For the past several months, I’ve been participating in the Artist as Educator training program at the Portland Children’s Museum. As part of the current Curious George exhibit, artists from the program were asked to demonstrate their art form in The Studio this past weekend. I decided to demo encaustic (painting with molten wax).
This went over well with the parents and museum staff but my true audience were the under 5 gang…tough crowd. They weren’t about to stand by and watch some lady make art with pretty hot wax and fire. After one tyke cracked the dammar crystal sample and took off with a piece (I’m sure he was good and sticky by the time he got home), another little gal dove under the safety barrier and made a beeline for my hot wax in 2 seconds flat (she stopped in her tracks when I said HOT), and a third little guy took a bite out of my clear beeswax, I decided to shift gears.
Instead of making my own art, I repainted a few boards white and gave the kids a chance to make some art. They couldn’t take their drawings home and they had to share (which did cause a few near melt downs) but they were able to experience the warm wax, smell the wax, tell me about honey bees and color with beeswax crayons on a waxy surface.
I was amazed at how much they enjoyed the medium. Of course, I have yet to see a small child not love making marks (remember drawing on your walls? fun!). But, there was something about introducing these children to something so new they hadn’t experienced it yet. And their marks were absolutely gorgeous!
Picasso once said All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. He really believed that all children were genius when it comes to art. I believe that, too.
The other thing that really stood out when I handed over the wax in their tiny little paws was how deeply and quickly they immersed themselves in making art. I had a 21 month old little girl stand and draw for a good 5 to 8 minutes, leaving really happy with herself. Truly, it is just another testimony to why children should have as much great art as tasty food and fresh air and good friends.