Explore Your Natural Desire to Manipulate Materials

Kids’ Lap Tray For Artists – Inexpensive plastic lap trays from Michaels or Amazon are handy on a table near your easel. They elevate your palette, and hold brushes, books, and art materials, too. As artists the drive to express ourselves is especially strong. We also have a natural desire to manipulate materials for creating art. Here’s an assortment of techniques to try, and tips for managing materials.

Reviving Dried Acrylics

I learned the secret sauce for reviving gummy, almost-dry (not totally dry) acrylic paints: one part ammonia to 20 parts distilled water. Mix with a stirrer and store in a jug; keep a small batch handy in a plastic squeeze bottle. Add a drop or two directly into the tube or jar to liquefy the paint. I want to thank my friend Peggi who passed this along to me. After persistently inquiring about it, she learned this from a rep from one of the more well-known artists' paint manufacturers.

Do a Little Art

Tiny stretched canvases, 4” x 5” or less can make strong little statements. There’s something magical about miniatures. You can incorporate the canvases into larger artworks or create a mini series. Find them in craft stores along with diminutive display easels. Add paint smudges to the easels for a “little” authenticity.

Giant Palette Knives

Giant spatulas intended for frosting cakes are shaped like palette knives. They’re cheaper than art knives and are great for sweeping paint onto large surfaces.

Instant Airbrush

Try kids’ spray markers (Sprayza or Blo Pens) over watercolors or acrylics for instant airbrush effects. Coat sprayed color with acrylic medium to make the colors permanent and give them a painterly look.

A Yard of Help

Mahl sticks support your arm and steady your hand for painting details and more. A flat wood yardstick is inexpensive and works beautifully because it stays in place.

Try new materials on occasion to see what resonates with your personal expression.

No. 13 Paper Mosaics

Create paint textures on any surface that can be cut into tiles after the paint dries. Use watercolor, acrylics, crayon, or ink. Adhere the tiles to a canvas, dimensional object, or any other surface with acrylic gel medium. Then paint over your tiled piece, using glazes and impasto techniques or simply coat with clear acrylic varnish.
Kid Friendly
[From “151 Uncommon and Amazing Art Studio Secrets”]

No. 68 Easy Under Drawing

Pastel pencils are a wonderful option for drawing guide lines for an under-painting. Use them on a toned canvas. 

The pastel pencils have several advantages. You can choose a color that will not muddy your first layers of paint, the pencils make fairly precise lines, and they are easily erased with a damp paper towel. 
Kid Friendly
[From "151 Uncommon and Amazing Art Studio Secrets"]

No. 64 Cork Art

Cork has natural beauty. Paint onto flat cork with acrylics, oils, or opaque watercolor, allowing it’s natural color and texture show. If your paint does not adhere to the surface, coat the cork with clear acrylic medium first.

Cork is especially rewarding for collage because it tears well, leaving a lovely deckled edge. 

You can cut cork easily, as well. Cork sheets, rolls, and squares are available from crafts stores.
Kid Friendly
[From "151 Uncommon and Amazing Art Studio Secrets"]