6 Steps for the Artist-Father to Help Grow Creative Kids

Guest father-blogger: Marty Coleman

©Marty Coleman. Used with permission.

My kids liked that I was an artist as they grew up.  They had a ton of things to create with and had inspiration to do so from seeing me being an artist.  I learned a couple things about encouraging them that I want to share with the followers of the Art Biz Blog.
Kids want to be creative. There are certain things you can do to facilitate that without being overbearing.
1.    Be the example. You can be a creative and artistic person while not being irresponsible and a flake.  Show them that the cliché of the flaky artist isn’t accurate. That you can be creative, fun AND a good parent.
2.    Have art around. Saying art is important but not backing is up is futile.  Kids will follow what you do, not what you say.  By having art on the walls or in books on the coffee table you send the message that it is worth having, paying for and paying attention to.  Use that exposure as teaching moments.   This goes for TV shows, documentaries and any other media about art.
When I was a kid my grandparents had a small but high quality collection of art, mostly mid-20th century regionalist prints and drawings.  They had some other pieces, most notably an Archipenko sculpture, that I loved.  Having that art around made a huge impact my interest in the visual arts as I grew up.  My parents followed suit and now my home is filled with a combination of those old pieces and new ones.   It makes a difference to your child what you have on the walls and tables.
3.    Introduce them to artists, galleries and museums. Going on vacation and not seeing art will translate into them doing the same thing when they grow up.  Make it a regular destination wherever you go to explore art centers, visit open studios and see museums.  It is how they are exposed and stimulated in their creativity as they grow up.  It isn’t restricted to vacations obviously.  Your hometown has places and art to see. Make sure you give them the opportunity to see it.
4.    Allow them their own expression. Just because you are a painter doesn’t mean your child will be one. Find the ways they express themselves creatively and encourage that.  Give them opportunities to explore in the same areas you work, but don’t demand that it be that or nothing at all.
I have 4 daughters.  One is a very creative neuroscientist.  One is very craft-oriented.  One is a musician and one is a fashion designer.  None of them are visual artists in the way I am, but they have always been encouraged to be expressive and creative in their own way.
5.    Don’t demand they share it all with you. This brings up the quote in the napkin drawing above.  Kids often feel trapped in a family, a school or a set of friends.  They are growing, trying on new personas and often feel they don’t fit in.  Their art becomes an outlet for them to emotionally escape these boundaries when they physically can’t.  Give them their space and their autonomy to do so.
When one of my daughters started to drive she would head to a local coffee shop hangout on weekend nights.  She would read her poetry at open mic nights there. I never went to see her read because I wanted her to develop that with the freedom from worrying about what a parent might think.  I don’t think it would have damaged her if I had gone, but I just wanted it to be her thing, a way for her to run away without leaving home.
6.    Discuss art. Bring up your ideas but listen to theirs as well. Give them the freedom to talk about your work honestly just as you want them to listen to your constructive criticism.  Let them know you are growing as an artist and a person just as they are.
Those are just a few ideas to combine your creativity as an artist with the privilege of being a father (or mother).  They offer a unique chance as a father to give creative opportunities to your children.
We would love to hear what you have discovered about raising kids while being both an artist and a father.
Happy Father's Day!

Marty ColemanMarty Coleman is The Napkin Dad. He started drawing on the napkins he put in his daughters lunches to take to school. Unbeknownst to him, they saved the napkins and gave them back to him on Fathers Day. That was 12 years ago. He now draws them every day again, posting it to his blog, The Napkin Dad Daily, for an international audience. He is also a speaker, consultant, artist, photographer and, of course, a father.

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6 thoughts on “6 Steps for the Artist-Father to Help Grow Creative Kids”

  1. Loved this post. I know you are speaking to creative dads, but as an artist mom who was married to an artist dad, I wanted to chime in.
    Watching my three children develop their creativity has been one of the most awe-inspiring things I have witnessed. Like you, my ex and I exposed our kids to art from a young age. I always had art materials set up for them, and they were exposed to other forms of creativity as well. Their dad is a comedian and puppeteer, and we were always making puppets and shooting videos together. I also cooked and baked with my kids, another creative art!
    I am a furniture painter, among other visual art forms, and my kids saw me painting at my home studio. When I taught private art lessons, some of them participated alongside my students.
    But the real joy has been in witnessing their individual paths. My oldest daughter studied fashion design, my middle son is a musician and visual artist and my youngest has talent but chooses to focus on sports right now.
    Nurturing their creativity and watching them unfold as individuals is one of my greatest joys. When someone says that my two oldest are just like me, I quickly correct them. They may have inherited some of my talent genes, but they are unequivocally their own individual selves. And that is what parenting is all about!
    Happy Father’s day to an awesome dad,

  2. Fantastic words! thank you for sharing…and happy father’s day…to get the napkins back must have been the absolute highest compliment your daughters could give! cheers for you and them…

  3. It’s hard to add anything to this wonderful post. But, as an artist dad of two grade-schoolers (and I am 52!) I will say that my artistic daughter (8) is resistant to being taught. I read somewhere that little ones think when their parent tries to teach them something, that it means they are doing it wrong.
    It seems right to be the example, encourage, and offer when asked.
    BTW, I was a child artist and the importance of praise can’t be under stated. Your attention is very important.

  4. It is so important for parents to take it upon themselves to introduce their children to the world of art and creativity. Children want to be creative by nature, but it’s not always fostered or encouraged. What fulfilling lives they’ll lead with that kind of environment to grow up in.

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