Artful Parent: Interview with Jean Van’t Hul

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 GrandmotherI 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 artMy 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 GroupI 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

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 ParentIt’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 paintingOf 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!


  1. Alisa Sutherland says:

    Cannot wait to explore this book! I love all of her ideas; they’re so incredible!

  2. Mary Beth Galloway says:

    Looking forward to this release! There hasn’t been a kids art book I needed to have in some time. I need to have this one! 🙂

  3. Dorothy Weinstein says:

    I have been following Jean’s blog for several months now, and her entire approach to children and art has completely changed my parenting. I am able to now focus on the process not the product, or sometimes with my 15month old, just letting him explore the materials. My kids and I are so much the happier!

  4. I loved reading the article — I’m such a fan of her blog and it was fun to read how it got started.

  5. I love the Artful Parent blog, and since becoming a reader I have started my own toddler art group. She’s so inspiring, Can’t wait to read her book!

  6. I would love to use this book for inspiration for the centers in my classroom.

  7. I am just at the beginning of my artful parenting journey. With an eleven month old (the everything in the mouth stage) we have experimented with art you can eat (food and edible paints). I really look forward to lots of creative adventures in years to come. I really enjoyed reading about Jean’s development from artist, to parent, to author. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Oh!! I’d love to win a copy of this book. I’ve been following and reading Jean’s blog for quite a long time. She’s been an inspiration in some of the projects I do with my daughter. Furthermore, it is a good chance to get a copy since here, in Spain, it’s not easy to find.
    Thanks for making it open worldwide!!!

  9. I love Jean’s blog. I would love to win her book.

  10. Spin painting — must try it!!! Looks like a fantastic book full of inspiration.

  11. The Artful Parent is one of my favorite blogs, my children and I have done so many of the projects featured. Jean is an inspiration to us!

  12. Janelle McNeill says:

    Wonderful interview!
    Just so exciting to hear about the evolution we go though as creative parents.
    Just a very special story indeed! Thank you.
    I too am feeling the pull toward leading a toddler art class here in Osaka.
    It is a loud voice inside me!
    Lets see what colourful ways I can make something real!
    Thanks again.

  13. Great interview. Have seen the books intro on Google+. Would love to learn more about art activities with kids.

  14. great interview! thank you! would love to have a copy of Jean’s book. her blog is the one and only that i follow. she has been a total inspiration to me and to my family as well!

  15. I love when I find great ideas for crafts and art. I know Kids love to let their imagination and creativity fly. I am Looking forward to get the book and use her ideas for my Spanish classes. 🙂

  16. Awesome! I am amazed everyday by the creativity of my children. Thanks, Jean!

  17. I love the blog and I’m so excited to check out the book! Thanks for the opporunity!

  18. What an inspiration! Thank you for introducing me to her and her website. I would LOVE a copy of this book and put to use these practices with my own three little ones.

  19. Shailaja Shivanna says:

    “The Artful Parent” is one of my favorite blogs. The kids’ activities are very inspiring. A great interview; happy to know that you were brought up in an artful family. I would love to have copy of your book for my little ones 🙂

  20. Teresa hardy says:

    My almost two year old son has shown almost zero interest in drawing or painting which us heartbreaking to his creative mama. I wonder if there is more I can do to help him find the joy of expressing himself creatively.

  21. Thank you, I’d love to win!

  22. Any ideas for being more artsy is a great. Good luck to us all.

  23. Monique B says:

    I would love to own a copy of this book! Thank you!

  24. I would love to have a copy of her book. Some more ideas to create with my two kids.

  25. I absolutely would love to win a copy of her book. I follow her blog from almost the beginning and it is a pleasure every time 🙂

  26. I love her blog and I’m so excited for herb book!

  27. Trying to be more art oriented in play times with my two boys. We just tried spin art and made over 25 plates of designs! Such a great afternoon! I would love to get a copy of this book and get even more great art ideas.

  28. This book looks fantastic! I just discovered Jean’s blog and it is so inspiring. I’d love to win her book.

  29. lovely! I have been reading Jean’s blog for some time and have sent it to many friends and teachers.

  30. I’ve been a long time follower of Jean’s blog. I imagine her book is just as inspiring.

  31. I wish all the best for the book publication. In our learning at times we forget that creativity is a process which is based on experience and is more important the way it is thanks for reinforcing and reminding us this. I would love to read the book.

  32. I feel like I’m reading a fairy tale. I teach art to 3 to 4 yrs. Preschoolers. They love it, when new ideas is presented to them. You and your kids are so creative. My passion is Art,also. I love this website. Your Grandma seems like a pretty cool person. I love the wall hanging inside your room, with your daughter sitting on the rug. Thanks for everything you do for other creative people. I know I’m late for the book winning, but I had to leave a comment. Thanks again. LOVING IT!!!!!!.

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