Friday, October 21, 2011

Winter Regattas - Part 1

If our students walk 7 blocks west of our school, this is what they see:
Now imagine hundreds of sailboats in this seascape and you have one of the many regattas (sailboat races) that grace our shores during the mid-winter. So, this week 3rd graders prepared the background for their multi-media regatta collage that we will finish up next week. I experimented with this during the summer and posted my work here, however, as we all know, once you start working with kids, you learn all sorts of things that you hadn't planned for when putting the idea together!!

First there was the set-up. We were painting 2 different pieces: the sky and sand with watercolor on illustration board, and the ocean with watered down tempera on plain copy paper. I had the watercolor pan, paper towel and a small water container next to each other at each place. I used this as an opportunity to reinforce that artists usually keep their water right next to their paint to avoid unintended drips on their paper. I have found that this is NOT instinctive to young painters!!! When I was giving directions, I had painters who hold their brush in their left hands switch the paint and water to the other side of their board.
You may notice that I pre-marked one side of the copy paper with permanent black marker. After this paper is painted as the ocean, we are going to tear it into strips and I discovered that the paper I am using at school has a grain that makes tearing from one side easy and straight, but if you start from the other side you have a crooked mess! Good thing I found this out before we all got to the tearing stage!!!

In the center of the table was a round plate with watercolor brushes and small pieces of foam core that students used to elevate the top of their board so that the paint would run down and have movement. I also had a larger container of water dedicated to final cleaning of brushes.
On a counter near each table I had the tempera, flat brushes and small sponges ready to swap out when the watercolor phase was finished.
We started with a short Smartboard slideshow of sailboats, ocean, sky, etc. (noticing that the sky is a lighter tint of blue near the horizon.) I loved that one student actually used the word "tint" in her comment! YEAH!! Then I demonstrated how to do a wet-on wet application for the sky, including how to make a little "swimming pool" of water in the lid of the watercolor pan and add pigment to it. They actually did this before starting the sky. First, they quickly washed the top of their paper with clear water, leaving white spaces of paper if they wanted clouds. Then, just a quickly, with a full side-to-side brush strokes, added the blue from their "swimming pool."
The student above decided to use a paper towel to mark where the sky would meet the land -- pretty clever! You can also see how he raised the top of his board off the desk using the small piece of foam core. After completing the sky we learned how to use that dry paper towel to sop up all the blue in their paint pan lid and wipe it clean (a new skill for many!!)

While kids were cleaning their lids, I traded the watercolor brushes for flat brushes so we could paint the water. This involved quickly brushing side-to-side with either the blue or green tempera and then adding strokes of the alternate color on top -- mixing the two colors together right on the paper. Then, while some kids were sponge painting watercolor on the bottom of their boards for sand, groups of 8 or 9 at a time came back to me at a table near the sink to roll on white tempera for whitecaps.
So, now everything is drying on the racks and next week we'll tear, glue, make and add sailboats and spattered paint and hopefully all will be beautiful!!


  1. Very interesting sequence of processes. I'll be curious to see how the kids' work comes out. How will you be adding the sailboats? Collage?

  2. Beautiful process.
    I can't wait to see the final results.

  3. Wow your students are very lucky. Thank you for sharing your process. It is always important to emphasize all of those tiny steps that come so naturally to us. Like keeping your water on the right side if your right handed or left side if your left handed. I am often working with student who have never had art before in school and it amazes me daily how much of a difference those small steps can make. I also love that you are using the students surroundings as inspiration! Can't wait to see the follow up post.