Learning to Paint

Many years ago, I took oil painting lessons every Saturday morning and remember how fulfilling and relaxing it was.  So when I got to know a sweet and talented Iranian artist living nearby, I was thrilled to start the boys in painting lessons.  It was a great way to get out while homeschooling last year and have an official art class.

We showed up with all our supplies, but weren’t quite prepared with what we would paint.  So the first round of paintings were selected from art books our teacher had.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go with one teacher and four beginner boys, so I assisted in helping them the first couple weeks.  They got to drawing and painting the first layers and I think everyone was surprised with how many sessions it would take to complete their pictures.

Jace chose a sunset picture since it was one of the easiest choices.  He liked the bright colors, even if it meant many coats of paint to complete.  He had a little help at the end with the trees since he got a bit carried away with some of the branches.  He was so proud of his masterpiece and couldn’t wait to show his daddy!


Jace really wanted to paint a double-decker bus for his second picture, but we couldn’t find one easy enough for his skill level.  So he ended up painting a tree picture instead since he could dab on the leaves any way he wanted.  He had fun dipping and dotting the leaves on and had a little help again with the tree branches to pull it all together.  His attention span was pretty short since he’s only five, but he was pleased with his new painting and began drawing at home so much more, calling himself a “little artist.”


Nathan chose the cherry picture to paint.  He was very good at mixing the paint colors to get the right shade.  He tried hard to be as accurate as he could so it would look realistic.  He is very critical of his work and wanted it just right.  I think he was to most surprised as to what he could create, having never done anything like this.  Each week he would add new details until it was finished and beautiful!

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For his second painting, he wanted to choose something Lego related, of course.  Without much to choose from, we ended up finding a Ninjago picture online to do.  He worked really hard and painted it so many times to get the deep colors.  We realized near the end that the printout of his picture wasn’t accurate to the original, so he was kind of critical of it not being exactly what he wanted.  But it turned out so cute and will look great in his room with all his Lego sets.


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Nathan had the opportunity to paint another picture at his activity days event at church.  Our art teacher had all the kids pick a flower to paint and he was able to complete it in one session, compared to the weeks it took him for his other paintings.


Cade was a natural when it came to painting.  His artistic ability really shined as he was able to accurately draw the outlines and had the patience for detail to get it the way he wanted with as many layers as necessary.  He chose a picture of Italian architecture.

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He probably spent the most time figuring out his next picture, trying to find the perfect animal to paint.  He loves giraffes and found a colorful picture he liked that he wanted to paint on a large canvas.  After a little help in drawing it, he got to work on the background.  The funny thing was we didn’t realize the printer goofed up and printed the background with stripes, even though the original didn’t have them.  So Cade painted all the yellow strips, but by the time we realized the mistake, we decided it looked better that way!  This painting took many, many sessions – but he stuck with it and did a fantastic job.  By the end, we all couldn’t believe how amazing it turned out!

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Once Cade started school in the fall, he was most excited about his art class.  Having more confidence in his art skills, he took more risks and put a great deal of effort into his projects.  He produced many great things for his portfolio, but his favorite was his pastel creation of Henry VIII.  He said he combined Robert Downey Jr’s face with Henry the VIII.  His art teacher told him it was the best in the class and it hung in the halls of the school for a few months.

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Tyler chose a landscape scene for his painting.  Since it didn’t require much drawing, he was able to get painting sooner than everyone.  He was very meticulous about getting it accurate.  Over time, he gained more confidence as to his abilities and learned how things can evolve over time with multiple layers, which was sometimes hard to envision.  He was very picky about his mistakes, but in the end it turned out great, especially as his first.  He attempted to start another custom painting of the Japanese “Great Wave off Kanagawa” with the Japanese rising sun in the background, but abandoned the project after a few sessions.  I was hoping he would finish it, but now that he’s in school and sports, has little time (or patience) to complete the difficult piece.

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Once the kids were settled in after our first few weeks, I decided to join them because I wanted to paint a piece of London I could take home as a souvenir.  I love the bright, abstract style of Leonid Afremov’s paintings and chose to recreate his Big Ben scene.  Drawing it out is my least favorite part, especially on a canvas this size.


For months, our Wednesdays were my favorite day of the week so we could share this painting experience together.  It wasn’t always easy – two hours was a little much for Jace and Nathan, but they were happy to play with our teacher’s baby when they got bored.  The older boys stayed pretty focused, until they started a paint war with each other.  We have a few stained outfits, but all in all, they really enjoyed the experience.  Sometimes I would have to pinch myself that here we were, all learning to oil paint in the middle of London.  It was such a stress-relieving, fun outlet to do together.

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Painting the sky was so fun, but oh so time-consuming!  I would have to dip my brush in paint with nearly each small brush stroke.  It probably has ten layers of different colors piled on each other that had to dry in between.   This is what my brush looked like at the end of our sessions.  Not easy to clean I tell you.

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I really enjoyed painting the reflection of the water and learning how to use the knife pallet to add dimension to the painting.  I had no idea how challenging this undertaking would be (or how long), but I was so happy it was finally complete in time for my parent’s visit so they could see it.  Oh, and Lynn didn’t have any idea what I had been working on for months, so it was fun to surprise him!  Hopefully I’ll be able to get it home without any problems.  I’m going to have to take it off the wooden frame and roll it up and reset it at home.  Wish me luck.


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I wasn’t able to get started on another painting until all the kids were back in school, but couldn’t wait to have some time to myself without interruption to work on my next one.  I wanted to do something completely different — something calming and that required me to learn a new technique of painting.  I chose a landscape scene that used a circular motion to create all the clouds.  I love how forgiving it was to be able to blend different colors together to create a unique sky.  I couldn’t believe after one session how it looked nearly complete (though it would take a couple of months).


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After many sessions and a few revisions, I was really pleased with the outcome.  I now have something soothing to hang in our hallway – let’s hope it has the calming effect on the boys I’m going for!

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We couldn’t leave Lynn out…  Ironically enough, his office had a team building activity at one of their conferences, and over one hundred people gathered to paint something after just a short mini lesson (by a different teacher).  I’m not sure what the theme was, but he chose to paint an abstract piece that symbolized “looking for the gold” as a way to inspire people to dig deep to find the positive in all situations.  Or something like that…  We were just happy that he had a painting too and could better appreciate all the time and effort we’ve put in the last year to our creations.


We were able to honor our lovely art teacher at a Teacher Appreciation celebration our church held for the youth to acknowledge the great teachers in their lives.  She has been such a patient, wonderful mentor in teaching the beauty of art and helping the boys blossom into little artists.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of our time here!



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