I grew up loving reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar book while experiencing the beautiful painted paper illustrations and unique book design with the peek-a-boo holes and the graduated rectangular pages that built onto each other. If I ever find myself in Massachusetts, my first stop will be an all-day visit to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst.
So, when a kindergarten teacher approached me with shining eyes and sweetly asked if I would be interested in teaching an art project that ties in with their Eric Carle unit, I was all in. Eric Carle’s books are amazing in every way, so I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find something good online.
We based our art project on Rubber Boots and Elf Shoe’s blog post about the painted paper lesson her student teacher taught based on Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed book.
Having somehow never read The Tiny Seed, I read it before we started our project. When I opened the book, the first 2 pages are beautiful constellations of multi-colored splatter-painted dots. Then the story starts after these 2 pages. I wanted to incorporate those splatter-painted dots into our painted paper flower project.
We talked about what an author is and what an illustrator is. We also talked about Eric Carle and how he is both – and how rare that is. I asked them what their favorite Eric Carle books are, and we read The Tiny Seed together.
Then I demo’ed how to make splatter painted paper just like he did. In 3rd grade, it’s a big hit when we load up a toothbrush with white liquid tempera paint to create a controlled splatter-painted starry constellation on black paper for our Aurora Borealis project.
I previously thought that Kindergartners and splatter paint would be a terrible idea, but I came up with a way for them to be successful and only the tiniest bit covered in washable tempera paint. I reminded them that they needed to swirl their paintbrush 12 times on the “hockey puck” tempera paint color they wanted. After that, they held a paintbrush in one hand while they gently tapped the shiny metal part of the brush. I showed them how to to do that, and we also talked about too high (the end of the paintbrush) and too low (the bristles or hair of the paintbrush.) The shiny part that holds the bristles in is the only place they were supposed to touch during this step. I demonstrated the way we never used our paintbrushes for this project, slinging paint Jackson Pollock-style.
Then they went to town splattering their papers with any colors they chose. It was really fun to see them splatter their pages with color. A few of them said theirs wasn’t working, but usually that meant that they didn’t have enough paint on their brushes or they were holding their brushes too high in the air above their paper. I reminded them to lower their brushes so they were held just above the paper.
Most of them had a concentration of splatters in the middle of their papers but not much on the edges, so I reminded them to splatter the edges too.
For a little color theory, we folded our papers in half and painted one side red and one side yellow. We predicted what would happen when folded those two colors together. They loved their own reveal moment when they saw the painted paper patterns in yellow, red and orange as they unfolded it.
After it dried, I drew the petals on the back for them and showed them how to cut them out. I planned on using painted paper for the green stem and the flower centers, but we ran out of time at the end of the year. We substituted construction paper and it worked fine and saved time.
I cut out a stem for them and they trimmed it to fit their paper. They cut a circle out of construction paper and added their own painted paper petals. They cut their own leaves, and drew the veins on them with a dark marker.
They were proud of their flowers! It took only about 3 weeks start to finish. I’m glad I was asked to give this a try because that was the nudge I needed to try acrylic painted paper and splatter paint with kindergartners. Next year, early finishers will add some sort of collaged border.
Let me know how yours turn out! Tag me at @juliaforsythart on Instagram and @wowartproject on Twitter.