We love to watercolor paint at preschool. Many students have experience with painting from watercolor trays either at home or at school.
I introduced liquid watercolors in jars with only the primary colors - red, yellow, and blue. These colors can be mixed to create all the colors of the rainbow. The liquid watercolors provide bright, rich colors, and are easy to mix and blend on the watercolor paper.
The students don’t need directions about how to mix colors. They are naturally curious to see what happens when colors mix and blend, and it becomes creative play - and that play produces beautiful results!
Preschoolers love to mix colors. The experience of watching two colors become a new color feels like magic, and is a great way to learn about color. We have been talking about the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. They are the beginning of our color mixing vocabulary, because they can be combined to make the secondary colors and beyond.
One morning I set out a variety of supplies in the primary color group, and students enjoyed combining stickers, tape, dot markers and other items to create bright compositions. The color combo also started showing up in paintings on the easels.
We practiced color mixing on the light table (while it was covered with a clear plastic shower curtain). While this experience was all about the process and tactile experience of squeezing out paint and blending colors, some students decided to place a paper on top of their creation and make a mono-print.
We also explored primary color mixing with liquid watercolors. Their rich, bright pigments are satisfying, and especially fun to add to the watercolor paper with liquid droppers. I love to see the results all together!
I decided to share snapshots from a busy Tuesday morning of painting in the Art Studio, because I was amazed how many awesome artworks were created in only two hours, and impressed by the cross-section of preschool artistic development they showed.
Many preschoolers begin painting as a tactile and active activity. They are exploring how it feels to use a brush and how it looks when they make marks like lines, dots, circles, or when they mix colors together. Usually these beginning painters aren't interested in assigning meaning to the final product, because they are much more interested in the process.
As painting and verbal skills develop, painters often "discover" a meaning or topic after they finish painting. They are still all about the process of painting, but then when they are prompted to look at their artwork, it might remind them of something, or they might decide it is a favorite animal or character.
Next comes the preschoolers who have an idea what they want to paint about, and take care to create those forms in paint, to the best of their ability. I love when I start to see figures and recognizable shapes emerge, because the kids are so excited to share their idea in a visual format.
Many of our older preschoolers are so skilled at painting figuratively that they move on to visual story-telling. Their paintings might have one or more characters, a setting, and/or supporting details. Many times my pencil can't keep up with all their fun ideas!
I am thankful for the time and a great space that allows for children to explore and develop their "painting language" and inspire each other (and me!).
It all started with the monster on the cover of the book pictured above. October had arrived, and so had the monsters! After several 5 day students independently decided to paint a monster, we decided to invite the whole class to make their own version of a monster on the Art Studio's easels.
After each monster was painted, I asked the child to tell me about their monster. The descriptions are wonderfully detailed and hilariously creative. It was a great opportunity for counting practice, since the monsters had limitless eyes and legs and teeth! I must share a handful here, but please stop by and read through the whole book when you get a chance:
"His name is 'Lots of Colors'. His eyes are big, bold eyes, and this is his hair. He has an orange smile." - C. H.
"It's just his brain. It's called a brain monster so it's just his brain. The monster died but the brain is still alive." - L.S.
"My monster's name is Lily, and this is her eyes, eyebrows, smile, face and hair. These purple lines are her arms and the orange lines are her legs. There are 17 rings on 1 arm and 14 on the next arm. There are 19 rings on one leg and 16 on the other. There are 45 jewels on one arm and 86 on the other." - L.B.
"These are his toes and eyes and feet. He's on a broom. I can talk to him." - J.H.
One thing I love about creating monster paintings, is that there is no way for the painter to be "wrong". They can practice painting arms, legs, faces, bodies and other figurative details without being held to the standard human figure. Students who are not yet regularly painting representative figures felt happy to try out a monster with many legs, or a strange body shape. And even those paintings where the final products look like a blob or scribble have a rich, imaginative story to go along with them.
These monsters have inspired more monster creations made with tape, cardboard, and drawing supplies. I am also seeing monsters continue to pop up in paintings. The 5 day class has been reading books about monsters, singing "monster mash" and creating monsters with loose parts. With still a week to go until Halloween, I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of these monsters!
C. came in every day this summer and painted a castle. Some days, Cinderella's castle, once Jasmine's castle, and finally, the Beast's castle. "It's very beautiful!" she told me. I loved watching her castles evolve and chatting with her every Tuesday and Thursday while she worked.
The other fantastic series of paintings was E.'s series of spiders. The 5 day class was interested in spiders and made webs and read books about spiders. E. came in to paint, and when I asked her to tell me about her painting, she answered with one word, "spider". The spiders just kept coming every day - in different compositions and colors. Then came a surprise "4 spiders"! Finally, "2 spiders, a butterfly, and 2 lines".
Pair painting is a popular choice in the art room. It is often less about the end product and more about the social experience. The painting becomes a game, or a conversation, or a series of compromises. Sometimes it is inspired by a shared experience, like M. and B.'s painting of the May Pole dance.
Then comes the discussion of custody of the painting. Sometimes side-by-side painters request for it to be cut in half. Sometimes the pair makes a second painting, so they can each take one home. Sometimes there is a discussion of shared custody- "I'll tell my mom and you tell your mom and we can share it."
Snippet of the fascinating conversation the girls had during painting:
H: "We're making a rainbow that takes over the world."
A: "I want to tell you that the rainbow is invisible. All you have to do is climb up it and slide down it and then you can get to different worlds."
H: I thought we're going to have powers when the rainbow is camouflaged... When people stepped on it and they didn't know, they got stuck on it and shot into another world."
H: This is going to be so so awesome! Let's be best friends forever!"
A: "I think we're done painting."
H: "No, lets keep going until all the white is covered. One time, I painted a painting all red and then purple until all the white was colored and then I took it home."
A: "That sounds awesome but this is even better!"
H: "But who will take it home??"
Art Studio teacher