Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wet-on-wet watercoloring

This technique is the one recommended in Waldorf preschools as it allows children to explore color in its truest flowing form, without being distracted by shapes. Colors flow, mix, change and imagination can take over freely. This is what I like most about it - you never know what is going to appear in your painting. You may have planned one thing but after the paint dries it may look like something completely different.

Usually children start with one color and progress through all primary colors one by one before being allowed to mix 2 colors. Until school children only use 3 colors - red, blue and yellow.
We started with red during our Red week. To set up you need:
1. A painting surface, wooden board or anything else pretty much, I really liked using shelf liner as I could cut a big piece, it was staying in one place and also kept all glass jars stable for Kitten to dip her brush in.

2. Watercolor paper. Use only good quality watercolor paper as you need it to withstand being soaked and not disintegrate. The size depends on child's age: 8x11 is likely enough for a 2-3 year old, 10x15 for older children. Usually the corners are rounded. It gives a more esthetic appearance, gets rid of sharp angles that give a colder feel and discourages children outlining the border as they often tend to do with a rectangular piece of the paper. Soak it in a shallow dish for 10 minutes and wipe off with a sponge so that it is wet but not dribbling.

3. Sponge for wiping off paper.

4. Separate sponge for wiping brushes on to remove excess water and check for cleanliness.

5. Good quality flat watercolor brush 3/4 - 1 inch width. It really makes a difference and you can get them pretty cheaply in Hobby Lobby or Michael's with a coupon or on sale. I got ours for only about $5.50.

6. Small (baby food size) jars for paints. Use only good quality watercolor paints as the cheap ones will not give the same result. You only need a very small amount - 1/4 teaspoon to 1/4 jar of water and it will probably last for several sessions. You can keep it lidded in the fridge. We use Stockmar paints.

7. Bigger jar with water for cleaning brushes. It is nice if it is transparent do that kids can see how the water color changes.

You can tell your child a story about colors while you both prepare for the painting session, it will help to set the mood. Wet-on-wet watercoloring is a special activity that is only done once a week and you only paint one sheet of paper, maximum two, to keep it significant. The purpose is not to cover as many sheets as possible with color but to experience what the color has to say to you. Always paint together with your child, on your own paper of course, to model the proper care of brushes and attention. Make sure your child understands that before switching colors he needs to rinse the brush really well and dry it on the sponge to see if it is clean. It is helpful to tell the a story about Peter the Brush, who needs to clean his hair well before putting new clothes on.

Kitten really enjoyed this activity for the first minute or so, as is usually the case with the little ones.
I have been doing some on my own to get a feel for this technique. This is a candlelight.
And this was meant to be an island but it changed quite a bit after drying. When I asked Kitten about it she was very determined that it is a "Quack, quack". So duck it is!


  1. This is really beautiful! And the island looks like a volcano - or two ducks! :)) The candlelight though is truly awesome :))

  2. I am glad you like it. Some people don't recognize the candlelight :) Do you see the fat duck? With two eyes and long beak?

  3. Oooh, I see now. It's looking right at us, correct? (creepy) :P That's cool, her imagination works better than mine apparently ;)

  4. Yes, it is very fluffy :) The duck, not your imagination :))) I didn't see the volcano or two ducks, so you are good!