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I love watercolors. They’re simple to use and they allow students to focus on painting without have to spend time mixing colors. (Have you ever had a student spend 15 minutes mixing one color only to have to clean up as soon as she is ready to use it?). I also use tempera and acrylic paints with younger students, but I often wait until a little later in the year when routines are established and they can manage getting, using, sharing, cleaning and returning more supplies.

Because students usually use watercolors without mixing colors (although you can also mix them!), I like to give them a variety of colors. A few years ago, I bought some new sets of Crayola Watercolors, 16 Color Set. The one thing I don’t like about this set is that the pans are not refillable. (The Crayola Watercolors, 16 Brilliant Colors Set is, but it’s almost twice as much and doesn’t have a clear cover, so you can’t see the colors until you open it.) Luckily I had a bunch of extra single-strip plastic watercolor strips. After a using the sets for a year, a lot of colors were empty, so I replaced the non-refillable strips with refillable ones. I also ordered Crayola Watercolor Refills and Prang Watercolor Refills to replace colors as they get used up. (Because certain colors are more popular than others and run out more quickly.)

In order to keep all of my refills organized, I sort them into an old marker box. (I love marker boxes and use them for so many different things.) This way I can see when a color is running low and when I need to order more refills.

Because watercolors are so popular, I try to clean the containers every few months to keep the trays clean and the colors fresh. Here’s what I do:

  1. Take out the plastic strips.
  2. Wash the watercolor containers.
  3. Set the containers in the drying rack to dry.
  4. Replace the plastic strips.
  5. If the strips are really dirty and I’m feeling ambitions, I’ll pop out all of the tiny refill pans, wash the plastic strips and then refill the colors (and replace the ones that have run out).

What are your favorite supplies? What creative solutions do you have for managing supplies and minimizing costs?

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This year, I’m introducing ATCs to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. I’m starting the year by giving students a couple of assignments. My hope is that these assignments will encourage them experiment more throughout the year and make cards that are more thoughtful and “complete” when they are given choice time.

2nd Graders: Oops! Card

For this lesson, I read the book Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg. I talked with students about what choices an artist has when he/she makes a “mistake.” Next, I showed students a few Daily Monster videos and challenged them to turn an “oops” into something new… something scary, or friendly, or beautiful, or funny, or… just about anything they could think of! Students started by transforming their oops with pencil and tracing with Sharpie. Then, they added a background and colored in their ATC.

3rd Graders: Sky Color

For this lesson, I read the book Sky Color, by Peter Reynolds. We discussed that the sky is not always blue and then I demonstrated a few watercolor techniques… painting wet on wet, wax/oil watercolor resist, sprinkling salt, and blotting with a sponge brush, q-tip, paper towel, or bubble wrap. Then students set to work creating an ATC of a type of weather or time of day.

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4th Graders: Abstract Dot Composition

For this lesson, I read the book The Dot, by Peter Reynolds and discussed how students might “make their mark.” After showing abstract spot and dot artworks by Wassily Kandinsky and Yayoi Kusama, students were challenged to create an abstract composition made entirely of dots. Students could choose to use Sharpies, markers, crayons, watercolors, or a combination of materials. **For this lesson, I also showed examples of this lesson from Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists.

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IMG_9964Kindergarteners started a painting and color mixing unit last week. Their first assignment was to write each of the letters of their name and their age on their paper with oil pastels. Then, students traced their letters with sharpie to create block/bubble letters. Last, students painted their pictures with watercolors. While they painted, students practiced cleaning their brushes before choosing a new color.

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7th and 8th graders were challenged to design an Artist Trading Card for each of the 7 elements of art and principles of design. Each card has the definition of the word it illustrates glued to the back of it. The goal was to see how much students knew/remembered about the elements and principles and to let them experiment with different art materials.