Have you ever tried large-scale canvas art with your kids?
You might think that the price would be prohibitive, but you can do it on the cheap. (I’ll share a few ideas at the end of this post…)
I came across a large stretched canvas artwork (3 x 4 feet) for 5 bucks in a thrift store a bit over a week ago. Such a great find! I was so excited!
I took the canvas home and started painting it over with white acrylic paint the next day. I didn’t get far, though, before the kids took over.
Once the white coat dried, we got out the acrylic colors and the kids took over completely with mixing up the perfect tints and shades, discussing composition, and yes, a few arguments.
Here are some photos of the artwork in progress as well as finished on the wall. I also include information on how to facilitate your own large-scale canvas painting with kids, with tips on doing large canvas art inexpensively and how to repurpose a canvas painting, in case you’re planning to use one that is already painted as we did.
Large-Scale Canvas Art with Kids
- A large stretched canvas (repurpose a thrift store find or an artwork that you don’t like anymore)
- White acrylic paint, gesso, or primer
- Paint brushes
- Acrylic paints in colors desired (you can use a half-off coupon at a large chain craft store to buy a set)
Note :: If using a new stretched canvas, skip down to #3.
- First, clean the painted canvas artwork. Dust the it if it needs it, then take a barely damp cloth and gently wipe it down. Let dry.
2. Then, paint over the canvas artwork with white acrylic paint or primer. Let dry.
If you think the white will become a part of the new painting, as a background or whatever, you might want to do a second coat of white paint for good coverage and let it dry again.
3. Paint the newly white, blank canvas with your own new masterpiece.
We used acrylic paints, which are obviously permanent. You can also use tempera paints or similar (BioColors, Activity Paint, etc) if you don’t have acrylic paints or don’t want to deal with permanent paint. However, acrylics do work best on canvas and the finished artwork will last longer so if you can, I recommend giving them a try.
Some tips for using acrylic paints with kids
- Protect your work surface, floor surface, and kid. Acrylic paint dries quickly and is permanent once it’s dry. Therefore prevent it from getting on your table or floor with art mats, a waterproof tablecloth, a drop cloth, and/or a paper covering. Have the kids wear old clothes or an art smock. (I talk more about art mats and such in my post, The Best Kids Art Tools for a Successful Experience.) Alternately, take the art outside.
- Use disposable cups and dishes for the paint. You will want to throw them away afterward.
- Keep a jar of water and a paper towel handy for the brushes. Teach the kids to wash the brush afterward right away and wipe off the excess paint/water on the paper towel or rag. Alternately put the brushes in the water right away and use a new brush for the next color then wash the brushes en masse after the painting session is over. You don’t want the fast-drying acrylic paint to ruin your paint brushes.
- Set up a hand-washing station. If the sink isn’t near by (and I mean really, really close) you will probably want to set up a tub of warm, soapy water in the art area along with a drying cloth or paper towels. You may not want your kids walking through the house with paint-covered hands.
- Lay some ground rules. Before starting, talk to your kids about how acrylic paint is permanent and they need to be careful to keep the paint on the canvas and in the work area.
Okay, so now the kids are painting away on the large canvas or art surface… They will probably do some painting then move on to something else and come back to it later or another day. If they don’t do this naturally, you may want to suggest that they paint a layer, then let it dry.
Once the first layer is dry, they can add detail by painting over it with wet acrylic paint.
If this is a collaborative artwork between siblings or friends, as ours was, the kids may want to discuss ideas, colors, and details during the process.
(The artwork pictured here was mostly a collaboration between Daphne and Maia, but Daphne’s friend Rose joined in during a playdate.)
A large artwork like this will likely continue to evolve over time as layers of paint are added.
It’s always good to stand back and take a look at how the overall artwork is shaping up so you can get a better sense of what to add.
Continue working, adding layers of color, detail, and imagery until the artwork is deemed complete.
Finally, sign your new artwork…
…and hang it up on the wall! (Or, you know, prop it against the wall over the mantel after you try to hang it up and end up breaking the nail and adding a hole to the wall of your, ahem, rental house.)
The kids have done large-scale artworks in the past a few different ways.
- A couple years ago, a neighbor, knowing my passion for kids’ art, dropped off a large, framed canvas (2.5 x 6 feet) on my doorstep. The artwork was hideous, consisting of boot prints across the length of it, and definitely a candidate for painting over. I added a coat of white acrylic paint, and the next time Daphne had her friend Fiona over for a playdate, they painted it together. It’s one of my favorite kid artworks and lives on in our living room.
- Another time, I found a large wooden panel (4 x 4 feet) at a yard sale, took it home, mounted it on the patio wall, and added a coat of house primer to it then the kids and I painted it with acrylic paint.
- Rolls of white butcher paper or similar are also great for working large and we’ve done that a fair bit, including whenever we do body tracing art.
- And then there’s the time we let the kids spray paint, splatter paint, and draw on some large canvas “walls.”
By the way, here are some ideas for doing large-scale art on the cheap with kids…
Large-Scale Canvas Art on the Cheap
(This includes canvas alternatives)
- Buy thrift store or yard sale canvas art (already painted, but you can paint over them) or repurpose something from your own house that you are not excited about anymore.
- Use a half-off coupon at one of the big chain craft stores to buy a new stretched canvas. Not cheap, but definitely cheaper.
- Stretch your own canvas over a DIY wood frame. (I’m sure there are lots of tutorials online if you want to go this route.)
- Skip the canvas and paint over a large wood panel that you have, find, or buy.
- Paint one of those hollow “wood” doors. You can probably find a second-hand one for cheap at a place like a Habitat for Humanity store. Or paint your own closet door.
- Paint a large cardboard panel.
- Paint a wall of your house. (It’s just paint. You can always paint over it if you want or need to.)
Are you ready to try large-scale canvas art with kids?
For variations on the above, you can always turn it into a mixed-media artwork with the addition of collage, drawings (Sharpies work great over dried acrylic paint), or printmaking elements. Anything goes, really!
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