Waldorf Wet-on-Wet Water Color Painting

I just read a beautiful post by Sarah Baldwin on Simple Homeschool about Waldorf-style wet-on-wet water color painting. Wow – talk about inspiring! This is why I love reading blogs.

For those of you unfamiliar with Waldorf education, it is based on the philosophy of anthroposophy and was developed by Rudolph Steiner in the last 19th century.

Now I am by no means an expert, but that which I do know is informed by the two years that we sent our oldest son to a Waldorf gan (preschool) in Israel.

Gan Tamar was, without exaggeration, the most magical environment for our inquisitive, creative, and extremely active three year old. He blossomed there, soaking up the rhythm of daily activities like baking whole grain bread on Sundays and preparing for kabbalat Shabbat on Fridays. To celebrate Shavuot, he actually picked wheat berries, ground them with a mortar and pestle, and braided their earthy dough into sweet challot.

His spacious classroom was welcoming and calm. It had softly pasteled walls and wicker baskets filled with wooden blocks, silk scarves, shells and pine cones. Imagination ruled the day there — and our already precocious son was transformed by the power of possibility.

One of his favorite activities was wet-on-wet watercolor. At first, it seemed so foreign to me — these ethereal paintings, with their muted color and lack of form. But the more I learned about the philosophy behind this art style, the more I loved it.

Wet-on-wet, as its name implied, is painting with diluted water colors on soaked paper. (Go read Sarah’s post for a complete tutorial.) The surface instantly absorbs and diffuses the color — rendering the representative drawings of most four and five year olds totally impossible.

The rationale? As children must be allowed to explore their natural surroundings with wonder and without prejudice, so too they must be able to approach their art. By preventing strict form and representation, children can imagine anything into their creations — just like when you pick out a bunny-no-a-goat-no-an-old-man in the clouds.

When they grow older — usually past 2nd grade — their art transitions from color and imagination to detail and form. But by then, they have been trained in the techniques that allow them to have true mastery over their supplies without the inhibition that comes from trying to create a perfect representation.

Do I buy in to this theory completely? No, not entirely. But I do see a lot of value in allowing and encouraging childrento be where they’re at, rather than constantly nudging them forward at a faster and faster pace.

And if a little wet-on-wet water color can do that — and produce gorgeous images like the ones featured in this post — then I’m all for it!

So, thanks to Sarah’s gorgeous post (stunning in both pictures and words!), I have added some wet-on-wet watercolor paints and paper to my extremely last-minute Chanukah wish list. You can find the Stockmar-brand of paints, brushes, paper and more on Sarah’s website Bella Luna Toys. I have also found Stockmar supplies on Amazon.

Warning: These are not cheap, throw-away Crayola waterpaints. These are quality supplies — they will last and last, so you will want to teach your children to use them with love and care. And, if you’ve got really little ones (or really “busy” ones, like my boys!), you will probably want to store them out of reach just for good measure!

Before we get back to the coupon posts, tell me: Are there any other Waldorf fans out there? Have you done wet-on-wet watercolor with your children? Please do share!


  1. Up until very recently, we were Waldorf homeschoolers (my kids just started at Day School) and we did wet-on-wet painting on a regular basis. It seems that it would be an expensive choice at first, but the materials are of such a good quality and last so long that I have had in our craft cabinet the same bottles of paints for more than a year now. (And they were not huge bottles.) Because they are heavily watered down, a little really does go a longway. And, while the paper seems expensive, good Strathmore Paper for watercolors can be purchased at Michael’s often on a 40% off sale or with one of their coupons. The painting boards can be made at home and a good quality 1″ brush can last for years when properly cared for. (Remember to remind the children to brush gently and not to make the paper say Ouch – by leaving scrape marks across it by pushing too hard.)

    And after, because the paper is so good, we often used cut up older paintings for holiday cards, signs, gift card enclosures, folded paper star lanterns, etc.

    Also, FWIW, we have the same Stockmar Beeswax crayons I bought my now 10yo when he was 3. Expensive, but very good quality and value.

  2. I would rather buy good supplies once than buy the cheap stuff over and over. If I added up what we have spent replacing my stepson’s crayons and paints over the years we could have purchased Stockmar or Lyra and have money left over.

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