Wet- on -Wet Watercolor Painting

My local Waldorf homeschooling group recently had its first class with a wonderful trained Waldorf teacher who provided us with an introductory class to wet –on -wet watercolor painting.    It was a peaceful, meditative discovery of the medium of wet- on -wet painting, and I learned more in this class by doing than in all the things I have read regarding wet on wet painting. 

We started at the beginning by learning to tear large sheets of Arches watercolor paper into halves, quarters and eighths and then  we rounded off the corners with scissors to provide a pleasing shape of open possibilities for the young child.  Paint was mixed from a tube into a baby food jar with a very small amount of water while the 90 pound watercolor paper soaked for about 15 minutes.  We then were called to our task by a wooden pentatonic flute,  and a  beautiful song to sing together as a group. 

We all listened raptly to a story about a young child who came upon some gnomes in the wood who were using sticks and three colors to make all the colors of the world.  We received our own paintbrushes to make our own colors of the world and said this verse together, written by Regina Reiter in 1997:

All the colors of the world

Are gifts of love to me,

With skill and trust

I take my brush

And place it carefully

So that my work a gift will be.

Once the paper was on our board, we took sponges and smoothed from the center of the paper out to the corners until there were no bubbles under the paper. We all felt like children again with the excitement of holding our brushes and the prospect of creating something beautiful!

Next, we listened to  three separate stories and  painted three separate paintings with each of  our three color friends:  blue, red and yellow.  As we painted, we were searching for answers to questions about the qualities of the colors.  What is yellow like?  Does yellow explode onto the middle of the page or creep from the outside in?  What is blue like? Does blue shy around the edges or start in the middle?  Does red lend itself to a form as it comes up from the bottom of the page or should it go from the top of the page down or radiate from the middle of the page?  At the end of class we did a painting of the color wheel through a story of a party of our three color friends.  The paintings we did can be viewed at Loveyland’s blog through this link:  http://lovey-land.blogspot.com/2008/12/paintings.html

Being able to live in and feel the colors is the basis for all the wonderful art students create throughout the Waldorf curriculum.

There are several excellent Waldorf  books I have read in the past  regarding the subject of wet- on- wet watercolor painting.  These include the little “Painting with Children” book by Brunhild Muller, “Painting in Waldorf Education” by Dick Bruin and Attie Lichthart, Waldorf Without Walls’ little booklet, “Waldorf-inspired Watercolor Painting with Children” by Anita Briggs and Nadia Tan  and the painting sections in Donna Simmons’ kindergarten and first grade syllabi.   I also have the little booklet  “How to Do Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting and Teach It To Children” by  Rauld Russell being sold by Oregon Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson through her Yahoo!Group waldorfhomeeducators.  Marsha Johnson also has few FILES on her Yahoo!Group of color stories to help get you started.  You can also explore A Little Flower Garden to see what painting resources Melisa Nielsen has available (www.alittleflowergarden.com).   For younger children, there is also a small section with a verse in the book “A Child’s Seasonal Treasury”.     I will provide a review of some of these resources within my next post.

Remember, you are not painting shapes or forms at this point (and neither is a kindergartener, first grader and even a second grader is painting more out of moods, feelings and gesture than distinct forms and representations).  You are painting feelings and you are painting with the qualities the colors themselves dictate.

If your child is age 4 or 5, it would be a great thing to start painting with them.  You can never tell too many stories, you can never sing too many songs and you can’t do too many paintings! It would be wonderful if you could paint three times a week with your small child if that is possible (and yes, this can be challenging with the younger than kindergarten set around!  Wet –on- wet has a beautiful, peaceful, meditative quality. That mood can be readily destroyed by the lack of reverence of toddlers – see if you can arrange some time to paint with your kindergartner, first grader or second grader during naptime!)

Work on it yourself after the children go to bed for several weeks and you will be able to bring this wonderful gift to your child!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

13 thoughts on “Wet- on -Wet Watercolor Painting

    • Thank you for reading! I LOVE your name by the way; I wanted to have our third girl be Rose but since this is a boy……Out of luck!
      Many, many blessings,

  1. I’ll be doing my first watercolor introduction on Monday, and we’ll be joined by 2-3 year olds. I have a short story about some of the colors in the rainbow coming to play with us and I want to use the verse my daughter had in kindergarten, “Here we go, to and fro, over the rainbow bridge we go”, since it includes the hand gesture for pulling the brush across the paper. Has anyone a good story about the paint brushes themselves to introduce the correct care for them? I remember reading about one that incorporated the creature from whose tail the bristles came, but don’t know where I saw it. Thanks, if so!


    • I have been taking wet on wet watercolor painting classes with an adult teacher and she teaches how to carefully hold the brush during her opening verse, instructs how to thoroughly rinse and squeeze out Peter Paintbrush’s hair, and how to hold the brush vertically so the sun can shine on the paper. She also does not hesitate to take brushes away for a moment to assist a child or provide hand over hand help to assist if the brush is being mishandled.
      Wet on wet watercolor painting is one of the few activities that has a very meditative quality to it in Waldorf Education, and it seems sometimes the littlest ones may or may not do well. You also may very well have to take the painting away before it becomes a big puddle, LOL!

      Best of luck, I hope it all goes well!

  2. Hi, Im so happy to find your blog! I’ve just been reading a chapter in a book “you are your child’s first teacher’ on developing your child’s artistic ability. It recommends this technique of wet on wet, I googled it and found your blog! After reading about your experience i will definitely be trying it with my 2 year old. She loves to draw! N.Ireland is so deprived when it comes to Waldorf Education, we have only 1 school in Holywood Belfast. I would love to send my daughter but its miles away from where we live in the country 😦

    I will take a peak at the pictures now, im sure they are great!!!


    • Hi Jill, glad to see you here. I think Lovey land took down her blog, so the link may not work…I would caution you though, in starting wet on wet with a two year old. Wet on wet at this point would be for your own development and so you can bring it to her when she is a bit older….Two year olds, in an anthroposophic view, are pretty much working on walking and speech. She should be engrossed in gross motor kinds of things, and seeing you do practical work around the house.
      The earliest to start wet on wet would be at age 3, and I think bringing it even later in the home environment is okay because you don’t have the older children for her to model off of in the home environment….
      I hope that doesn’t squash you, I mean all this in a kind way and I know email has no tone at all. Keep peeking around though, there are some posts on the toddler years, the anthroposophic views of the first and second year…..Search under Children Under 7 and The Waldorf Baby and you will find some things to your liking I am certain!

      Many blessings,

  3. Hi carrie,
    been following your blog for a while now, and have been wanting to tell you how much of a differnece you have made my days at home with three kids under 5. One 4 year old, and 2 year old twins.
    This post on painting really rung home, I paint when the little ones sleep, and am really seeing how magic it CAN be, but the MAGIC is slow at coming.

    Stories stories stories, I know!

    Thank you again, will be comenting more, do you know if there any any other European followers?

    Al the best,

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