More Mess Than Results – our approach to children’s art

The kids LOVE slopping paint around.  You do NOT love the clean-up.  That’s why you’ll ALL love Holiday Academy – and here’s why it’s important to get messy sometimes…

Visit a contemporary art gallery and you’ll probably see some peculiar things.  A stack of A4 paper in a glass cabinet, or a tarpaulin that you climb underneath to view a picture – art can be interesting, inviting, and thought-provoking.  But is it all about the end result?  There is art in the process of imagining these things.  As we mature, our brains become used to rules and routines.  We know precisely how we are expected to create or produce something.  We will pick up a paintbrush in the correct way, dip it into a colour, and then scrupulously wash it before using the next colour.  But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t have these preconceptions?

Children are investigative.  They love to see what happens when the colour gets mixed and mingled.  They don’t yet know everything.  The experimenting is totally free and intriguing.  That’s why we think our art workshops are equally about the process.  We’re here to enable children to stick their fingers into paint and glue and feathers, to make unexpected combinations and silly discoveries.  They are not yet bound by all the silent rules that prevent most of us from getting messy.

Yes, caution is definitely advisable in many environments that children encounter, but in a lot of art activities, there are only a handful of basic rules.  It’s a really safe way for them to explore not only the materials but their ideas and their physical capacities.  What would a monkeydile look like?  Can you paint with your toes?  Can you make a machine from people? 

This imaginative, inventive, rule-free process builds skills in lots of other disciplines, too.  Not just creative work and writing, but also developing, coding and scientific investigation.  

At Holiday Academy, our art workshops are often guided – with a sample ‘end result’ – but we always encourage the children to make their own version and come up with fresh ideas.  For some children, a guided activity is a ‘way in’ where a blank sheet would have been intimidating.  And for other children, expressing their personalities through colour and design is easier than other forms of communicating.  Every child is different and some value a sense of pride in ‘results’, while others will become utterly absorbed in the process.  

But it’s never about perfection, or about every child creating the same thing.  What we like to see at the end is… mess.  Lots and lots of happy mess.  That tells us that the children have enjoyed and benefited from the experience, whether their sheep ends up looking like a sheep or a pink dinosaur.

And that’s why we value the mess, and not the results. 

What do you think?  Do you preserve all of your child’s art work, or hang it up in the house?  We’d love to hear your views.