The hues of Blues

Kaleidoscope encourages kids to create with color

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In the spacious back room at the Depot, on the dark brown hardwood floors flanked by a wall mirror and lighted by sun shining through a large side window, eight children participating in the Blues Break Kaleidoscope program are gathered around a single desk.

Each one is holding a colorful magazine picture of butterflies, flowers, plants and sun.

Sitting at the desk the children are huddled around is art teacher Kathy Olsen, who is giving instruction on a painting project.

From a tube, she squeezes a deep, ultra-marine-blue watercolor paint onto a black tray and begins to speak slow and clear so her class of 5- to 9-year-olds understands.

"Now, what we are going to do is take our paint brushes, dip them into the water and wet our paper," Olsen says.

After squeezing the paint, she dips the brush into the water and spreads it onto white,140-pound watercolor paper, stretched and stapled onto a wooden board to keep it flat.

"Once the paper is wet," she says, "we can begin painting."

After mixing water to the blue paint, she begins painting the paper blue.

"See how nicely this goes on?" she asks.

The eight children watch silently.

They study her brush strokes and investigate the amount of paint that is going on the paper, many with a perplexed look on their faces.

Then from the silent cadre of children, a red-haired boy with freckles on his face speaks out.

"I think I know what you are going to do," Wyatt Wilson says. "You're going to let it dry and paint over it."

"Yes," Olsen says. "But there is a trick. What happens to watercolor when you put water on it?"

"It gets wet again," reply many of the children.

Olsen opens a bottle of acrylic medium and mixes it in equal parts with water.

"After you finish painting, you have to put the acrylic medium over it. Then when it dries, you can paint over it," she says.

After she is finished, the eight children return to their seats circled around Olsen's desk and begin mimicking Olsen's actions by painting fields of yellow, blue, green, shades of orange and a few different shades of purple.

"I need the white stuff," announces one of the children when it is time to put on the acrylic medium.

The finish product, which probably wouldn't be completed on that day, is a mixed media/collage painting.

The children will paste torn colored paper, postal stamps, tissue paper and cheesecloth to illustrate the butterfly or flower on the magazine picture they chose.

"I'm more of a guide than a teacher," Olsen said after the class. "This is more about an exploration."

Kaleidoscope is offered during winter, blues, spring and summer breaks from school.

The summer Kaleidoscope lasts six weeks, while the others are a week.

During blues break, there are three classes offered, including pen and ink, mixed-media and clay.

On Friday, all the classes held an art show to display the week's work.

"The idea is to study one thing for a week," Olsen said of each class.

There is no set curriculum, only an idea of what to teach. Once the class starts, the teacher, or "guide," will pick projects as they go along to fit the class.

The classes are for any child who is interested in doing art and costs $55 for one of the weeklong classes.

Seven-year-old Alex Luber, who is taking the mixed-media class, showed her parents that she had an artistic ability, so they signed her up.

"I love it, and she seems to be enjoying it," said Alex's mom, Teresa.

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