photo by Laura Constans

“We are experimenting,” local artist Sallie Wolf recently told a class of Irving
kindergartners. With Ms. Wolf, teaching art is as much about exploring how art
materials react together as it is about the finished pieces of art. A veteran of OPEF’s Art
Start program, she said, “I like to encourage them to think of themselves as scientists as
well as artists.”

During January and February, kindergartners in Crissi Arroyo’s class have had the
opportunity to explore watercolor painting using a wide range of materials. Each class
meeting has seen the use of different materials to see how they would interact with
the paint. For instance, in one class session, the students drew pictures with graphite
pencils and china markers and then painted over them to see which materials mixed
with the paint and which resisted the paint.

“This age is hard,” Ms.Wolf explained. “They are used to tempura paints, used to gobs
of paint, but [with watercolors] they have to work with hardened paints that need water.”
After several weeks of experimenting with this different paint, the kindergartners “are
getting a really good feel for the water now.”

When one student was struggling with the paint a bit, Ms.Wolf explained, “When you
have to push on the paint like that, the paint is telling you ‘I need more water.'”

photo by Laura ConstansDuring one class, students used sheets of wax paper, on which they wrote their names and other drawings, transferring the wax to the paper beneath. Adrian K. was confident from the beginning: “I know it’s gonna work!” But his name didn’t show up, or so it appeared. He then painted over the paper, and still nothing came through. Then he rubbed the art paper hard with a wet sponge, and there it was: his name and a heart, like a secret message coming through. “It’s working!” he proclaimed.

When asked what she thought of Ms. Wolf’s work with these kids, parent helper Lisa
McKenna said, “Fantastic!” She liked the fact that the kids are allowed to “make it
their own,” adding that “she has creative ways to work with paint and with science and

The students were using all sorts of materials–rock salt, plastic forks, chopsticks–
to make impressions on the paper with the paint. When one student wanted to use the
wax paper on a page already wet with watercolors, Ms. Wolf asked the student “Will this
make a difference? We are all about textures and things you didn’t expect, things you
couldn’t do with a normal paint brush.”

For the last session with Ms. Wolf, the kindergartners tried their hands at paper
marbling. Ms. Arroyo said, “The class has really enjoyed Sallie and have become
comfortable with her and the materials. It really showed today in their artwork!”

Click here to see photos by Laura Constans.