The large maple tree in the backyard is now almost bare and our outside is carpeted with decomposing leaves. We have been using them while outside in many ways, so today I brought them in while we were painting for the children to draw inspiration for their work. I offered small paint brushes and a jar of yellow and red paint to share. We began this exploration at the beginning of the week and by today the jars have become primarily orange. By offering two primary colors, the natural process of the colors mixing blooms, as it is inevitable that the red and yellow will become orange.
We explore this phenomenon on a large sheet of paper, everyone using 2 paint brushes to move the paint around. Leaves were scattered over smaller pieces of paper as the children rotated through who was using each piece. Sometime when we paint everyone has their own piece, but I find that approaching art as a community project supports more collaborative work in all aspects of our classroom. If someone doesn't want others to paint on their paper we talk about it, but I have found this week that the children have enjoyed using the paint jars together and finding ways for 4 hands and 2 paint brushes to share a small space.
One of my favorite paint and leaf activities is making leaf prints. I introduced the idea by sitting down with the children while they were painting. I quietly began tracing the leaf with some paint and then flipping it over and pressing down. Everyone began watching and I saw them choose a leaf and begin painting the leaves. There was no printing happening, but by my simple work I gave a provocation to another motive of activity that was possible. Our art is always open ended and the process is more important than the outcome. That way we are always able to enjoy the art its self and the variety between different artists (the children). By focusing on the medium and the process the children learn and master the properties and later use these as skills when doing art. When I offer different provocations, even if it is only giving two primary colors, they learn color theory even if what is important to them is the physicality of the paint or how the brush moves across the paper. By sitting down and painting with the children, I model my own technique and ideas or mimic theirs.
The result of our painting with red and yellow on different surfaces all week is now hanging in our classroom. Every day when we paint I see the children's love for the medium grow, and I look forward to where we take this next!