Backyard Paint Exploration
Teacher: Kathryn House Question: How is art impacted by the materials
Classroom: Preschool provided to create it?
Date: June 7, 2017
I borrowed some of my pastor’s kids, the little girl (Colette) is 3 and the middle boy (Elijah) is 5. Their older brother is above preschool age, but I allowed him to participate. I set up the posters and paints on their back deck, which is surrounded by trees and grass. With the first round I gave them an assortment of brushes and sponges and allowed them to pain whatever they wished. In the second round, I gave them new posters and took away their brushes telling them that they could use whatever they could find in the yard to paint me a new picture.
When we first began, the kids were a little confused.
Colette: What do you want us to paint?
Me: Anything you’d like!!
Elijah: Okay… but like, what?
Luckily, they gave into having no set product and began to just experiment with the paints. This is what I was hoping for. I only gave the children the three primary colours. Elijah (5) immediately mixed yellow and red to create orange, but hesitated on what to do with it. Colette (3) jumped right in, using all of her yellow right away to cover as much space as possible. While they painted, Elijah was continuously drawing my attention to what he was doing saying “Kathryn, look! Look at this! I made orange!”, while Colette was chatting more casually. I struggled to keep up with her small talk!
Colette: Kathryn, how old are you? When is your birthday? Where are you going for dinner? What are we doing after this?
As they relaxed into their task they began branching out. Colette started mixing colours to see what she could create, while Elijah decided to use his brushed to apply paint to his hands to make hand prints across the page; not particularly worried about what colours they ended up being.
The results [shown below] are pretty well what I expected from preschoolers given freedom with painting. But my favourite part of this what the process for each of them. Elijah enjoyed experimenting with colour mixing. At one point he became frustrated with the results that he was getting.
“Why do I keep making grey?! Kathryn, I’m mixing yellow and blue, but instead of getting green like I’m supposed to I’m making grey!!”
In the end, the cause for his gloomy results was the murky water that was drowning his paint-sponge. But he ended up including the grey spots in his artwork nevertheless and accepted them as part of his design.
Colette discovered that if she dragged her paintbrush through one colour and into another that they would mix in a rainbow style, usually purple streak, and this became her method of choice for creating her beautiful masterpiece.
By this point they were starting to wondering what I was trying to prove by taking their brushes away. But the search for other methods of transferring paint turned into a sort of game. I was keen to see if they would produce similar artwork without the typical tools.
This is where things got a little crazy.
I’m not sure who first suggested putting feet into the paint, but it wasn’t long before both Colette and Elijah were barefoot and walking through the paint and across the page.
But even in the crazy, I noticed that Elijah
was using a block of wood that he had found
to apply paint to his hand and slap it down on the page.
I was interested to see this, because it almost debunked my question as to if children would paint differently without the normal tools of art. But in the end I decided that my hypothesis was not completely incorrect because all three children, the deck, and the grass were COVERED in paint within an hour of the project having started.
In the end, I noticed that the end product of with tools vs. without tools didn’t provide much proof for my question, but the level of excitement, and enthusiasm changed drastically. The children also took much more pride in the worked that they produced during the second part of the assignment [as seen above]. They asked while they were still painting “Can we keep these when we’re done??” . It was also much more difficult for them to decide when they were finished creating their second pieces, while they tired quickly with the first.
The implications of these types of findings are relatively simple. Adults need to relinquish their need for artwork produced by children to look like anything. I worked in a preschool today, where each child produced identical stop light crafts. And at the end of the day not one child requested to bring that piece of artwork home with them because they held no sense of accomplishment with what they had done. When children are permitted to experiment and experience during time with art they the levels of excitement and involvement increases. Without the typical restraints of using paintbrushes “the proper way” and keeping everything surrounding the artwork sparkling clean, children learn far more about themselves and what they are capable of in art. Taking away the brushes during the second part released the children of these expectations by opening their minds to the possibilities beyond the normal.
Comparison between the first part [left] and second part [right] products.