Ten Tips for teaching Art to your child-for the non-artist parent

If you are a parent who sees artistic potential in your child or children but are at a loss as to how to help them develop their artistic skills further, then this is the article for you.

Tip 1:Believe that it is a basic part of human nature to be creative and that you and your children have every right to be creative because Art is not exclusive. (If you do not believe this yet, then pretend to for your children’s sake!)


Tip 2:If you have very little formal artistic skills yourself, it’s not a problem. Find one of many great online tutorials that can teach you and your children how to draw. Here are just a few: How to draw a nose, How to draw a Spinosaurus, How to draw a butterfly, How to draw a dragon’s eye

Tip 3: When your child does a piece of art work train yourself not to automatically say ‘Wow, that’s so amazing darling’. Take a look at this fantastic clip called Austin’s butterfly and try giving feedback that actually means something and shows you’ve taken the time to really look at their art.

Tip 4: Keep sketchbooks and date work. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as looking back over art work and seeing how much you’ve improved since the first drawing.

Tip 5: Let children follow their own inspiration! If Jonny loves snakes and you have a snake phobia, you’ll still have to support Jonny when he draws snakes because you don’t want to pass on your fear of snakes. Remember, it’s passion that gets artists through difficult times.

Muhyi snake

Tip 6: Encourage your children to embrace mistakes. So frustrating when they know what they want a drawing to look like and their hands just won’t do it! Learn about Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and the power of using the word ‘yet’. Mistakes are not a catastrophe, they are part of an essential process towards a goal. Your brain develops most when you make a mistake and learn from it, so teach your child to be pleased when they make a marvellous mistake and explain that they are just not quite there yet.

Tip 7: For ways to create fun opportunities for Art linked to story books read this article.

Tip 8: Let your children take photos. Imagine you go to the zoo on a family trip but they’re just too excited to sit and draw any of the animals there. Well that’s where many artists would take several photographs of their favourite animal for later use. On a rainy day you can get the photos up on a computer or ipad and draw from them. Here are some photos my son took when we went to Crocodile world.


Tip 9: If you have an ipad or tablet then download Photoeditor. Let your children experiment with editing a photo they took. Art can be digital as well as drawn with pencil and paper. Here are some digitally edited photos done by 7 year olds I’ve worked with.

Tip 10: Get children out and about and do some Art outdoorsLand Art or at a museum.

Here are some pics of Land Art I’ve done with my children.

I hope this gives you some helpful advice to get started and perhaps once you get going you’ll have some inspiring ideas yourself that you’d like me to put up on this post for others to see.

If you have photos you’d like me to share then please send them to a.henckel@hotmail.com and add any short notes or tips you’d like me to add alongside them.


Come and take a peek at Trinidad with me.

The unsettled apprehension on boarding the light aircraft from heavenly Tobago to Trinidad was intermingled with excitement and curiosity.

A combination which I quietly bore as the twenty minute flight ended in a bumpy touch down.

I bit my lip as I strained to recognize roads, and buildings. A fruitless task I quickly realized as I rarely frequented the capital as a child and therefore would only have vague recollections from 20 years back.

What I saw through the car window was a place bustling with life, industry, traffic and people along the road selling goods to make ends meet. A truly different atmosphere from the Tobago fishing village I experienced a few hour before.

Here follows a photo journey.



First views (above) of Port of Spain from a high vantage point . Surrounded by hills and mountains, it is a built up, bustling city with all manor of races, creeds colours living together fairly harmoniously.


IMG_0727 IMG_0728

The most famous beach in Trinidad is Maracas bay and the winding coastal road leading to this white sand paradise is simply spectacular.
If you can keep your composure whilst perhaps feeling a little car sick, then just poke your head out the coastal side of the car and prepare to have your mind blown as you wizz by and catch glimpses of dizzying high cliffs, filled with lush vegetation and the crumpled azure sea far below.
We drove up the Northern coast, to the village of Blanchisseuse with friends. And again…with my head far out the window I spotted this tiny fishing village far below. Of course I stopped the troops and dragged every one out to take a photo.
The ground was blistering hot on my soft bare feet as I snapped away, hardly believing my luck.
Below is a friend’s friend’s beach. Public in theory, private in practice as no one except the owners of the beach house have access to the beach. I’ve never seen a coconut tree growing at such a precarious angle! (Acrylic on canvas)
Trinis are always up for a fete (party), dressing up nice, a dance, music and a good time. This is a place where you could actually get sick of partying!!
At the Emancipation village we had all of these things rolled into one. Just look at those incredible or rather edible head dresses!! Are you thinking cotton candy?
Emancipation day is celebrated for a whole week. It is where the Africans of Trinidad celebrate their emancipation from slavery, many events, concerts, dances, drumming performances and arts and crafts are on display for all to enjoy. Just check out these two fabulous beauties below!!! I can’t wait to paint them!
IMG_0773 IMG_0774
This lovely lady is part of an organization that protects the rain forests of Trinidad. She IMG_0760makes bold tribal pieces of wearable art jewellery from seeds, wood, and other natural materials.
She’s modeling one bold piece around her neck!

Her name is Akilah and you can find  her eco jewellery business on facebook here.
Here’s a link to that reforestation project I mentioned earlier.
Fancy a fruit? These pottery fruit are made by a lady who works with simple glazes and local clay. She also made a coconut tea pot which looked quite real from further away.
The leather craft was outstanding, in my opinion. There were gorgeous handmade sandals, purses, bowls and bags (I bought this one. And don’t you love his big smile!!!).
IMG_0777 IMG_0778
I interviewed one of the artists at the Emancipation Village who’s art work caught my eye.
Most Trinis love their Carib (Trini beer), have a ridiculous sweet tooth, and the men tend to like their women plus sized!!! Unfortunately these appetites take their toll on the population and it is not uncommon to see one legged men on crutches due to diabetes and unhealthily large women.
Even shop manikins were a realistic size, which was a delight to see, rather than our British spindly size zero manikins that make you depressed before you even enter the shop!
And at least these have some bottom to speak of. So refreshing in an odd way!
The city I was born in and the second largest city on the island is San Fernando. I visited the house I grew up in only to find it was no longer there. Realized the long steep hill I called my street was in fact a tiny short hill that had been enlarged through childhood eyes.
First view of Sanfernando.
San Fernando is much poorer and less plush than the capital Port of Spain, but somehow I finally felt I was home. I recognized streets, houses, even the old rum shop which as a child old men used to sit daily outside playing backgammon, whistling crudely to passing ladies.
It’s still a rum shop, but gone are the old men and that slower pace of life.
The three lovely people below agreed to pose for me after I explained, in my best Trini accent that I was an artist and intended to paint them.
The lady below, a herbalist, sold me many strange medicines with even stranger names.
Granny’s backbone is an odd bent piece of tree that when boiled and drunk, would aid arthritis, blood circulation and several other ailments.
I also bought a calabash from her and painted one half of it as a decoration.
She is scraping out the insides of the inedible calabash for Baptists to use in their religious ceremonies.
I loved this stuffy, old launderette (below) with its vintage machines still in working order.
Lush foliage, fruit laden trees, rich fishing, swamps, rainforest, mountains. Just a glimpse to feed your eyes!
Noni fruit
Noni fruit (above). Smells revolting, like a mix of stinky toes, old stilton and vinegar. And yet it’s worth so much money for its medicinal properties. Apparently you just let it rot down and drink the juice.
Five fingers. Just ready to pick!
Bread fruit, above. No! you don’t make bread with it but cook it with coconut milk and meat. The dish is called Oil down. It is similar to potatoes in taste.
IMG_0887 DSC01169 DSC01173 IMG_0899 IMG_0901 IMG_1031 IMG_1064 IMG_1084
The Caroni swamp is one of the few places in the world to see the beautiful Scarlet Ibis. The swamp is an incredible interwoven tangle of Mangrove trees teeming with wildlife and is especially exquisite at dusk.
Also the best time to see flocks of scarlet Ibises and white egrets flying to roost.
There is so much beauty on such a little Island, and the people are warm, vibrant and full of creativity. If someone could solve the traffic problems, the corruption in politics, and clamp down on crime, along with passing a law limiting the amount of sugar added to all super market products Trinidad would be even more fantastic!
I had an amazing visit and would like to thank all my family and close friends for making it so.

Rain forest mural: Painted by 9-11 year olds

We spent all morning, all break time and most of lunchtime finishing off our mural so that it would be ready for our Windmill Art Week Exhibition. Lots of proud parents will come and admire it tomorrow, I’m sure!!! Well done to all the Year 5 children, you’ve done a terrific job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I’ve loved working with you!IMG_1386 IMG_1387 IMG_1388 IMG_1389 IMG_1390 IMG_1391 IMG_1393 IMG_1394

Perhaps we can turn the pictures into cards and raise some money for our school and some conservation charities too. What do you all think???

Creative Nerves

I feel excitement when someone asks me to create a piece of art work for them, whether it is art jewellery, ceramics or something else I never get over the secret and pleasurable thought that somebody actually values my work enough to ask me to create more of it.

I suppose, this felling must be felt by all artists to varying degrees. But I wander if perhaps when fame and success take over, whether this combination of satisfaction and excitement still remains or perhaps a touch of self importance takes over. Perhaps this feeling of excitement  is important to the creative process and helps to intensify the creative energy. The ‘secret’ pleasure of being valued gives the artist a sense that they are appreciated and compels them to continue creating.

There is also a quiet nervousness, it’s so hidden away but as they say…a little bit of nerves are good! I think the nerves of an artist are better termed creative nerves. I feel that it is the creative energy bubbling away beneath, just waiting to be allowed out in full force. Rather like a wild cat waiting to pounce upon its prey, so the creative energy within me is poised and ready to be called upon without time constraints or inhibitions to check its process.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Having observed myself in this new state of quiet creative nervousness, I then recall the speech written by Marianne Williamson in her book A Return To Love (also words often associated with Mr Mandela). There is a fear, a reluctance to freely create. Often these shackles to the creative process can be practical such as money, undervalued talent, lack of time, but at other times they can be deeper rooted than this. Artists can be held back by the establishment, social norms, trends, cliches and ‘trying to be different’. To feel liberated from our own fear, the creative process has to be excited, inspired and explored so that it can shine with natural uniqueness and flair.

Creative nerves are a small stimulus that can begin that process of inspiration and exploration and can lead an artist into fresh, new ground.

Mindful Creativity – an exploration

True creativity does not merely take the form of art, drawing, dance and all the other general creative activities that we associate with the word. In fact I have discovered that true creativity and creative thinking can happen daily to every person at any time regardless of their activity. Most activities in life can be a creative act provided that we are living at that moment in the present and not in the past or the future.

I should have been absolutely relaxed and at my full creative potential during this two week Christmas break, but instead I spent it in quiet turmoil worrying about my first day back at work, my up coming interview, what I would cook for the family tomorrow, what uniforms I should buy for the children, how short my holiday was, how I would definitely do absolutely nothing tomorrow so I’d feel like I was on holiday, and so much more. I spent much time in the future and actually missed most of the present. As a result the holiday flashed by, I hardly enjoyed it, and I feel no more prepared for my first day at work or my interview than if I had actually really done nothing but at least enjoyed it.

On top of this I have realized that this holiday was an opportunity to give my two boys some  special attention, some mindful attention, and yet that rarely happened at all. Mindful parenting, I have discovered is where a parent practices living in the present moment whilst dealing with the child in front of them. Being present at that moment with the child (without the previous ideas and criticisms held), and sustaining that attention in the present will then allow the necessary creativity to come through and the parent to deal with the situation in the best way possible.

Creativity and parenting definitely go hand in hand, I know this through experience as I think back to the few times when I was actually present in the moment. Times when I  suggested a tantalizing distraction to engage my fighting sons, or when I’ve been aware enough to sense that their excitable energies were leading to destruction and mayhem and found a creative outlet for that energy through music/percussion/art.  But the big challenge is to uphold this creative parenting and therefore this living in the present through the more stressful and tired days of my life.  I’ve come across an amazing piece of writing about mindful parenting and it suggests twelve top tips. These are taken from an interview where ‘Sarah van Gelder talks with Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn about how the Buddhist concept of mindfulness can help us to see the wholeness and beauty of our children in each moment.’

Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting

  1. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

  2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view; imagine having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

  3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. Work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

  4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children, and consider whether they are truly in your children’s best interests. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

  5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground where your needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

  6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still. Meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what really needs to be done.

  7. Try embodying silent presence. Listen carefully.

  8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. See what is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition and best instincts.

  9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing, and they demonstrate that you see a situation more clearly, or more from your child’s point of view. But “I’m sorry” loses its meaning if we are always saying it, or if we make regret a habit.

  10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

  11. There are very important times when we need to practice being clear and strong and unequivocal with our children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness and generosity and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid and controlling.

  12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and in awareness. We have to be grounded in the present moment to share what is deepest and best in ourselves.

The above twelve steps are taken from here, they were written by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn and are part of their book called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting.

Well I’ve spent the last day of my holiday practicing mindfulness, really listening to my children instead of hearing their words but with my mind on other things. It was not always easy to break the habit but it was made easier by the energy of the strong intention I made to practice it. And despite an ill child with a roaring temperature, preparation of school uniforms, making packed lunches, the prospect of the school run and an early morning start I did actually enjoy the day and am not suffering from Sunday blues.

Living in the moment allowed me the space to see certain negative things that I do with the children which I was previously unaware of, I also saw how I treat them differently and how in this particular case it put a lot of pressure upon one of their little shoulders.  To see this and create a new behavior pattern within myself is an important aspect of True creativity. I have come to understand that the urge to create has many more positive uses than simply to make a piece of art work. The creative force can be used throughout every day life whether it be making and presenting beautiful food, redecorating the house, creative parenting, creativity with one’s partner, creativity at work, or creating new and better behaviors.

So why do I avoid living in the now, the present moment. Fear of boredom, the idea that if I don’t think about all the things I need to do then I will forget them, resentment at having to do something constantly for others-where’s time for ME? The idea that I’ll do this thing for you physically but at least I’ve still got my mind to think about whatever I want. Weather all these ideas are foolish I have yet to explore but I’m determined to find out over the next few months. Exactly how I will improve my terrible memory I do not know but perhaps being mindful will help, a big challenge will be to combat boredom.  As for ‘Me’ time, well Exercise no 5 ( above) has put me in my place!

The re discovery of mindfulness is quite exciting for me as it puts creativity at the centre of everything I do resulting in less resentfulness at all the other daily chores and activities that take me away from my art work. How easy will it be to be mindful when the exhaustion of the school term is at its hight I cannot say but I can only try to me mindful even if it is of my own tiredness.

A painting, dance, sculpture, music are all evidence of a creative act but they are only part of the process of creativity. True Creativity has infinite expressions and can be used and expressed at any moment in a person’s life and is accessible when they are living in the moment. Therefore Mindful Creativity is a way of life, a way of being and doing that is far beyond the small remit of a visual or performing artist. I wish to conclude with my favorite  quote, the words of the wise old tortoise in Kung Fu Panda who says

‘You are too concerned about what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Share this quote

The Artist’s Lament

A fool I was to pin my happiness on you.

When now I see you’ve been untrue.

Leaving me at times of dire need

My hapless whisperings, took no heed.

Where were you at the dead of night?

Those precious hours, at down, took flight:

Whilst I alone remain in sorry state

Longing for my ill matched mate.

A fool I was to pin my hopes on you

But now I see you’ve been untrue.

Beguiling me with your dazzling feeling.

Then from me, in the darkness stealing.

Where did you go? Which undeserving soul did you see?

Bestowing your ecstasy on them, not me.

A fool I was to give my self to you

As now, I see you’ve been untrue.

I ask of myself, Is it something I’ve done?

As I watch you, carelessly go and come.

Can I last yet another night?

When will Destiny and Time put this wrong to right?

Writings on the source of creativity


Snippets from the Radio, sound waves with meaning,

A smell and the memory of some past feeling.

The heart rate quickens, thoughts start racing,

Images and flashes from the depths come rushing.

Parts of your voice come filtering through, a tapestry of threads,

The warp and weft of your voice and my Muse weaving in and between,

This energy, a force from the deep unseen.

I cannot escape these creative jaws,

Like the mouse in a cat’s playful paws,

I am taken and captured,

Tossed, yet enraptured

At this beauteous state, so instinctive and free

A drop from the ocean of True creativity.

What then will become of it when the moment is gone?

Will it become sullied, tainted with ego?

Who’s idea was it? Not mine, I’m sure

As it was I who waited and watched it mature.

From inspiration to imagination,

Thought form to manifestation,

The process changes as I now take part

In the physical making of what they call Art.

But in fact it is all and act,

A masquerade acted by a fool

Who’s caught up by artistic drool.

A creator who has lost their purpose

And remains trapped upon the surface.

Snippets from the radio, sound waves with meaning

A smell, and the memory of some past feeling.

The heart rate quickens, thoughts start racing

Images and flashes from the depths come rushing.



How can my Muse want subject to invent,

While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse

Thine own sweet argument, too excellent

For every vulgar paper to rehearse?

O! give thyself the thanks, if aught in me

Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;

For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,

When thou thyself dost give invention light?

Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth

Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;

And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth

Eternal numbers to outlive long date.

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,

The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

William Shakespeare