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Playing with Paint: Let's Get Messy!

If you are longing to get your hands dirty, why not explore painting, the messiest art form of them all?

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 22, 2018

PaintNow that spring is here, and the spring flower fairies are visiting my mountain home with their outrageous palettes, I am called to paint. As these little winged creatures splatter hopeful streaks of gold and pink and bright blue over the green grass, I rejoice after a long winter. I want nothing more than to go outside and play, get messy, and wander the hills in an artistic trance.

If you, too, are longing to get outside, or at least get your hands dirty, why not explore painting, the messiest art form of them all? Paint gets everywhere, so wear old clothes, or cover up with old paint shirts and a sarong, coveralls, or old jeans. The best place to paint is outside, on a sunny day. If the weather isn't cooperating, or it isn't quite spring yet in your neck of the woods, use a tarp or an old sheet to protect your floor and designate a room in your house for a studio. If you have the means, buy an easel. If you don't, an old table will do, or even a lap-desk or a large clipboard. You can still have fun. Paint pictures full of light to cheer up a cloudy day. Stuck in a blizzard? Paint a beach scene, and escape to paradise with your Muses!

I'm a big advocate of painting, writing, and creating art anywhere, on the go. To that end you might also want to invest in a portable watercolor set and a decent watercolor pad you can carry with you. They even make watercolor postcards — they're just the right size to send to a friend who's far away, and tiny enough to paint on one of those little tray tables on an airplane, or a crowded bar.

I only suggest watercolors here because they are my favorite paint for travel, as they are portable and practical when you're a busy artist on the go. The muse can surprise you at the oddest moments — it's best to be prepared. That way, her ideas don't go tumbling out of your careless mortal head. It shows her you appreciate her presence, and are willing to be inconvenienced by inspiration. The Muse is haughty and busy, and easily offended. But if you have won her favor, she will reward you most richly.

Where to Paint? Inspiration is Everywhere!

Paint in a public park, in the Laundromat, in a bar, in your favorite coffee shop. Take yourself out to lunch and paint and people-watch. Your dessert might inspire your next still life; your graceful waitress, the subject for a portrait. That funky raspberry vinaigrette dressing and the cucumbers you didn't eat from your salad might make an interesting abstract…try it and see!

PaintPaint something HUGE. Paint something tiny. Paint your clothes, your shoes, and your furniture Paint anywhere you have room — inside or outside, and in public places. Paint in your backyard, in a garden, in the forest, on top of a sun-warmed rock.

Keep a set of colorful soap crayons or a few bottles of finger-paint bubble bath in your bathroom and paint in the tub or in the shower when the mood suits you. This can also be a lot of fun for the budding artist in the family. (I loved them when I was a little girl!) Other kid-friendly painting projects? Paint with food. Vanilla pudding and natural food coloring make a fun and edible painting project that's just perfect for kids. Decorate cookies or cupcakes with colored frosting for a sweet treat. You can also paint your sidewalk, or at least have fun drawing on it with chalk. In the winter, you can fill spray bottles with colored water and paint in the snow on a winter day, using the entire yard for your canvas.

Paint in your journal. Paint a portrait, a still life, a landscape, a poem, a map of your heart. Instead of writing in your journal the next time you feel sad, paint the feeling instead. Paint all of your emotions. Paint someone else's emotions. Paint everything that happened to you on Wednesday. Paint the ordinary, and the sublime.

Paint in unexpected ways, in unexpected places. Paint on tin foil, plastic wrap, old pieces of stationery; paint the walls, paint butterflies and flower gardens, or anything your heart desires. Paint your face. Paint someone else's face. Finger paint and get paint everywhere, even in your hair. Try painting with your feet, your elbows, your hair. Salvador Dali painted with his own mustache! Get creative, get wild, get messy!

How long has it been since you've had paint in your hair, or on your feet? It feels delightfully cool and squishy between bare toes, silky and lush. If you're feeling really adventurous, pick up some edible body paints and spend a weekend in bed with your honey. Get creative. Make the bedroom your studio, and love your medium.

My Muse has asked me to tell you this: "If it's too easy, you're not working hard enough. You're not taking enough risks. Make a leap of faith. Follow me, if you dare." I know not if it is advice, or a challenge, or a warning — or all three combined. I only know I am on the path.

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