we help adults teach art to kids

Protecting your Creativity


I was editing my photos this morning for a post on watercolor and paper bouquets when this piece caught my eye. I try to photograph the variety of art that results from a lesson and I remember pausing to remember the girl who created this piece.

It was so different from my example and different from anyone at her table, which for a fourth grade girl is unusual. Many girls this age try hard not to out-do, out-shine, be different or be worse than anyone else. They just strive to be the same. Not this artist.

I love her approach to her art-making and it reminded me of my own purpose with my creative pursuits; to embrace my uniqueness and voice.

But this can be challenging. Recently, I’ve had to stop from perusing Pinterest. The creative content is so amazing but unfortunately, overwhelming. As a creative, ideas spark constantly and one 10-minute spin through the Pinterest cycle can leave me with two-pages of must-do’s.

So how do you stay focused on your own creativity–like my fourth grade student–when better, more beautiful ideas taunt you?

I’m an inspiration junkie. I love finding ideas through blogs, books, magazines and yes–Pinterest–but often what happens is that I find someone else’s great idea. That’s fine but there are times you want to create your own ideas. To do that, you need to go to the source of ideas.

Nature offers the most dramatic inspiration. A trip through Utah and Arizona last year presented me with enough ideas to create half a dozen art lessons, some of which can be seen in my America’s Southwest Landscapes booklet. The feeling you get when you teach a lesson you created is tremendously satisfying. I’m lucky because after I teach the lesson, I can share it with thousands of people. And knowing that many more children are enjoying the lesson makes it even more special.

10-day car trips might not be a solution for you, but I encourage you to step outside your door, go for a walk and see what triggers an idea.

And yes. It can be hard.

So, why bother reinventing the wheel when there are so many great ideas out there already?

It’s not just about art lessons, but finding what makes you who you are. It could be the way you write, your compassion, your music, your laughter…whatever makes you unique is what you need to cultivate. Ignore the things you suck at. We are all blessed with good and bad qualities. It would take me all but 10-seconds to write down the hundred things I do poorly, I know them that well. I’d have to think a little harder to list the things I do really well.

It’s the good stuff that we need to focus on…to encourage and protect. I always come back to my favorite Martha Graham quote.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. 

This keeps me rooted in my purpose when my head is spinning with self-doubts, the need to do it all and the feeling I could be doing more.

Feeling good about what you do…

This entire post was inspired by a lady who posted a response to one of my questions on Facebook today. When asked about Kinder classes, she responded honestly; I always feel like a failure, she said about not achieving the perfect lesson. I know how she feels. We are all on display now with what we teach and how we teach it. Art programs are disappearing, credentialed art teacher’s classrooms are becoming more mainstreamed into academic instruction and everyone thinks that there is only one way to teach art.

Don’t you miss the days when art was taught just for art’s sake?

And then there is social media. We showcase our ideas on blogs and expose ourselves to the criticism of others. Or we rehash our frustrations about problems we are having with parents, administrators and other teachers on social media sites. Perhaps we all need to take a deep breath and remember why we teach. Or does it help to vent?

I know venting is good but I also know that negativity can be toxic and positive energy is contagious and renewing.

What I do to protect my creative soul:

  • Read more, watch TV less (although I just got hooked onto Scandal so this has become extra hard)
  • Fill my quiet spaces with a few of my favorite things (pretty succulents and orchids, bottle of crayons and my books)
  • Take a bath almost every night to renew (although this may become a less frequent indulgence if California doesn’t get rain soon)
  • Listen to Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth podcast with Oprah (This is truly the most amazing, life-changing book I’ve ever read)
  • Read emails from my readers because they are my secret cheerleaders
  • Cook, bake and prepare food for my family with my lovely pots and pans in my beautiful kitchen
  • Walk the beaches near my home (but you already know I do this!)

What do you think? How do you protect or baby your creative consciousness?



  1. I am on summer holidays at the moment and am spending it at home reading, sewing, taking photos, art journaling, scrapbooking etc. etc. During term time I am so busy, it is hard to take take enough time to be creative.


    January 20, 2014

  2. I know what you mean about Pinterest. Actually, another Pinterest thought – everything looks SO wonderful, and then you realize it’s been re-pinned maybe 10 million times, and it’s not exactly original or unique any more. I love taking an idea that I find, and then twisting it my own way to make it absolutely my own. It’s not so exciting to do something you know has been done over and over and over.

    But I like finding inspiration in unexpected places, especially looking close up details in nature or caused by nature around me – the crazy gorgeous frost pattern I find on my outer bedroom window on icy mornings or my car windshield, or the crystalline sparkle of fresh snow at night (not exactly what you find in your neighborhood, I know), the swirling reflections of autumn leaves and birch bark that I cause by dipping my paddle in the lake back in October, spiderwebs (oh how I love spiderwebs!), flitting dragonflies in the summer sun, milkweed pods busted open and with the seed fluffs blowing in November breeze….

    So I love to take mini excursion with my camera. And at home, I love to retreat to my new art studio and experiment and play, whether with beads, paint, fabric, or all these and more at the same time!

    Maybe this was a bigger answer than you wanted? Sorry!


    January 20, 2014

    • I hear you, Phyl. I remember that part of the country well as that is where I grew up (well, Maritimes in Canada). Thanks for sharing!

      Patty Palmer

      January 21, 2014

  3. I’ve been taking a break from Pinterest,too, although I do still check in with some of my favorite art teacher bloggers on a regular basis. I’ve decided to stop looking for new ideas and go back to refining and adapting the ones I already find successful with my students. A driving force for me has been iPads. I had the opportunity to get 30 for my art classroom, so I’m learning more about technology as an art-making tool which is keeping me plenty busy!


    January 21, 2014

  4. You are a wise woman. I find being with my students can be a great source of inspiration. When I slow down, and listen to them, wonderful things happen, and that is the beauty of kindergarten. My favorite thing is to let them paint, and then take down their dictated stories. it is a lost art, one many classrooms no longer take time for, and it often takes my students a few minutes to “warm up” before the story in their painting begins, but I have discovered those stories can be well worth the wait.

    Kim Floyd

    January 26, 2014

  5. This was a wonderful article! We get asked all the time where we find our inspiration for our art projects and I always say something along the lines of “NOT on Pinterest!” – Pinterest USED to be a great way to catalog & keep track of stuff, but in recent years it has run amok & just makes me feel like the world’s least creative & productive person on the planet. It can be overwhelming. Thanks for sharing!


    January 27, 2014

  6. Being new to being in a kindergarten classroom, I’ve found your website particularly important. True as an academic kindergarten I have to link my art to something: self portraits can be great thank you cards, literature links are always welcomed into art, etc.. I’m artistic and have loved art my whole life (I was the kid who made my art look different than all of the other girls and boys too). I love to teach but I also need help with the logistics of teaching such young students so that they are happy and successful. I usually have to scale my lessons to what I have on hand and because I buy most of the art supplies out of pocket for my students. Watercolor paper is not on the school purchase supply list during budget cuts. Still it’s amazing what you can get kids to create with some jump in and see what if’s from the teacher. So I plan all the prep and steps. Then I hold my breath, let it out slowly, and jump into the lesson and enjoy as much as possible the what if’s that happen. I try to guide but let them explore too. It’s a fine dance. Some ask more for directions, others have very little fine motor skills, some won’t take any direction, and others want everything to look exactly the same. Hats off to you and other art teachers. I would love to have you teach my students! I am learning to much from reading your website and looking at what you do with students. Thank you so much for keeping my spark of artistic spirit in the classroom, the embers are still glowing from my last lessons!

    Laura Lea

    January 30, 2014

    • You sound like an amazing teacher. The kids are lucky to have you. And I’m so pleased you continue to offer these little beings a chance to express themselves through art. I think we often forget how young they really are.
      Thanks so much for the wonderful comment.

      Patty Palmer

      January 30, 2014

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