Wet-on-Wet paintings is one of my favorite aspects of Waldorf art. I love the exploration of color theory by play. The release of the expectation of having any kind of a real product combined with meditative nature really appeals to me. I enjoy the emergence of the form from the color. Even with all this, its process can be elusive without some preparation and understanding of how it works. We have used several techniques and several resources over the years, and I’m going to list some of those that have helped me most with you here.
What you’ll find in this blog:
Soaking the Paper
Classes and Instruction
Even before you get started, there is so much involved in order to have a successful wet-on-wet project. What does success mean? I’m looking for the colors to be bright and beautiful, for them to blend easily on the paper, and the paper remain damp, but not dripping through the project’s end. Here are some important aspects to consider:
- Quality of your paints
- Concentration of your paints
- Quality of your watercolor paper
- The soaking time and technique of the paper
What I’ve learned is that you really have to find what works well for you. It took me a little while to find what worked for us, and when I finally did, and it was different from what worked for others. Knowing those different aspects mentioned above helped me to experiment and find what worked best. I’ll share what we do and give resources on what others do. Some of the links in the article are affiliate links. See the note at the end of the blog.
Preparing the Paints
I like to have my watercolor colors bright and concentrated, so that when they touch the page, it’s easy to spread the color around the page. A concentrated paint also make a brighter finish, which will fade a little as it dries. This requires more than the typical liquid watercolors. We use Stockmar Watercolor Paints, Set of 6. The kit includes the colors Carmine Red, Vermillion, Golden Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, and Prussian Blue. Many of these colors are used in the resources that I will discuss later in this post: Color Dynamics and Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools. This set is pricey (in my opinion). I think I paid around $60 at the time I purchased it. However, they have lasted us several years, at least three years. Stockmar does make a 3-set of Watercolor Paints, which include the ‘primary’ colors Carmine Red, Lemon Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue. The colors are not perfectly primary, but very close. Most other colors can be made from these primary colors, and if you are starting with Grade 1, they are sufficient.
These colors are considered the mother colors to use to make your watercolors. A bit of color is placed into a small jar, and water is added to blend. We use popsicle sticks to transfer the mother into our paint jars and to stir to an even consistency. To achieve a rich color, I’m pretty liberal with the mother. I do not use the same amount of mother for each color. For instance, I use quite a bit more lemon yellow mother to make the yellow paint than red, which I use the least of all of them. You can test the concentration of your color on a piece of water color paper to see if it is the concentration you desire.
In the beginning of our wet-on-wet journey, we used small jelly and jam jars that I had collected when traveling with my family. This past year, I splurged and purchased a gorgeous set of watercolor jars and a wooden holder from Emily Schloerb. I am absolutely in love with it. The quality of the wood is superb, and the color is gorgeous. However, such luxury is not necessary to begin your watercolor journey. A few jars will suffice, something with a watertight screw lid to store the paint.
There are all kinds of watercolor paper. Some can be expensive. I found a heavy weight paper worked best, but one without a heavy finish on it. We use Stratford 300 Series, Cold Press (the cold press is important). Other instructors also have other suggestions.
Soaking the Paper:
We have soaked the paper from everywhere from 1 to 10 minutes, and I found that soaking between 2 to 5 minutes it in water, and then blotting it with a natural sea sponge so their was a light sheen, but no puddles was the best for us. Here are a few YouTube videos on prepare paint for Waldorf’s Wet-on-Wet watercolor.
Sarah from Bella Luna Toys has a 2-part video on soaking paper and preparing paints.
Sara Parilla has a 6-part series made for Mountain Song Community School Teacher Training that goes over not only preparations for wet-on-wet, but also an example of a wet-on-wet painting for several grades.
Classes and Instruction
Waldorfish offers a wide array of programs from several weekly art programs to individual art bundles. One of their offerings is a wet-on-wet series for Grades 1 & 2. I have not personally used this bundle, but we have used several of their art classes. I have a high regard for them. This leads me to believe that the wet-on-wet courses are as excellent as the other classes we have taken from them. From the class discription, this class is very thourough in offering all you need to teach a traditional Waldorf Grade 1 and 2 wet-on-wet experience. Each has over 33 videos that goes over preparations, setting a rhythm, storytelling, and of course, step-by-step how to teach wet-on-wet.
If you do not need as much hand-holding, there are other sources that we have used that are more economical. The book Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools by Thomas Wildgruber has a series of wet-on-wet instruction for all of the elementary grades. It gives a large emphasis on wet-on-wet with a good number of projects to do with fairly descriptive instruction. This book has explicit class instruction following the typical progression of art within the Waldorf pedagogy, not introducing any form until the middle to end of grade two. Each grade level has several exercises, enough for a full year of classes.
Another book that we have used and like is Colour Dynamics: Workbook for Water Colour Painting and Colour Theory by Angela Lord. This book is arranged by color, rather than grade, and has example of several different levels for each color. It shows a series of examples of all levels, from basic to adult-level pieces without explicit instruction that the first book gives. However, it offers the visualization-like instruction typical of wet-on-wet instruction, that the other book does not: “If we imagine ourselves sitting in a spring-green room we can feel both refreshed and comfortable…” This book is also covers in detail different qualities of each color and their combinations.
These are the resources that we have used along our journey. They have been most helpful in our wet-on-wet experience. I hope they will prove useful to you as well.
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