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8 Close-to Home Creations and Family Collaborations

Whether you have just a few minutes to spare or an entire evening, these ideas will help you make art a part of your holiday celebrations.


Petite Art Projects for Busy Days

Winter holidays can stuff your home with relatives, gifts, and gear. There’s room for art, too—just think small.

Artist Liz Haywood-Sullivan recommends keeping two sketchbooks: a larger one for studio drawing and a smaller one to carry with you. (Photo courtesy of J Michael Sullivan)

Try these petite projects:

  • Portable sketchbooks allow for art anytime and anywhere—with family in the kitchen or living room, late at night in a cozy bed, or even in the bathtub, à la Bonnard.
  • Create a festive still life sketch. Think colorful lights, wreaths, snow globes, holiday foods, candles— you get the idea.
  • A postcard-sized watercolor in a readymade frame makes a great gift. Or create a series to keep and hang together or to inspire a new body of work.
  • Make it shine. Everything seems to shimmer during the holidays, so reach for the metallic paints, pens and inks. Don’t scrimp on the mica or glitter. Heighten the drama by using a black surface.
  • If you’re solo in the studio, turn on your favorite holiday music and see what transpires. Need a theme to jumpstart your creativity? Try the winter solstice.

Read More: Why Starting from Sketch is Key to Better Art

Have a Couple Hours? Try a Mini Plein-Air Oil Study

Plein air painting can be done anywhere. Step outside and turn in a complete circle to choose a vantage point. Then start painting.

You can create a winter painting right in your backyard. Here, painter and car-life-art-life adventurer Emilie Lee captures snow.

Artist Emilie Lee offers these tips to simplify plein air paintings:

  • Skip the underpainting (it takes too long to dry).
  • To depict an entire scene, look immediately for big shapes and drop in your horizon line.
  • Alternatively, focus on one detail—paint a branch rather than a tree.

Read More: Emilie Lee Winter Painting Hacks


Have an Afternoon? Turn Your Family Picture Into Art

Does your family gather for a holiday photo shoot? Turn the results of that session into a sketch or drawing.

Ron Doggett and Sons Mark and Michael (oil on linen, 48×48) by Luana Luconi Winner

Avoid detail overload with these tips:

  • Apply horizontal and vertical grid lines across your photo reference so you can copy your composition one square at a time.
  • Simplify clothing designs and decorations. Allow one or two details per figure or element.
  • Go abstract with backgrounds and anatomical features.
  • Concentrate on color values. If you get these right, the hues need not exactly match the photo.

Read More: Portrait Painting Tips


Have an Entire Evening? Throw a Portrait Party

Gather friends and family for a self-portrait painting party. Artist Sandrine Pelissier shares details.

  • Small mirror that reflects your whole face
  • Fine-line washable markers
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Tissue paper cut to the size of your mirror
No-Phone Selfie by Sophie Babeanu
Step by Step:
  1. Trace your features directly onto the mirror with the marker. (Hint: Close one eye and draw your face. Then open your eye, align your face with the drawing and trace the eye that was closed.)
  2. Make corrections, fill in details, and add shading. Encourage everyone to share so they can show off their skills and seek assistance from the resident artist. (That’s you!)
  3. Spray the tissue paper with water and press it onto the mirror’s surface.
  4. After the ink transfers to the tissue paper, pull the print. (Note: The wetter the paper, the softer the lines.)
  5. Try variations with additional color—or do mirror-swaps with a partner.

Read More: The No-Phone Selfie: How to Draw Self-Portraits in the Easiest Way

This article first appeared in Artists Magazine. Explore digital issues or subscribe to get more inspiration, tips, and techniques delivered right to your doorstep!

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