Artful Parent: Interview with Jean Van’t Hul

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The Artful Parent

One of the things that I love about the kids blogger online community, is the insane amount of talent that we are surrounded by!

To prove that {again}, we are super excited to feature an interview with Jean Van’t Hul.

She has an amazing new book out, The Artful Parent:  Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity.

I am sure many of you know her from her blog by the same name.  The book includes over 60 Art Projects for Children.

PS – Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of her new book!

Now let’s talk to Jean.

What brought you to your interest in art?

Art has always been an interest and passion of mine! I studied art history and studio art in college and loved both aspects—both the fascinating history of the world through the lens of art as well as the very hands on studio classes where we practiced figure drawing with a live model, developed our own black and white prints in the dark room, and experimented with esoteric 3-dimensional art forms (sometimes involving thrift store phones, Christmas lights, and disembodied doll parts).

Jean Van't Hul Drawing with Sister and Grandmother I come from an artful family—my grandmother, whom I’m named after, is an artist and painter, and a couple of her siblings were artists as well. My uncle was an artist and graphic designer. My sister and I grew up drawing and painting.

Were you an artful child?

I definitely enjoyed creating art—drawing and painting came naturally to me. I was also very introverted as a child (still am, really) and art was a way for me to channel this quieter, inward focus as well as to process my world.

Jean Van't Hul's Childhood art My mom saved a lot of our art (I have two siblings) and it’s interesting to look back and see the artwork we created as kids. Later I won art contests—everything from the local drugstore Halloween coloring contest to junior high annual art contests and a high school poster contest.

I’m not sure my art was all that amazing. I lived in a rural area without a whole lot of competition—lots of wheat fields and blue sky with a few cows and cowboys.

How did you turn your passion for art into a career choice?

As a career choice, I’d say it’s taken some twists and turns that weren’t always deliberate. I worked at an art museum straight out of college and then at an arts and antiques magazine. After that, though, I took a side track into fundraising, working for public broadcasting then for the Audubon Society.

It took becoming a parent to really get back to art.

How did your art change when you became a mom?

I wasn’t making art at that point. But becoming a mom really made me reprioritize my life. I wanted to raise my children to value art and creativity and so I dove into this new (to me) area of children’s art and creativity with both feet. I read as much as I could on the subject and was especially influenced by MaryAnn Kohl’s and Susan Striker’s books.

The Toddler Art Group I started a toddler art group for families with toddlers (basically a weekly play group with an art component), and so much just evolved from there. I wrote an article about the toddler art group for Mothering magazine, was featured in FamilyFun magazine, took a wonderful online writing class from Christina Katz after reading her Writer Mama book, started a blog, really found my voice and my community.

And it has continued to evolve in wonderful ways, including the opportunity to write a kids’ art book. I could never have imagined much of this when I gave birth to my first child, let alone before. It has been quite a journey.

Tell us a little bit about the early days of ArtfulParent.com.

Sure! I started The Artful Parent as a way to write about our experiences with the toddler art group and about children’s art in general. I wanted to write and the process of pitching articles to magazines as a (mostly) unpublished author was largely unsatisfying. I hadn’t read any blogs when I decided to start mine in January of 2008 and I didn’t know what I was doing at all!

The Artful Parent It’s been a learning experience and a wonderful way to connect with like-minded people as well as to learn from others in the art field (I’ve interviewed everyone from kids’ art book authors, art therapists, teachers, and museum educators to artists and other artful parents.)

A book! What were the steps you took to turn this passion into a book?

Well, my blog readers kept asking if I had a book or telling me that I should write a book, and, being both a writer and a book lover myself, the seed took hold. I loved sharing my passion for children’s art and creativity with others on my blog and a book seemed like an effective way to do that. I figure that the more parents and educators I reach with my message (that art is valuable, FUN, and easy), the more they will share art and creativity with the kids in their lives.

Do you still have time to create art for yourself?

That’s a good question. A few months ago the answer would have been no. But I’ve (slowly) been making it a priority to begin creating art again myself and to explore my own creativity.

I believe we need to model what we want for our own kids TO our own kids. I want my kids to grow up comfortable with art and their own creativity—yet kept feeling like a hypocrite because I wasn’t taking the time or allowing the same for myself. But a new Artist’s Way course, a daily drawing commitment (even just 5 minutes!), and pursuing my own creativity are current focuses of mine so that I can lead by example. I hope my children will always feel confident in pursuing their own goals, whatever they might be, and their own creativity, in whatever way that might be.

This is a kids activities blog, so please tell us a little bit about YOUR kids favorite art activities.

My kids love, love, love anything to do with shaving cream!

spin painting Of course, painting is perennially popular with spin painting being a favorite! Simon Says, drawing and other drawing games are always fun as well. We can always go for clay and play dough. We’ve done an obscene amount of stained glass and sun catcher activities!

Over all, there’s not much that isn’t a favorite! :)

Remember you can leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book.  This simple one-entry giveaway will end in 3 days from the time/date of this publication.  The winner will be notified via email and connected with the sweet people at Jean’s publisher for fulfillment.

Good luck!

Holly About Holly

Kids Activities Blog is Holly's blogging home.

She is the mom of three boys ages 7, 10 and 12 who partially homeschools. She believes that you shouldn't have to buy stuff to have fun when there is a kitchen junk drawer full of possibilities.

She can also be found at Business 2 Blogger, on Twitter as @QuirkyMommaSite or @Texasholly, but her favorite place to hang out is on Google +.

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