An Introduction to Process Art

I have to say it. I hate (pre-)school crafts. Do a quick search on Pinterest or visit a pre-school, school or local children’s program and chances are you’ll be inundated with handprint turkeys for Thanksgiving or cotton ball bunnies for Easter.

I cannot for the life of me think of any way this could be considered art.

Okay, okay… We can agree, it’s not art, but every parent wants some cutesy thing to hang on their fridge. Right?

Um… nope, not me. In fact, I’ll proudly display the brown glob that started as a finger painting before my over zealous kid mixed all of the colours for 35 minutes. And then decided to use her toes because she likes the way the paint squishes in between them.

To me, that’s art. That’s creativity, that’s exploration, that’s sensory stimulation, heck, that’s even science. And the look of sheer exhilaration on her face while doing so – I definitely imagine that’s how Van Gogh must have felt while creating.

But if that damn cotton ball bunny should ever show it’s face in my child’s backpack – the only place it’ll find itself is in the garbage. And not just because I have an irrational fear of cotton balls. But because the only thing it symbolizes is how well my child can follow instructions. And perhaps an indication of her fine motor skills, but I can think of a million other ways to flex her finger muscles.

Okay, now that you know where I stand with preschool crafts disguised as art… Let me tell you about process art. Process art is exactly what it sounds like – art experiences that focus on the process, not the final product.

Five Features of Process Art:

1.) It encourages creativity and self-expression

The child is in charge of their art – they decide which colours, which materials, which process. No instructions, no rules, no samples. I will often set out certain materials, but there’s no rules for how to use them.

Rory deciding to paint himself instead of the pumpkin.

2.) It encourages exploration

Ayla exploring with colour mixing.

The child is allowed, and encouraged, to explore the materials. They can ditch the brush and decide to paint with their fingers. They can dip the same brush in all the paint colours (I admit, this one still irks me, but I let it irk me silently).

3.) The child is calm and relaxed.

Rory focusing on his masterpiece.

Seriously. I know this one is hard to believe. But if we step back and let our kids create, the process becomes so enjoyable for everyone involved.

4.) There’s a mess

Making a mess is not only a part of art, it’s a part of childhood. Throw down a sheet or tablecloth, strip them down or wear old clothes, roll up the expensive throw rug and let them make a mess!

The messier, the better!

5.) The final product is one-of-a-kind

If you give 5 children the exact same materials, you will still end up with 5 completely different final products. No two masterpieces will look the same!

Our beautiful family painting.

I hope I have given you an idea of just what process art is, and isn’t. Now that you get the basics, hop over here and read my post on “Process Art and Why it Matters” to get a clearer picture of why this is the kind of art experience we need to be offering our children.

I invite you all to share your process art experiences in the comments!!

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