My kids LOVE painting, and the easel is usually always set up. If I'm not in the mood for clean-up (e.g., am in the middle of making dinner or we're getting ready to go out), I give them a pot of water and brushes to water-paint the chalkboard side of the easel instead, which will usually appease their desire to paint for long enough to finish a task.
But what we really all enjoy best is finding fun and alternative ways to paint! Here are a few of our favourite ways we've tried and shared here before:
And here are loads more alternative painting ideas from around the blogosphere!
Bubble wrap printing with Red Ted Art (I've done this with my 1st graders and it made the most beautiful art! Have promised Princess Pea we can do it together, too, but haven't gotten to it yet.)