“Mom,” my 9-year-old told me, “I want to do art lessons. Please sign me up.” She handed me a stack of papers from her teacher, including the one for the after-school ceramics class.
I meant to fill out the paperwork — really, I did. But it lingered on my desk too long. By the time I got around to finding my checkbook, I’d passed the deadline. Once again, I was in #MomFail territory.
Then I remembered an advertisement I’d seen online for a subscription watercolor kit called Let’s Make Art. For $35 a month, the company would send four watercolor projects complete with online tutorials. Sure, it wasn’t a ceramics class, but it was something, right? I asked my daughter if she would be interested in trying it, and she said yes.
In addition to the $35, I also purchased two of the butcher tray and paintbrush bundles, which cost $20 each. Now, I was at the exact price-point of what the ceramics class would have cost, but the difference was that I would get to take art lessons, too.
To be clear, I have zero experience with watercolors, unless you count the Crayola variety. I’m also not very artistic. My daughter draws cartoons for fun, but I have difficulty drawing smiley faces. When we began our first lesson from Let’s Make Art, I didn’t have high hopes for what I’d be able to produce.
The kit provided paint, instructions, a postcard example, graphite tracing paper, two pieces of watercolor paper and the outline. We found the tutorial on YouTube and followed along the best we could.
Sarah Cray, the instructor, taught us techniques like using color variance to create depth, and adding drops of water to spread out color. She was quirky and relatable. It felt OK to make mistakes.
My daughter and I were both amazed at what we were able to accomplish.
So far my fourth-grader and I have painted a terrarium, a cactus, a bunny rabbit and an antique pickup truck loaded with flowers. The rabbit almost broke us. Who knew fur was so tricky? But it was a good lesson in perseverance and learning from mistakes. The bunny’s the only project that didn’t get a place on the refrigerator.
There are parts of the Let’s Make Art universe that we haven’t explored, such as a Facebook group where people share their artwork and online tutorials that happen on Tuesdays at 5:15 p.m. where you can paint along with Sarah. The company also has a lettering side to it, offering kits that teach fancy penmanship.
Here’s the best thing about Let’s Make Art: Although purchasing the kit was extremely handy, anyone at home could do the project for free if they already owned the paint, paper and brushes. That’s right — free art lessons with no permission slip required!
Parents, this is a great idea for summer. For more information, check out LetsMakeArt.com.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.