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Wet on Wet Painting

What is wet-on-wet painting and why is it such a distinctive feature of Waldorf education?

Through using natural watercolour paint on wet paper, it allows the colours to flow and blend into each other in beautiful, unexpected ways. Through this approach, children discover the world of colour rather than focusing on the end product of creating a specific form. 

The freedom of being given the time and space to explore colour allows children to create and experiment with colour itself. The wet-on-wet allows for the fluid mixing and movement on paper as colours bleed from one into the other, seeming to take on a life of their own - a developing relationship between the two colours as they interact on the page.

In Kindergarten and Class One, children begin by exploring the qualities of one or two colours and then slowly experience the excitement of discovering how secondary colours are formed. This gentle and unhurried introduction to colour gives children a rich, experiential involvement which can feel almost meditative - allowing them to feel the effects and qualities of colour within themselves. Wet on Wet painting allows the child as an artist to breath - breathing out as they paint and in as they observe the effects. A wonderful technique for calming and balancing both the young and the old!

As the children get older they begin to explore form and subtler nuances of colour before moving into work with charcoal, pastels, and gouache as they move up the school. 

What do the lessons look like?

A core aspect of the education is that learning comes through imitation, imagination, and sensory experience, rather than purely technique or instruction. Wet-on-wet painting is brought in the same way with the teacher offering a story, or theme as a guiding inspiration and then painting alongside the children. 

The materials are treated with respect and children are taught how to set up the paper on the board, dip the brush in the paint, wipe excess paint back into the paint jar, how to rinse the brush in between colours and then pat the brush dry on the sponge. Each painting session has a rhythm, including setting and cleaning up and children are very much involved in the responsibilities for each stage. At the end of the lesson the children and teachers look at their work and take time to enjoy them together.

Each lesson begins with this beautiful verse:

There’s a bridge of wondrous light Filled with colours shining bright Red and orange, yellow, green, The fairest colours ever seen, Blue and violet, magic rose; Down from heaven to earth it goes.

Here we go, to and fro, over the rainbow bridge we go. Treading softly, treading slow, over the rainbow bridge we go.

Gathering light from sun and star, gathering light from heaven afar, Down to earth all things to greet, sharing the light with all we meet.

Here we go, to and fro, over the rainbow bridge we go. Treading softly, treading slow, over the rainbow bridge we go.

Wet on Wet Paintings at New School, Canterbury
Wet on Wet Paintings

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