Weird and Wonderful Watercolors

I believe I mentioned how overwhelmingly inspiring and simultaneously despair-inducing visiting the Sargent watercolors show was at the MFA earlier this year.  (I look at his work and kind of want to bang my head against a wall, but in a good way?)  I had a similar reaction checking out the Turner & the Sea show at PEM earlier this week, where Turner can make oil paintings look like watercolors and watercolors look like oils.

"PanPan" by Blule, click for link

“PanPan” by Blule, click for link

The good news is, you don’t have to be a Sargent, a Turner, or even a Blule to have fun with watercolors — and if the artistry just gets too much, tackle them with science!

This cyanometer from the 18th century is a watercolor gauge that helped scientists determine that water vapor in the atmosphere helps determine the blueness of the sky.  Click for link.

This cyanometer from the 18th century is a watercolor gauge that helped scientists determine that water vapor in the atmosphere helps determine the blueness of the sky. Click for link.

Artful Experiments (emphasis on the ‘art is fun’)

 

Color mixing via water gun, by Dreamscaping with June Rollins

Color mixing via water gun, by Dreamscaping with June Rollins

Water Pistol Color Mixing – Watercolors are fantastic for exploring color interactions, and misting a canvas prepped with pre-sprinkled paint with a water pistol sounds like a really good summer camp project.  I wonder if you could actually shoot liquid watercolor onto a paper?  What might happen then?

 

For a softer look, using liquid watercolors in a spray bottle works great.  Seems like a 'let's do this outside!' activity if you don't want to have to do a lot of clean up, though! Click for source.

Watercolor prints by Artful Kids

Watercolor Spray Negatives – I’ve linked these before in a prints post, but the fact remains that this is a beautiful technique and one I still want to try!

Artful Experiments (emphasis on the ‘scientists can have fun too’)

Painted salt sculpture from Fun at Home with Kids

Painted salt sculpture from Fun at Home with Kids

Painted Salt Sculptures – a fun color mixing and absorption activity, with bonus crystal study!  I wonder what would happen if you used sugar or some other substance instead of salt?

 

Flower watercolors from Learn Play Imagine

Flower watercolors from Learn Play Imagine

Make Your own Watercolors 1 – From Flowers  or 2 – From Fruits, Vegetables, and Spices – I especially like the first link, but the second has some suggestions for source materials I hadn’t seen elsewhere.  This would be a fun activity to do in concert with/relation to a study of pigments in leaves, as well.

Oil and Watercolor interactions from Easy Art Activities with Kids

Oil and Watercolor interactions from Babble Dabble Do

Oil and Watercolors, Theme and Variations – Eyedroppers, oil, water, and watercolors make for a great experiment in density and paper marbling!

Erupting watercolors from Learn - Play - Imagine

Erupting watercolors from Learn – Play – Imagine

Erupting Watercolors – This is a combination of multiple science explorations: water absorption, color mixing, chemical reactions – I can’t wait to try this out with a group at the museum.  I just need a good story or art object to tie it to!  (We’ve got to have a volcano related artwork somewhere in the collection…)

Inspiration from the Greats: Women Artists

Representation matters, and if you too noticed that all the artists mentioned in my previous post were guys, I am here to fix that with a round up of fun activities inspired by some great women artists.  If you know of other fun activities inspired by female artists that belong in this list, let me know!

Kahlo

Over at Mommy Maestra they’ve collected a bunch of possibilities for exploring Frida Kahlo’s work at different age levels (though mostly younger).  I was especially glad to see a  number of great books recommended!

Photo of Frida Kahlo.  Click for source link

Photo of Frida Kahlo. Click for source link

And in honor of the lady’s signature hairstyle, a fun set of directions on how to make a Kahlo-inspired floral headband.

O’Keefe

There are a couple of useful links at Practical Pages, part of a long list of artist resources, in fact.  The two stand-out activities for O’Keefe feature setting up a still life inspired by her Skull & Roses painting, and using a computer-assist to emulate O’Keefe’s ‘zoomed in flowers’ style.  I personally think you could skip the computer step and instead experiment with a variety of magnification tools instead.  I’m a fan of the loupe style that means one can work hands-free (like the Private Eye style) — or a big tripod magnifier.  That way you can work in some math and science with thinking about scale and identifying flower parts.

Computer-zoom and 'pencil sketch' filter + watercolors

Computer-zoom and ‘pencil sketch’ filter + watercolors

And be sure to hop over to Grant Snider’s blog, “Who Needs Art?” to check out his beautiful webcomic about visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

Cassatt

Lots of the ideas I found for Mary Cassatt focused on process and on content (the importance of connection between the people in her paintings) as opposed to signature style.  Check out the directions for a cute pastel drawing activity, or these mixed media works inspired by Children Playing on the Beach.

Child's pastel drawing inspired by Mary Cassatt.  Click for source

Child’s pastel drawing inspired by Mary Cassatt. Click for source

Morisot

Over on Practical Pages again, there are a few fun explorations of Morisot’s paintings.  The author relies more than I would on using traced outlines of actual paintings by the artist–but trying to pencil in the right proportions when copying a Sargent watercolor nearly defeated me last week, so I’m not going to object too strenuously.   I will, however, say that philosophically, I think sketching/doing one’s own line work is better in the long run for exploring the creative process.

That said, the blogger and her daughters made some amazing collages inspired by Morisot’s “The Cradle,” each turning out differently despite using the same line art to begin.

Collage inspired by The Cradle. Click for source.

Collage inspired by The Cradle. Click for source.

She also has a painting activity inspired by “The Butterfly Catchers,” which just begs for a unit done outside, with butterfly nets and a combined art/science observation lesson.

Finally, just as a new year reminder, Brain Popcorn also exists in a (less formal, more frequently updated) tumblr version, with bonus occasional posts about politics, geekery, and women’s issues to intermingle among the museum and education posts.  Drop by to say ‘hi!’