14 June 2009

Wet-on-wet painting and waldorf thoughts

Having finished Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, I have been slowly ruminating what I read there about children's art. I will freely admit that I pulled faces at a lot of the Anthrosophy etc though I think generally I would recommend this book (it would just be down the list somewhere lol) but nowhere did it bug me quite so much as in the creativity section. Now why would that be? ;)

I think the Waldorf views on children and art are very, um, pretty. I think using this method strictly you will get a small number of "quality experiences" and some very pretty pictures. If you have a naturally very dreamy and reflective child who follows instructions carefully then maybe you won't get annoyed... Here is the rub.

I believe in children messing about freely with the materials. Sometimes (when I'm in a really good mood and can stifle my inner control freak) they ought to be allowed to mix up all the colours and make brown. Sometimes they should be able to draw on a big stack of paper recycling and just scribble and mess about with colour and scrunch the paper up - even when they are nearly five (and above). Sometimes, in short, we should stop looking for the product! Physical OR spiritual!

I rejected right off the notion of only giving one colour to paint with for three months at a time. This might "immerse them in the colour experience" and it might even teach them to respect their own work and take their time, but even for a tiny this HAS to be frustrating their natural impulse to grow up on their own timetable, to develop in the way of their own choosing.

And then, I told myself that if I'm going to reject something totally with no evidence that it's harmful, I have to at least give it a chance first. So we did wet on wet painting, with one colour a week. This week, with those two colours together. I wasn't going to give it a whole season (lol too impatient myself I guess) but we have really loved it!Alongside screwing up bits of scrap paper, turning out hundreds of crayon drawings of whatever we see fit, using all the crayons at once, playing with felt pens and covering ourselves with stripes and spots, and basically making Steiner turn in his grave I suspect. My newly incarnated children (sorry, sorry, I can't help the occasional sarcasm) develop in ways that ignore every book I've ever read. So as usual this area of this book gets a resounding Yes AND a resounding No.

On the positive side I've been reading a lot about developmental milestones through art, and how children's drawing styles progress through recognisable stages, and the stages she provides are pretty accurate and very interesting to know about. The girls have art folders in which I keep each new step and some examples of what they are interested in doing in between, which is something I picked up from my artistic-creative-teacher mum.I think we'll carry on being sort-of-waldorf-style kind-of-unschooling with child-led parental nosiness and co-operative-but-with-rules-low-coercion discipline. Invent your own label week!


  1. Love the painting :)

    I@m not a big fan of Anthropsy either. And if I do limit paint colours it's purely to avoid lots of cleaning lol.

    I can't imagine my lad being as interested if he wasn't given the freedom to explore different media, colours and textures.


  2. I know exactly where you're coming from about Waldorf and Art. I have to say I find a degree of absurdity in the way they stick to one colour at a time. We love the Wet on Wet method here but it always involves at least three colours at a time!
    I always think that when you are freely allowing your childs imagination and creativity to develop then imposing limitations seems a little erm...crazy!

  3. Love your inner control freak comment. That is so me sometimes. Love the wet on wet technique but I totally agree with letting children play around with a variety of colours and learning from mixing them etc to see what happens.


Penny for your thoughts? :)