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Six Painting Ideas for Kids Inspired by Famous Painters

Painting is one of those activities that can be a bit daunting for parents – whether it’s the thought of the mess involved in children painting, or the slightly intimidating feeling that you need to know ‘how to paint’. Well, when it comes to messiness we’ve got you covered: just check out our stain removal tips to find out how to remove common art and craft stains from clothes. We’ve also put together some simple painting ideas below to familiarise you and your child with some famous artists and their interesting painting techniques.

Inspiration for Kids’ Paintings

Looking at works by famous painters is a great way to teach painting to kids. An artist’s individual style is something they often develop by practicing different techniques over time. When your kids make paintings, you’ll be taken on a similar voyage of discovery – just try out the activities below!

1. Paint Sunsets like Turner

J M W Turner (1775-1851) is one of Britain’s best-known Romantic painters of land and seascapes. His famous oil paintings capture all the power and raw energy of nature, but he’s also renowned for being able to cleverly depict light.

Turner was a talented watercolourist and used an almost abstract technique to mimic misty or cloud-filled skies. He allowed different tones to bleed into one another, and fine minimalist brush strokes to pick out details. See if you can copy this technique!

2. Give Van Gogh’s Starry Night Swirls a Whirl!

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) tried out many different techniques to develop a unique and vibrant post-impressionistic style. He worked in thick oil paints and made quick dabs of bright coloured paint, in a technique known as ‘impasto’, to give life and movement to his paintings.

He didn’t paint exactly what he saw in real life; he used the way he felt to improvise visually. Why not have a look at ‘Starry Night’ together with your son or daughter and try using thick paint and small brush strokes to create a swirly, imagined landscape of your own? Oils can be quite a difficult type of paint to use – you can’t use water with them, for example – but thick acrylic is a great alternative for getting a textured result.

3. Spend a Dotty Sunday Afternoon like Seurat

Georges Seurat (1859-1891) was the founder of a movement called Neo-impressionism. He was interested in a more scientific approach to painting and is the main artist with whom we identify the technique ‘pointillism’. This uses coloured dots painted on a massive canvas to create different tones, when viewed from far away.  

Have a look at ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ – in real life it’s three meters long and made up of millions of painted dots. Why not try making a dotty painting of your own?! Younger children might want to use finger paints to get a dotty effect. But be warned, a painting as big as Seurat’s might take a very long time to paint – ‘Sunday Afternoon’ took two years to complete!

4. Get Sculpting Like India’s own Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta (1964- ) is best known in India for his large, impressive sculptures made from ordinary objects one might find lying about the home. Tiffin boxes, stainless steel utensils, bicycles – the objects are fixed to each other to form part of a much bigger artwork. This makes his work perfect to mimic with your kids: not only can you reuse unwanted objects in your home, but you can also have hours of fun transforming them with glue and paint into something unique and interesting!

To make your artwork look like Gupta’s, take several small, ordinary things (food tins, old boxes, and so on) and glue them together to make a larger simple shape, like a head, a tree, or an egg. Then simply paint them gold or silver – your kids won’t ever want to waste ‘rubbish’ again!

5. Drip Paint like Pollock

The paintings of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) are impossible to copy, but his technique of pouring, dripping, or flicking paint onto canvas is a lot of fun to try at home! Pollock used household paints and different items, like sticks, to transfer paint in unique patterns onto canvases laid flat on the floor. He had many inspirations, but one of these was rangoli designs.

Creating a Pollock-inspired painting is going to be an incredibly fun kids’ activity, but very messy too, so be sure to cover up any surfaces with newspaper or a wipeable cloth and wear clothes that can be easily washed.

6. Spot a canvas like S H Raza

Syed Haider Raza (1922-) is one India’s most famous contemporary abstract artists. Although he lived much of his life in France, his works are inspired by Indian religious imagery and concepts. Raza’s favourite motifs are brightly coloured geometric forms. His ‘bindu’ paintings always contain a black dot – a central focus point of energy – surrounded by colourful concentric circles that radiate to the edge of each canvas.

Children will love trying to copy a non-figurative S H Raza painting.  Consider sketching out triangle and circle shapes with a pencil first, and then use the artist’s medium of choice – acrylic paint – to fill in the gaps!