Art education, inspiration and encouragement for children and parents in Arlington, VA
Watercolor wet-on-wet technique can create a soft and layered dimension to a drawing or painting. First choose a piece of colored paper to work on and then find an inspiring object to draw. I love nature because it's forgiving and its nature!
Even if I don't get exactly the details of what I am looking at, the impression of a plant or tree is always enough to spark the mood of being outdoors, breathing fresh air and touching the fibers of growing and living things.
After choosing the watercolor paper, make a few lightly colored splatters. I painted stems and leaves with a thin wash in the background of this work of art.
After this was dry I took a permanent marker and a pen and drew loosely from nature. Using two different widths of pen makes the drawing lines interesting and varied.
I filled the paper to have the drawing touch all four edges because this is what I teach to children and this was a sample. After the drawing was complete, I mixed a variety of greens from my pallet to fill in the drawing.
Wet-on-wet techniques that have been executed in light and soft colors are ideal for the backgrounds in a variety of works of paintings and drawings like these. Stayings loose and free while drawing is a key. If it's difficult to do stay loose try drawing quickly completing the entire drawing in two to three minutes. Begin with the largest things and fill in with smaller details. Don't worry about being correct. It's not about accuracy.
Above all else try enjoy what you are doing and then you are certain to be successful.
Leaves are used like stamps in this activity. You can also make your own stamp using a gum eraser. The pieces in this post were created by painting leaves with ink and pressing them onto the paper. After the prints dried, I carefully painted with just water around a part of leaf. While the paper was still wet, I added color and let it move and flow on the paper.
I repeated this process until the background was filled in with color. Because the leaves were left dry, the color did not blend into the leaf. The border around each leaf is as distinct.
More about the wet-on-wet-technique here.
Playing with paint and color is so much fun that it's hard to stop experimenting. With all the papers we've created so far looking so beautiful, I wanted to make a functional piece. The sketchbook or journal cover is a great way to make something unique and to continue the inspiration toward more creativity. Click here for the wet-on-wet-technique used below.
This sketchbook cover was made with watercolor paper and a blend of wet-on-wet technique and some sponge-on and sponge-off (using a wet sponge to dab off some color-sponge off/using a sponge with color on it to dab onto the painting -sponge on).
Whatever size of book you want to make, be sure the cover is slightly larger than the actual paper.
What I love about making a cover for an art book, is that many creative variations are possible. Making mistakes and reworking the measurements are part of the creative process. Begin with a simple fold and then later add flaps, buttons, fun closures.
I usually first make a mock-up with regular paper before using the beautifully decorated watercolor paper.
This post follows on the wet-on-wet technique which is a load of blending playfulness. Once those papers are completely dry (the next day) stamping and drawing can be added to make artful pieces.
Stamps are instantly gratifying. Adults can make your own stamps for an artistic and unique design. Children can help with the designs by drawing ideas using simple lines that can be turned into a stamp. I used gum erasers and an Xacto knife to carve out stamps that have last for years both in the classroom and in my studio.
The above design is made more interesting by alternating the direction of each stamp.
Deciding on a design
Make your own symbol or borrow one from an honored culture. I like to keep designs simple because then I can make it more interesting depending on how I use the stamp. Alternating patterns, stamps and colors are a few ways to play.
It's easy to spot a machine made print, but everyone loves the imperfections of the hand-of-the-artist. We can all relate to things that carry the mark of the real person within it.
Make a stamp to invent your own personal shapes you respond to, Are you a curvy or circular type of person or are you drawn to the straight edge? Take a look at a doodle and use part of one line of that for a stamp. Whatever you feel inspired to do, enjoy the fun of making it yours. And make an extra one as a unique gift for a friend.
The following techniques can be done after mastering the wet-on-wet technique which is a ton of fun in itself.
While the the paper is still plenty wet with the desired colors, press bubble wrap onto the surface of the paper and let it dry completely. Once dry peel the bubble wrap off.
The same technique as bubble wrap above, but use plastic wrap to create wrinkles and folds. Letting it dry completely before taking the plastic off.
Add salt to the very wet paint medium. A little salt will go a long way. Brush the salt off once completely dry (I wait till the next day). You might find some colors work better than others for this technique.
The result can be stunning, looking like stars in the sky, or glistening on the water.
Explorations in Watercolor
Wet-on-wet watercolor technique is super fun and the basis for more explorations. Make several wet-on-wet papers at one sitting. You'll want to have several finished pieces for future art. Ideas include making papers with warm colors or cool colors, experimenting with wetness of the paper and the brush.
Hint: A very wet brush and very wet paint will have a very different effect than a less wet brush and paint.
1. Wet the paper with the brush or hold the paper under running water.
2. While the paper is shiny and wet apply colors with a wet brush. If this is done correctly the colors will immediately begin to spread. It's a wow to see the colors in movement on the paper. What is a wet brush? It has lots of water on it and the paint is also very wet.
3. Let the paper dry before applying a new technique.
4. Once you have several wet-on-wet papers that are dry, you can do a drawing or painting on top or make and use your own stamp.
If you have done a few wet-on-wet techniques already and you have a creative itch to do something more while the paper is still wet, try out these wowzers.
Have fun, be playful and enjoy what comes.
Teaching a fiber lesson to five, six and seven year old boys and girls in art camp is a miracle happening in motion. Children at this young age, especially five generally don't want to be given a sharp needle. I'm thankful for plastic. If teaching a class of 25 students, do not attempt threading even a plastic needle. That is, unless you enjoy wondering where your hair has gone after the lesson is over.
In Nature Art Camp, Julia created over a dozen miniature forts in the forest floor through out the Blue Mountain School grounds. Julia's forts included small details like tiny camp fires: a circle made of tiny stones with small sticks stacked teepee style in the center. Little sleeping areas were detailed with cots made of sticks and leaves and leaf blankets. Some of the forts had canopies with leaf roofs and posts to hold them up.
Since writing this article I learned that Julia's grandfather, who she was staying with for the week, is a very prolific artist himself. Charlie Brouwer lives in Floyd, Va. and is most likely a huge influence on his grandchild. Julia told me that before camp she and her grandmother and father sat down and looked at the work of Andy Goldsworthy.
The art week at Floyd, Virginia's Blue Mountain School was a great experience for me as a teacher. Students from preschool to the upper elementary grades all participated in making creative drawings that transformed into a sculpture by weeks end. We reflected on our work by giving critiques to each other based on the goals of the lesson.
For me it was a time to learn about a new school where children have small classes and go outside for fresh air to learn, run and play often. Once inside students are ready to be engaged with learning inside the classroom. Because the classrooms are small, it's easy to get to know one another.
I wanted to avoid using glue and so the solution was to use slits and tabs to hold pieces onto the base. Students have to problem solve how to build this piece of sculpture. This is after they have made the drawings and covered the paper with color to become the sculpture.
I wanted students to understand a few things that would help them look at art differently. Firstly that art in the art world is successful based on a set of agreed criteria. Secondly, when we use the criteria our art looks better. Elements and principles are tools.
We repeated and reflected each day on what our goal was so that a direction was consistent and clear. We were working with shapes and making them interesting by simply repeating, overlapping, emphasizing and filling the page.
During our critiques after each class we reinforced the goals and gave advice for how to continue.
This lesson is helpful to teach students what the elements and principles of art are, how to apply them and how to critique a work of art based on using them.
On my way home from Floyd I thought about the week and reflected on my teaching. Rules, there are rules that make good art what it is. These rules are good to know when one is stuck, or looking for a place to start. Making art like we did at Blue Mountain helped us know a few ways the rules of art can help us be better artists. Rules are meant to be broken too, but first it's good to know what the rules are; and why and how they work.
I'm so excited to be the Artist in Residence at Blue Mountain School in Floyd VA. With smaller classes and sun filled rooms, a dedicated, hard working, friendly staff I feel connected to the teaching/learning possibilities.
I begin each class with warming up by scribbling. This elementary exercise has a deeper elevation of learning that benefits brain function. As we concentrate on covering the paper from edge to edge, we also use our non-dominant hand, close our eyes, cross over our hands with a crayon in each hand, and more.
This helps our brain to wake up especially with crossing over and using the non-dominant hand. Our creative abilities are enhanced as we engage both sides of the brain. Our bodies warm up with vigorous movement and energy as we cover our papers with the elements of line and color.
After warming up, each lesson begins with a look at and review of the elements and principles of art. Our focus on element is line and shape with younger students and form with older students.
We pay attention to making our art go off the edges, overlapping and filling the space with a variety in size of the shape we have chosen to work with. How do we know we are achieving our goals? We take time out to do a critique of each others work. We identify the areas the student is successful: overlapping, going off the edge, using a variety of size, etc. We give compliments, make meaningful suggestions for improvement and end with another compliment.
Through our week as we practice each day reviewing and deepening our understanding of the elements and principles of art, we become more informed and able to speak knowledgeably about art.
Jean Frank Stark
I make art and have taught to children for over 20 years.