Before painting we talked about what we noticed about the plant and what colors we would need if were to try and paint a picture of what it really looks like. We use the term scientific painting and also tell them that it is also called Still Life painting.
The children were given palates of the colors they said they noticed: red, green, brown, yellow and then some white as well. They each had a water cup to rinse, several brushes and a paper towel to dry off their brushes in between colors.
We also cut large paper into a long strips to allow them the room to focus on the height feature of the plant.
As they began painting they started to notice the different shades of the colors on the plant and began mixing the colors on their palates. When a child discovered a new color, she would excitedly shout out the directions to her table mates. "I made pink! I made pink! I put some white in the red and it makes pink! "
As we talked about what they noticed about the plants, I posed the question of how to make darker shades of some of the colors and they began to experiment with this.
This boy looked at his painting and the plant for a bit and said, "yep! I like it." This is another way to encourage the children to be critics of their own work and not rely on adults to praise them. Our comments reflected more of what we noticed. "I see you mixed a darker shade of red for this flower, tell me about that." "You used a different shade of green for the pot than the stem." "Tell me about these white lines." (one child painted the stamens of the flower)
Creative, free idea art is a staple in our classroom as regular readers of this blog know very well. However, there is a place for the skill of recording our observations about our environment. We need to expose children to this activity as well. We did not teach them how to paint this flower. We encouraged them to really look at it and to use the medium of paint to represent it. It became a multi-faceted lesson on observation, color mixing, and looking at their work with a critical eye.