3 Ways to Spark Your Child's Inner Picasso

I have three arts degrees I’ve yet to use professionally. There’s still time. It’s only been 20 years.

All those artistic lessons did have one benefit. I can draw The Hulk, Thor and other superheroes better than most parents. Color my own children unimpressed. They often scribble right over my masterpieces.

Still, my art training taught me some cool tricks to make drawing a family affair. That next rainy day is coming soon, and you don’t want your children to spend every waking second glued to their tablet or smartphone.

Try the following three tips to help inspire your budding Picassos:

Crank Up the Bach

I developed a “frenemy” at the Fashion Institute of Technology long before the Urban Dictionary embraced the word. This art professor wasn’t kind or cuddly, but I later learned she was right about most everything. And her biggest lesson? Don’t crank up the hard rock while drawing. Try a little classical music in the background. It’ll put you in a mood more conducive to art, not head-banging. My fellow students groaned every time she turned the classical music station on. Minutes later, we had found our creative zone. Why not try the same with your children? Who knows? They may even develop a taste for Beethoven.

Half a Face Is Better than None

This exercise pre-dates my college years, but it’s timeless and inexpensive. Grab a glossy magazine and look for a large portrait photograph. Gently tear it out and cut the picture vertically so that half of the person’s face is no longer there. Paste the remaining half to a sheet of white drawing paper. Now, have your son or daughter “draw in” the other half of the face. It’s a fun exercise that forces youngsters to really look at the source and not just draw one from memory. Ask them to examine the shape of the eye, the jaw and the nose. This coaxes them to really look in a way they may not have done before. It’s an important step toward becoming a better artist.

Anyone Can Be a Model

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Back in college I drew every kind of live model possible. Thin, wiry gentlemen. Zaftig women. Older models who looked like they had found a novel way to spend their golden years. We spent so much time drawing from live models we forgot to learn how to market our skills. It’s no wonder I never pursued art professionally. Yet drawing from live models is a great way to understand the human form. So why not have your children serve as your family’s “model”? If they can’t stay still for long use them for shorter sketches meant to capture a mood or motion. Think quick, assured strokes, not highly detailed sketches. More patient kids can sit for longer periods, allowing for sophisticated portraits. Coax the kids to make silly gestures or wild poses. Anything goes, and they’ll have more fun with the exercise that way.

Christian Toto is a freelance writer and editor of