Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Destiny Of All Things Made By The Hand Of Man

I'd never heard of acrylic paint pens until Juliet from I'm A Teacher, Get Me OUTSIDE Here! mentioned using them to create painted stones. Apparently, they're quite well-known among crafters and skateboarders (they're used to embellish boards), but not coming at teaching preschool from either of those sides of things, the fact of their existence completely eluded me until now.

Over the past several months we've acquired a nice collection of stones, terra cotta, and seashells, all of which seemed like likely candidates for adding a little color to our outdoor space. The beauty of these paint pens, of course, is that they promise to hold their brilliant color even in the weather. 

We piled the materials in the middle of our art table, warned the kids that the paint from these pens would permanently stain their clothing (although Woodland Park parents already know to dress their kids for this eventuality), and let them go.

Drawing on these textured and varied surfaces takes concentration and experimentation. As an artist myself, I know that one tends to become intimate with one's materials, gaining a kind of knowledge of them that might seen quite narrow in the moment, but often returns to serve you when you least expect it.

I'm noticing in my photos, that even children who have already learned to hold pens and markers in the usual way, seem to have reverted to more crude grips when using these pens. I wondered if they would just think they were using fancy markers, but this tells me that they know they have something different in their hands.

For one thing, the nibs retract into the pen with pressure (this is how they release the paint) unlike markers, which gives them a different feel. The children who are accustomed to mashing their drawing implements into their paper and scribbling vigorously had to learn a new technique with these pens, one that seemed to slow them down a bit. A deliberate hand is rewarded with this art tool.

We encouraged the children to take their artwork immediately outdoors and choose a spot for it.

Some of the girls took theirs into the garden and placed them beside their "favorite" plants.

This is a fun use for old Chia Pet vases.

These works of art will, of course, not stay where we've placed them. They'll move about the outdoor classroom becoming part of our play, then disappearing for a time, only to reappear as treasures in another game. Despite the promise of the acrylic paint, designed as the pen's say on their labels, "for Garden crafts, they will fade with time, ultimately becoming nothing but ghosts, which is the destiny of all things made by the hand of man.

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Scott said...

Looks like you have some cool additions to your outdoor space. You, and several other of my blog friends, seem to be doing many things with communal art lately. I've been experimenting with that, too. I think it helps kids make the space their own.

Saya said...

Looks good!! :)
We have been coloring rocks we find outside with crayons. Didn't think of this paint marker thingy. I was thinking maybe I can use up old "sun-catcher paint" on them rocks...

PlanningQueen said...

The rocks look brilliant. Interesting about the pencil grip. I noticed something similar with my preschooler recently when he was using a markers for drawing on glass (you then bake the glass and have your own personally decorated glass) and I think the tip end pushing down is big factor in it feeling different for them and changing their grip.

Let the Children Play said...

Okay Tom, stop living my life! I was inspired by Juliet's post too, and it wasn't until I was at a crafty shop on the weekend buying a glue gun (inspired by you and Sherry and Donna) that I saw these pens behind the counter. I haven't taken them to preschool yet, but my 6 year old and I spent a happy afternoon drawing on pebbles from the backyard.

I love how you had the children put their works in a place of their choosing, and how they are all now woven into the fabric and history of the preschool and the playground.

Juliet Robertson said...

Thanks for the link to my blog, Tom! Your children's artwork looks lovely.I didn't realise the paint was acrylic. I always assumed it was coloured tippex. LOL!

MOM #1 said...

Well, I'm on my way to get some of those pens. Those look WAY COOL!