By Janelle Eklund
It was a sunny warm blue sky kinda day on June 5. The leaves had magically changed into their shiny dark green dress, the perfume of the plants wafted to the senses, a kaleidoscope of wildflowers dotted the landscape - the whole atmosphere shouting ‘IT’S SUMMER!’
Seventeen kids and ten adults gathered at the Copper Center School in anticipation of a short walk through the forest to learn a new water color painting technique. A splash of dandelions paved the way and seemed to carry the group as they crossed the field heading to the entrance of the forest trail. The entrance arbor looked like a tunnel welcoming curious souls to explore an enchanted land. Eager youngsters and adults funneled down the trail in a dancing clip ready to experience all that lay before them. Our destination was the campfire circle where a lesson was given on watercolor painting using an easy technique that was creative and enjoyable for any age.
Everyone took a seat on one of the many benches that surrounded the fire circle. The instructor showed the group a beautiful water color painting of aspen in a kaleidoscope of colors and proceeded to tell us that we would be creating our own similar watercolor - no matter what age we were. I think the youngest there was one year old and the oldest - well - probably yours truly. The first two tools handed out were water color paper and a pen. The pen was to write your name on your paper. The next tool was pieces of masking tape that you were instructed to rip in half lengthwise and stick them, smooth sides together, on the artist paper from one side to the other. Once that was done a palette, small paint brush, toothbrush, and spray bottle of water was handed out. The instructor came around and put a dab of green in one of the indentations on the palette. You were to squirt three sprays of water on the paint and mix it with the paint brush. Then dab the toothbrush with the color and use your finger to flick it onto the art paper creating tiny dots. Next color was orange. Then came a deeper shade of orange, then red. After all the splashing of colors a straw was handed out to each person and brown paint added to the palette. A dot of brown paint was placed on the edge of the tape and then you got down real low and positioned the end of the straw next to the dab of paint. From the other end you blew. It was exciting to see the brown paint spread in a line magically forming branches. You could direct the 'branches' to go up or down as if they were broken. It took me awhile to get the hang of it and many of my branches were broken - hah! Once your branches were in place and the paint had dried the tape was taken off revealing trunks of aspen trees. Then you could take the paintbrush and make lines and dots representing tree knots. Bualah! You had a picture beautiful enough to frame.
It was wonderful watching everyone make their creations. They all had the same colors and technique but their personalities reflected the unique inspiration of each one. I think I heard whisperings of using winter scenes for this same technique.
I was glad I didn't miss out on this wonderful Art in the Forest day sponsored by WISE and Bureau of Land Management.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.