While the girls love arts and crafts, I’m not a huge fan of paint, and Trevor loathes the “messy-ness” of artistic creation – part sensory issues/part perfectionism. He hates getting wet or dirty and he hates not knowing if what he’s making will turn out how he pictures it.
I can relate… I am not a fan of the beginning of any project. I see a bright, shiny finished product, and fear (sometimes to the point that I am afraid to start) the beginning of a project. Perfectionism, and the struggle with it, is common with gifted kids. Throw the sensory piece in the mix, and art projects become akin to slow torture… (for Trevor and Mommy!) Fortunately, some of the Kessler kids just dive into messes:

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Because I LOVE books, we try to sneak in a little art history and appreciation through literature, and then do at least one project related to what we’ve learned. I love the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series by Mike Venezia. I first discovered it when I taught third grade gifted students. I lead my students in a literature group centered on the book, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg, and we spun into a study of famous artists, using this series as a jumping off point.

Picasso by Mike Venezia

For this simple study, we curled up on the couch with the book and some snacks and read about Picasso’s life, talking about the paintings as we explored together. Then, we got out the paints…

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I envisioned everyone painting a copy of Girl Before a Mirror because I wanted the kids to emulate Picasso’s style before branching out on their own – a good way to get a feel for his actual process and a deeper understanding of his work.
But…trying to copy something was stressful to Trevor (What if it doesn’t look the same? Will I have to show people? Can we not tell anyone that it is supposed to be Picasso? etc. etc.) and disappointing to Molly (But, I wanted to paint a person with curly hair and a beard… Can’t I choose what to paint? I’ll use dark colors and shapes like Picasso…), so I’m the only one that tried to paint a copy. Logan… well, she got her whole body into the activity and created a black mess – on paper and her face:

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The best laid plans… right? It’s important to expose our kids to great works of art, but it takes courage to listen to their needs and fears, and help them grow in a way that works best for them.
Molly painted her bearded lady (still a little pale from the flu, poor thing):

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Trevor painted a Guy Looking in a Mirror, so as not to be confused as a Picasso wanna-be:

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And I painted my interpretation of Picasso’s work (it was insisted that my painting be included on the blog, and since my kids read it, and I’m afraid there’d be a mutiny, I’m complying):

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And we all had an enjoyable afternoon of stress-free art, nonfiction read aloud, snuggle-time, and a snack. I’d call that success!

Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.