Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Don’t Scrumple On It!


One morning last week all three of the children were up at 6:30am. They were fairly exuberant in their greeting of the day. I was able to delay them a bit until Hubby came home at 7am (he worked a double shift the night before), but after that point there was no denying it…morning had come to our family and it was time to get up. After getting everyone dressed and breakfasted I decided to get a painting session in – it’s not normally the day I shoot for when it comes to painting, but I knew it would keep both J and L relatively quiet until we had to leave for church at 9:30am.
One of the key creative activities in Waldorf education is wet-on-wet watercolor painting. I really am amazed at the different tone that different painting styles take. With tempra paints the kids are loud and boisterous – with big hand and arm movements and paint splattering every where (for L it ends up on her arms, face, and in her hair). With the watercolors both of the kids seem a lot more engrossed or focused on their work. I suspect that’s because when you apply the paint to the page with the wet-on-wet watercolor technique they’re a lot more fluid – they shift, move and change based upon the amount of water in the mix and the other colors that may be present in the painting.

There are a few more steps to follow and things to keep in mind – rinsing off your brush before dipping it in another color, dabbing the brush on the rag, and being gentle with your brush on the paper to name a few. When we paint we talk bout being careful with the brush because you don’t want to make your paper say, “Ouch!” If you’ve ever tried to clean up a spill on the carpet using paper towel and then rubbed on the carpet you know what I mean. Even though we use a decent quality watercolor paper, brush strokes that are too firm can cause the same result.

I’ve only ever said this to J once, but he still remembers it every time. He was very distressed on Sunday – it was L’s first time painting on her own and she was a bit rough with her brush which the left marks on her paper. It took a little bit of encouragement on my part for him to let her be and focus back on his own painting. When we were looking back on the pictures the other day he said to me, “You don’t want to scrumple on it or you will make the paper say, ‘Ouch!’.” I guess that’s one way of looking at it!

As usual, M watched on from her bouncy seat on the table. One day she’ll join us too! I purposely limit the number of colors that the children get. You’d be amazed at how content they are with just one or two colors. Since J has been painting longer he had blue and yellow. L started out with blue and then switched to yellow. Doing so allows the kids to experience how each color behaves and then mixes with another to form the secondary color. Too many colors at this age/stage and you’ll likely end up with mud. A neat thing if that’s what you’re going for, but not quite what we had in mind.

You’ll notice that L stands up to paint whereas J sits down. I think it’s neat to see the developmental changes that each one is going through. Ly finds it easier to paint if she has a better angle on it and more room for movement. J used to paint that way, but now that he is older and gained better control of his body, he can sit down to paint.

I always thought it was a little bit cheesy when Waldorf resources referred to the “meditative” quality of wet-on-wet watercolor.  One of those “yeah, right” moments, but I always make it a habit to sit down with the kids when we paint.  I find it incredibly meditative – and addictive.  I often find myself itching to pick up a brush.  My art is never all that fantastic.  Mostly color washes, but I still find it a very centering activity.