A recent study out of the Universities of Oxford and Warwick revealed that we’re spending more time at home with our families than we did fifteen years ago–but the time we spend participating in shared activities hasn’t significantly changed. In other words, we’re in the same space together , but we’re not always actively engaged with one another. 

Fortunately, this time of year gives us the chance to reconnect with family through our favorite activities–without the distractions of everyday life and routines. We asked artists of all genres how they take advantage of the holidays and organize creative projects that appeal to the whole family, regardless of age and skill level. 

Across the board, they told us that doing artsy activities with their families allows them to be creative without the pressure of deadlines and clients. During the holiday season, they can sit back, relax, and make art with no other goal in mind other than having fun and catching up with the people they love. Here are some of their favorite projects and activities. 

Ornaments by Kristina Micotti
Ornaments by Kristina Micotti

Make clay ornaments

“My favorite thing to do around the holidays is make ornaments out of oven-baked clay,” San Francisco-based illustrator Kristina Micotti says. “This year, I am planning on making ornaments of all the dogs in my family as gifts.

“To make the ornaments, I buy oven-baked clay from any craft supply store, and then I sculpt it into the shape I want. I then get a kabob skewer and lightly poke a hole all the way through. Then I bake it at 275 degrees for fifteen mins per 1/4 inch of thickness. I typically end up baking them for an hour because of their size. After they are done and cooked, I use craft paint to paint the ornaments and use red ribbon to string it through.” 

Photo by    Kelly Sikkema
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Make some snowflakes. 

“This year, I want to make paper snowflakes with my daughter,” paper artist Lucia Balcazar says. “It’s a very simple and fun collaboration. I let her paint the cardstock paper with acrylics, and then Jacquard Tie Dye KitI cut it into different snowflake shapes.”

With the holidays coming up, this was the most popular activity among the artists we interviewed, including illustrator Jacqueline Colley. “My husband and I have been known to sit and fold and cut out snowflake shapes, all while having a bit of a friendly competition over who can make the most ornate one,” she tells us.

Image by Skillshare teacher Tiffany Egbert
Image by Skillshare teacher Tiffany Egbert

Experiment with tie-dye

“My favorite DIY gift is a DIY shibori or tye dye kit,” fiber artist Kelsey Cerdas tells us. “I include a t-shirt, bag, socks, or something else to dye, plus gloves, rubber bands, fabric dye, and printed instructions.” If you don’t have the time and expertise to make your own kit, this Jacquard Tie Dye Kit is a good place to start, since it offers detailed instructions on making spirals, stripes, and more.

Drawings by Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza
Drawings by Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza

Play ‘drawing telephone’

 “We love to play drawing games with friends,” artist duo Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza tell us. “’Drawing Telephone’ is one where each participant draws any image they like. Next, each person shows their drawing to the person on their left and studies the drawing of the person on their right. The next drawing is made trying to replicate or interpret the neighbor’s drawing. 

“Once everyone has cycled through, the drawings are revealed in order starting with one person’s original drawing and everyone else’s interpretations. It is great fun to see what comes out of this exercise! Hint: it is helpful to number each piece of paper one through however many players there are; a different piece of paper for each drawing–this helps organize the reveal.”

Make papier-mâché. 

“We are a very creative family, and we love to create together, whether its a papier-mâché project or wood work or simply some drawing together on a Sunday afternoon or origami after school,” London-based embroidery artist Chloë Amy Avery tells us. You can use this recipe to make your own papier-mâché using old newspaper, flour, and water. 

Paint like Pollock

The Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton, New York, hosts fantastic drip-painting workshops for adults and children of all ages, but you don’t need to live in the area to pay homage to the late Jackson Pollock. Simply get out some popsicle sticks, turkey basters, and any other creative tools you can think of, and play around with tossing paint on a canvas. Just remember to have smocks on hand, as drip-painting can get messy. 

Mugs by Emma Hardy
Mugs by Emma Hardy

Head to a pottery painting studio. 

“One of my favorite creative activities to do with my family is pottery painting,” clay artist Emma Hardy reveals. “We’re really lucky to have lots of pottery studios near us in Buckinghamshire, and every so often, we’ll take a trip and paint something. 

“Having pre-made pieces to choose from is lovely, especially for my overactive brain, as I spend most of my day making creative decisions about shapes, form, and functionality. Getting to go somewhere new and pick from a line-up where those decisions have been made for you is great. 

“I’m very lucky that painting with my family allows me to completely play around without any worries, and I know that all standards and expectations are well and truly out the door. My messy mug will be loved and used by my mum no matter what!”

Image by Skillshare Teacher Pam Phelp
Image by Skillshare Teacher Pam Phelp

Sculpt with salt dough. 

“Every year, my mom and I create holiday decorations out of salt dough,” Luxembourg-based artist Lisa Junius tells us. “Mostly, we build houses to put a candle inside, and sometimes we also paint them. Every year, we make more and more, so now we have a small village that lights up under our Tree!”

Salt dough is non-toxic and easy to make at home with water, flour, and salt. This recipe is a great place to start.  

Madam Saluki by Iris Scott
Madam Saluki by Iris Scott

Bring out the finger-paints

As Brooklyn-based fine artist Iris Scott reminds us, finger painting is for people of all ages. “Sometimes, I give my how-to book Fingerpainting Weekend Workshop: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Brush-Free Works of Art to friends and family members,” she tells us. “Or, if I really like them, I get them a kit of oil colors, which comes with an instructional video. 

Quick Tip: If you’re working with younger children, skip the oils and opt for a medium that’s a little more kid-friendly, like watercolors, acrylics, or dedicated finger-paints. 

Try photograms

Susan Storck is a jewelry designer by trade, but she also likes to venture into other media–especially cyanotypes. “Cyanotypes are photographic images produced without a camera by placing an object on a photo-sensitive paper,” she explains. “It’s a printing process that produces a cyan-blue print.” 

All you need to follow in her footsteps is light, cyanotype paper like those made by Nature Print or SunPrints, hydrogen peroxide, and objects of your choice. Storck likes using objects and botanicals found in nature, like flowers and leaves, but you can use any item you’d like, from household tools to cut-out paper figures. 

“Place your objects on the photo-sensitive paper and expose it to light for the appropriate amount of time,” Storck advises. “Soak the paper in water with a drop of hydrogen peroxide to process the photo. Once the paper is dry, you can mount in a ready-made frame.” 


Want find more ways to get creative this season? Check out Skillshare’s Best of 2019: Top Picks & Hidden Gems for inspiration from our favorite classes of the year.

Cover/thumbnail image credit: Skillshare teacher Natalia Gonzalez for Nic Squirrel’s iPad Art: An Introduction to Vectornator – Create a Cactus Pattern

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