Saturday, March 07, 2009

Brushes are like Ballerinas

A lot has happened in the past two weeks that precluded me from enjoying my paints and sharing them with you. Today I was supposed to go out plein air painting with a friend, but I had to take care of the kids because my wife was not feeling well, and besides it was a rainy day that had no shadows or light for me to play with.
I decided to fulfill one of my goals for the year today. I took both kids to our sun room and told them we were going to have an art class day. They were delighted!
The first thing we did was look at this picture that I took in Nova Scotia. We studied the colours and learned that their is no patch of pure colour anywhere in nature. Nature likes to mix colour all the time. We learned that there was no green trees or blue skies. That trees don't look like Christmas card trees or green Lolly-pops and that close colours are brighter than far colours. We also learned that the river is wider when it gets close and narrower as it goes away from us. We also learned that all around we could find shapes. Squares, rectangles triangles etc...
We took a break for lunch at McD. (Sorry I wasn't cooking today), and then came back to study another picture. This time a painting by William Merritt Chase. We looked at the scene first and tried to understand what it was ( a road, deserted a dry riverbed...) Then we looked at the brush work and the many many colours that Bill used. After a lot of Q&A I showed them how to use watercolour. We mixed colours on the pallet and on the paper, learned how to make all sorts of greens and how to use a brush.

Then we drew Bill's painting and started to paint it. I gently reminded them as we went along:
"We are not painting walls. No up and down, no gooey paste".
Then a note that clicked with both and changed everything:
"Brushes are like ballerinas make them dance on the paper. Don't let them stomp or shuffle!" We started holding the brushes further back and using either the side or the tip without pushing the brushdown on the paper. What a difference that made. They finally got it and much better than many older students would. It was amazing.

A little help with mixing here, a line or spot there, and they were painting a symphony! It took a lot out of them to do these 11x14's but they enjoyed it a lot and after finishing, they got to do some free style painting as well.....the stomping type, just to let off some energy.


  1. Very cool! I love the metaphor of "brushes are like Ballerinas" that conveys so very much.

  2. And it made sense to them too LOL. They really got it when I said that. All of a sudden the brushes were treated with more respect and the colours flowed.

  3. lovely. Glad you found a creative way to turn the day around and hope Rima is feeling better now.

  4. Thanks Frances. Rima is just fine now. She needed a day off and then she bounced back. Thanks for asking :)

  5. Sounds like the best day ever.

  6. Victor, you have it right. They absolutely loved the day and we are planning many more. I would encourage every artist with a family to do the same. It is a lot of fun.


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