Taking the Easel Outside

Michelle McNally
August 26, 2011

Most children like to draw and paint, and doing so outside makes the whole process more enjoyable. By moving outside, the child is exposed to a whole new world of subjects. Outside means easy clean up, and projects will dry faster in the outside air. 

Move the easel and supplies outside, and encourage your child to draw upon the outside world for inspiration. Take a walk around your yard, street, or park, and ask your child what colors she sees. Notice the ground, and look up to the sky. Notice the things that are living- do they always look the same, or do they change with the seasons? Once she's at the easel, set her up with the colors she's noticed.

To make outdoor drawing or painting truly unique, add a bit of the outdoors to the process. 

If there are nature items that would make a good collage items (acorn tops, fallen leaves, etc), gather those up and encourage your child to incorporate them into her artwork. The painting could be realistic, or maybe a flight of whimsy where a leaf is turned into a flying carpet. 

Sketching is typically done with pencils, but chalk or crayons can also be used. Outside is also the perfect place to mix mediums- have your child sketch something, and then paint it with watercolor paint. If your child is looking for larger movements, fill a spray bottle 3/4 with water, and just enough tempera paint to create a color, and have her spray the paint on the paper.

Outside is also the perfect place to experiment with brush techniques, such as flicking paint onto the paper, because, again, the mess doesn't matter! Nature can also be added to this process- she can paint with a blade of grass, stick, or leaf.  Finger painting is also a treat for the senses, and doing so outside makes for easy cleanup. 

Outside projects are also a good way to introduce a little science: Where is the sun when your artist is painting? Does the sun look different at different times of the day? Does it make things look different? What about the shadows, do they change as the day progresses? Older children may be challenged to capture the same scene at different times of the day. 

One more thought to keep in mind: you don't need an easel if you have a fence or room for a clothesline. Simply drape plastic sheeting or an old sheet over a fence or a string up on a clothesline for an instant canvas.  A large piece of cardboard can also be used, either as the canvas or as the backboard for a piece of paper. 

From the Parents

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