By Carroll Scott-McIntyre
The month of February was our time to focus on Acrylic, one of the hundred languages. As I introduced the paint, we talked about the differences between this medium and others. We focused a lot on how this paint doesn’t wash off as easily as others and how we have to use special brushes and a canvas to paint on. I wanted to have each child take time alone to focus on this project and to add their own touch with technique while using their favorite color. Each child had a different way of adding to the canvas. Some used a different type of brush others would take all of the paint and gob it on for texture. Some would take large strokes and use a small bit of paint every time.
Miller was one child who took his time. He would dip just the tip of the brush into the paint and make small strokes. He then would sit back and ponder. Again, he would get some more paint, add a large block of blue, sit back, and then go back to the canvas to add a few more strokes carefully; he did this with caution and a steady hand. Miller would slowly dip the brush back in with his head tilted and hand moving slowly, then move the brush back to the canvas and dab a space, then transfer the brush back to the palette. He would paint with his right hand while his left arm rested across his right arm as if to steady his brush strokes. Miller continued to dip his brush and dab carefully on each spot as if to place the brush gently and lift again to assess his mark. I was sure to remind him that he could paint on others’ paint and add to but not cover their work. He then took the brush and barely touched their paint and would move back to an unpainted spot with a smooth and calculated movement. He continued this until the paint was gone.
Watching Miller as he did this made me really think about how capable children are in working with materials that aren’t common in most environments. They are able to take instruction when working with materials that are new to them. I believe it also has to do with how we, as teachers, introduce the medium and what expectation we have of them, and how they interact with the materials.
It was interesting to see each child take on the canvas with their different personalities coming out in their approach. Some were quick to finish because they had other plans, this is ok, we can’t make children love a material. All we can do is introduce it with our intention for them in the forefront. If a teacher is not interested, why would a child be?
This project really allowed me to sit with each child and be alone with their process, uninterrupted. I will continue to create opportunities where children can work collaboratively but in their own time and space.