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Color artists.

Children applaud when I open my paint closet at school. They love everything about painting, including the feel of paint in their hands or on their noses. They stir, mix and pour every color they can think of. The theme of my painting lessons is supporting the joys of color inventing--the magic of colors and water mixing into a lively substance.

Uncluttered by adult painting rules and color formulas, painting is a discovery, filled with surprises. Children find new ways to transport colors they make, auditioning all tools and surfaces as possible brushes and canvases.

Painting is too often taught as something that is known, something that has been perfected by adult masters, a legacy to be studied and appreciated. Art teaching can announce that painting is yet to be invented. We celebrate the future of painting, the children who will untie painting from its past. Experiences in our art rooms help to advance painting.

COLOR INVENTORS Finding a magic and mystery in playing with colors can ensure a lifelong interest in painting and in the colors of nature, food or fabrics. Art teachers can either value children's excitement about color or replace their excitement with color facts and formulas.

In my art room, students in lab coats stir colors in old kitchen pots. They mix colors in flea-market blenders. Color discoveries are celebrated like fine wine; they are shared and swirled in tiny cups and premiered on clotheslines in sealed clear plastic bags. The best color finds are poured into clear gel-caps and arranged to create dazzling displays.

We pour, drip and channel colors onto sponges, watch colors soak and merge on a blotter or settle into the folds and layers of white dinner napkins. Before brushing paint into pictures, children experience paint as an active substance, alive and capable of expressive flowing, spreading, soaking-over, under and in-between surfaces.

COLOR ARRANGEMENTS AND COLLECTIONS The paper chef's hat completes the picture as my daughter Ana points to the colorful salad she assembled from the reddest tomato, the brightest yellow peppers and the orangest orange she could find in the kitchen. For her color creation, she selected a yellow Fiesta platter background. Children know the colors they want. Their color loves are an important element of their painting world.

Kids save "street finds" because they like the colors of something. My classroom shows an appreciation for the importance of color collecting with ongoing exhibits of student finds. Over 100 fantastic nail-polish colors currently in a classroom curated by a dedicated group of colorists.

Every day is a color day, welcoming students to dress in beautiful colors load their favorite color finds in every pocket. Teaching painting is about supporting young painters' color interests--the they notice, the paint samples they pocket, the carpet samples they save, the color mixes they find in stirring yogurt or when slipping unusual food colors into cookie dough.

WONDER OF COLOR Art lessons in painting open up possibilities for observing and the colors of spaces and the environment. My students find new ways to transport from paint containers to a variety of unusual surfaces. We share in the discovery of new colors, making the wonder of color a primary ingredient of every painting session.

Our paintings venture from tables to floors; they float on water, adorn rocks and levitate on air as flags and magic-carpet paintings. My students embark on a lifetime of searching for unusual color experiences. They collect colors and explore color arrangements with all kinds of everyday objects. Keeping our childhood excitement about colors, paint and paintings alive during the school years is our venture.

You can see the excitement when children leave my art room. Instead of carrying their paintings rolled up in shopping bags, the paintings are the bags.

You can see this connection to color in the wise use of leftover paints and the ways with which children feel free to experiment with colors and paints. They leave my room with painted rulers, colored sticker displays on their lunch boxes, and oops ... someone painted designs on their shoelaces.

All artists have been moved by great color experiences in their lives. As art teachers, we design experiences through which students can experiment and discover colors, as if encountering them for the first time. Our color searches and collections provide them with opportunities to redefine the bounds of color and find new references to design color wheels--perhaps depicting freshly invented ice-cream flavors.

Professor George Skekely is Area Head and Senior Professor of Art Education at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and serves on the Arts & Activities Editorial Advisory Board.
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Title Annotation:CHILDREN'S art diary
Author:Szekely, George
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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