Why painting is good for children

(as published in Families magazine September 2016)

Picasso said it took a lifetime to paint like a child. I think that if children paint regularly in a supportive environment, they will experience a joy and creative confidence that they won’t forget.

I find the painting process beautiful. I’m currently painting instinctive abstract paintings: I set up my my colours and wait for one to attract me, then when I am finished with it I wait for the next, and so on, until the painting feels finished. I express what I feel in that moment. There are of course moments of ‘it’s not working’, and when that happens I take a break, have a cup of tea, go back to it fresh. It teaches you to have the patience and confidence to explore creatively and that (for example, when everything falls into place seamlessly with minimal effort) you really can create your own joy.

I’ve always loved art but I didn’t pursue it at school. I have vague memories of painting fruit and making lots (and lots) of coil pots. I was quite good at copying, but it was tedious. Then, waiting for a job to start (in law), I did a painting course on a whim. The teacher said there were ‘no mistakes’ and just ‘follow your instinct’. It was magical: I had the freedom to create whatever I wanted, and someone who thought I was good at it standing there, cheering me on!

I want to show my students that they have absolute freedom to express themselves in paint/collage/pencil and to assure them that what they create will be beautiful and unique. I’ve seen in my art/creative writing lessons that this takes quite a lot of convincing; endless exams teach us that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ and that we want to be right. But, when the message gets through, I’ve also seen that it does wonders for self-esteem and confidence, and brings so much joy. That’s why it’s important to start early!