Sharp shinned hawk by Mary Rose, age 9, October, 2009
The children have always dabbled in various media, Josiah being rather fond of acrylics, Lydia pastels, and everyone very comfortable with colored pencils. But this was the year we truly discovered the joy of painting with watercolors in a big way. Back in the fall I purchased the Watercolor Journaling DVD*, and though we only watched it once its lessons have stayed with us all year. The two artists in the video demonstrate various techniques that they use combining watercolor painting and decorative text to create beautiful journals.
Vulture, chipping sparrows, and palm warbler by Lydia, age 14, October, 2009
While nothing is really earth shattering about the actual techniques they teach - things like how to do a blind contour drawing, washes, shading, basic composition and so forth, their presentation and demonstrations are wonderfully inspiring. It is very helpful to actually watch these things rather than just reading about it, particularly if one doesn't have the opportunity to take actual art classes. One great idea from the video is the concept of painting on a small scale using small pieces of paper. This is so very freeing - you have no worries about messing up such a small piece, you can create many pieces, and if you end up with something you really don't like you just grab another piece of paper and start again.
But one of the most valuable lessons taught in the video (for us anyways) is the notion that creating artwork should be pleasant and not stressful, and the experience is important as well as the ending result. The artists emphasize painting for the joy of it, and the beauty of capturing memories and observations through words and art. One of their catch phrases is 'striving for imperfection', and as you watch them enjoy themselves even as they make mistakes -one of them even spells 'elk' (!) wrong - you can't help but pick up on their attitude that painting should be fun (cue Harry Chapin guitar strumming here...).
It was so enjoyable sitting down and painting with my children that I don't mind showing you my very first pictures, in all their colorful imperfections - smudged letters, messy blind contour drawing, and hello, I didn't remember it was already October when I put in the date so one of them says 9-32! Oh well. J
Journal pages by Lydia, October, 2009
No worries of taking ourselves or our artwork too seriously here. It's okay for practice paintings to look like practice paintings, and not everything we paint has to be worthy of framing and hanging on the wall.
painting together on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 2009
Lydia paints a flicker (for Flikr), February, 2010
Another truly fabulous thing we learned from the video is the joy of water brushes. These nifty brushes have a receptacle for water so you don't need a separate cup to paint with. This means you can pick up your paints and waterbrush at any time without needing to commit to a lot of setting up. (Pardon me if I sound like I'm gushing but I am - these things are awesome and have transformed the way we do watercolors!)
Anna painting in the field while out on a nature hike
Birds sighted while waiting at the dentist by Lydia, January, 2010
You can even paint in the car, sitting in a parking lot!
watercolors make lovely cards for all occasions
The artists in the video also use pan watercolors, and they demonstrate how to mix colors right in the box. We like the Yarka brand paints from Russia; Prang is another inexpensive readily available option.
Occasionally someone will sit down and get out the tube colors and a mixing pan and all that, but watercoloring happens everyday here, most often at teatime, thanks to the convenience of the waterbrushes and pan paints. For practice we use Miller's inexpensive student watercolor paper.
It holds paints, fine Sharpies for contour drawing, her water brush, pencil, blank cards and a small sketchbook.
As the girls have progressed with their watercolor skills they have moved beyond the journaling format portrayed in the video. After reading Edith Holden's Country Diary and Nature Notes my big girls decided to start new nature journals in that lovely style, combining their love for fancy writing, watercoloring and of course all things observed in the natural world.
Anna works on flower identification
The results are truly beautiful.
journal page by Lydia, May, 2010
journal page by Anna, May, 2010
Of course, watercolors are not just for journaling. Josiah enjoys his own style of watercoloring -
And the girls still have to paint horses on a regular basis -
Evil princess and her haughty courtiers, pen and watercolor by Anna, age 12
We have had such enjoyable times watercoloring this past year and have really grown to love the medium. A frequent question in my inbox is, What art curriculum do you use? I've attempted to show you that around here 'art' is not a curriculum; it's a natural, beautiful part of our everyday lives.
*One caveat with the video, if modesty in dress is important to your family please note one of the presenters is a bit lacking, particularly for the intro.