How-to: Make a Rainwater Watercolor Painting

a painting made with watercolor pencils and rainwater

Natural materials make fabulous art supplies. Even when it’s raining outside, you can make good use of the weather by creating a watercolor painting project in which the rain is the most important ingredient. Here’s how:

painting out in a rainstorm to activate the watercolors

For this project, you need watercolor pencils (we use Prismacolor) and watercolor paper, or any other paper with a rough texture. Watercolor pencils are a professional-quality supply (with a professional-quality price tag), but you can purchase them in small sets, and for adults or kiddos who love making art, they’re lots of fun.

Normally, you draw with watercolor pencils, then brush the page with a wet paintbrush to bring out the watercolor effect. You, however, are going to save yourself the trouble of finding the paintbrush and fetching a cup of water. Instead, you’re going to draw with watercolor pencils on an overcast day. Then, when the clouds break and it finally starts to rain, you’re going to dash outside and set your picture down, face-up, on a chair or picnic table or cooling rack or step stool. Β You probably won’t want to put your picture directly on the ground because you want it to stay nice and flat while it’s wet; you don’t want rainwater to pool in any one spot on the painting.

Depending on the severity of the shower, you can leave your picture out anywhere from several minutes to the entire rain shower. In the picture on this page, it was raining buckets, so my daughter dashed out to fetch her picture after just about five minutes, and it was perfect.

If you’ve given the picture enough time to be saturated by rainwater, you’ll bring it back inside to find a perfectly even watercolor effect over the entire page–it will look as if you’ve painted with watercolors, and done a really excellent job about not muddying your colors. You can also get interesting effects, however, by purposefully bringing your picture in before it’s saturated; the rain drops make a random pattern of watercolor effect in the midst of what looks like a work done in colored pencils, and people who see it will wonder how you managed to get that look.

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