Art Museum Influenced Kid Watercolor Paintings

Last weekend we visited the Austin Museum of Art on “Family Day.” On Family Day they have reduced rates for families to enter the museum, as well as art activities and puppet shows put on by Austin Literature Live. Of course we were early and had some time to kill, so we kicked around the museum for about an hour. Have you ever talked about fine art with four and six year olds? Or tried to keep four and six year olds from touching fine art? JEEZ. My kids are so touchy feely we don’t make it to the museum much. This time we were lucky. The exhibit was about design and featured a lot of art deco furniture. We were able to really talk about the funny shaped furniture, and there were several early telephones. One phone was built directly into a desk. I pulled out my cell phone and we had a lively conversation about phones then and now! They only touched one painting and during our rounds we found these:

These are ink line and watercolor paintings. The kids thought they were “really cool,” that’s a direct quote.  We also noted that these were something the kids might be able to do. So we took a picture to remind us, and after we finished making our watercolor paints from scratch we got to work.

First the kids got their crayons and “scribbled” a line design onto their paper. Then we got the paints. In the art we observed at the museum the artist outlined the “scribble” lines and used pale colors to fill in certain sections. My kids were so excited to be using the paint they had made they couldn’t be restricted by rules or guidelines, they just went where the art took them. 🙂

Our paint had gorgeous color! And while it was thicker than traditional watercolors, it certainly layered very well. Interestingly, when you use crayons and watercolors, the crayon acts as a resist. The watercolor paint pulls away from the crayon and won’t paint OVER the crayon. I knew the kids wouldn’t want to exactly do what we saw at the museum, which is why I chose crayons for them to use in their line and water color art. I didn’t want the line part of their art to be lost. Our homemade watercolors, however, painted right over the crayon. Hmmm… Veddy, veddy intaresting…

We like to have some fresh flowers around while we paint. Hazel chose these sunflowers, talk about vivid color! The fact that the flowers had been dyed didn’t escape notice, and the kids are eager to try coloring their own flowers. Can you guess what we’ll be posting about next?

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How to Make Watercolor Paint

Water colors are the best kind of paint for little kids because they are intended to be left to dry! There’s no worrying about losing lids or replacing the caps like with other paints, and they’re pretty easy on the stomach should your kids eat one or ten. As cool and convenient as store bought water colors are, I have been trying to help my kids understand that everything comes from somewhere, and by somewhere I do not mean the store! Making simple craft materials from scratch has been a great way of doing just that. Water colors are easy and cheap to make (in fact I didn’t have to leave my house, all of the materials were in my pantry), and with water colors you don’t have to worry about sealable containers. I used party cups just  because I happened to have some party cups left over from a party. Otherwise empty ice trays, applesauce, yogurt or those plastic baby food containers would have been perfect.

Googling water color recipes will give you a variety of slightly different methods to try. I went with Martha’s (Stewart, that is) because I wanted to try a recipe with the best chance of success the first time around. But there are other recipes I am interested in trying, one in particular that calls for gelatin in place of corn syrup. We’ll make a new batch and compare at some point, but for now here are your materials:

Vinegar

Baking SodaIngredients for making watercolor paint!

Cornstarch

Light Corn Syrup

Food Coloring

Small mixing bowl

Forks (for mixing)

Scoop four tablespoons into the mixing bowl, then add two tablespoons of vinegar – get ready for the fizz! Kids love fizz. 🙂 Once the bubbles have calmed down add a half teaspoon of corn syrup and two tablespoons of corn starch. The cornstarch can be difficult to blend and is the reason I recommend using forks for mixing.

When you are finished mixing your solution it will be thick and stark white. Pour it carefully in equal amounts into small containers. Our next step is to add the color. Not all of you are brave enough to put a vial of food coloring into the hands of a three year old, and that’s ok. My food coloring bottles were almost empty which is the only reason I let my kids do the squeezing. You need between five and ten drops of each color for vivid, eye popping saturation. We mixed blue and red to make purple, but only did five containers. The more containers you divide your mixture between the more fun you can have mixing colors.

And voila! That’s it! You’re done! Well, almost. Now comes the hard part – waiting for it to dry. It literally takes twelve  hours or more to dry completely, and you will have some separation as the lighter liquids will rise and settle on top, but they’ll dry eventually. We haven’t painted with ours yet, that’ll come in the next post. In the mean time, make some of your own and give it a try! I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on other ways to do this.