Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exploring Materials: Paint

Before coming to Tumbleweed, I taught at an arts-based preschool in Brooklyn, New York.  After years of thinking up processed-based, sensory, child-led art activities, my morning table provocations in the TPH toddler room naturally tend toward art activities.  Art materials are incredibly satisfying to use, for adults and children alike, and one of the most versatile materials, in my opinion, is paint.

LP and LS explore red tempera on butcher paper with fingers and brushes.

We primarily use two different types of paint: tempera and liquid watercolor.  Tempera paint delights the children with it's silky texture and bold colors.  When you mix two tempera colors together, they remain distinct for a long time.  Tempera is cold and slimy when you touch it!  NA can tell you all about this, as she will happily spend lots of time with her hands dipped in tempera, rubbing her palms together to revel in the texture!

Color mixing with red and yellow liquid watercolors.

Liquid watercolors have a very different character.  They are thin and watery, easy to spread over a large surface.  When two colors are blended together they combine instantly into a third, new color, making them a wonderful material with which to explore color mixing.  CC is always happy to see the liquid watercolors come out and was amazed when she put two colors together and found "Orange, Emma!"

Each child finds different techniques.

All the girls approached paint cautiously during their first weeks at school.   They would notice paint was available, but seemed nervous to dive in and start using paint.  I offered one color at a time, usually on a table covered with butcher paper for a simple, process (rather than product) focused painting experience.  It was great to see each child approach painting activities in her own time and begin her process of exploring the material. Single color painting became a source of fun and excitement whenever the paints were out in the morning.

Using pompoms grasped with clothespins as a painting tool.

Since then, I have introduced having two colors at a time, different sizes of paper, painting on surfaces other than paper, and painting with tools other than paintbrushes.  Each activity is rich with sensory and creative discovery.  LP sits with intense focus at a painting table, mixing colors in great swirls.  LS will watch her friends paint for a while before she dives in, encouraging herself by saying "Whoa!" when she sees what she's painted.

Painting on tiles!  NA checks out her painty hands.

I enjoy my role as interested observer as the children paint.  They usually are mostly focused on the process of painting itself, but they are proud that I am watching and like to show me what they can do.  I keep my comments purely observational ("You painted lots of little lines!"  "You're holding the paintbrush with all of your fingers!").  It's hard at times to keep my opinions (which are full of enthusiasm and love!) to myself, but I am hoping to instill a love of making art for art's sake in these girls, not making art because it is "good" or because it gets adult approval.  The part of art-making that is pure play and experimentation with no expectations is so precious.

Painted tiles with mixed red and blue.  Notice on the right where LP tried using
the tip of her paintbrush instead of the brush to scratch through the paint.

We have been having a great time with one or two colors of paint and different surfaces and tools.  I can't wait to see what happens as we continue to introduce more elements to our painting provocations!

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