Friday, March 25, 2011

"Tall Paintings": The Epilogue

Last week, I posted about our tall paintings, including a video from Holton Rower, the artist who inspired us to give it a go, demonstrating the pouring technique he used to create finished works like this one.

Many readers asked to see photos of our work when it was dry.

As a preschool teacher in a cooperative, I think very little about how our artwork will look when it's "dry," mainly because preschool art should always be about the process of creation, but also because with all the parents working with me in the classroom I don't feel the pressure many of my colleagues do to send home beautiful finished artwork as a kind of evidence of what we did all day. And in that regard, I was totally satisfied with this process of pouring paint and watching it flow and mix together.

That said, as an artist myself (and here's a link to my online gallery), I'm intrigued how differently our process "finished" compared to those of the original artist.

For one thing, our pieces clearly lacked the symmetry of Mr. Rower's works, which I assume can be attributable to the fact that preschoolers may not have possessed (or cared to possess) as steady and consistent a pouring hand as a professional artist, and our work and drying surfaces were obviously inadequately level, causing the paint to sort of flow in one direction more than others.

Our painting surface also leaves something to be desired in comparison to Rower's brilliant work. He uses plywood, which appears to be primed. We just used raw wood and raw corrugated cardboard, which meant our paint was absorbed a great deal as it dried, reducing the thickness and shine which is one of the qualities I like in Rower's pieces.

Not to mention the fact that cardboard tends to warp as the paint dries and contracts.

And, of course, the biggest difference of all I think is that we used glue mixed with a little tempera for both budgetary purposes as well as to make the inevitable laundry efforts a bit easier, while Rower uses acrylic paint, which is always going to dry with a more vibrant finish than glue and tempera.

When we do this again, I'd like to try using primed wood as our painting surface, I think, and put a little more thought into where all these tall paintings will sit to dry for the 2-6 days it took them. I might even like to make one large one as a group project, perhaps even trying acrylic paint, but only after warning parents in advance. But as a preschool with a limited budget, the stars would have to align just right for all that to happen.

In the meantime, I'll just send out a thank you to Holton Rower for adding this fun new process to Woodland Park's curriculum and keep an eye on him for ideas we can steal for the future. And to reiterate my theory that the only difference between an artist and a child is that an artist sees beauty and stops, while kids see beauty and keep right on going.

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Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

I love your thought.... An artist sees beauty and stops, a child sees beauty and keeps on going....

monsenya said...

Tom love reading your blogs you have such a great imagination with your preschoolers and I hope to one day be as creative as you are, Tom you really are an awesome teacher!

Jodi said...

Thanks for these posts about Rower! I am an elem art teacher and plan on using this in class. I have since learned that Rower is one of the grandchildren of Alexander Calder.

Monsenya Chatman said...

Teacher Tom, again I would like to say thank you for your inspirations, the school system need more educators like you, and I hope one day you and your imagination will soon be a part of the public eye for all to see and learn from what you can contribute as a inspiring teacher thank you!

Unknown said...

paint shops in our country collect used tins of paint for redistribution for anti-graffiti, community groups and preschools . . . better for your budget and the environment!

kristen said...

Thanks for posting your results--they helped me tweek our project!

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

I spotted that same video on MaryAnn Kohl's website, and thought "I have to do that!!" Thanks for sharing your take on it -- while it would have been cool to capture the Holton effect, the process is certainly one of the best parts of this experience. I can't wait to try it here. The other day my daughter made the most incredible painting (in my mind, anyway), and then kept on going, mushing all the paint into one big green mess -- "an artist sees beauty and stops, while kids see beauty and keep right on going" is spot-on!

Lucy said...

Would it work if you stuck the block on to a piece of artists canvas (available quite cheaply from The Works for example) ??
They could then be put on the wall for a display.

Rachel said...

What a brilliant idea! I love how this activity is so much about the process. It's looks so fun I'd love to do it myself.

As for the materials, I think you could still use cardboard, but just use spray paint (the clear kind that is used to protect paintings and other work) to prevent it from absorbing.

As for making the paint thicker, maybe you could use corn starch. That would be cheaper than the glue.

I'll have to think about making the paint shiny, but I think there must be a way.

Samantha said...

Hello, Tom!

Our preschool project, in collaboration with the kindergarten class, just completed these projects. Each child did their own individual tall painting and then the group did one large structure. My husband created the structure, out of scrap wood, from a local sign shop. We bought a gallon of white paint, from the local hardware store, and tinted it with other acrylic paints. You can also keep costs down by looking at the reject paints on the shelf. Under each individual structure we placed a sheet of waxed paper, which allows the paint to pool and dry. If you can do the large structure, it would be an amazing experience! Our groups loved it and are still talking about it days later...

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