August 19th, 2009 by: cheyenne

I actually have memories of fingerpainting myself. Unfortunately, those memories are not made up of feelings of excitement as my artistic self was awakened, of the infinite possibilities before me as I contemplated my paper and palette. Sadly, the memory brings back a fingers-on-the-chalkboard sort of cringe as I remember how it felt when you ran out of slimy paint and the thin skin on the inside of my knuckle dragged against the scratchy dry paper. I have goosebumps right now as I’m writing this; I’m not kidding.

Nonetheless, I decided quite suddenly the other day that Ronin’s brain was going to shrivel up and fall out her ear if I didn’t get her some Craft Projects immediately. Enter the fingerpaint. Maybe she’ll like it. Maybe it’ll be a mess. I’ll certainly use better paper than they gave babies back in the 70s. Plus, I’ll make pretty colors (I also remember the paints being dark drab colors: forest green, navy blue, burgundy, brown—bringing home papers with a slurry of blended green/brown/black smeared in the middle).

I found this recipe on the internet and cooked up a batch earlier this afternoon. Cooking it was fun—sort of like making cream of wheat where you stir and stir and stir for a million years and still it is just watery milk and then, suddenly, in the span of 15 seconds, all hell breaks loose and you suddenly have a pan full of porridge. Corn starch and water is a very curious porridge indeed.

After it cooled, I portioned it out into baby food jars and added food coloring. That was fun. It’s pretty thick with the recipe above so I added more water to make it a more paint-like consistency and stirred it all up with a chopstick. Even more fun, Ronin discovered the food coloring tubes and how to twist off the caps and while I was off neglecting her, she opened up the red, blue, and purple and squirted the stuff all over her hands. I was sort of flipped out and she repeated after me as I ferried the food coloring tubes out of reach “ssit ssit” (bad mama!).

The setup. All neat and tidy with cool and warm colors separated by dinner plate. I stripped her down and planted her in front of the paper.

Ronin tests the waters. Hmm. Colors pleasing… Paper smooth…

She was a little weirded out by the Stuff! on her hands!! It can be nice having a neat-freak toddler (she is a relatively tidy eater—partly because she doesn’t like to eat) but it is also alarming to take said toddler to the beach all, “BEHOLD: THE BEACH,” and have her totally freak out when a grain of sand gets stuck to her hand. She mellowed out a bit but I got her some tools anyway.

Palette knife and paintbrush.

Paintbrushes are for lamers.

Of course, nothing is better than simply cutting to the chase and eating the paint straight off your palette knife.

I’d say it was a success mostly. I’ll do it again at least despite the fact that food coloring does not just wash off of hands (or anything else) and her fingers are now stained purple-green-pink. Hopefully this fades quickly. I have to get better at ‘letting go’ as far as smearing paint in hair and eating it is concerned but I’m working on it. Ronin seems to enjoy the painting just fine but the real standout is getting to stack and rearrange the plates (between sneaking nibbles of turquoise or fuchsia), dumping the paper out on the grass and then arranging it back on the blue bin. And I sit back and dream wistfully that her future memory of fingerpainting will be happy, cathartic, and with zero spinechills.

6 Comments on “Fingerpaint”

  1. R. says:

    I remember finger-painting to be *exactly* like that. Thanks to your perfect description, I have the same chill. Gaaah!

    Plus, I could never wait to wash my hands, and basically just get it over with.

    Your colors are great though, and the brush looks fun.

  2. Ginger says:

    I am totally going to try this! I had the first of those thoughts yesterday as I watched Celine standing on her head making boring sounds and then standing on her alphabet toy to get the full effect…. she needs something more constructive! I could never be a homeschool mom…urgh. We did take another shot at the Little Gym and she loves the balance beam, and wathcing all the kids run about. Her “obsession” with other kids is starting to make me wonder when I should stick her in some type of organized program. She hasn’t stopped talking about her cousins she met in Florida and it’s been a week! And all she talks about when she’s not talking about her cousins is the babysitter’s little girl who she sees every once in awhile at best!
    Anyway, I shall stop…Ginger

  3. Ginger says:

    Ronin is totally gorgeous by the way.

  4. Jill Douglass says:

    If the mess gets to you, you can try ‘painting with water’. They did this at day care. They’d give the kids pots of water and brushes, and let them ‘paint’ the side of the building, the window screens, whatever. Of course they got to do real painting too, this was just a variation on that theme. The kids enjoyed seeing their creations slowly disappear.

  5. Gramma Peg says:

    I remember “painting with water” in those coloring books where the little figures magically turn a color when the water touches it. I think you and Sage enjoyed those books too. I’m sure they still have them around….they’ve probably been around for 65+ years. I know I know, “coloring books” are not terribly “creative”, and you learn to “stay in the lines” and all that. But it was fun too. Might I suggest you paint with Ronin? Somehow watching someone else join in the fingerpainting gets the creative juices flowing.
    SAVE ME ONE OF HER PICTURES!! I love children’s art. Love, Gramma Peg

  6. cheyenne says:

    R – Oh good it wasn’t just me! (Apologies for making you relive the horror…)

    This morning, the stain on her fingers has mostly faded (her fingernails though are still purple) so that’s good. I won’t be as reluctant to make a mess if I know the mess isn’t quite so permanent.

    Ginger – I think Ronin gets bored too. We go to the park a lot where there are almost always other little kids and so she generally gets a daily dose of mayhem. Plus we meet up with a few other kids now and then (and for the remainder of the week we hear about them). We’re still hearing about cousin Riley and Baby Damon in LA and it’s been months since she saw Riley (and she has yet to meet Damon)…

    I remember the painting with water thing. In school we used to do it on construction paper in the sun where it would fade quickly. And those coloring/painting books with the dry watercolors in them were tons of fun. I remember the thrill when you touch the paper with a wet paintbrush and suddenly it bleeds bright colors. Presumably they still make them.

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell