Saturday, November 5, 2011

Easel Paintings, Taking it up a Notch

Teachers look around for inspiration every minute of the day. Inspiration can be found in so many places, but more often, we simply find it by exchanging ides with other teachers.

My younger son took an after school art class with the artist, Justin Pyles. The students were working on paintings of flowers and I was amazed at the richness of the color. It wasn't just vibrant, you could see the brush strokes and layers of blended colors. I wondered if it was oil paint. It wasn't. Justin had the children apply a glue wash on top of the dried tempera paintings. I knew that in collage, a glue wash is needed for the top, but this...this opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

A third layer of line, shape, and color is applied to an easel painting
When an easel painting is in process it is a joy to behold. It is an all-senses experience. It is about movement and about rich visuals. The blending of colors and line of the brush is what leads the inspiration for children. You can see it as a child works. We do work on a single easel paintings for several weeks and sometimes months. Applying this glue wash captures the movement, color blends, and brush strokes so that the viewer can better appreciate the evolution of every painting.

Hint: You must have flat surfaces for these to dry on. The glue is white glue mixed in 1 to 3 water to glue measure.
The glue wash process begins.

A set of paintings left to dry. The drying time varies depending on how
much glue is applied and how it pools. I try not to move or stack them for
at least 14 hours.
A finished work. Brush strokes and blending is revealed. Note: the yellow is the color of the construction paper that was used for this set of paintings. It is always interesting to see how the paper color peeks (or doesn't peek) through.
Detail of a larger painting. It would appear that the green is raised above the red, curling to catch arms with the green tendril above.
Detail of the painting below. The brushstrokes float. This artistry is usually only seen in wet paint. As tempera dries it flattens and dulls. By adding the glue wash these subtleties return.
The whole painting. The detail above is taken from the inner ring/frame of purple --
that happy, little jump up of light blue.


  1. I love the idea of the glue wash Lesley. We will try that next week. many thanks - Maria @ E11

  2. Yes! Looking forward to seeing the photos!

  3. What a great idea Lesley! I am definitely going to give this a try. Great photo's too! :)

  4. Let me know what you think, Karen.