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Landscapes to be proud of.

With pencils in their hands, children can produce delightfully detailed drawings. A problem arises when they want to turn these detailed drawings into paintings. The paintbrush is not another kind of marker or crayon -- controlling a brush is a new skill. Before the child is presented with a brush and jars of thick, vivid colors, a realistic goal needs to be set.

When children are learning to paint, they should not begin with a detailed drawing -- a large and simple scope is more appropriate to painting. Landscape painting lends itself very well to this goal. A lesson centered around the works of the Hudson River School's sweeping landscapes of nineteenth century America, can inspire the children to think big and aim for something they can achieve in paint.

A presentation of the Hudson River School introduces this group of American artists which includes artists like Washington Allston, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Jasper Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, George Inness, John Kensett, and Fitzhugh Lane. These artists, who painted from 1825 to 1870, believed that their role as artists was to reveal the miracle and drama of the natural, untouched American landscape. Their subject matter was mostly the northeastern United States, although several migrated west and continued to paint landscapes.

Using large sheets of corrugated cardboard instead of paper, brings the student closer to the experience of painting on canvas, and removes the act of painting from associations with paper and pencil drawings. For an excellent surface, the cardboard could be prepared with a layer of gesso or white acrylic paint.

Works by the Hudson River School are very inspiring to children. With just a few lines they can plot their own mountains, fields, lakes and rivers. Painting can begin quickly.

Before giving the paints to the students, awaken their interest in color and color mixing. Point out the many shades of blue in the skies of landscape paintings. Hold up a jar of blue; its hue is nowhere to be seen in these paintings. Let the children see what kinds of blues they can come up with by mixing. Provide plenty of mixing trays, water for rinsing and paper towels for drying brushes. They can paint skies using one or more of their own blues, as well as using the complement and adding white or black. White clouds can be painted in along with the sky; the blending that occurs will create a natural effect.

Just as there is no one shade of blue for the sky, there is also no one shade of gray for mountains in the distance. Atmospheric effects are created by subtle color fading from pastels into grays. Elementary children are not too young to learn about mixing grays for atmospheric perspective. Demonstrate how a rainbow of grays can be created by mixing complementary colors and white. Adjusting the proportions produces rose-like grays, mauve grays, yellow grays -- more white gives a paler gray. The Hudson River paintings abound in beautiful grays of mountains receding into hazy atmospheric mists. Display a color wheel and discuss complementary colors. Let the children discover for themselves the unlikely result of blending complements and white. Students who do not have mountains in their pictures will add them to have an excuse to mix grays.

Young children are fascinated with painting techniques. A simple demonstration of how to paint a quiet pond, sunlight on grass or rushing water is quite appropriate. It gets the children used to "thinking through the paintbrush," and using brushstrokes to achieve effects of light and texture. Many children will be quite satisfied with their paintings at this stage. If small details are still desired, the technique of handling a small brush can be taught. All details should be painted over the painted background.

The paintings that result will be beautiful. They will be full of color, texture, and light. The children's enthusiasm will be channeled through the paintbrush onto the canvas (cardboard) without frustration. Instead of limitations, the process of painting will create new methods for achieving color and form -- methods not achievable with markers and crayons.

Joan C. Frank teachers art at Doyon Elementary School, Ipswich, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:teaching young children to paint
Author:Frank, Joan C.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Previous Article:Children making a difference.
Next Article:Nature prints.

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