Sunday, January 17, 2016

"I'm Doing Mixed Up Colors"

My class has been exploring the different textures of painting tools: brushes of different thickness and shapes, sponges, balls, and most recently, small round sponges on the ends of sticks. The actual name of these is "sponge stippler" (as I discovered after a long internet search), and they provided a novel textural experience than the other tools, The small size was easy for the children to control, and the sponge held just enough paint to glide across the paper, but not so much that it dripped.

One of the physical properties of sponge painting is the way that colors mix together, which became the main focus of the children's attention.

"I'm doing mixed up colors."
"Look I'm putting red to yellow."
"And blue to red."
"What's that kind of color?"
"It changes yellow to red."

I've written before about teachers watching and not talking as children work. The discovery process in this painting project wasn't about discovering what would happen when the colors mixed together. It was about the experience in the moment of combining colors, of swirling one over the other and letting the children create and observe change as it happened. "I'm putting red to yellow" isn't about making orange: it is, as another child said, "I'm doing mixed up colors."

As a teacher it's sometimes hard to just sit and watch the "doing". One of the children began her painting by using the sponges as stamps, making large dots all over her paper, and then carefully tracing them with more paint. But then, she moved her sponge in broad strokes, obliterating the circles, layer after layer. To make more circles, and sponge over them again. It's sometimes hard to watch the process of creation upon creation, of mixing upon mixing, and just let it happen without questions or comments, or interruptions to the flow. But I'm not the one in charge of the "doing". The "doing mixed up colors" belongs to the child.

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