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02 March 2017

Watercolors and "Learning Projects"

Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.


We are enjoying a series of art lessons from Creating a Masterpiece right now (watch for a review in a couple weeks). I love watercolors, and so that's the part I was most excited about -- and so it's the type of project that we did first. The basic project was something that we haven't done any of before: wet on wet technique. It was fun to play around with it -- and it actually worked! I haven't been very happy with my past efforts, so I haven't done much at all with it. But this time, it worked, which was exciting. It's always lovely when art works.


Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.
My first African Sunset.


Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun. We were sick for a while in February, so Hero and I did this one day, and then Dragon did it later, which was an interesting dynamic. I hadn't realized how much support there is in doing it in a group, but it became really apparent: Dragon struggled, even though he'd watched the same instructions as Hero and I. The struggle isn't bad, though: it gave us an opportunity to talk about how sometimes, and especially when we're trying something new, it's ok if the project turns out not like we'd wanted, or even "ugly". We call those "learning projects" and we talked about how, even if the picture doesn't turn out, giving ourselves permission to try anyway helps us to be able to learn from the experience and the next one is better. It's an important conversation to have: perfectionism, and an unwillingness to take the risk of trying can really ruin your ability to enjoy doing art, and hamstring the enjoyment of playing around with it. I'm hoping to be able to encourage the kids to give themselves a little grace, especially when they're trying something new.

To that end, I told them about my first crochet project: I asked my Grandma to teach me when I was still pretty young, probably around 10 or 12, and she did. She was a great teacher, and got me started on a project, then sent me home with plenty of yarn and a hook. I don't remember how it happened, but that first project was a rug, and it was hideous. It was made of a bunch of odd colors of rug yarn that she had laying around, and I just used them up, one after another. And it didn't lay flat at all: it took me a while to get the hang of keeping the tension consistent. I was supposed to be making a circle, but it ended up a lumpy, misshapen oval-ish thing. It absolutely could not lay flat. And I knew it was hideous, but I'd put so much effort into it, that I loved it anyway, and kept it on my floor for a long time. I don't think it exists anymore.

Probably the most important thing that I learned from that project was not to expect much from a "first project". The second thing that I crocheted was much better, and in the 30ish years since that first project I've made a number of things that I'm really happy with, including a few that I'd be willing to say are really beautiful: my favorite was a long runner that I made in white crochet thread and gave my Grandma as a Christmas present when I was living with her one year. She kept it on the upright piano that Grandpa got her. After she passed, my mother adopted it, and keeps it on the table that my great-grandfather made. If I had given up when that first rug turned out so badly, none of that could have happened. I think a lot of the credit for my willingness to continue goes to Grandma's patient teaching and sincere encouragement.

Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun. Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun. Once I'd told my story to Dragon, he was much more willing to try again. We did a couple of things differently: first, I waited until I was sure that he was completely well. The first effort had been on a day where he looked well at first... but later wilted, and was sick again for another day or two. I didn't bring things out again until I was sure he was good. And then, I got out my own paints and did a second picture alongside him, so he could see what I was doing. I didn't love the trees from the project, so I tried something different, but by the point of adding those final details, he was humming right along, so it didn't matter that we weren't quite right together anymore. Early on, we also flipped his first picture over and used the back to practice some of the new techniques and strokes that the project required. Normally, he doesn't have a lot of problems with fine motor, but this project was challenging: it had a specific outcome he was looking for, rather than the free-form work he usually does with watercolors, and that makes a difference.

Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.
My second painting.
 Another thing that we did that's different from usual is that I actually touched his brush and paper a few times. He was getting so frustrated, and verbal explanations weren't cutting it. Typically, he doesn't want my interference, but this time he welcomed it. And the project worked. He was excited to show it to his dad at the end of the day. I was so glad that he'd been willing to try again. Good things, all over the place there. Lots of learning -- and some of it was even with the watercolors!

Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.
Dragon's second painting.

I was interested to see what Peanut did: officially, she wasn't participating. She hadn't shown any interest in doing the same thing as us. However, when Hero and I did it, she's wanted her paints, and I'd handed her a page for a Chinese New Year (year of the chicken!) that I'd printed, but we had never gotten around to doing, and she happily painted it. She must have been paying more attention than I gave her credit for, because the body ended up looking an awful lot like the skies that we were doing that day. She's a pretty observant little thing!

Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.

It was such a fun project. The kids want to try some of the other mediums that we've never done before: I picked up some soft pastels and some charcoal for them, and they're looking forward to trying those out. But if I'm pleasing myself, there's going to be more watercolors in store, at the least, for me. I love watercolors, partly for their own sake, but partly because I feel like learning to do them gives me a greater connection with my Great-grandma, who also loved them, and left enough paintings that all the family members that wanted one, were able to have one. My Dad's got two. That's a pretty awesome legacy, and it's not even the only medium where she left a wealth of art for her family to cherish. She's a pretty remarkable woman. 


Learning about watercolors and giving ourselves grace when we do "learning projects" -- and mixing in a little family history for fun.
Hero's final African Sunset.


7 comments:

Angelic Scalliwags said...

I love your pictures, all of them! We're on this review as well and are really enjoying using it too.

Mother of 3 said...

Those look lovely; all of them!

Annette V said...

well done, well done indeed. :)

Kym Thorpe said...

I love every one of those sunsets! Each turned out beautiful, though different from the others. What a great teaching moment too - to encourage your kids with the stories of your own first efforts at something new. Thanks for sharing this on the Virtual Fridge!

Lisa T said...

Nice job! A couple of my children are perfectionists and get frustrated easily when things don't come out exactly like they think they should. We have lots of conversations about trying new things and not being so hard on themselves! We did this project too.

Anne Chovies said...

Definitely some talent there!

zekesmom10 said...

Grandmas are the best! And the paintings turned out so very nice!

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