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MONDAY MONTAGE: Painting sunflowers is a guaranteed happy painting project. With kids AND with adults. We all seem to enjoy splashing thick yellow pigment on a canvas as much as Van Gogh did. And I love the Italian word for sunflower. Girasole means “turn towards the sun.”

Today in Art Camp we looked closely at a bunch of real sunflowers. The children were surprised to see the ridges on both the petals and the stems. And a closer look at the brown center is always fascinating. We wanted to get Vincent’s impasto effect so we mixed flower and salt with orange tempera paint and water. Amelia noticed that VanGogh’s orange was more of a red-orange so Cameron added some red to our impasto concoction, which Sarah accurately dubbed goopy paint!

Then we went to the drawing board. Despite my repeated attempts to draw their attention to the actual shape of sunflower petals, most of the children sketched out their impression of large flower petals. Rounded tips. Not pointy like real sunflowers. Their preconceived idea, their mental picture of a sunflower, took precedence over the actual flower they had observed just minutes beforehand.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the results of expressive artwork created by children from their imagination, during our “Free Paint” sessions. But I also want to teach them the value of observation, of drawing realistically.

Are observation and imagination integral to any creative process? Can there be imagination without observation? Does one take precedence over the other in the created order? These are some of the questions running through my mind tonight. Questions I’ll be taking to the Word in the morning.

Author: Bonnie Porter

Bonnie Porter is an artist who lived in Europe and now resides in Atlanta. A part-time art teacher who paints and creates with a love of color, line and composition, drawing on inspiration from everywhere.

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