My older son is a somewhat reluctant artist. One of the techniques I have used to encourage him to explore his creative side was to offer only a single color for our art projects.
You may be thinking that using only one color for art projects will bore kids. I found the opposite to be true and I encourage you to give it a try.
The idea behind working with a single color came from Susan Striker's book Young at Art: Teaching Toddlers Self-Expression, Problem-Solving Skills, and an Appreciation for Art (affiliate link). I was frustrated because whenever he had multiple colors of paint, or crayons, or markers his focus was always on making a single mark with each color, after which he would declare, "done!"
One color kept my son focused on the process of creating art. He even talked to me about what he was doing!
Although you can provide just a brush, paper and a piece of paper, there are lots of ways to explore single color art projects. I hope these ideas will give you a bit of inspiration. All of the photos below show art work Kiddo created when he was 3 years old (he is 9 now). The philosophy of single color art, however, can be applied to kids (and adults) of all ages.
UPDATE: Turns out my younger son is a reluctant artist as well. I've been working with him and so far these ideas have caught his eye:
Art Ideas For One Color
Provide cut or torn shapes in a single color. Vary the background sheet in black or white, and then in the same color. For example, kids can paste black shapes on white paper, or black shapes on black paper.
Provide textured materials in a single color. For example, buttons, cotton wool, corrugated paper, foam shapes, sparkly gems, glitter etc. Kids can either glue these on paper, but sometimes I set up sticky paper on the easel (above photo, left).
Provide single color paint. Try tempera, liquid watercolors, homemade chalk paint, etc. Mix up your painting explorations by sprinkling on salt or experimenting with non-brush tools. It's okay if all you child wants to do is make a big blob.
Some unusual tools we tried: painting with balloons, dropping string in paint and then dripping it on paper, painting with sponges, painting with bubble wrap or dropping watercolors on giant coffee filters. (I love this post from Learn at Play with Home showing how into green paint her kids got!)
After exploring a secondary color, try color mixing. For example, once Kiddo had spent some time creating with green, I put yellow and blue on the same tray so he could mix up his own color. They can also do a no-mess experiment by mixing colors in a bag.
Spend time making homemade play dough or baking soda clay in different colors. Mixing up a batch of dough is half the fun.
Mix up drawing on the easel with drawing on the table. You could even put big paper down on the floor. Use different art supplies like markers, crayons, oil pastels, chalk, and others.
I love office supply (affiliate link) for this. They come in a variety of shapes and colors. Stick colors on white or black paper, or even reverse the effect, like Kiddo did when he put orange stickers on white paper and then white stickers on orange paper.
Don't forget about printing! Kiddo loved to create circle prints with cups (gold rings, above photo top right) and paper rolls. Anything can be used for printing! Glue foam shapes to a piece of cardboard to make abstract stamps, which you see above. The same philosophy applies: print on contrasting paper, or on the same color.
What other ideas can you suggest?
Even if your child is not a reluctant artist, these ideas can inspire them to see the process in a new way. The possibilities are endless and obviously, there are so many more way to create single color art.
MORE: Clever Ideas for Color Activities for Preschoolers
I'd love to hear from you if ever one color art with your kids. How did it go?
Know what else helps reluctant artists? Active Art!!!
maryanne @ mama smiles says
We haven't tried this yet, but I think the kids would love it! Pinning to my art for kids board 🙂
Cathy Ballou Mealey says
With my less 'artsy' child I made only one rule: Paint with anything except your hands! Led to lots of fun painting with our feet and toes, holding brushes or Q tips on our teeth, and even painting with elbows. The silly factor loosened him up to enjoy the process of creating.
And yes, it was summer so we were outside. Wwe used washable paint, wore old clothes and had a garden hose for clean up!
Erica MomandKiddo says
That sounds fun. My boys would love the silly factor, too.
Ooh, your blog is getting more and more crafty 🙂 We did some single color experiments when daughter was younger - perhaps we should try again. Great ideas and thanks for sharing with Afterschool!
Rachelle Doorley says
I LOVE this and just shared on my FB wall 🙂
Erica MomandKiddo says
Thank you Rachelle!
Thanks so much for this! I am a teacher currently working with a very difficult class of seven year olds.
I've been trying to work out an art idea to go with "The Black Book of Colours" and some writing we'll be doing after reading the book and these ideas are great.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Erica MomandKiddo says
I'm glad the idea was helpful! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.