Watercolor resist technique is so simple that I can't believe I haven't thought of doing it earlier. I've seen it done and have done it myself, but have not introduced it to my daughter prior to yesterday. For those who don't know, watercolor resist involves marking white paper with a white crayon or candle, and then painting a wash of color over the paper, bringing to light the crayon design. The wax crayon repels the paint, thus exposing your picture. In fact, it's the same technique we used on our Batik Easter eggs this year.
First I gave Roo a white crayon and had her make a picture. But, since it is white crayon on white paper, she was less than thrilled with the results. I encouraged her to keep at it and fill her paper in as much as possible, so we would see a good design. Since she wasn't aware that we were going to go over it with paint, she couldn't understand my enthusiasm for what seemed like a lackluster art project. However, once we washed watercolor paints over the paper, she was a little more interested (a little, but not much).
Wanting to step it up a notch and grab her attention, I drew a few pictures of familiar objects: animals, trees, little girls on swings, etc. I didn't have the easiest time because it is pretty difficult to draw "blindly." I couldn't tell where one part of my design ended and another part began. It was like playing Cranium or Pictionary when you pick the card that says you have to draw with your eyes closed. I suppose I could have taken my white paper and white crayon into better lighting, but my 4 year old isn't picky and I didn't feel like getting up to hunt down more agreeable light. To her, the semblance of any object was better than scribbles.
Then I had her use the darkest colors from the watercolor set and "uncover" the magic picture hiding on the paper. Once I put the whole "magic" spin on it, she was game! And we made (or shall I say, I made and she painted) a dozen pictures. She loved the anticipation of waiting for me to come up with my idea and draw it while hiding behind a "wall" of books at the table, ensuring that she wouldn't see what the magic picture was going to be until it was unveiled with watercolors. The more secrecy and excitement I displayed while drawing a picture for her (shielding it from her eyes from every possible angle), the better!
When my sister came over to visit with her six year old son, we tried the activity again. I handed my nephew a piece of paper onto which I had drawn a farm picture (I did this before they arrived). I didn't tell him anything about it, just handed it to him and said, "Here's a brush. Go paint." He wasn't in the mood to paint, but once he got started and saw an emerging picture, he enthusiastically declared this a winner. My sister and I churned out drawing after drawing for them to discover.
Normally, I don't like to play such a major role in art projects. I don't like to impose the idea on kids that art has to look like something specific or recognizable. Generally, to me, the more abstract, the better. But, since 90% of the art projects we do around here are free-form and child-led, I think a diversion from that is perfectly acceptable once in a while.
An art project that requires only 3 materials and lasts more than 5 minutes? I'm all for that!