”I do tend to use watercolors – I love the splatter sort of thing you can do with watercolors.” ~ Mini Grey
Anyone who pays attention to my blog must know by now that that my posts are as much about understanding my own creative process – with the curiosity, the uncertainty and ultimate happiness that artistic exploration gives me – as it is about understanding children’s creativity, and ways I might encourage and support it. Since January I have been taking a watercolour painting course, thinking that it would be really enjoyable to bring some colour into the winter months, but also that using a flexible art material like watercolour paint might free me from feeling I have to produce art that “looks like something”. I know that watercolour painting can be approached in many ways, and be representational as well as abstract, but I have gained so much from just allowing myself to put colour on paper and simply see what happens. Often this is how I see the children in my class approach their art and I wanted my experience of painting to feel like that.
I have learned a variety of techniques in my painting class, and I thought it would be interesting and fun to share these with the children in my class and observe what they do. It also felt nice to share a personal learning experience with them. I decided to show them how to do resist paintings, using crayons, pastels and white candles to create a design on dry paper before applying their paint. Some children doodled, some created representations and others rubbed the paper with the side of a pastel. Using white candle wax allowed the children to be surprised by the results! Children could see the markings they made repel watercolour paint when it was brushed over them, while the paint adhered to the paper surrounding their markings. The children also experimented with other interesting techniques, including lifting the paper to allow watery paint to glide around and using their brush to spatter the paint. Given a few strategies that they could learn and use quite easily, the children took their painting to amazing new places that I had not envisioned.
We then explored painting on wet paper, so the children could compare the experiences of painting on both dry and wet paper. In the book Children and Painting by Cathy Weisman Topal, she writes that “serendipity is the appearance of an unexpected but valuable or agreeable thing.” When the children applied watercolour paint to wet paper they could quickly see the colours spread. In general the paint had a softer and more blurred appearance than paint applied to dry paper. Gorgeous results came from lifting and tilting the paper to make the paint glide. Some of the children applied paint using bubble wrap and pieces of Mylar to create unusual marks. Others fingerpainted, or drew on the painting with pencil, and still others folded their paintings. The display that was created of their art allowed the children to share their discoveries with one another and to learn a variety of techniques for creating special effects using watercolour paint on wet paper.
I still have a few more classes and much more to learn. And recently I received my order of two books: Watercolor Bold and Free by Lawrence C. Goldsmith and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Watercolor edited by Marian Appellof, both full of great ideas that I look forward to exploring. But I don’t mind saying that once again, young children have been my best teacher – they are fearless, inventive, inspiring, uninhibited and truly the most gloriously creative people I know.
“A little amateur painting in water-color shows the innocent and quiet mind.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson