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Documenting a period in my development that could become pivotal

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Children's experience oriented watercolor class with environmental values

Monday, January 3rd, 23 children accompanied by a parent were eager students at a free watercolor class at the Albany Public Library. The supplies were mostly from recycled artist quality cotton rag paper. Some papers went through a long hot bath and bleaching with an additional coat of absorbent ground for watercolor. Substituting for commercial pan watercolor sets were small chunks of watercolor crayons left over from years of use with my grand children and my mother who suffered from dementia. The pealed crayons were inserted into molded plastic packaging salvaged from thumb tacks. Small lids served as water containers. Brushes were my own. In addition, I purchased 10 Camelia student pan watercolor sets with brushes from India. These sets had four larger wells perfect to fill from squirting until filled using only a small water sprayer. The small amount of water available made for paintings with brighter more saturated color and no waste water. The students used up all the water and were given seconds and thirds of water.

Cookie cutters of all subjects from mittens to animals and trees provided ideas for subjects and kept the shapes, cartoon-like, big and open. The children were creative in filling them. All selected painting the inside first. When these were ready to dry before doing the background, we gathered around the mystery table where I provided the solution to what things I carried with me on a watercolor plein-air trip. The kids checked to see if the letters they wrote down corresponded with the palette, pens, painters, and clothes I had. The use of pens and pencils were helpful in making creative decisions on how they wanted to finish their work.
Not all of the children followed my directions and for the most part that worked out fine. The small cakes of the Camelia set are perfect for small fingers and delighted one of the youngest boys who wanted to know if he could make thumb prints. Of course the set worked perfectly and he was absorbed in his painting for more than half an hour. When it was time to end class he was still making prints and he said he just loved finger printing. I was rewarded by having several examples of creative inventers of the materials that I could share with the others instead of always being the one governing what the children make. For the most part all had a good time, but there was one child who would not accept any suggestions, could not focus and became very upset when the too big watercolor brush did not provide a good enough point to paint the stripes on an American flag. The tantrum that followed was to wrinkle up the paper and throw it in the garbage. If I had taken steps to redirect this easily frustrated student, I may not have any different outcome. There are some who come to class bent on proving they are not good at art. It is curious to me that I have had an adult a few years back who painted the flag and was equally demonstrative. After class I retrieved the drawing. I am keeping it for a collage. Or save it as is: it is very good on its own merit.

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