Translucent vs Opaque

Transluscents (3)

HAPPY SPRING!!! I say as we await 4 more inches of snow today in Rhode Island!

I wanted to share my weekly kids art class with you.  Their work is stunning!


In 2013, when I was undergoing my daily 365 challenge, I created this painting.  I always loved it for its spontaneity and happy colors.  It came to mind recently when I started teaching as I thought this technique has quite a few teachable moments.

Translucent vs. Opaque

Each week I try the project and create notes before I have the kids do it.  This way I can make sure I can conceive of all of the teaching points.  This project teaches the difference between translucent paints (commonly watercolors) and opaque paints (commonly oils and acrylics).  The dark opaque background makes the light flowers pop.  I encouraged the kids to use loads of water to keep the watercolors transparent.

The Second lesson in this project is the concept of NEGATIVE SPACE.  All good artists consider their subject matter, but they also think about the background, the shapes on the paper where the subject matter is NOT.  With the black paint, the kids have to go in and really think about what they want their flowers and fauna to look like.  Are the black spaces around your flowers equally as interesting as the flowers?  It’s important to think about this in a composition.  I also pointed out that the watercolor painting in itself, is sort of sloppy and all one tone.  Your eye can’t really decipher where one thing begins and another thing ends.  But with intense contrast, like the difference between paint that is see through and paint you cannot see through, you can distinctly manipulate your image.

…and of course, THEY GOT IT!!! These are my students work ranging from ages 9-14.

2015-03-19 17.12.01

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2 2015-03-19 17.23.03


The last two paintings are interesting…  The two students had a VERY HARD time adding black opaque paint to their light watercolor paintings.  It freaked them out!!!  They DID NOT WANT TO EDIT ANY SPACES FROM THEIR PAINTINGS.  At first as a traditional adult, I thought “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!!!” but then the teacher in me came out and thought “who am I to tell you what your art is supposed to look like!” and then I thanked the two students for opening my eyes to a different way which was equally VERY INTERESTING!

So, all in all, another great week.  It’s been an awesome experience (even if I am terrified of going in and teaching every single time!)

Please teachers out there… Please tell me this feeling goes away!!!

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and thank you to my mother-in-law for driving from far away to take part in one of my classes. That was pretty cool!

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  1. I have tried this process myself with fabulous results. I can’t to teach it to my 3rd-8th grade artists. Thank you for sharing!!!

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