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Wet-on-wet watercolor painting is an introduction to the beautiful world of color for the young child. There are many ways to paint, but wet-on-wet watercolor is a dreamy, fluid, mostly formless painting method that allows the painter to fully experience colors. It is perfect for the process-oriented kindergarten age child, and great for bringing mama into a slower, more meditative (less product-oriented) space as well!

Now, before you get all ready to do stuff and buy stuff, I want you to take some time to think about color. Color is pretty snazzy stuff, people, and it isn’t always fully appreciated! Before you start painting with your child, take several days to delight in the colors around you. As you go about your days you will experience thousands of colors in the world around you. Can you notice them more? Spend time noticing the colors around you. Be amazed by their amazing variety, the extraordinary number of shades and tones in your visual path. Feel some awe at the idea that they can be reduced to just seven pure colors of the rainbow. Notice the effects that different colors have on you. Open up your awareness of color as part of your life.

Color theory is typically taught to preschoolers in this fashion: Here’s some blue and here’s some yellow, let’s mix them together and get green! Fun, yes, useful information, yes. A bit shallow? Perhaps. Wet-on-wet watercolor takes a different approach, a much slower experiential involvement in color. If you follow the Lavender’s Blue Kindergarten Curriculum (or any Waldorf-inspired approach) you will have time to explore the primary colors and allow the secondary colors to arise in one painting session a week over the course of the year. This is a meditative and therapeutic painting technique, rich for your child, calming for you.

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To get started, you will need some painting supplies. I recommend good thick watercolor painting paper, the Stockmar circle color paints (just the three primaries), good 1-inch brushes and painting boards. Each painter (including you!) needs her own board, large sheet of paper, small jar of mixed paint, brush, large jar of water for rinsing, and a sponge. I like to have a lidded jar for each color of paint to keep mixed in the fridge, popsicle sticks or chopsticks for mixing the paint, painting smocks or aprons, and a few wet rags for clean up. You also need a basin that is large enough to soak your paper.

Supplies

1. Watercolor painting paper (it should be thick enough to withstand a lot of wetness)

2. Concentrated watercolor paints in the three primary colors

3. A good painting brush for each person

4. A painting board for each person

5. Some clean glass jars; three large jars with lids to hold mixed paint in the fridge; three small jars for each person to paint from; one large jar for each person for rinse water. You can recycle jam jars, baby food jars, etc. for this.

6. Sponge and/or washcloth for each person

7. Aprons or smocks

8. Wet rags for cleanup

9. Chopstick or popsicle sticks for mixing paints

10. A large basin for soaking painting paper

Here’s what we use:  We have the painting sets from Palumba which included paper, boards, brushes, paints, sponges, and jars and we love them! We use a large tupperware bin (the under-the-bed type) to soak the paper and I store all the supplies in the bin in between painting days.

Setting Up for Painting Day

1. Use a large jar to mix a small amount of paint with a large amount of water. Use a popsicle stick to mix it up. You can test the color on scrap paper and experiment to get the proportions right. Store mixed paint in a lidded glass jar in the fridge.

2. Fill a large basin with just a couple inches of water. Take one piece of paper for each person, dip it into the water, flip and let soak. Dip and flip the papers one at a time so they don’t stick together.

3. Set up your table with a painting board, brush, damp sponge, large jar of rinse water, and small empty paint jar for each person. You may wish to have aprons and wet rags ready also.

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Time to Paint

1.  Each person can bring her board and sponge over to the water basin. Take a piece of paper and lay it nice and flat on the board then use the sponge to smooth out any bubbles and wipe off extra water. Use a light touch; don’t scrub the paper.

2.  Let everyone come back to the table and get good and settled in before you proceed. A special song or fingerplay for painting day is helpful for this.

3.  Pour a very small amount (like a half an inch) of the mixed paint into each paint jar.

4.  Take up your brush and begin painting. Paint slowly and fill up the whole page with color.

5.  I like to tell a short color story to bring an imaginative quality to our painting time.

6.  When you are finished painting, leave the papers to dry on the painting boards and clean everything else up.

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Tips for Pleasant Painting

1. Let go of the idea that art is about making something; relax and enjoy the process of painting and playing with color.

2. Play with brush strokes, shapes, amounts of paint, allow forms to evolve and be painted over, end with a page filled with color.

3. Paint with your child(ren). Focus on imitation rather than instruction.

4. Create a good amount of structure around your wet-on-wet watercolor painting times and teach your child to respect the materials, but allow them to paint however they wish within that structure.

5. Use the sponge to soak up extra water.

6. Finally, be patient about learning how to do all of this!

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This post is re-published from July 2013.  Wishing you many happy painting adventures!  xo Kelly

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