Category Archives: color

Preschool Color-Mixing Activity

{You may also be interested inĀ this color-mixing activity using tempera paint in squeeze bottles.}

(Source: The “cornstarch and water” activity in Ann Pelo’s The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings.)

Now that G is three, we suddenly have a preschool-aged child in the house instead of a toddler. This is exciting, as different activities are opening up for us. At our latest parent-child art class, N and I did some color mixing. (If you’re interested, you can read more about that class–although not the color-mixing–in my post on my other blog.) G asked to do some color mixing of her own, so I set up the activity using the one in Ann Pelo’s book as a guide.

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Materials: Red, blue, and yellow colored water (I used very watered-down liquid watercolors; you could also use food coloring in water); a dropper for each color; white mixing tray (white shows the colors better); cornstarch

First, I showed G how to use the droppers–squeeze the end, put it in the color, let go of the end, and then squeeze out the color where you want it.

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She mixed all three colors in the first cup, first making purple and then, “Brown!” Then she mixed the primaries individually, eventually creating purple, orange, and green.

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Mixing colors is really magical, isn’t it? G has done it before, with paint on paper; this was just a different way of seeing it. As each color was created, she delightedly named it. When she’d mixed some colors, she said she was ready for the cornstarch.

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According to the book, the cornstarch will separate the colors out again as the individual colors adhere to separate grains (bits? granules?) of the cornstarch. Erm, not so much, at least not for us. We mixed it up, but still, the purple cornstarch looked purple; the green, green; and so on. G decided to mix colors on top of the cornstarch and see what happened then.

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Then it became obvious to me that she needed a bigger mixing area, so I offered a bowl.

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Ah, much better. So much more space! I scraped the cornstarch she’d already colored into it, and more colors were added. Then more water, then more colors…

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Then more cornstarch, and more water, until she ran out of room.

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She had a fine time with her concoction-making, watching the colors mix and periodically dipping a hand into the very watery ooblek she’d created. When she was done (when the foil container was full), she used the remaining colored water for some painting…but that’s another post.

*Note: Don’t rinse your cornstarch down the drain, in case it decides to firm up on you down there. Throw it in the trash instead.

 

Autumn Window Leaves

(Inspired partly by the Artful Parent’s Autumn Leaves Stained Glass and partly by Fall Leaves and Mod Podge at Gingerbread Snowflakes, via the Crafty Crow; this is a sort of hybrid.)

Materials: Colorful autumn leaves, Mod Podge, brush, double-sided tape

This isn’t art and it isn’t craft either, really. It’s more like kid-friendly DIY home decor. But I include it because G (age just-3) helped with it all and our windows look really pretty and seasonal now. I wasn’t quite up to applying contact paper to our windows (as in the Artful Parent link above), but that’s due to my own struggles with any piece of contact paper larger than my hand. So I thought we’d just skip the middle step and tape the leaves right to the windows.

I don’t have photos of the process because it’s so easy I didn’t think to take any! These leaves were pressed for varying amounts of time. The leaves we only pressed overnight kept the most color but weren’t flat. The ones we pressed for longer seemed to lose a lot of color, although they became more vibrant once sunlight was shining through them.

After they were pressed, G and I brushed one side of each leaf with Mod Podge. When that dried, I put a coat of Mod Podge on the other side of the leaf (just me, because G was in bed). Then I put pieces of double-sided tape on the window and we pressed the leaves onto the tape.

There are so many great art activities out there using leaves, but my kids balk at anything that involves covering up the inherent beauty of the leaf. A walk from the car to the door invariably results in every kid handing me at least one leaf and asking, “Can we press this?” I like that they’re looking so closely at the leaves and finding so much gorgeousness in them. It’s good to be able to display all these small pieces of nature-made artwork.

Do you have some great ideas to share using colorful autumn leaves?

If You Build It, They Will Come

Tuesday was a quasi-sick day here, the sort of day where the kids are home because a full school day is a bit too much, but they’re not sick-in-bed sick. (That’s my favorite kind!) At some point in the morning, G asked to paint, so I set her up with the liquid watercolors. N decided to experiment with bleeding tissue paper. Based on some of the comments to my first post about it, I gave him pieces of tissue paper, watercolor paper, a paintbrush, and one cup of water and one of vinegar.

The colors were definitely more vibrant than when G used a spray bottle, but there were still some white spots left behind under the squares–it makes it look like a resist, almost. Do you see that blue blob up towards the top corner of his paper? He accidentally wrinkled up a square (“it looks like blue spinach,” he said) and wondered if it would be okay. Of course! It left an interesting splotch behind, and I’m thinking next time we experiment with the tissue paper, we’ll go for a scrunch-and-stick technique and see what happens.

While his younger siblings painted, V hit the writing center and began writing a story in a blank book. N and G joined him when they finished their paintings. N decided to draw a story, and G, after making some marks, dictated her story to me.

I love this picture! Three kids in jammies, working on stories. If you build it, they will come.

Experimenting With Bleeding Tissue Paper

Materials: Bleeding tissue paper (we used Spectra), water color paper, spray bottle

I’ve been wanting to play with this product for a while now, and during our last trip to the Eric Carle Museum, I saw some in their bookstore (which is an absolutely fabulous place) and picked some up. And then it sat in the studio for a while as we squeezed out every last drop of summer, outside! The other day, G and I decided to experiment with the bleeding tissue paper.

I cut out some squares and spread them on the table, and then gave G half a sheet of 12×18 water color paper. She began by arranging some squares of tissue on her paper. Before she began spraying, I cleared the leftover tissue out of the area.

Then she began to spray.

And spray. The girl loves to use a spray bottle!

The colors began to run off the paper and mix in the puddles. Isn’t that pretty? As she sprayed, G commented on the colors she saw and how they were mixing. (As you can see from these pictures, if you don’t have an anything-goes art table, you probably want to do this in a shallow plastic tub or something similar, to protect your table.)

There was so much water on the paper, G decided to add some dry tissue on top of the puddles to see what would happen. Then she asked for a big sheet of paper to lay on top. I thought she wanted a big piece of tissue, so I asked what color, but she said no, she wanted the other piece of white paper–the other half of the water color paper I’d cut in half.

Carefully, we laid it on top of the wet paper and tissue.

She wanted to make a print–and I love that she both knows the process of making a print and recognizes a good opportunity to give it a try!

From the start, G had said she wanted to color on the paper once it was dry. So the next day, after it had dried and the tissue paper shook off, that’s what she did.

Our colors came out very muted. (I experimented too, on another small sheet of paper.) I’m not sure if this is because we overlapped so many colors and they all bled together, or because we used a spray bottle instead of a paintbrush, which I imagine would keep the water more in one place, or perhaps a combination. I plan to experiment with this paper some more, both with G and with the older kids. We certainly have enough of it to try all sorts of methods.

Have you used bleeding tissue paper? What did you find worked best?

Scented Play Dough

The idea of adding scent to play dough isn’t new; I’ve seen it scented with peppermint more than once. N’s teacher let me know on Sunday that he’d need some play dough for a class activity on Wednesday–we keep him on a gluten-free diet, and even though he’s not eating the play dough, there’s something about having him play with a ball of wheat that seems not-so-smart. He only needed a small amount each of three colors, but of course it’s made in batches (I used this recipe). I also wanted to double the recipe so G could play with some at home and there was extra to keep on hand in school for next time.

I placed all the ingredients for a double recipe in one pan. When it had warmed and mixed to reach the consistency of pancake batter, I added a couple drops of lavender oil–such a calming, soothing scent. Then I ladled some of the batter into two more pans, and then I added the food coloring, one color per pan. The beautiful (and beautifully scented!) result is in the picture above.

Rainy Day Open Studio

We’ve had very few rainy days this summer. We’ve spent our time at the beach and exploring tidepools; riding bikes and scooters; finding critters in the yard and digging holes. We’ve been picnicking at the playground and visiting local museums. In other words, we are enjoying the outside while we can. Sunday, though, it poured. It was so unfamiliar and even welcome, and I pulled some rainy-day ideas out of my virtual hat. I gave the kids some choices, and as per usual, they all chose different things, so I’ll actually be splitting this into two posts.

V decided to start with artist trading cards, and that’s where he ended–he never moved on. ATCs can be intricate and involved, but I decided not to show V examples. I told him they were the same size as baseball cards and he could draw whatever he wanted on them. (He was using the Bristol board, so dry media only.) He chose to make a collection of super-hero symbols. He’s not done yet.

Here’s a close-up of a few of them.

He started with the ones he knows best, but eventually books, posters, and even the Internet were consulted.

N decided to start with the sheet I offered on how to draw a pirate ship, from Zenobia Southcombe‘s site. Here is his drawing, complete with “Blow the man down!”

When G finished her first project (the subject of the next post), she wanted to draw a pirate ship too. So I handed her the instruction sheet and some drawing paper, and she got to work.

Do you see that yellow circle in the top left-hand corner? She carefully drew a circle and colored it yellow, to be the moon. (Her brother’s drawing has a moon, too.) I didn’t even know she could draw a circle that well. She’s not even three. I can’t help it; I’m impressed.

When N finished his drawing, he asked to do the third item I’d mentioned, creating a color wheel using these instructions at That Artist Woman. I thought this would make a good tool to have around the studio, and in the future I think we’ll each make analogous and complementary paintings. Our color wheel–we did it together–is not as neat and tidy as Gail’s, and it’s also not in a sketchbook but just floating loose.

Still, it will come in handy, and we enjoyed mixing the colors. (We always enjoy mixing colors around here!)

The rain stopped in time for the kids to have a damp water fight in the yard with their dad. I have more rainy-day ideas, should we need them, but we’re happy to be outside as much as we can.

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How has your weather been? (If you’re in the northern hemisphere) are you making the most of the outdoors while you can?

Summer Sunflowers

My husband brought home this beautiful bouquet of sunflowers, and my kids immediately wanted to know when they could paint them. So we did. We had a new package of Liquetex Basic Acrylic paints, so we decided to try them out. I recently bought them for V, because he’s always asking to use the liquid acrylics, and I wanted to get him something better and designed more for painting larger surfaces. But of course, you can set up a flower study with any materials–we drew sunflowers in the fall using dry media.

I wouldn’t recommend these paints for toddlers, but we let G try them out because she’s the third child and she insists upon it. (She’d already painted earlier that morning with liquid watercolors.) She didn’t stay the whole time, though; I sent her upstairs for some one-on-one daddy time after all her paint was gone.

Because our acrylic set came with red, yellow, blue, black, and white, this turned into a great experiential lesson on mixing colors and tints and shades.

I really enjoy mixing paint colors, myself. I think V is moving along the continuum from feeling limited by only having primaries, to feeling completely open. N already loves mixing colors and tells me with just the primaries, he can make whatever he wants. (True!) It helps to have good quality paint, too, that mixes well. We all enjoyed mixing to get the right green for the stems and the orangey gold for the petals.

I really enjoy the energy in both boys’ paintings–instead of trying for each petal individually, they made swirls of color for the flowers. The overall effect is quite close to the vase of sunflowers.

So we are learning the language of a new paint as well as exploring color mixing and practicing translating what we see onto the paper–all because my husband brought me flowers. (I kept the chocolate to myself, though!)

Hot Rocks

Our tray of cooling hot rocks

(I’ve seen this on the web here and there, but I first saw it in the fabulous book Summer Crafts by Marjorie Galen, which I bought in a used bookstore two years ago. The book was published in 2005, and Galen says as far as she knows, her friend Elizabeth’s family invented hot rocks.)

Materials: Rocks–larger and flatter are easier; peeled crayons; oven; nearby bucket of cold water (my plan-ahead self decided this was necessary, in case anyone accidentally touched the rocks)

Following the directions in the book, I preheated the oven to 350, lined a cookie sheet with tin foil, and set up my rocks (I did 8 this first time, two for each of us). Meanwhile, the kids began to peel some of our older crayons–I gather this is so as they melt against the rock, you’re not running up against the paper. Once the oven was hot, I baked the rocks for 15 minutes while we continued to peel crayons. When the rocks were almost done, I sent the kids outside with the crayons–I’d already brought a bucket of water to the patch of shaded driveway–and I met them with the tray of hot rocks. (Obviously, you want to place the rocks on a surface that won’t get burned.)

The rocks are hot. I made sure all my kids understood that they’d get burned if they touched them. G is two, and she did fine, but really, use your judgment with your own children.

I had the kids sit down, with the crayons in the middle, and using my oven mitt, I placed a rock in front of each of them. Then the magic begins.

“It’s melting!”

“This is so cool!”

“This is so cool!!!”

I agree. I colored two rocks too, and it is so cool. And you can just keep adding wax and layering. Our rocks didn’t lose their heat before the kids were done experimenting.

The bucket of water did get a few uses, when fingers accidentally (or not so accidentally) bumped (do you see that inquisitive finger in the photo above?), but nobody got seriously hurt. It was definitely handy having the water there, though.

Look at those gorgeous rocks!

Peek-a-boo Paintings

Materials: Drawing and/or painting materials of your choice; drawing or watercolor paper, depending; acetate the same size as your paper (we used this); tape; paint for the acetate–this can’t be too watery–we found liquid acrylic and gouache worked well, tempera not so much

The first day of summer vacation dawned grey and misty, giving us the perfect opportunity to get into the studio after breakfast and add one more activity to the Eric Carle birthday celebration. Several folks have created beautiful painted tissue paper collages. We painted tissue paper many months ago, but my boys really didn’t want to cut their creations. We are acquiring a nice pile of textured, painted, and printed papers for collaging with some day, but meanwhile, I knew our Eric Carle-inspired activities would go in another direction. Earlier this week we were inspired by Dragons, Dragons, and today we looked to Mr. Seahorse.

Mr. Seahorse is another of our favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it follows a seahorse as he interacts with other underwater species in which the males help care for the offspring. But what we really like about it is that some of the pages are transparent, so you’ll have a fish that’s hiding, and then you turn the clear page and see him in full.

From Eric Carle's Mr. Seahorse

I was reading it to N earlier this week and I thought, Hey, we could do that! As I explained the idea to the boys, though, I realized it’s a rather complex idea. You need to think about your artwork in layers–what will be underneath? what will be on top? It’s a different way of looking at it, to separate the full idea into parts. But the boys were ready to try.

We knew the top picture, on the acetate, would be painted, but we had to think about how to do the underneath. V wanted to do watercolor resist, but I thought oil pastels would smear against the acetate, so we used good old-fashioned crayons.

V decided to draw fish, and N wanted to draw a monkey–he used some of our story books as a reference.

After we worked with crayons, it was time to add liquid watercolors.

Then we let the bottom layer dry. Next, I placed a sheet of acetate on top of the first picture and used a couple pieces of clear tape to hinge it on whatever side the kids chose. This way, we could paint our covering picture while it was lined up with the bottom image–much easier that way.

Here, V is checking on his work in progress. He chose to use gouache paints on the acetate.

G joined us too, of course. She loves to paint. N, G, and I used liquid acrylic.

So as not to completely overload the post with photos, I put all our finished-piece photos together–click to embiggen. (And even though I didn’t use flash, the ceiling lights are bouncing off the acetate–so sorry, but it was wet outside!) From left to right, we have V’s ocean scene (seaweed for the top layer), N’s forest scene (that’s a big leaf), G’s, um, lots-of-paint, and my big flower.

And now the peek-a-boo: V’s fish, N’s monkey, my bumblebee, and G’s fish.

I completely loved this project, and I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it sooner, except maybe because we haven’t had the acetate in the house all that long. It was so much fun to do, and the results are pretty fun, too.

Check out more Eric Carle-inspired activities at the link below!

(Also included in the Read, Explore, Learn link up.)

Process to Product: Bookmarks for Teacher Gifts

We’re not all about process around here. Sometimes, we need a handmade gift. I do try, though, to include as much chance for open-ended creativity as I can, and I like for the boys to give their teachers something a little personal to go along with the gift card. Many, many people contribute to my children’s day, so we also need an item that we can make many of. For the holidays, we made ornaments, and for the end-of-year gift, I had the idea of making bookmarks.

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, hole punch, stamp (optional), ribbon

I explained my idea to the boys first–they could paint a background on the watercolor paper, sprinkle salt for that neat textured salt effect, and when it was dry, I’d cut the paper into bookmark-sized strips. Then, they could stamp the bookmark with the school logo (I detail how I carved the stamp here), we’d punch the ribbon holes, I’d get them all laminated at Staples, we’d add the ribbon and tra-la, handmade and school-oriented bookmarks.

They both said this was fine. If you’ve read my manifesto, you know I don’t believe in altering someone’s artwork in any way, so I was very clear–we’d have to cut the painting, were they okay with that? It’s meant to be a background sort of painting, not a specific image, but still, it will be cut. Okay? Okay, they both said.

G, of course, joins in on all the projects, so she’s painting with liquid watercolors too. I gave each of the kids a 12×18″ piece of watercolor paper, which is a good thing. (A bit of foreshadowing there!) When the paper is fully painted and still wet, sprinkle some salt. As little or as much as you’d like–anything that doesn’t dissolve will brush off when the painting is dry. G made sure we had no salt leftover from what I’d poured into the dish.

Once the paintings were dry, N became adamantly opposed to cutting his up.

V’s salted painting

Tears were shed. Right away I said we didn’t have to cut his up, but then he decided he didn’t want his brother’s cut up, either. V, on the other hand, was laid-back about the whole thing. I kind of enjoy cutting up things like this, because then each piece becomes its own smaller, unexpected, found composition. Luckily, cutting a 12×18″ piece of paper into 2×6″ bookmarks leaves several left over.

N’s salted painting

Once they were cut, V inked up the stamp I’d carved and stamped each one, and after they were laminated, I gathered all my ribbons and he selected which color would go on which bookmark.

Who can’t use a bookmark? Well done, V. N has decided to draw a picture for his teachers (they’re getting bookmarks too; we have enough), and I respect his refusal to cut up his artwork, even if it was originally made with that purpose in mind. Becoming comfortable with giving your art away is a process in itself.