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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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!

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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Develop Focus through Drawing


The skill of focus is one of the most important lessons we can teach our kids as it underlies the acquisition of everything else our kids learn.  Often with our busy lives we unintentionally teach our kids to be expert multi-taskers, flitting from one thing to the next, and while multi-tasking can be useful, our kids also need to be able to concentrate deeply on a task at hand.


Here are three ways to cultivate your child’s ability to focus:

 Monart second class fall 06 025

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How to talk to your kids about what they create


Wouldn’t it be cool if you could better understand what your child’s experience and process was when making their art? What was going through their creative mind when they drew that picture or painted that landscape?  Does their art say anything about their hopes, their dreams, or their fears?

For the final post in my series on How we Create, I want to share a tool we use in our online program called Art Talk. Art Talk helps kids think about and share their creative learning. Reflecting on the experience is often overlooked but it can be the most valuable part of creating.

Here are five great conversation starters you can use to help your child get the most out of their creative process.


Earth Day Art

Yay for Earth Day! Earth Day is April 22nd and there are lots of ways you can celebrate with your kids. My favorite way is to get out in nature. We love to go on hikes or just hit Seattle’s urban trail systems and explore.

Making art is also a great. Here is a fun drawing and painting project you can do with your kids that will have them expressing their appreciation for our natural resources in no time.

This project is for kids age 5 and up and adults too- so if you don’t think you can draw, this just might change your mind! 

Line Earth Day0005

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Three tips for making art at home

Whether you are taking a Thrive art lesson or having an impromptu art extravaganza at the kitchen counter, here are three things to keep in mind to make it stress free and maximize the fun.

Set the scene. Have you ever tried to focus on something and the tv was blaring, or there was a mess everywhere? It’s not easy. Same goes with art. Provide your child with a peaceful semi-organized setting for their art making activity. Soft music without lyrics is a great way to set the tone.


Be prepared. Have the materials out and ready at arms-reach before beginning. Most important supply- paper towels! I learned this the hard way when my 2 year old walked through paint spilled on the floor and continued to run across the carpet as I chased his colorful little footprints down the hall.



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Why Draw?

Do you remember being asked in elementary school to write and illustrate stories? For me, the drawing part was always discouraging. I loved to write tales about living on our farm and especially about my horse but I couldn’t draw one for the life of me. In fact, I stopped drawing all together after multiple attempts that felt like failures.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that everyone can learn to draw, we just need to learn how!

Watch this video to learn some of the awesome benefits of drawing.

How has drawing made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear your stories!


Tip-Why-Draw from Thrive Art School on Vimeo.