Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Painting Without Paint

A quick post about how we try to minimize mess in the creative 
process in our house. I love painting but not the cleaning up. And 
Emily has the shortest attention span nowadays- 10 minutes at 
least to set up the table, lay newspapers, fill the palettes with paint 
etc. and she paints for 3 minutes and says she's done. Jenna makes 
it more worth my time - she'll paint for as long as we let her but 
the process is usually truncated when she starts dumping colored 
water on herself and the floor. Mess is important in developing 
creativity, I've always felt, and the usual state of our living room 
might suggest that our children are masters in that aspect. But for 
the times when I am just not in the mood, here are three things 
we do when we still want to paint but not with paint:

First, the paint-with-water books. Not much creativity or self-
expression, since the pictures and the colors are chosen for you, 
but good for young kids learning to use a brush and older kids 
learning more advanced brush control and water use. And the 
magically-appearing colors are of course fascinating for little 
minds who haven't yet grasped the un-magic chemistry behind it all.

Observe the very un-messy table - hurrah!

Next, watercolor pencils.
You use them like regular color pencils and then paint over them 
with water to create water-color paint effects. Or, as Jenna likes 
to do, dip the pencil tips in water and draw with them so they come 
out smudgy and like paint. Pardon the seasonally-inappropriate 
drawing below - it was the only thing that came to mind when I was 
sitting at the kitchen table drawing yesterday - a simple example 
of how to (badly) fake a watercolor painting. 

                                                      Before water                  After water

For an even more arty outcome, make a faint black and white 
photocopy of a landscape on vellum, then color it in with the 
pencils, and brush over it with water. 

Watercolor crayons and normal blackboard or sidewalk chalk 
work the same way.

Finally, bleeding art tissue.
Very versatile, this bleeding tissue. Comes in a pack like this:

which you can cut shapes out of, or just use in big pieces

Emily did this in preschool and was very excited to show Jenna 
and me how it was done. Essentially, the tissue paper is put on 
the background paper, and a brush dipped in water is used to wet 
it so that the dye stains the paper underneath. 

Creates a nice watercolor effect - unless, like Jenna, you paint 
too forcefully and turn the background paper 
into a stencil for the table underneath.

Still, Jenna produced some nice tie-dye-ing in her piece, 
by using a lot of water. And with big random-shaped pieces 
of the tissue paper, you can make your own batik wrapping paper!


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