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A couple weeks ago Yummy and I collected autumn leaves in the yard to preserve for future artmaking. We coated some in glycerin, which we used for our Frosty Leaves project, and layered others in a heavy book between sheets of wax paper, to use for today's art exploration.

I've been struggling with an idea for teaching negative space to my four-year-old Yummy, knowing that it is a bit beyond her comprehension yet.  I have a few interesting lessons that I taught to middle-years and high-school students back in the day, but Yummy's fine motor skills have a way to go before she could complete one of those successfully.  The idea of painting over leaves, then removing them seemed like a very simple way to demonstrate the absence of an object, plus it's seasonal!  

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You will need:
  • Paper (I used watercolour paper since it is nice and thick and withstands lots of wet layers of paint)
  • Leaves
  • Double-sided tape
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water jar & rag

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I prepared the project by putting double-sided tape on the leaves and sticking a few on each piece of paper, leaving lots of room for the paint to go around the leaves.

Yummy was very excited to do some painting since we haven't in a couple weeks.  I explained that the space around the leaves is called negative space, though she was already so eager to paint, I'm not sure it registered!  I don't worry about Yummy learning the correct vocabulary right away; instead I think it is just helpful to talk about the art and use the proper words while we work together.  The more we do it, the more she'll remember and learn along the way.

I chose a limited colour palette of three analogous colours (colours beside each other on the colour wheel), and pointed that out to Yummy.  When she asked why we weren't using blue as well, I told her that sometimes it's nice to stick with just a few specific colours so they don't turn brown and muddy when they are mixed.  
I decided to paint a leaf picture alongside Yummy.  Doing her simple projects can be so soothing and enjoyable, since they are often about the process instead of an end result.
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Dooter was thrilled to join in the painting today.  He very seriously dipped his brush into the paint and did some test strokes over the leaves.  After experimenting with the "Lello" (yellow) for a while, I traded him for some vibrant red paint.  He accidently touched the paint with one hand, and deciding he loved the feel of the slippery paint, he soon forgot about the brush altogether.  I brought Dooter's experimenting to a close when his furtive tasting became full on stuffing-paint-covered-hands-into-mouth.  
In my post about Crocus Painting, I mentioned that it helps to start off the older child first before involving a toddler, so the more independent child can continue creating while you have a bit more time to help (and avoid disasters with) the youngest.  It is always such fun when both kids can be involved. 


Back at the table, Yummy was peeling off her leaves, too excited to wait for the paint to dry.  Some of the leaves cracked and fell apart, but others stayed whole, so we lay them on a cookie sheet to dry in hopes of using them in another art project.
Ta da!  Lovely leaf-shaped spaces.
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This activity involves these Elements of Visual Art:
  1. Colour: Analogous colour scheme (red, orange, yellow)
  2. Space: Negative space (the space around an object)



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10/22/2013 04:46:46 am

This is great! Even I learned something :) I didn't know what negative space was until I read your post. I will have to remember to add that into our art projects! I like your idea bout starting the older kid first, and then the toddler! That would have saved me a lot of stress if I had been that smart when I had toddlers :)

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10/22/2013 07:54:55 am

Glad you enjoyed it Missy! Yes, I'm sure art-making gets a little easier when the kids are all older! We do still have fun, though.

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10/26/2013 07:54:21 am

I love that you are doing planned and well thought out art projects with your kids! They are going to grow up to be very creative people!
Jenna

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10/26/2013 10:49:06 pm

Thanks, Jenna! I really love exploring the arts with my kids and I hope I'm giving them a good foundation for being creative thinkers!

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11/13/2013 07:41:35 am

This is such an awesome project! I'm going to have to see if we still have any good maple leaves hanging about our yard. I'd love to see this with maple leaves!

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11/13/2013 09:17:32 pm

Maple leaves would be gorgeous for this project, Terri! We just planted a couple little maples this year but the leaves were too small to do much with this year. Maybe next year! I'd love to see your photos if you find some good leaves -feel free to post any on my Facebook page!
Http://www.facebook.com/backinthehills

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

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