The three year old class at the school I work at read a book about a snow leopard. After a discussion about the leopard and the story, their teacher had them sit down to paint up their very own leopards. Each child received a small container of black paint and a cut out leopard shape. Now, I know this is far from an open ended art experience but as a lesson in listening and observation it was quite interesting to spy upon these small artists as they spotted up their animals.
If you are lucky enough to work closely with a group of children you will notice patterns of behavior and reflections of their development manifesting in pretty much everything they approach. We have one young one who is often the one so full of energy and humor I struggle to not let exasperation or full on laughter burst forth when I am around them but who, when it comes to a focused task, will sit the longest and follow through and dialogue as they are working in such a charming way. This one, took their time with their small pointed paintbrush and covered their leopard with the tiniest of spots from head to tail.
Another child filled their leopard with black paint so not a spot could be seen while another, a very focused artist who I thoroughly enjoy watching began like the rest but found that at a certain angle, their brush made delicate, feathery marks and proceeded to gracefully fill their leopard with flittery-fluttery spots.
Tiny spots, enormous spots, spots jabbed out lickety-split and wily-nily covered their paper leopards every-which-way. Not one was the same yet they used the same tools. While child-driven and open-ended art are my go-tos, there is something to be said for a follow-the-instructions kind of process. Take a silent seat, listen carefully and watch the magic unfold. It's all in the details.