I want to be clear, allowing a child (or adult) to just pick up paint and be free with it is art, and I really feel everyone should have that opportunity (and often). But technique is good to learn as well. Learning some technique will open the door for more inspiration. Also, painting can be (emotionally) difficult for some children because it feels out-of-control, these lessons can help with that feeling.
We'll start each week with a list of supplies you will need and a short rundown of the planned lesson. Followed by a more detailed explanation and pictures (if I remember to take them!). For all lessons, each painter will need:
- a rag (we use dad's old t-shirts)
- a larger water cup for rinsing brushes
- a smaller water container for clean water as needed in your project
- paint (we use acrylic, but tempera would be fine too)
- some sort of paint tray (a paper plate or plastic palette is perfect - we use a homemade wet palette with the kids' acrylics until they learn more about painting and receive a wet palette of their own)
- scrap paper
- a paint board (optional - we like to use them so that we can move our projects while they are drying)
The first lesson is very basic but a necessary step for those learning to paint. We started with black & white paint, a short-handle, flat #8 brush, paper to paint on (color choice was up to the child).
I wrote the lesson on our giant paper pad hung on the wall so that the kids could follow along. Also, the table was completely set up before I had the kids come in. I really wanted this to feel as much like an art class as possible, limiting the waiting and sitting around while I get ready.
The very first thing we did was just go over all our supplies, talking about what each is for and what we call them. If anyone is confused by what one of the supplies might be used for - please leave me a comment.
The kids watched as I built their wet palette but it is my intent, in time, they will be getting their own supplies, setting up their work area and preparing their palette. Each got a quarter sized amount of paint, picked out a paper for this project and folded it in half "hamburger" ways.
Starting with black, we talked about the 3-D's of loading your paintbrush: damp, dip, drag.
• We always start with a damp brush because it will prevent bristle stainage and allows the paint to flow much nicer. Damp is not dripping. To get a damp brush, swirl your bristles in your water cup and then dab your brush on your rag. The bristles should feel damp - not wet.
• Put the tip of your brush into the paint (dip) and pull the brush towards you (drag) so that it leaves a line (your paint puddle should now look similar to a lollipop).
• Flip the brush over and repeat.
This is a hard concept for kids since they are so used to globbing on as much paint on a project as possible. Just keep reminding them of the 3-D's: damp, dip, drag. If too much paint is loading on the brush, teaching to paint on the scrap paper prior to the project could save a lot of heartache - remember, you can always add more paint, it's exceedingly difficult to remove it when you've used to much though.
On half of the paper, have the kids start by just practicing painting nice solid lines in any direction. When using that perfectly loading brush, you want to place the flat, chisel edge parallel to the paper, not on it's side.
Push down slightly so that the bristles bend slightly. Even pressure creates even lines. Flip over the brush and you'll have more paint. Reload bushes as needed.
For the second half of the paper, we'll be using white paint so now is a great time to talk about how to properly wash the brushes. Have the kids put their brushes (bristles down) in the larger water cup. Tell them to use some pressure and pretend as if they are painting the bottom of the cup. We really want to preserve the integrity of the bristles so discourage any vertical, up and down pounding of the brush either in the water or with the paint. (That sort of effect with paint can be really fun but it totally ruins the brush so best save it for another time)
We never want to leave paint on the bristles as it'll dry and cannot be removed. And we don't want to leave brushes soaking in water because it causes wooden handles to swell and crack. Even if you are using plastic brushes, it's best to teach not to let the brushes sit in the water.
To dry the brush and make sure that all of the black is cleaned off, you'll want to pinch the bristles in your rag and pull the brush out. Do not push, as this will ruin the brush as well. Everything we do is intended to extend the life of the brush (and save you money!).
With your clean brush, dampen it using the smaller cup of water (this is really important for doing larger projects when the water will get real nasty and we wouldn't want to muck up the paint with grody water). Use those 3-D's to load the brush with white and use the second half of the paper to paint a circle (or several circles).
Start by painting a "C", then a backward "C" and then filling it in with either more "C" shapes or lines. Obviously reload the brush as needed and our aim is no glops. Kids can totally use the flops though - spreading them out over the paper.
As you can probably see, we have a theme of contrasting going on here - light & dark, curve & line, black & white... talk about this as your children paint. Set these projects aside to dry. They will be used as the center of a color wheel that we'll be building over the next few weeks.
Be sure to rinse brushes and cups well. Running the clean, damp brush bristles over a bar of soap allows you to re-shape the bristles so that they stay nice while drying - just remember to rinse the brushes well when you use them next.
See you next week!