Three reasons why kids compare and criticize their art and how you can help

‘My kids love to draw together, but my younger daughter becomes frustrated because her drawings don’t look as ‘good’ as her sister’s.’

‘My daughter has always loved painting but over this past year she has become self-conscious about her creations ‘not turning out right’ or not ‘being as good’ as her brother’s.’

I don’t know what to say to my son when he tells me, ‘Mine doesn’t look like the teacher’s. I messed up, it’s not good.’

Does any of this sound familiar?


Artist Johanna Wright

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Kitchen Watercolor Techniques with Salt, Straws and Plastic Wrap

It’s so fun to experiment with art materials! Last month I shared a video from the Intermediate Program that demonstrates some traditional watercolor techniques and I am back now with some painting ideas that really capture the unpredictability of watercolor- a quality that makes it really exciting for kids and adults alike.

 Artists often experiment with their art medium by adding solvents to change the consistency and they use unconventional tools to manipulate the results simply for the enjoyment of watching the process. The three techniques below do just that- using salt, straws and plastic wrap (and your watercolor supplies), you can have an afternoon of creative exploration with your kids- all with things you likely have right in your kitchen!

Watercolor paint
Bowl of water
Watercolor paper
Extras: Salt, Straw, Plastic Wrap

Adding salt to a wet watercolor painting creates a starburst effect as the salt absorbs the paint. The interesting texture it creates is beautiful on its own or can be used to create a night sky or wintry scene.


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The Art of Being Present

I went on the swings with my son at the park yesterday and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. He sat on my lap facing me and we took turns pumping our legs until we got quite high. Holding on to the chains, he leaned back and as the wind blew through his hair and his entire being filled with joy, he shouted, “Wooooo-hooooo!” Then I leaned back and felt the rhythmic motion of the swing carrying us through the air, and I shouted, “Yee-ha!” We both laughed as we took turns leaning back shouting. Then he wrapped his arms around me until the swing slowed to a stop. I felt so connected to him, so happy and alive in that moment.

Swing pic

Making art can provide a similar opportunity for joy, both for us and our kids. When we make art we can’t help but to be in the present moment.  Art engages all of our senses and we become captivated with what is right in front of us. I think this is why making art is so enjoyable and so good for us.

 Being present is an essential part of learning new things; It’s required if we want to connect with each other and we need to be present in order to experience joy.

The art of being present is something we can practice along side our kids- take a walk, make art, play together.



Today my son turns 5 years old. I am so grateful for all of the life lessons he teaches me. As he grows, I grow. He inspires me to pay attention to what’s truly important and helps me to remember to be present during the crazy/serious/sweet parts of life.

3 ways to help kids learn to draw anything

I loved to draw when I was little but by the time I was 10 years old, I had stopped drawing all together. As I got older, like most kids, I wanted to draw things more realistically and I remember feeling frustrated by not knowing how. Fortunately, I rediscovered my love of drawing as an adult when I finally learned the skill of contour drawing.

Contour drawing is one of the most useful of all the drawing skills for kids to learn and a big confidence booster because it gives them the ability transfer their observations onto paper.  When kids can look at something- whether an actual object or an image- and draw what they see, they’ll have the foundation to tackle any subject matter they want and the confidence to spin off and create their own unique compositions.

Here are some fun exercises you can try with your kids to help them learn to draw the what they see (no pencil required):

TACTILE PRACTICE. Learning to draw realistically is really about learning to observe and this can be a tactile experience, not simply a visual one. Have your child run their finger slowly along the side of the object they wish to draw. Talk about the the change of direction as they follow the contour of the object. “Now you are curving, feel how it bends a little?”


The side of an apple is a curved line

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7 Ways to Keep Little Artists Engaged this Summer


Most of the time our little artists need no input from us to express themselves but there are lots of ways we can broaden their creative endeavors by introducing them to a variety of artful experiences both at home and around Seattle this summer.

My youngest son loves to paint and my oldest is most alive when he is having a nightly dance party before bed. Whether your child’s favorite way to express himself  is through painting, dance or other art form, here are some ideas to broaden their exposure to the ‘Arts’ and keep their creative juices flowing:


Painting projects can happen on the fly if you have three basic supplies on hand: brushes, paints and paper. If you have a set of watercolor paints, take a look at this video for painting techniques your whole family can try. The Artful Parent blog is a great resource for a whole slew of painting projects. You can also plan to hit the Seattle Art Museum for family art fun on select Saturdays of each month. The SAM’s family program, designed for kids age 3-12, provides art projects and kid-inspired tours of the gallery. Details and online calendar can be found here.


No Time for Flash Cards

No Time for Flash Cards

We are lucky to have instant access to amazing craft projects curated by popular Seattle bloggers such as Make and Takes and No Time for Flash Cards. These prolific crafters, educators and parents share projects for every age, theme and season. Start collecting your jar lids and bottle tops for this recycled craft project inspired Kandinsky’s color study with concentric circles. Another project perfect for summer is this frisbee craft. Plan a good chunk of time visiting these blogs- by the time you click away, you’ll be all set with craft projects for the rest of summer.

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Learn Oil Pastel & Watercolor Techniques- Intermediate Program Now Available!

The Intermediate Program is now live and available here!

To celebrate, we are offering $20 off both of the Intermediate and Beginner Programs!

Click here to watch the preview video to see highlights of the program.

This next round of lessons features super fun topics such as Ocean Octopuses, Sailing Ships, Lions, Turtles and more- plus, kids will learn new art techniques using oil pastel and watercolor.

When your child has a basic understanding of how lines can be put together to draw objects, they are ready to branch out with new techniques- oil pastels are fantastic for learning how to make objects look more realistic with shading, layering and texture and watercolor is perfect for learning color mixing and brush technique.


Mile's Octopus Cropped


Miles- age 7

As a Kickstarter supporter, Mile’s family received early access to the Intermediate lessons and he dug right in! Thanks for sharing your art, Miles!

I can’t wait to see what your kids come up with! Head on over to the Intermediate Program to see what’s in store!

New Intermediate Program is coming June 24!


I’m so excited to announce the Intermediate Program will be available June 24!

The new program is filled with fun topics and great techniques for oil pastel and watercolor- two of my favorite art materials. But those aren’t the only reasons I am eager for your kids to dig into the new lessons-

The Intermediate Program represents what I truly set out to do when I began Thrive online.

I love seeing kids light up when making art, but I also have a bigger vision beyond teaching art techniques.  I want to support your child as they grow and stretch their creative muscles and develop the confidence to pursue anything they set their mind to- on paper and in life.

The Intermediate Program sets out to do just that- I introduce kids to the steps that go into being creative. They’ll learn how to come up with ideas, plan a project, get started and reflect on their work.  Knowing the creative process will give them confidence to spin off and create more on their own.

Have a peek at the Intermediate Program highlights:

Stay tuned for our official launch on June 24! And if you haven’t already, make sure to check out your free trial of the Beginner Program today!

How to have a Thrive Art Play Date this Summer


There are lots of ways to use Thrive online art classes with your kids this summer and one of my favorite ideas is to have an artful play date with friends. Invite a few pals over and watch as they enjoy a creative learning experience that requires very little coordination by you. Since Thrive lessons are designed for kids to be able to take independently, you can have an hour to yourself or catch up with your grownup friends while the kids are happily creating their masterpieces.

kids2 (1)

Here are three things you need to have an artful play date with Thrive online art classes:

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What to Do When Your Child Feels Frustrated

As a teacher and parent, I know that some frustration is good for kids- it means they feel challenged and stretched and if they work through it, it’s an opportunity for them to gain confidence and autonomy. But actually seeing my own kids feel frustrated, is one of the hardest things for me. I tend to panic a bit and have to resist a strong urge to fix or remove whatever is triggering them, instead of giving them space to experience it.

Large Image Frustration Quote

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The Perfect Homemade Father’s Day Gift in Three Easy Steps

Father’s Day is coming up and if you are on the hunt for the perfect homemade gift, this collaborative painting might be just the ticket. My kids and I had a blast painting together and we’re excited to surprise Dad with his special gift.

 If you don’t see yourself as the artsy type, don’t let that hold you back. This project is easy, fun, and made with love- what else could you want in a homemade gift?


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