Practice Art In The Frame

Children from about 9 to 12 years start to mature and reach

the “realistic age”.

At this stage they often feel disappointed about their art work.

(Read about Children talking about their art here.)

They want their art work to look realistic, and are often times are discouraged by this difficult task.  Therefore, they may discontinue expanding or practicing their art abilities.  It is important for any teacher or parent to intervene and encourage a self accepting attitude in the student.  They need to realize that they can still practice before they lose the desire altogether.  Unfortunately, many people remain in this stage through adulthood because they do not continue trying.  But that is where parents and teachers should step in with encouragement.  (

Many children express frustration,

give up

or even refuse to do art

when they feel that their art “doesn’t look right”.

Most formal art lessons will create stress.

We need to teach our children different techniques and expose them to different media in a non-threatening way..

With some quick activities, I  introduce children to these methods and media and help them learn new techniques.

  • To start,  I tell the children to draw a frame and write their names on the bottom of the blank page.
  • This immediately eliminates the fear of “messing” a pure white paper.

Draw a frame

  • To draw a wide frame,  I tell the children to hold the pencil between thumb and index finger, and point the pencil in to the page, extend the pencil tip further in to make the margin wider.
  • Then they drag their index finger along the side of the paper while pushing the pencil tip down on the paper to draw a fairly quick, straight line.

Making a wide frame

Now I use this frame to practice techniques.

  • Break the frame into several blocks.
  • In each block, we apply different artistic techniques or experiment with media that we will use later in the art lesson.
  • For example, if we sketch, I show them hatching examples.
  • Each block will have different hatching to create dark, medium and lighter tones  and different patterns for different texture.

Pencil shading from light to dark

Hatching and textures in the frame

Pen hatching for pen drawing

  • Or if we mix white and black paint to 1 colour to create shades and tones, we mix the paints and paint each block from light to pure colour to the darker shades.  We will use these shades and tones in the painting.
  • If we are using oil pastels, we practice mixing and blending colours on the margin.

Blending colours

  • They can try different scratch patterns on coloured oil pastel blocks with toothpick.

Blunt toothpick used for scratching patterns

  • We pretend that we are Beatrix Potter from the movie “Miss Potter” and use just blue watercolours and try make at least 8 different shades or tones of blue watercolour (like she did in the introduction to the movie.)
  • Children can practice painting with wet water paints on wet  paper versus painting on dry to see what changes.
  • Children can create patterns with felt-tipped pens.

These practice activities in the margin may take up a fair amount of time.

This is ok.

The more confidence the children feel working with new techniques and media before they start the real art work, the less stress and fear they experience.

Quite often the frame looks really lovely!

Children may want to repeat the activity all around the frame so it all looks the same.

Others “get it” and want to get on with the art work.

I let them begin if they want to.

With a few blocks and some practice, most children will do much more diverse art works.

For those who want to read up on art stages of development, here are some excellent resources:

Why would this information help?

Understanding the different art development stages, one has clearer expectations of each child’s abilities and can choose the most appropriate approach and art lesson for them.  Also, it helps one understand why children become stressed during their art lesson and we, as parents or teachers can help them.  Effective use of questions helps the struggling child to look at his art without giving up.

Try it and let me know if this helped!


4 thoughts on “Practice Art In The Frame

  1. What great ideas in this post! My kids are in that age range and they are starting an art camp tomorrow, though their grandmother is their teacher and the class is all with their friends so it should be more fun than stress. What a wonderful blog overall, too! Thanks for submitting this to the hands on homeschool blog carnival.


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