"True art is an expression of the human being's search for a relationship with the spiritual, whether the spiritual longed for when his soul leaves the body, or the spiritual which he desires to remember when he dips down into a body, or the spiritual to which he feels more related than to his natural surroundings, or the spiritual as manifested in colors when outside and inside lose their separateness and the soul moves through the cosmos, freely, swimming and hovering, as it were, experiencing its own cosmic life, existing everywhere; or ... the spiritual as expressed in earth life, in the relationship between man's soul-spirit and the cosmic ... " - Rudolf Steiner
Art of Watercolor Painting
Art of Watercolor Painting
Lesson 1: Colors and Form
Lesson 2: Landscapes and Seascapes
Lesson 3: Plants and Vegetation
Lesson 4: Animals and Their Surroundings
Lesson 5: The Human Being
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting is an introduction to the beautiful world of color for students of any age . There are many ways to paint, but wet-on-wet watercolor is a dreamy, fluid, mostly formless painting method that allows the painter to fully experience colors.
Now, before you get all ready to do stuff and buy stuff, I want you to take some time to think about color. Color is very amazing and it isn’t always fully appreciated! Before you start painting, take several days to delight in the colors around you. As you go about your days you will experience thousands of colors in the world around you. Can you notice them more? Spend time noticing the colors around you. Be amazed by their amazing variety, the extraordinary number of shades and tones in your visual path. Notice the effects that different colors have on you. Open up your awareness of color as part of your life.
Color theory can be taught in this fashion: Here’s some blue and here’s some yellow, let’s mix them together and get green! Fun, yes, useful information, yes. A bit shallow? Perhaps. Wet-on-wet watercolor takes a different approach, a much slower experiential involvement in color. If you follow any Waldorf-inspired approach you will have time to explore the primary colors and allow the secondary colors to arise for instance in one painting session a week or over the course of the year. This is a meditative and therapeutic painting technique, rich for children, calming for you.
To get started, you will need some painting supplies. I recommend good thick watercolor painting paper, Stockmar color paints, good 1-inch brushes and painting boards. In addition you need a large jar of water for rinsing, and a sponge. You also need a basin that is large enough to soak your paper.
Items needed: Watercolor paint, brushes, watercolor paper, jar, painting board, sponge.
Tasks and Assignments Art of Watercolor Painting Lesson 2
1. Watch the basic wet-on-wet watercolor painting video provided.
2. Study the early grade landscape painting instructions provided.
3. Practice painting with the wet-on-wet watercolor method for a minimum of 12 days creating 3 paintings each day, for a total of 36 paintings. Subject: Landscapes and seascapes.
3. Take pictures of one of the paintings from each of the 12 days and submit the resulting 12 photos.
Early Grade Landscape Painting by Van James
If we paint a landscape by delineating a horizon line or a jagged ridge line, we have started with a finished concept (fig. 1a); we have created the abstract idea of a horizon or mountain range before there is any substance to it, before it has any connection to reality. It is the idea of a mountain and not an experience of it.
In this way we teach an untruth to the children (and to ourselves) and we prepare the way for a speculative scientific worldview—starting with a theory (concept) rather than with a phenomenon. Mountains don’t originate at their summits and fill themselves out, but they grow from low lands and foothills (fig. 1b-c), or erupt from the bottom of the sea, before finding their summit (fig. 1d-e).
Whenever possible painting with children should reflect the truth of what is being pictured, the process through which any given thing comes into being, because this will later present itself in the accuracy and integrity of one’s thinking and actions. We will see this in the painting of maps, beginning in fourth grade, where rivers are painted from their source down to the sea and not uphill from the ocean.
Fig. 1. As much as possible, simple nature scenes and landscapes should arise organically, as they do in reality. The best way to paint a picture is not from outlines (a) but from growing the forms toward the finished composition—in this case, a mountain landscape from sea level (b), to foothills (c), to mountain peaks (d) and sky (e).
Such an approach to painting, and such an approach to learning as one finds in Steiner-Waldorf schools, leads the child at puberty to a recognition “that the physical world is everywhere permeated by spirit.” According to Rudolf Steiner, the children “should not feel inwardly satisfied with merely observing the outer sense world but should be able to perceive the spiritual foundations of the world everywhere.” (1)
It is such a goal for education that promises to liberate thinking from an over-emphasis on lifeless concepts and dead matter, a materialistic worldview, and bring about a closer relationship with the living subtleties of the universe.
Waldorf educator Willi Aeppli, describes how the teacher should “speak of plants and animals, clouds and mountains in such a way that the child sees them as living beings.… At this age children are found to be extremely eager for knowledge, but they want to grasp everything with their feelings and as pictures. Everything that cannot be grasped in this way they skip over, unless they are forced by sharp, external pressure to do the opposite of what is natural and healthy for them.” (2)
To take children through an age-appropriate process of growing a landscape is already the beginning of a living science curriculum. It introduces the laws of earth science to the feeling life of the child, building emotional intelligence and strengthening the will before drilling the thinking with geological terms and concepts which are not yet suited to the young child’s inner makeup.
The painting process can demonstrate practical aspects of biological growth processes, principles of combustion, and chemical reactions, but in terms of concrete and symbolic/notational understanding. (3)
Painting can be eco-friendly and organically true, or in the case of outlining can be deconstructive by turning nature into dead and lifeless stuff. Painting can help children appreciate nature as a beautiful, living being or it can inculcate a thinking that essentially strip mines that beauty. This is where we can see that painting lays down particular pathways and patterns of thinking and feeling at a very early age that can manifest later in the capacity for strong, ethical reasoning.
With regards to the flexibility and quality of teaching, which relates directly to the way we paint with young children, Steiner said: “We must not impose on our children anything that creates sharply contoured pictures, impressions, or will impulses in them. Just as our fingers do not retain the contours that they had when we were two but rather grow on their own, so all ideas, thoughts, and feelings that we pour into children during their school years should have the essence of growth in them….We must be quite clear: what we bring to an eight-year-old cannot be clear-cut or sharply contoured. Rather, it must have an inner capacity for growth.” (4)
This quite general ideal concerning the way one teaches children also applies directly to methods and techniques used, in our case painting. Avoiding the hard and fast outline is an important starting point in painting.
1. Steiner, R. What is Waldorf Education, p. 78.
2. W. Aeppli, p. 117.
3. Healy, J. Endangered Minds and H. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.
4. Steiner, R. What is Waldorf Education, p. 70.
Please submit files of completed art project(s), comments and questions via the online form or via email.