How Artists Played as Kids: And Still Do It Today

What was really fun for me was finding out how many artists can trace the beginnings of what they love today all the way back to childhood. Here are some of their stories.


Tracy says, “I had a lot of friends but preferred being alone, making art and getting lost in daydreams. It is exactly the same for me now at the age of 54! I’d rather spend most of my hours painting and creating by myself when I’m not teaching art workshops.” Jenny remembers making things with Legos and drawing houses and says,”[A]t an early age I had a fascination with architectural detail that has never left me.”

Consuelo says, “I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 6 years old, which meant I was extremely limited in what I could do. I had just started drawing & for me it was a lifesaver. So my play as a child was drawing and painting, both by myself and in my head. That ‘play’ has completely influenced my life as I’ve never not been involved in art in one way or another. I know if I had been a healthy kid I wouldn’t have spent so much time honing my skills and can’t imagine being anything other than being an artist. Art has literally saved my life many times.”

Judah wrote, “I played mostly by myself, though I’m unsure if that was because of our rural location, or by choice. The two friends I had both lived miles away in town. Probably a bit of both, since even as an adult I’m pretty comfortable being quite solitary. The majority of my play involved roaming the hill country woods, building forts, constructing elaborate stories and make-believe worlds in my head, and drawing a lot…. hmn… those are all things I *still* do, except the fort-building is more like home-building these days! (and the drawing has moved more towards painting and whatnot).”


Eva says, “Even though we didn’t have much, I constantly created something from nothing. Making glue from flour and water to decoupage, wrote tiny books from scraps of paper, made up characters and stories like Raidy the Radiator who liked to let off steam :). My siblings and parents called me weird and dumb so I questioned why I did this. But, it couldn’t be stopped anyway. As an adult, I worked at magazines, advertising firms, and today still constantly alter everything, make little books and tell funny stories.” Jo-Ann says, “Living with sometimes as many as three different families in one year… The one constant was to lose myself in creativity…art, making things,(assemblage), reading … And at least one or more of these occur daily in my life even now :)”


Sunny says, “I never enjoyed anything ‘team,’ so I spent my childhood competing in rodeo events. Just me and a horse. And when I wasn’t at a rodeo, I was still riding (all day every minute that I wasn’t in school). And then, when it got dark, I dragged myself inside where I would draw and paint and sculpt and build. And that’s what I still do today! No longer riding but all the other things are still with me.”


Ana commented, “Most kids my age annoyed the hell out of me. LOL I hung out with the adults or elderly people by choice and soaked up as much as they’d share as I could. (The elderly are a fabulous resource.) I played alone a lot, again, by choice. When I got older I was very much the social butterfly, but I was hanging out with college kids when I was in high school so, again, older people. As a creative, I am mostly self-taught aside from the workshops I’ve taken or books I’ve read. So loner again, though I love working on teams with people who are mature in their creative action; established in their perspective fields vs newbie. Kind of like hoping you get the ‘good’ students in the school group project that do their portions and show up on time. LOL”

And now I’ll leave y’all with two of my favorite comments about childhood play, comments that will make a lot of us nod and go, “Yup.”

Raye says, “[a]s a kid my sister and I lived with a large menagerie of invisible monkeys – of all sizes. Some, Peggy, George, Lola, were our size. Herbie and Hip-tow-Hur were about 6′ tall, and Mount Yon was as big as King Kong.There were cute, smaller ones too. We would collect soda pop bottles to trade in for change at the U-Tote-Em, and bought banana popsicles. Also, we hung out in the woods and drew the Kool Aid faces (remember those) on the trees and we also made little footprints on the trail to represent forest dramas, like a little girl being attacked by a bear… crushed up berries, and so on…” and, continuing with the pet monkey theme, Zom says, “I played with my sister. She was incredibly imaginative and I feel like she taught me a lot that way. We played imaginative games where we were orphans and monkeys. We also played with our dolls and trolls a lot, but always as adventures. We made them clothes and houses ( I loved making stuff). My sister came up with stuff like switching the dolls’ heads so they would have big heads and tiny bodies. She was what I call a ‘wild creative’. I also loved drawing.”


Next week we’ll begin thinking about ways we can incorporate play into our lives—because obviously, in the case of play, more is almost always better!

cover_SRN_V9531_incite.inddFor more creative art play inspiration, read about the amazing art in Incite, Dreams Realized: The Best of Mixed Media.





Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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