Thursday, September 19, 2019

An Exception That Proves The Rule

Yesterday, we painted with "long paint brushes." These are regular paint brushes duct taped to lengths of bamboo. 

Sometimes we hang the paper up high so that the use of long paint brushes makes some sense, but on this day our paper was low which means that their length contributed nothing more than to add an arbitrary level of difficulty. Despite this, whenever the long paint brushes are in use, they are in demand. This has been true over all years that we've been painting with long brushes, with children queueing up for their turn, calling out, "I'm next!" and "I want to try it!" Even children who don't normally chose to participate in art typically want have a go with the long paint brushes.

Using long paint brushes requires a level of concentration that isn't necessary with regular brushes. The children tend to move more slowly, more deliberately as they take aim, as they dip the tips of their brushes into the paint pots on the ground, as they strive to control the shape and direction of paint on paper. There is almost a meditative quality to the process as they stand or sit together, shoulder-to-shoulder, sharing a canvas.

I've never witnessed a child attempt to paint "something," like a person or a house or a tree. Getting paint on paper seems to be enough. If there is ever a "goal," it is to "paint all the white parts," something the children often spontaneously decide amongst themselves.

I suppose we could make it an individual project, one where each child gets their own piece of paper on a separate easel in order to manufacture something that they can later take home. I suppose we could offer more than three long brushes at a time to minimize the wait time. But in doing this, I expect, we would lose something. 

Normally, making something arbitrarily difficult is a sure-fire way to cause frustration, ultimately killing enthusiasm, but long paint brushes seems to be an exception that prove the rule.

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