Monday, July 14, 2014

Art-Based Exploration in a New Space

Last week, the children of Cohort 7 engaged in an exciting exploration of materials in our new studio space.  It was late afternoon, and I had set out basic, familiar materials:  palettes, brushes, white paper, and yellow & blue tempera paints.  The children began mixing colors and trying out different strokes, but it wasn't long before I sensed them all wondering what more could be added.



I had placed a bucket of water at the entrance of the studio for washing up after we were all done, and AJ walked over to splash in the water a bit, before noticing a small pitcher floating in the water.  She dipped it in the water and returned to the table, adding the water to the palette.  I'll admit, my adult brain felt inclined to redirect her with thoughts of: "These aren't watercolor paints!" "The paper isn't strong enough!", etc.  I held my tongue though and challenged myself to simply observe.  LC and LT immediately noticed what AJ was doing and went running to the bucket in search of more pitchers.  There was only one more, so I went off to find another so that all three of them could pour.  When I returned with a third pitcher, I was amazed to see their level of focus as they took turns adding more and more water to the palettes.  There was now so much water covering the table that it spilled over the edges of the palette, soaking the paper underneath.  The colors were running everywhere, some quite faded, while others had collected in bold, vibrant pools.  LC gratefully accepted the third pitcher, and began her own trips back and forth between the table with pitcherfuls of water.




















After some minutes of focused water-pouring, the girls started to alternate pouring with painting, experimenting with the altogether new painting environment that they'd created.  LT noticed that the paper was now very easily torn and seemed taken aback at how silent the tears were.  This was not like tearing dry paper!  We talked about the characteristics we noticed:  "The paper is soft and wet.  When you lift a corner it tears in many places."  Everyone paused to try ripping the paper a bit, before beginning anew with painting and pouring.



Eventually, LC's older brother arrived for pick-up.  He was interested in our work and joined the table.  He focused on making bright swirls of color on one of the pieces, noticing the way in which the colors trickled out from the center of his swirls, becoming more faded as they edged across the paper.  Like LT, he also noticed the greater ease with which the paper could be torn now that it was so laden with water.  He flipped his brush over, using the end to run across the paper, making long jagged tears in the paper as AJ and LT looked on.  Eventually, everyone decided they were finished and asked me to hang the work alongside paintings done by Cohort 6.  AJ was interested in the process of displaying the artwork, as it was very tricky to lift the paper while still preserving the whole piece.  We managed to hang two pieces, and will be very interested to see what they look like after a weekend of hang-drying.


I felt so excited and fortunate that afternoon to have this amazing space, which allowed the children to explore materials in this new way.  The outdoor space makes these kinds of explorations feasible -- the canvas-covered table and rock floor can withstand all sorts of experiments, which allows us to be less concerned with preservation of the environment, instead encouraging complete engagement in the creative processes led by the children.  This is only the beginning -- I can't wait to see what adventures lie in store for us in our beautiful new space!




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