not too slick, not too toothy. And I just wanted something that would contain and chronicle our work. Three matching, 8-by-10, spiral-bound sketch books fit the bill perfectly.

While you’re standing in the sketch book aisle scratching your head, you might additionally think about picking up a few drawing books to reflect your family’s interests. I adore the Ed Emberly series. His books cover everything from faces to trains and are really good at breaking drawing down to basic shapes. The Toy Store has a good selection if you want browse a few.

Once you get those shiny supplies home, try to store them out in the open so you’ll be more tempted to use them. Your space will vary, of course, but I keep our supplies on our open dining room shelves in plain mason jars. The jars are inexpensive, nicely sized and you can always see what’s inside of them. They’re also pretty enough to leave on display, particularly with a rainbow of markers tucked inside.

Ready to draw yet? Yay! But remember one last thing: Don’t get stressed about your drawing being “good.” This goes especially for the grown-ups, as your kids will take their cues from you.

Draw a page of flowers. Cover your paper with squares and fill them in with different colors. If it makes you less self-conscious, call it “doodling” instead of “drawing” or “art.” Enjoy the process, don’t fret about the final product.

And, most importantly, have fun drawing!

— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at mybitofearth.net.

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