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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: C'mon, push it!

© Another Day in the Country

This week, in my art classes at Centre Elementary, I attempted to teach third graders how to “push it” with watercolors. It isn’t just the colors that we are pushing across the page, it’s a concept of how to look at color.

In watercolor paints there is no white paint in our paint box (we call it a palette). The children learn that the very sturdy, expensive, rag paper they are painting on is the only color white that they have at their disposal. This is why some folks believe that painting with watercolor is difficult; but once you get the hang of it, it is actually a lot of fun because watercolors are rather magical.

Miracles happen with watercolor paints, creating nuance — a word most children don’t even comprehend, let alone make happen on purpose! While mastering watercolor is a lifetime experience, learning to create art with it is something even 8- and 9-year-olds can do.

To “push it” in watercolor means to exaggerate what we see. This week, we were drawing and painting corn. I’d gone out to Jirak’s Farm to get my weekly dozen ears of corn and bought an extra dozen to use in art. Here we were on a Friday morning, a roomful of eager young artists, ‘shucking’ an ear of corn, looking at it intently.

“An artist has special privileges,” I tell the children, “We choose how much we draw of whatever we’re looking at as our subject.”

I reassured them that we weren’t going to draw every kernel of corn, every piece of husk, every silk hair streaming off the end of this ear of corn they have in front of them on their desk. We were going to pick and choose

“We aren’t a camera,” I said. “We just want whoever looks at our art work to know that this thing we are capturing with pencil and paint is corn.”

As we are choosing the colors to use — and you’d be surprised how many colors there are in one ear of corn — we “name” the lightest color “white.” (That’s our paper! Remember we don’t have white paint in our box of watercolor pants.) That’s pushing it! Then we make some other colors darker — perhaps the background could be very dark — pushing it — so that our ordinary corn cob really stands out!

Another name for “pushing it” is exaggeration! It’s what we do when we tell a really great story, we push the facts just a tad to make it more exciting, more interesting.

“Pushing it” is what the newspaper does when they make a headline bigger to catch your attention or they “push it” with their choice words, suggesting something titilating in the finer print that may not even be there at all.

We love to sit in our easy chair and watch athlete’s “pushing it,” striving for an impossible score, pushing their endurance beyond what we think is humanly possible and we cheer!

Remember back when the pandemic of COVID-19 first started? If anyone would have dared to announce that we’d be dealing with this for years instead of weeks, we would have hollered, “Don’t push it!” This was bad enough as it was — unthinkable, even.

“We are quarantined?”

By now, we’ve all been pushed around by circumstance, by conflicting information — there is, of course, always a learning curve for knowledge, and it takes time and experience for wisdom to evolve! We’re especially pushed to believe a truth we don’t want to accept, “We have to accept responsibility for protecting ourselves and others.”

Some folks feel like they’ve been pushed far enough and they flaunt common sense to declare personal freedoms.

“Don’t tell me to wear a mask,” they say, even though for years and years we’ve known that masks slow down, even halt, the flow of germs — hence physicians in sterile operating rooms, wear masks — every precaution taken to assure a healthy outcome!

I hear on the news that domestic violence has increased during this health crisis in America. It seems that on every hand some folk are yelling “Don’t push it!” We chalk it up to stress. Tensions are high on every front — financial tension, family tension, racial tension.

And, here I am teaching my students to “push it” in watercolor painting class. You will be amazed at what comes out of our endeavor. I guess you’ll have to just wait for the Art Show at the end of the year, like we wait for the news that the pandemic is slowing instead of increasing — eventually, this, too, shall pass!

I think when we’ve mastered the art of dealing with pandemics, we’ll all be amazed at what we’ve learned. Perhaps one could even call the new environment we’re creating — because of the difficult lessons we’ve learned — “a community work of art,” on another day in the country.

Last modified Oct. 20, 2021

 

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