It’s a post-Brexit Suffolk staycation in our house this summer. It could be utter fluke but I’ve made just one sale of artwork since the big shock nearly a month ago now. So, it’s time to watch the pennies, take picnics instead of purchasing meals out and hit those beautiful (free) Suffolk beaches. We are so lucky to live here. Each summer the children chastise us for thinking of heading off to foreign parts, because as they say, there is “just so much for us to do here” and of course they are right.
So what does an artist do with her children over the summer? Well, in the dad camp, we have long walks which are of course, enjoyed once we are actually out, but the mere suggestion of a walk knocks up all manner of woeful noises from the under 15’s in the house, it’s a battle hard fought (but of course always enjoyed in the end).
A Summer not working for an artist or creative can lead to a testy-parent sometimes. I’m always better/happier when I’m working - my great friend and printmaker Jo De Pear (her kids are older than mine) once sat me down when mine were tiny and told me that as a freelance mum, I should never begrudge the kids their holidays…..wise words indeed. It’s not easy to be in the flow of creating something and then have to stop, or even worse try and find last minute childcare: a pure mojo-breaker for sure, but the children don’t have to know this.
So here we are, Summer. Schools out as of yesterday and it’s day one.
Herewith are my suggestions for keeping the family creative over the next 5 weeks…
1. Have a ‘go-to’ box, full of instant gratification. Stickers, pens (marker pens are loved by all) pencils, scrap paper. Couple of notes on go-to boxes. Keep them gettable-at, really, is nothing more annoying than tons of crap on top of it. To have to fight your way into your art-fix box is a deal-breaker and unconsciously you will avoid it. Your go-to box should be enticing, not a stress. Encourage all family members that they are welcome to the fruits of the box, not just the most likely one.
2. Keep a simpler go-to box in the car too, perhaps with a clip-board of two, kids love clip-boards. The idea of this box is to take some bits out of it and with you on your trip – not only for use on car journeys. Take some items with you on your walk, perhaps some crayons and a scrap book for making leaf-rubbings or on-the-spot-drawings.
3. Give each child/family member a lovely blank book. This does not have to be expensive but it does need to be lovely. I sometimes use picture albums if the notebooks are a bit expensive. The idea of this book is for the child to jot down any memories, thoughts and collectables as we journey through the summer. There is nothing like a blank page to encourage young minds to get creative.
4. Pick one or two artists to look at over the summer. Any artist of interest will do. Perhaps Monet, or Picasso and spend some time with your child looking at their work. Youtube, google and libraries will all offer up some gems at this time. If you can get to see an original or two over the summer, all the better but for the main part, perhaps just use their work as something to look at together over the summer.
5. Allow and encourage the children to make mud pies, they are playing about with textures.
6. Get ‘Strewing’ people, leave some creative play around. To ‘Strew’ means to leave idea’s around apparently, I had a go and it works. Oops, look what I just happen to have left about in a subtle and non-overt way – some wooden-spoon-puppet making items – who knew?! You made what little Tommy? What a clever boy, etc, etc, it works beautifully, try it and it's great for the kids to feel like they self-started the whole thing.
7. Give olders ones a pound and ask them to purchase things only blue. Get them thinking creatively.
8. Play en-famille. Get a roll of wallpaper and draw around each other. Do a family portrait of feet, hands, heads, etc. Great fun and all engaging, even if it does take a while to get the oldies going.
9. Keep the new felt-tip tin topped up with NEW pens. Cull dead ones frequently. You can get cheap pens in supermarkets, etc. Don’t be fooled into buying the super-spence ones, you want ones that they can run out, leave tops off in creative fits and knacker through over use – replace them for more fun.
10. Go to bookshops and have a look at some of these beautiful books for children, full of idea’s for them, there are wonderful books full of things to celebrate and with bits to fill in. Now close the book, remember some of the ideas and take out your trusty marker and pen it out yourself on some of your wallpaper roll – peasy and cheap!
So there you have it, dear readers. Some artistic do’s for the weeks ahead. There are some fantastic websites out there to have a dip into too – The Artful Parent being one of the best. Enjoy and try not to be too in control. “I’m bored” is a great state for kids to be in (albeit a bit painful for the grown ups) as from boredom comes creativity. In fact wonderful things can happen when we let them unfold as nature intended – strew away people.
Happy Summer, Sam x