I love watching little children at play. They’re just so focused on the single toy in front of them, examining all sides of it, seeing how it looks standing up, on its side and in their mouths!
There’s no pressure whatsoever to play with it in a certain way, or to use it for its ‘intended’ purpose. They are free to mix up all their toys and come up with something we adults can’t imagine in our wildest dreams! If a jumbled mish-mash of crumpled paper looks like a bus to them, then it is indeed a bus! Well, that’s process art for kids!
What is Process Art?
“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” – Edgar Degas
So what exactly is ‘Process Art‘? Process Art can be defined as a creative movement where the focus is not on the end product or the work of art, but on the process of creating.
The ‘process’ includes everything that is done to create – sourcing materials, categorizing them, preparing them, putting it all together as well as finishing work. Basically, everything yo do is part of the process!
Although Jackson Pollock‘s art qualifies as process art, it is said to have been established as an art movement ever since the 1960s, with artists like Robert Morris, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra and Joseph Beuys making significant contributions in the area. Process art also gave rise to Performance Art, where an artist does an elaborate performance of any art form. Here is an example of process art – a piece by Robert Morris, done with felt and titled ‘Tangle’.
Why is Process Art important for children?
“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.” – Mary Ann F. Kohl
Process art has a more open-ended nature than product art.
As shown in the example above, process art can include any kind of material and is not restricted to painting or sculpting. For children, this can include splattering paint, fingerprint art or vegetable printing.
It is this very open-ended nature that makes it so appealing to children – there is no need to color within the lines!
They are free to do as their heart pleases, using whatever materials they like in any way they want. There are many benefits of such ‘free-form’ art when it comes to cognitive and emotional development:
- There is no need of any kind of training or instruction
- Process art does away with preconceived notions of what art ‘should’ look like, since the focus here is not on the end product at all
- It encourages kids to take risks – use a material they’re not familiar with and see how it works
- They learn to think about new ways of using regular things – no one would think of a wooden kitchen spoon as an art instrument otherwise!
- There is no expectation of how the resulting art should look like or if it should even exist – process art often involves fragile elements like sand art
- With no restrictions whatsoever, children are encouraged to look inwards and their inner desires and fears find a way of release through process art
- Process art is an excellent way to foster imaginative skills
Physical Movement through Process Art
Besides these, process art also builds physical skills more than product art or regular crafts do. Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination have great potential for growth with the use of various materials. The use of different textures and forms encourages sensory exploration. Sometimes, even the entire body is used to create art!
Check out these process art ideas that encourage physical movement:
Besides the fact that cotton balls give a lovely texture to artwork, handling the cotton balls with clothes pegs to get the right effect is a good fine motor skill, and also helps strengthen the muscles needed later for writing and school work. Projects with Kids has all the instructions for this art project.
Squeeges for painting? This is a great example of using the most mundane household objects for art! Make it your Own shows how to use a squeegee with thick paints to decorate something like a tablecloth.
Many of us have created spirograph drawings when we were kids, but probably not this big! Hello, Wonderful features kid-size drawings, which they make with the help of their own bodies – lots of process in this art!
When kids have to lie down for their background to be traced, you know it’s going to be fun! This project from Busy toddler involves just that, after which the kids get to go nuts painting their own backgrounds.
You’ve heard of process art encouraging physical activity, but this project from Pink Stripey Socks takes it to another level! Kids step on their tricycles and just cycle the paint around on a giant canvas for some truly unique art.
Want to introduce your kids to process art? Just swing it! Check out Home Grown Friends to see how you can use a swing to create motion that helps create some fun brush strokes.
Learning through Process Art
Process art also offers great scope for learning. Using natural materials like twigs and leaves keeps kids in touch with nature. The mixing of colors and different densities of liquids, for instance, are good ways to encourage questions – and find answers! Take a look at these process art projects that encourage learning.
Tops are a classic childhood toy, but when you apply that spinning action to distribute paint in all directions from a central point, you get process art! Babble Dabble Do creates an interesting STEAM project with a self designed top.
What happens when salt is added to water colors? This experiment from Learn with Play at Home describes the various steps to try this out, while creating something beautiful at the same time!
Baking soda is a very interesting ingredient to work with when it comes to science experiments, and The Pinterested Parent shows us how it also works in art. This is an excellent example of how the lines blur between science and art.
There’s nothing like nature to learn about science, art or even math! At Parenting Chaos, we can learn how to make a leaf print, an activity that can follow a fun nature hunt outdoors.
Legos are such incredibly versatile little pieces, but I bet you didn’t realize they’re also handy in process art! This project from Kids Craft Room uses Legos to create a pendulum, which then creates some amazing art!
Kids are sure to love this activity which involves flinging pom poms at a paper and watching it splatter the paint around! Let kids drop the pom poms from different heights to understand the impact of height and gravity on the resulting pattern.
Above all, process art is all about individuality. Each child’s art is entirely her own, and there is no question of comparing with another child. There is no competition, no frustration about the end result not looking a certain way. It also helps them to focus on experiences rather than material things – something that experts say is the secret to lasting happiness!
How to Introduce your Kids to Process Art
“There are no rules. That is how art is born” – Helen Frankenthaler
The first thing to remember when introducing your kids to process art is this – there are no mistakes! Be true to the spirit of process art by letting kids approach it at their own pace and in their own way. If you’re all new to this concept, start slow and begin by taking the right precautions. Set out large sheets of newspaper or a big shower curtain, or just take it outdoors! Don’t let the fear of stains come in the way of creativity! To get on with it here are a few more tips for parents.
- Provide all kinds of materials to your kids – nothing is out of bounds as long as they’re safe, non-toxic and not something valuable!
- If using paints, try all kinds – glass, fabric, acrylic, tempera
- Traditional brushes aren’t the only ones, you can also make your own brushes with twigs, flowers or pom poms
- Besides brushes, you can use toothbrushes, rollers, combs or spoons
- Make stamps out of vegetables, sponges or rocks
- Try all kinds of surfaces to paint on – canvas, chart paper, card stock, fabric, wood, shower curtain – the bigger the better!
- For sculptures, you can use cardboard, toilet rolls, twigs, leaves, pine cones, cans, fabric, yarn, clay, bottle caps, plastic flowers or anything lying around the house
- Don’t put a time limit – let the kids take all the time they need
- Talk about the art – the different colors and materials they’ve used
- It’s okay if the child wants to turn it into a product art in the end – it’s her own work after all!
Process Art Ideas for Beginners
Use marbles coated in thick paint to create some beautiful rainbow art. Kids Craft Room has all the instructions to go about making this process art project.
Process art isn’t just about painting; it also includes sculptures! Hello, Wonderful creates sculptures out of pasta of different shapes and sizes, along with basic craft supplies like pipe cleaners.
This is a fun activity from Mosswood Connections that doesn’t just teach kids about process art, but about improvising and recycling. Gather all kinds of mundane household objects (that are safe) and watch them come together to create art!
This project from Craftulate is nothing short of magic! They’ve used a magnet wand in the project, but you can use any large magnet to move around the tiny magnets through the paint – process art without getting your hands messy!
The Smokies have a project that mixes many things – food, science and art. This project is great for fall, when there are many different kinds of leaves on the ground. Use a food coloring spray paint and see how each leaf behaves with it.
Fantastic Fun and Learning show us that even a ping pong shooter can be used in process art! You can create all kinds of fun patterns as the ping pong balls splatter across your canvas.
Don’t shut down child’s suggestions as silly or impractical – remember that process art for kids should be about the process! Of course, if you’re a Type A, control freak it can be hard to let go, but you’ll get there with time! As Julia Cameron, renowned author of The Artist’s Way says, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” So let this process be one of release for both you and your kids!
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