This week’s preschool art class provided another joyful and enriching sensory experience. Our “brushes” were spray bottles of liquid watercolors, and we continued to experiment with resist painting — the concept of which my tiny artists are beginning to grasp after lots of exposure (see this project and this project).
Before explaining our process, I’d like to share one general observation about teaching art to pre-schoolers: my desire for preparedness and an aesthetically pleasing set-up is consistently at odds with my students’ ability to wait for instruction. Every week, I set up our kitchen classroom — dividing all supplies, placing them on each table, in front of each seat, and in full view for the students upon entry. I love snapping a pic or two of our set-up so I can include an image here, and so I can have a moment of contentedness and calm before the throngs of kids unleash their wonderfully creative forces. This week, the tables were adorned with spray bottles filled with liquid watercolors, droppers, freshly-fallen leaves, crayons and watercolor paper. My kiddos couldn’t wait to get their sticky hands on those bottles and spray away — but first, they were forced to kick their little legs impatiently as I detailed the project and their responsibilities.
The students were instructed to ignore the spray bottles and droppers for a few precious moments so they may use the crayons and create drawings inspired by fall (I actually removed the bottles from the table to eliminate distraction). I passed out leaves so they could see and touch a piece of the season while drawing. One (incredibly talented and adorable) three-year-old drew realistic representations of leaves in a rainbow of colors. Others made “stories” using stick figures and shapes, and others attempted to translate their feelings about fall into a pictorial image.
As usual, some students proclaimed their done-ness within two minutes, while others concentrated quietly. When all drawings were complete, we passed around a salt shaker and students sprinkled salt atop their papers — the salt later reacted with the watercolors and added subtle texture to the compositions.
The students were then given the option to place leaves on their paper prior to spraying. I discouraged them from layering the leaves, since the point is to cover a few leaf-shaped segments of the paper, thereby shielding it from the subsequent watercolor spray.
Finally, the students were given the green light to spray away. This was more difficult than I had anticipated, since some of the younger students experienced a bit of difficulty managing the spray bottle trigger, and the older students were heavy-handed and refused to even consider moderation. There were many pools of colored water to contend with, and it’s a very good thing that I placed layers of newspaper on top of the plastic table covers before class. This is why watercolor paper is essential — construction and computer paper will break with the weight of the water. The spraying went on for some time, and the kids simply loved it.
There were many moments when their papers looked stunning, and I suggested they stop spraying (I prefer the separated spray droplets captured on the paper to heavy rivers of combined colors).
In the end, every student was proud of their work. Some compositions achieved fantastic color harmonizing, while others were largely monochrome. But on every one, the crayon drawings resisted the watercolor spray, which allowed the kids’ multi-colored line work to shine through the paint wash.
Several of our projects this semester have generated beautiful paper, rich in pattern and color (like our crinkled paper activity and our paper marbling). During our next session we’re going to upcycle all of this art on paper, making frameable collages and/or fashioning holiday cards, gift tags or coasters.