Our homeschool tends toward the colorful and the eclectic. We’re over here doing copywork in Prismacolor and jazzing things up by printing assignments on neon paper. Art projects, shelves of books in rainbow order, and primary-colored Lego bricks abound. Even when everything is tidy and cozy and organized, there is color.
In the summer, I take color for granted. But as the year creeps on and monochromatic gray takes over the landscape, I find myself craving color’s rich gifts more and more. Color brings hope, cheer, and has the power to transform.
[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Natural World Workshop from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this review. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]
The Natural World Workshop from Timberdoodle is a different kind of color-by-number painting set — it doesn’t start from a white, numbered canvas. Instead, a full-color instruction booklet easily guides students through matching and applying color to the uncompleted white sections of four different paintings.
The workshop kit contains
- a small instruction book
- a dry 8-paint gouache palette
- a medium brush, and, instead of a blank canvas,
- 4 full-color partially-illustrated boards.
These supplies are tucked inside a sturdy yellow storage box, easily fastened shut with the attached black elastic band.
A project in which students complete an already-started painting might strike some as odd, but, like color-by-number, this activity is a great match for —
- kids who need a little boost in creative confidence,
- kids with perfectionist tendencies who face paralysis when it comes to starting a project,
- kids who find it difficult to sit through multi-session projects,
- kids who say they don’t enjoy art, and
- kids who would benefit from the encouragement of particularly high-impact results.
I also think this is a terrific way to introduce young students to a lesson on art restoration. (This is my favorite art restoration video. Fascinating.)
What advantage does gouache have over watercolor? Lots of pigment!
Although we’ve done a lot with watercolor and acrylic over the years, gouache — an opaque, highly pigmented watercolor — is new to us. It’s so fun! I can’t believe we didn’t explore gouache before this. Even after Aveline finishes the 4 project boards in this set, she’ll still be using this paint set to create on her own.
All the pigment in gouache means impressive results with little effort. As Aveline says, “These are strong poppin’ colors.” You use it in the same way as a traditional elementary-school watercolor set (wet your brush and activate the dry paint), but because it’s opaque, very little white paper or canvas surface shows through even after a single stroke. So satisfying! You can layer gouache, too, for even more dramatic effect.
And a convenient bonus? Water-based cleanup! This makes it such a great choice for young artists. (Timberdoodle includes this set in their Second Grade homeschool kit.)
The art in Natural World Workshop is by a famous children’s book illustrator.
Like other activities from the classic French toymaker Djeco, the Natural World Workshop has a colorful and bold aesthetic. Djeco activity kits appeal to kids — of course — but also wouldn’t at all be out of place in an artist’s portfolio.
In fact, each of the four vibrant illustrations included the kit are actually portfolio pieces from a well-known French children’s book artist. Judith Gueyfier has illustrated more than a dozen books, and is known for color-drenched scenes. With the Natural World Workshop painting kit, young students get to join Judith Gueyfier’s world of color and lend a hand in completing four of her paintings!
Don’t you just love how cheery these pieces are?
Gueyfier’s art is infused with pigment and hue, and can also be seen in the recent books Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees (celebrating Caribbean songs) and Chandra’s Magic Light, about solar lanterns in Nepal. (We checked the latter book out of the Nashville Public Library, so Aveline is shown reading it here; it’s not a part of this painting kit. If you request Chandra’s Magic Light from your local library, please note that several pages talk about Hindu gods.)
In art, the color of nature is limited only by our imaginations. Really.
See the blue monkey’s tail hanging down from the jungle trees just out of view? This blend of nature-themed realism and other-worldy hues gives the art a sort of fantasy flair, and reminds me a lot of French post-impressionist Henri Rousseau. The unusual color choices present an ideal invitation to imagine and create. This freedom is so important for kids’ artistic development!
When American Novelist John Steinbeck encountered brightly-colored fall foliage, he mused on memory and color:
“To find not only that this bedlam of color was true but that the pictures were pale and inaccurate translations, was to me startling. I can’t even imagine the forest colors when I am not seeing them. I wondered whether constant association could cause inattention, and asked a native New Hampshire woman about it. She said that autumn never failed to amaze her; to elate. ‘It is a glory,’ she said, ‘and can’t be remembered, so that it always comes as a surprise.”
Students can partake in that surprise — remembering nature from their brightly-colored imaginations — as they apply gouache to sections of Gueyfier’s paintings, layering the opaque pigment over the white sections of the textured board. So much fun!