Some artists use the way paint moves on a surface to produce interesting
shapes and designs. Many artists paint on canvas, a type of fabric
that is very absorbent. Before painting on canvas, most artists treat
it does not absorb as much liquid. The artist Helen Frankenthaler
did not prepare her canvas in this way. Frankenthaler used the absorbent
property of canvas to create interesting shapes and patterns. To
a painting, she would tack a canvas onto the floor and pour the paint
directly onto the surface. She would let the way the paint moved
over the canvas help decide what the picture would be.
In this activity, painting with water over marker designs on coffee
filters will produce different shapes and beautiful works of art.
- 2 circular white coffee
- 1 pipe cleaner
- Water-based markers
- Scrap paper (do
not use newspaper)
- Paper towel
- Cup of rinse water
1. Place the coffee filters on top of a piece of scrap paper. Use several
different color markers to create a design or pattern on each coffee
filter. Please note that this design will be changed when the directions
in Step 3 are carried out.
2. Place both coffee filters on another piece of scrap paper.
3. Dip the paintbrush in the water and paint over the designs with the
wet brush. Be certain to rinse the brush in the water several times while
you are painting with the water. Watch how the designs change.
4. Fold the pipe cleaner in half. Hold the pipe cleaner about 2 cm from
the fold and twist two times. This will leave a small loop.
5. Scrunch one of the
coffee filters along an imaginary line down the middle of the
filter to produce
one set of the butterfly’s wings.
6. Place this filter inside the open ends of the pipe cleaner, centering
it close to the twisted end.
7. Repeat Step 5 with
the other coffee filter. This is the second set of the butterfly’s
wings. Place it above the first filter, inside the open ends
of the pipe cleaner.
8. Twist the two pieces of the pipe cleaner together about 4 cm from
the open end of the pipe cleaner. This will hold the two filters in place.
9. Turn down the ends of the pipe cleaner to look like antennas.
10. Thoroughly clean the work area and wash your hands.
Drying hint: Place the folded end of the pipe cleaner in the end of
a straw. Balance the straw in a glass or jar. More than one butterfly
can be dried in the same jar this way. The coffee filters can be dried
on a paper towel before scrunching them and putting them in the pipe
Where’s the Chemistry?
The filter is made of a special type of paper that absorbs water easily.
Paper towels are made of a similar type of paper. The colors in the
markers dissolve, or are soluble in, water. When the water is painted
onto the coffee filter, the colors dissolve in the water. As the
paper filter absorbs the water, the dissolved colors move with the water
and create the resulting color patterns.
by Vicki Finkenstadt, Heartland Section