kids art

For the past 17 years Susan Schwake has run an independent art school where she works with people of all ages and abilities. For the past eight years the art school has been part of artstream gallery and design studio. She has recently written a book Art Lab for Kids (published by Quarry Books February 2012). She blogs at artesprit.

I was thrilled when Kath invited me to write a post about my new book: Art Lab for Kids  here on WhipUp.  Art Lab for Kids is a smattering of lessons which I chose from the past 18 years of teaching fine art to children and adults. It is my hope that Art Lab for Kids could be used by  parents, home schoolers, teachers, community groups, librarians, and any combination of people wanting to learn technique, be inspired and to express themselves in fine art.

At first it was difficult to narrow it down to just 52, but with the idea that someone might use the book as a year-long experience for teaching art to a child (or themselves) it became clear.  I wrote the lessons to be stand-alone projects – but arranged them in an order that they also would build upon skills as you go through the book. Each lesson includes inspiration from an established artist – some famous, some not so – to broaden the reader’s idea of, and to help then gain confidence in, their personal style and subject matter in 2D art.

One of my personal goals in teaching art is to build confidence and fearlessness in making it. Part of becoming fearless in making art is being prepared. The introduction and first chapter give the reader some ideas about making art with others, setting the stage for creativity and a comprehensive outline of setting up a studio. Having taught both children and adults in my own studio, in large community settings, public schools and in workshops one of the most important keys to success is being prepared – it puts everyone at ease. Each lesson is laid out with a “think first” section, then step by step photos and a separate materials list to help insure success. Organization counts!

The photo shoots were the most fun part of making the book. My husband, (a media designer extraordinaire, goofball and lover of all things child-like) was the photographer for the book. This choice was natural because not only is he a wonderful photographer, but he has a great knack of putting everyone at ease. We worked together setting the shots and styling for each lesson – including wrangling more than a few odd cords, oil pastels and interesting still life subjects – and reminding the kids that it was okay to smile, (making art is a serious business!), while working. There were more than a few giggle- fests which help to ease the slow process of shooting the steps.

The kids had a lot of fun making artwork for the shoots as well as the excitement of being in the book and the gallery exhibit of all their artwork with the artist’s work side by side this month at artstream I have been having fun offering workshops for children during book signings and at Plymouth State University for emerging art educators. You can follow along at my site or at facebook It’s my hope that people will use my book to discover their own passion for art.


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website