Sunday, January 06, 2013

Something To Do With Walls And Ceilings

Earlier this year the mother of a 5-year-old, a boy with several years of preschool already under his belt, was enthusiastic about one of his paintings, "I think this is Henry's first actual painting! He never paints. I really want to save it." 

One of the challenges of making art outdoors is that wind or rain can it make it difficult to work with paper of any kind. We've found that cardboard, tag board, watercolor paper, and fabric often make better options.

We try to save every painting, of course, but it's true that some of them don't make it home. We're actually pretty good about it when it comes to art made indoors where we have adequate accommodations for stashing things as they dry, although a few still wind up mangled, stuck together, or are otherwise rendered good only for the recycling bin. 

For this project, we used powdered tempera paint, mixed with less than the normal about of water so that it forms a kind of paste. We then use masonry and other sturdy tools to apply it.

It's the art made outdoors where we really struggle. We probably should invest in some sort of shelving system for the purpose, but our current method is to hang the wet pieces with cloths pins from a piece of rope tied between the two stanchions that support our retractable canopy. When that gets full we have a couple of folding racks, originally intended for hanging laundry, that we can bring outside.

Since we're a bit challenged when it comes to "saving" art made outdoors, communal art projects like this one are a good way to go. It leaves us with only one painting to save, if we even want to save it. Sometimes these big pieces, when the children are done, go straight into the recycling bin.

That's all well and good, but outside is where the weather is and it doesn't take much overnight wind or rain to deface someone's masterpiece. Henry's mother was referring to a painting made outdoors, so she was smart to bring it to my attention.

It's actually hard to believe, but up until a couple years ago, we rarely, if ever, made art outdoors. One of the most striking aspects of regularly taking it outside, however, is that kids, like Henry, who aren't typically big fans of our art projects, will often pick up brushes when the invitation is made without walls or ceilings. I don't know why, but I'm not the only one who's observed this phenomenon. Both our indoor and outdoor art areas have tables and chairs, we do many of the same projects, and we take the same pedagogical approach, yet there are many kids who give art a wide berth when indoors, while falling on it outdoors. 

Like I said, I don't know why, but I suspect it has something to do with walls and ceilings.

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