Watercolor Workshop for School Children at Ahmednagar

Watercolor Workshop for Children

I have always conducted watercolor workshops for adults only. Well, there have been  young people in my workshops before. But never below the age of 15. I don’t believe in ‘teaching’ art to kids. I think when you teach art to children you take away their imagination and originality. So my workshop for children always has been more exploration and fun oriented. I don’t stick to a particular painting medium when conducting workshop for children. It more dynamic and fluid in terms of mediums. But in February this year, for the very first time I conducted a watercolor workshop for school children in Ahmednagar.

Workshop in progress on day 1
Workshop in progress on day 1

It was a two day watercolor workshop for about 30 school kids with their age varying from 9 to 13 at Col Parab’s school. However there were four more  children who attended the workshop not belonging to this age. Two of them were six years old while the other two ‘children’ were sixty+ ladies. The ladies wanted to learn watercolor and they were really enthusiastic about attending the workshop. I was very happy to learn about the participants. But at the same time it was going to be a challenge to design something for such an audience and additionally it had to be such that it does not curb the natural instinct of the kids.

The Workshop Design

Demonstrating a technique
Demonstrating a techniqu

I had a a day free before the workshop. So I decided to meet the participants informally and learn about them which would help me design the workshop for them. I spent the entire day at school and went around seeing what the children were already doing in their art and craft courses. I happened to see some of their paintings and managed to talk to a few of them personally. What I noticed is that the participants were a hand picked lot who were already very good in drawing and painting and all of them really wanted to learn watercolors. That made my job easier. I decided to re-introduce watercolor medium to them focusing on the simplicity of the medium. My workshop was going to be about

  1. Simple yet most important techniques of watercolor
  2. Guide participants to handle watercolor in a better way
  3. Making participants explore watercolor with good technique and handling

Watercolor Workshop – Day 1

The youngest  participant in the workshop
The youngest participant in the workshop

The first day of the workshop started with the inauguration formalities. But it did not take too long and by 10:30 AM everyone was ready for the workshop. I started by explaining the difference between watercolor and other medium stressing on the transparency of watercolor medium. Next was a brief talk on the tools and materials of watercolor medium. The next couple of hours were spent in exploring different wash and glazing techniques.

I first demonstrated how gravity is used to lay down transparent washes of paint on paper. The children were used to paint with their paper placed flat on the ground. For washes they had to put the paper at around 20-30 degrees to the ground. It actually took me some time to get everyone to paint with an angle as they were habituated to paint with paper placed flat on the ground. But as soon as they started painting with a sloped paper wash technique became very clear and everyone could execute it successfully. Once the participants were comfortable with different washes I demonstrated glazing technique and soon they picked up that too.

The two 'young' ladies in the workshop along with Mrs Parab
The two ‘young’ ladies in the workshop along with Mrs Parab

After lunch I demonstrated how the wash and glazing techniques are applied in a painting. The subject I picked up was the tom of Salaut Khan which is a local tourist spot. So everyone could immediately identify with the subject. The participants then went ahead and painted the same subject. Though they were supposed to apply the techniques they had learnt I did not force it on them. But I was surprised to see the kids actually working with the techniques to paint. By the end of the day everyone had produced a good watercolor painting with very high degree of transparency. And I was a very happy man.

Watercolor Workshop – Day 2

Art works created by children on Day 1
Art works created by children on Day 1

Encouraged with the grasping power of the children, for the second day of the watercolor workshop I decided to go one step up. Along with exploring a few more techniques I decided to push the kids to paint from a live still life setup. The techniques that we explored on the second day were wet in wet, subtraction and dry brush work. Wet in wet technique was a little tough for the participants compared to the other techniques as one has to really have a feel of the paper wetness and paint consistency to get a desired effect. This is not a very easy technique, but I was sure the children would get a hang of it. We spent quiet a bit of time practicing this technique and many of the participants were successful in producing good wet in wet wash. But the real challenge for the day was yet come.

Demonstration of still life on Day 2
Demonstration of still life on Day 2

I set up a simple still life setup for the participants to paint. It was a simple setup, but painting from life is never simple. But I wanted the children to get introduced to the concept of painting from life as this is the best way to improve painting and drawing skills. Many of the participants stumbled in drawing out the still life itself as they were all used to drawing from photographs. But with some encouragement and a little guidance everyone finally finished their drawing. I then demonstrated how to apply all the techniques we had learnt over the two days to paint the still life. When it was time for the kids to paint I could sense they were a little wary of the challenge in front of them. So I told them to paint without fear and have fun without worrying about the outcome. It took a little bit of probing and coaxing, but finally the participants slowly settled into a groove and started going about their paintings with lot more confidence. After all painting is about confidence, self assurance and assertion and I wanted to see that in the works more than anything else.  At the end of the workshop some of the participants were unable to finish their paintings due to lack of time. But in almost all the works I could see confidence and a carefree attitude along with decent application of the techniques. With such outcomes I could not have been happier.

Time for a group pic
Time for a group pic

For me this watercolor workshop was a very unique experience and a very fulfilling one. I hope I have been able to inspire some of the children to take up watercolors. Sometime in future I hope to get an opportunity to go back to Col Parab’s school and see it for myself.