Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Magic of Mixing Paint

A few weeks ago, I picked up a side gig at YouthCity, Salt Lake Cities Youth and Families program. Burke and I returned to Salt lake City in October but working at YouthCity over the last few week means that I’ve truly come home. I feel like I grew up inside this program. I helped shape this program in the early years. I learned how parent by working with these children and families. I found joy in the creative process…both the process of creating a program out of an empty city building and the process of creating art with, near and around children. One of my most favorite things to do with children is to mix paint.

I find it magical, the process of red and blue becoming purple. I marvel at how the various shades of green are a combination of blue and yellow. Orange is always a bit tricky to make but brown does not take too much work…just swirl everything together. I love the various shades of pink and periwinkle. I love watching children move one gloppy paintbrush full of pigment into the next and right before their eyes…waaaaa laaaaaaa….a new color has been born. On a consistent basis they always look surprised and I feel confident that they see the world just a bit differently after the three primary colors become secondary, and tertiary colors.

 Last week, in preparation for a mask making class I am teaching, I engaged a group of unruly teens in a simple paint-mixing project. I gave each student a white piece of mat board and we drew a one-inch by one-inch grid. Next, each student was given a paper plate with a pool of red, yellow, blue, white and black paint. The challenge was to paint the first square one of the primary colors and mix a new color for each of the other remaining boxes. Each new color created by mixing and adding and blending one color into the next. In time, the noisy room of teenagers became tranquil and full of creativity. I’ve done this project with kiddos before and I know that I will do it again and every time the same result puddles up. Wonder and newness and confidence and creativity.

I love how students begin the project with dedicated obedience keeping the paint carefully inside the established lines. And by the end of the project the lines seem to fade away and the swirls of paint seem to take greater shape and emerge with greater energy. Some students remain more conservative with the amount of paint they use while others heap paint goober after paint goober.

If felt good to return to my house that night with a little bit of paint under my fingernails. If felt good to wash out paintbrushes in a bucket of murky water. It felt good to say to these budding young artists that there is not right or no wrong answer. It felt good end the day with a creative exercise. If felt good to be home.

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