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SPLASHES & BLOOMS - Experimental Watercolor

SEASON 5  |  PROJECT 7/38  |  05.03.24

MODULE:  Painting  |  GRADE LEVELS:  1 - 6  |  DURATION:  1 Hour


Video Editing by Jorge Davies, Graphics by Melissa Sabol



For this project students will make unusual watercolor paintings that are like magical science experiments. They will learn unconventional ways to create bold, abstract compositions by painting with water first, then adding pigment and further manipulating by turning, tilting, and shaking the paper. Students will look at the image from a variety of perspectives, and observe the fun shapes that pop out, and emphasize the negative spaces by outlining them with a tiny black pen. With no expectations of the final outcome, students are free to investigate the properties of water and pigment and how they interact with one another.


  • Investigate how two materials react to each other under varying circumstances by pushing their limitations.

  • Learn to ask questions and conduct experiments to get the answer.

  • Look closely at a piece of abstract art and learn to interpret it in a way that is relatable to themselves and others.

  • Learn to be patient and observe how materials work together to create different effects on the paper.

  • Let go of perfectionism and embrace spontaneity with a project that has no planned outcome.


  • 2 Jars of Water

  • Watercolor Paint 

  • Paint Palette

  • Watercolor Paper (140 lb) 

  • Paint Brush

  • Water Dropper 

  • Straw 

  • Paper Towel

  • Black Pen


S5 P7-38 Heather Sprague-02c.png


Heather Sprague’s focus is normally on photography. However she loves to experiment with abstraction and has recently rediscovered her love for watercolor painting. Heather comes from a long line of artists with ties to the Morongo Basin dating back four generations. She has Bachelor degrees in Art History and Art Studio from the University of California, Davis but did not choose art as a career until years later. She now works full time as an artist, photographer, and teaching artist. Heather’s work, regardless of the medium or imagery, all contain some core threads: memory, perception, personal symbolism, identity, and consciousness.


When she isn’t focused on her own fine art exhibitions and projects, she teaches MUSD elementary students art via Groundwork Arts. Heather also works with children in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program as well as with children in need. Her art curriculum takes both an art historical approach as well as a technical approach, giving her students the broadest exposure to the visual arts as possible.



Neurographica is a fairly new art technique. Created by Russian philosopher and psychologist, Pavel Piskarev in 2014, Neurographica combines art with ideas based in psychology. The goal of this method is to help work through problems, relax, and find new ways of thinking about things. Through drawing special lines and shapes, this technique helps to connect you with your feelings in a deeper way.


Heather Sprague, Battling the Perfection of Another, 2023. Watercolor marker, pen, and ink on watercolor paper.

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Surrealist Automatism
Surrealist Automatism is a technique that was created by surrealist artists. Using this technique while drawing or painting, the artists didn’t plan what they were making, they let their hands wander across the page, making seemingly random lines and shapes. Artists believed that our minds hold hidden ideas, feelings, and memories. Automatism helps bring these hidden parts of our minds to the surface.


André Masson, Automatic Drawing, 1924. Ink on paper, 91⁄4 × 81⁄8" (23.5 × 20.6 cm), Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Abby Leigh.jpg

Abby Leigh
Abby Leigh likes to experiment through her art. She uses all sorts of different materials, like axes, sledgehammers, and even smoke. She stays curious about what different materials will do, and what sort of marks she can make with them. Some of her work has been compared to Automatism, because of the way she scratches random marks into the surfaces of her paintings. She believes that even without planning, cool shapes and pictures can emerge from her artwork.

Abby Leigh, Competitive Skies 2, 2018. Paint, oil, and wax on dibond that has been scraped, sanded, pierced and sledgehammered. 18 x 24 in. Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York

Cy Twombly.jpg

Cy Twombly
Cy Twombly’s art may just seem like a bunch of scribbles. But these scribbles and splatters were Twombly’s way of expressing his ideas and feelings. Many of his paintings were based on poems and stories, especially mythological stories. He used lines, shapes, and symbols to explore the importance of these stories within history. To get his big, continuous lines, Twombly experimented with unusual methods, like sitting on a friend’s shoulders and painting while his friend walked back and forth along the canvas.


Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, 1962. Oil, graphite, and wax crayon on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © Cy Twombly Foundation.

Georgia O'Keeffe.png

Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe used her paintings as a tool to represent the world she saw around her. She had a signature style, often painting flowers so close up they became abstract images. O’Keeffe fell in love with the sweeping desert landscapes of New Mexico, and spent most of her time there, painting representations of the surrounding nature. O’Keeffe’s watercolors marked a time of deep experimentation, during which she played with color, shape, and abstract composition. With her serene painting style, she was a trailblazer for many other women artists to come.


Georgia O'Keeffe Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand), 1917 Watercolor on paper. 12 x 8 7/8 inches. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.


  • Abstract:  Art that does not use realistic imagery, but instead uses shapes, lines, words, splashes, etc. to create emotion or tell stories.

  • Bleed:  When a brushstroke of watercolor wanders into water or mixes with another color on the paper, and expands beyond the original area.

  • Bloom:  Tapping watercolor paint onto a wet surface that is drying, or semi-dry area. It can be done in a wet wash of paint or pool of water. 

  • Blot:  Using a paper towel, tissue, sponge, or rag to pick up water from the paper. Blotting removes water as well as the color, so it's a way to control the brightness of color.

  • Experimental Art:  Art that is created by pushing the limits of materials, asking questions and finding answers through experimentation.

  • Negative Space:  sometimes called white space, is the empty space around and between the subject of an image. Negative spaces are shapes that share spaces with positive images.

  • Pigment:  Pigment is colored dust made from all sorts of natural materials, such as rocks, plants, and even insects. Pigments are used to make colorful paints, dyes, and inks.

  • Perspective:  The way we see something and how it changes depending on the view (i.e. upside down, turned on its side, etc).


  • Automatic Drawing. Grab any drawing tool and, on a blank page, let your hand go. Don’t think about what your hand is doing, and don’t make the drawing look like anything. Something weird and fun will come out of this spontaneous drawing. Add color or don’t, whatever feels good!

  • Playing with color. Use your watercolors to see how many different shades of one color you can make. Experiment with how much water you use to see if that makes a difference, or go back and add pigment to see if that changes anything.

  • Use your non-dominant hand to draw a picture. If you’re right handed use your left hand, or vice versa. Pick an object or a person to draw with your non-dominant hand and see what kind of interesting marks you make. If you want to add color try to do this with your non-dominant hand as well.

  • Continuous Line. Set a timer for 1 or 2 minutes and start drawing an unbroken, continuous line. Draw for the entire time, until the timer goes off. When time is up, grab some colors and add it to some parts of the drawing. See how you can change and enhance different areas depending on what colors you use.

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