playing with paint

red yellow blue wash

This week we connected online to discover as many traces in paint as we could.  I sensed great anticipation as I introduced the session by speaking to the children about watercolour paints and that they were very special because they were TRANSPARENT.

We made sure that everyone understood what this meant – YOU CAN SEE THROUGH IT. I held up a glass and we decided it was TRANSPARENT . I held up a cup and the children decided it was NOT TRANSPARENT.

I told the children that when we paint with watercolour paints, we can see the paper through the paint and we can see other colours. We were to find out also that we don’t add white to watercolours to get a lighter colour. We DILUTE the paint! This was interesting for us because we wanted to see how e could leave a trace of paint on different papers….

We tried out many different paper surfaces – playing with different effects. It WAS messy but our explorations were sometimes surprising and very beautiful!

We tried painting a streak of paint across the page, then taking a wet brush and letting the watery brush run close to the laid paint to create a blurring effect:

wash 3       

Mrs Carolan and the assistants had prepared a strong solution of paint marked ‘S’ and a weaker solution of paint marked ‘W’ and these were set out on the tables for the children to use. So when the children painted a line with the strong solution, they then painted another using the weaker watery solution. We made sure that we worked quickly to catch the water effect while still wet.

We had a short discussion about how the solutions were different: the weaker paint had much more water added to it than the strong solution.

Sean Og said his paint looked weaker and faded and we talked about why the paint colour was lighter when we had not added white! It was of course because we had used a weaker solution and we could easily see the white of the paper through the paint.

In class the children begin to paint a line across the page.
In class the children begin to paint a line across the page.

colour blend

There was great excitement and anticipation  in the class – I could even sense it from Belfast and so it was important that the children were patient and listened. Mrs Carolan made sure the children understood the next instructions to paint a line across the page and then experimenting by painting another line of a different colour close to, or over the first and they then looked at the results. They found out that it blurred and blended with the first colour and a new colour created!

Sean Og made ORANGE using RED and YELLOW

Aisling made GREEN using BLUE and YELLOW

Another effect was created by making a large area of paint called a WASH over the page and then using a tissue to dab off the paint to create shapes in the paint:  dabbing paint off effects

paint with a dabbing effect using tissue
paint with a dabbing effect using tissue

Before we finished this experiment, I asked the children to look at the tissue to see the traces of paint left in it.



This prompted our next experiment which was using a different paper. We had been working on ordinary everyday paper and now we tried special WATERCOLOUR paper.

I asked the children to feel it and describe it:

Some said it felt




Working with watercolour paper.
Working with watercolour paper.

The children discovered that the WATERCOLOUR paper was very different. The paint soaked into it, prompting the discovery of a new word:


Our next experiment was to try blotting paper, which is even more ABSORBENT!

Look at the wonderful results!


blotting effects 2Mrs Carolan soon discovered that when the children held up the paint effects for me to see on camera, that the light from the window shone through illuminating them and  made a lovely effect. This was especially so as the children had used red, yellow and blue colours and these had BLURRED together to create a wonderful effect. So Mrs Carolan asked the children to show the paintings to me at the window, so the light could come through.

blotting windowblott window

Cian had created this amazing picture using only 3 colours of paint and we thought it looked like a FACE! There was great excitement over the blotting paper effects and this was a real surprise for us all.

Some of the following experiments were made using wax resist – this is where you paint a shape with a wax crayon and then paint a wash of watercolour paint over the top. Here I used a coloured crayon and a different coloured paint.



Detail of the wax resist. The wax crayon RESISTS the paint and the image can be seen.
Detail of the wax resist. The wax crayon RESISTS the paint and the image can be seen.

The children tried this effect however they used a white crayon and the effect was not as easy to see. Mrs Carolan said they might try this again another time using a coloured crayon.

wax resist action 3wax resist action 2results

The next experiment involved some extra action of tilting the actual paper to create a run in the paint. Start with a blob and then tilt the paper until the paint runs….. then tilt it again in another direction to let the paint follow its own line:

blob 1 blue run 1 blue run 2 blue run 3
Look below at the great effects the children made by TILTING and CONTROLLING the paint as it ran down the page. This was fun but required a lot of concentration!

blob runhappy accidents

We also tried this using long strips of paper and the children tried to make their paint run for as long as possible:

blob running


The final effects of the morning were created by laying small patches of fabric over the paint spillages on the table – allowing the fabric to soak up the stains and making beautiful spots and blobs of different colours on the material.



This was a great effort on behalf of the children, who had to listen to a lot of instructions before they began to use the paint. It was also a huge effort by the assistants Leanne and Catherine and the teacher Mrs Carolan, who had organized the morning so well. Thank you to everyone. So sorry I could not help tidy up!


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