Children in Waldorf schools begin painting with liquid watercolors on damp paper in preschool and kindergarten. The use of this medium continues into grade one, however at this point there is a shift in the way the weekly painting lesson is presented.
The 6-7 year old child learns through experiences. They’ve left kindergarten and are transitioning slowly into more structured learning.
In his Colour Lectures, Rudolf Steiner talks about the importance for each artist (student) to know each of the colors, to understand them individually, and also how they interact with each other. He specifically says that we need to experience the colors in our feeling life in order to understand them. Once we understand them in their trueness, then we can really use them.
Painting lessons create opportunities for students to develop an intimate understanding of the colors through their imaginations, movement, and imitation. When the teacher brings the lessons in partnership with short verses and stories (which help to personify the colors), the children live into each experience fully.
In grade one the lessons are simple color experiences guided by the teacher. It is purely artistic work - there is no expectation of the children creating a specific form or picture of something. These experiences are ordered in such a way that allows the children to begin to understand the dynamics of the colors by themselves, and in relation to each other.
The painting lessons begin very simply, with yellow by itself. Then the children will experience only blue. Eventually the two, yellow and blue, will be brought together on the page and the children will experience them together. Next, red is introduced by itself. Eventually red and yellow will be presented together, and then red and blue. Each of these experiences offers the children something new to live into, all the while expanding their understanding of the nature of each of the colors. (Of course, a natural result of bringing 2 primary colors together in a painting lesson is the birthing of the secondary colors - orange, green and purple. A wonderful moment in any painting lesson!)
As the year progresses, the teacher guides the children as they experience all 3 colors on the page together, culminating towards the end of the year with the children learning to create a color wheel. The color wheel becomes the foundation of many future paintings the children will create in each progressing grade.