The colors of sky, t-rex legs, and airplane wings

In regards to art, the the story is held and then shared by the person creating the art. The color of the sky does not have to be blue, an airplane can have 5 sets of wings, and t-rex can be a parade of squares dancing on two feet. The viewer is brought into the artist's story by seeing the wonder that bring connections to the story. "What happened to the wings!??" she asked me, "See? It's an airplane."

"Which wings?" I asked. I mean, when I looked at this piece, it seemed to me there were plenty of wings already there. There were 4 sets of wings clearly there now that she had pointed out that it was a plane, and obviously it is a plane. Anyone can see that. "See? Right here!" she pointed to where there were no wings on right side of the mat board, "They were pink like this," pointing to the back of the plane.

Airplane  Collage

Uh oh. The pink paper strips were at a premium when the children created these collages. Since they used every bit of the paper scraps collected over the last several months, I knew there was no chance of finding another strip just like the one that must have fallen off or went missing between the work's creation and its naming session. I suggested using a different painted pinkish paper as replacement wings. She agreed and attached them just so.

These collages brought me a sense of wonder as a teacher -- it is good to stop and savor these moments. The collages were created during a kind of placeholder session. I did not want to start a new longterm art project with the 3- and just 4-year olds. I needed something quick that they could complete in one sitting and really, I also wanted to clear out the painted paper bits and pieces collections. Using these bits cut from other art projects and edges of paintings always has intriguing results that bring those long-past projects a second life. This year, when the children were giving their works titles later, they were able to each pick out their own works even though days had passed. This surprised me, but should it have? Each work is unique after all.

"It goes this way. See the legs? And the tail?" He tipped the work to the vertical. He named it T-Rex. The dinosaur stands tall on its back legs, its tail a thin ribbon of orange paper. Each child gave his or her work a name consistent with the vision they held during the gluing session.



With many of our longterm projects, we begin the conversation with the backgrounds. Often these backgrounds are sky. Because a solid painted base/background gives both visual depth and strengthens the paper, we offer the children a lot of paint, simply squirting the paint in great heaps directly onto the paper. When painting sky, the children pick the colors they want. Sky, in real life, is not always blue. Hurricanes and tornadoes bring their own unique palette to skies. Greens, deep grays, intense purples. All of these are sky colors. Nighttime may be darkest blue black, but others are tinted yellow and pink. The sun rising brings its own pale yellows and big puffs of white.


The sky is not just blue.

The younger class bought into this idea and their minds, hearts, and paint choices were wide open to the possibility of sky...many shades and hues. They usually will embrace this every time. But then, we did a similar project with the older class (the 4- and 5-year olds) and they did not. They were given the same options, but consistently painted their paintings using shades of blue, black, and white. The resulting skies were blue, either dark or light. There was one sky painter who asked for orange to be added to her blue-black, which of course she was given, but the resulting brown-ish shade bothered her as she later added the other parts of the painted paper collage.

Children's art display

This also brought me a moment of wonder -- are the younger children more open to the possibilities? As the children grow older do they fall into familiar patterns? I have seen the doors of art-as-endless-possibility closing as children grow older. We would spend a lot of our time during our Summer art camps assuring older children that they could take risks with their artwork. It was not easy for them to feel confident in a loose line or shaking up the color systems they felt should fall into place.

So bring on the dancing t-rex feet with lots of wings under a purple and yellow sky! The more the merrier! Put your foot in the door so that it does not close all the way. Look up. The sky has many colors!