A good art project will both engage the artist during the creation process and engage the viewer once it is done. Projects that use fun processes and colorful materials, or that venture into areas that some people may not think of as art, such as the mail, can keep creativity alive and spur new ideas about how we look at art. These projects work well for 10 to14 year olds.
Kool-Aid Tie Dyes
Gather up some bed sheets or other lightweight material in pale colors. Tie them into knots and bundles using an assortment of rubber bands in different lengths and thicknesses. Use regular or irregular knots and spacing depending on whether you want a uniform or chaotic look. Mix the Kool-Aid (or other powdered beverage mix; avoid sugared brands) in buckets with water, a separate bucket for each color, making the mixture far more concentrated than package instructions. Dip the sheets or fabric into different colors, overlapping to get varied color effects. Allow the color to set and dry before taking off the rubber bands. Remove the rubber bands. Do not wash. If the fabric is wrinkled, iron using dry iron (no steam). When done, use the colored fabrics for decoration, decorative screens, wall coverings or shades.
Cut up heavyweight paper into postcard-sized pieces. Keep one side blank for addressing, writing messages and adding a stamp. Use the other side and be very creative: collage, painting, drawing and stories are all great ideas. Send to friends, classmates, public figures or family. You can include social and political messages or comments in your design, as this has been a traditional use of mail art. Some examples of subjects are environmental projects with earth themes, decorative abstracts, portraits or sketches of the neighborhood.
Batik on Paper
Melt an ounce of beeswax for each person over a low flame or heat source, monitoring it closely. When the wax is melted but not smoking, remove it from the heat and apply it to heavyweight paper using old paint brushes or sticks. Paint over the paper using washes of acrylic paint applied with a brush. Add a second layer of melted wax over the acrylic paint and follow that with different colors from the first layer of paint. Keep the paint thin for both layers. Allow the paint to dry; then remove the wax by scraping with a flat tool, revealing layers of color in abstract patterns. When the wax is removed, you will reveal layers of color in an abstract resist design, the principle of batik, meaning the color goes where the wax isn't.
Bill Brown has been a freelance writer for more than 14 years. Focusing on trade journals covering construction and home topics, his work appears in online and print publications. Brown holds a Master of Arts in liberal arts from St. John's University and is currently based in Houston.