Thursday, September 10, 2009

Painting With Sunflower Pollen

This time of year I love to have a vase, or two of sunflowers in the house. But, while they are a beautiful reminder that fall is well on its way, they are also extremely messy. They drop a mustard yellow powder of pollen wherever you put them.
I was about to clear the latest batch from the table, before dinner a few nights ago, when my oldest daughter stopped me. Being my artistic one, the bright yellow color had caught her eye. She thought we might be able to make something with it.

Not wanting to discourage her creative impulse, I scooped it into a bowl, set it aside, and finished wiping down the table. Since then, the idea of what to do with it, has been playing through the back of my mind, and hers too, I'm sure. She hadn't come up with any suggestions, but I knew, she was keeping track of the bowl on the counter, to see if we'd follow through, or if I'd just toss the stuff.

I've seen mention before of mixing powdered tempera paint, or even dirt, with egg yoke, to make paint, but that didn't sound very child friendly - all those germy raw eggs. I've also read that tempera paint can be mixed with dish soap to make an oil like paint. However, I was running low on dish soap, and ours was colored orange anyway. I didn't want the colors from the soap to overpower the color from the pollen. Still, finding a way to paint with the powder, seemed the best option.

Finally, in desperation to get the treasure laden dish off of my counter, I dumped its golden contents into the middle of a saucer, and added on drop of clear liquid hand soap. Don't ask me why I didn't just mix it in the bowl it was already in. If I knew the answer to that, I probably wouldn't be running low on dish soap.

The pollen mixed with the soap beautifully, and made a very vivid yellow paint. The kids helped me paint a few flower petals with it, and then we waited to see how it would dry. It dried perfectly, just like paint, not sticky like you might expect dried soap to be. In fact, it was so paint like, if I hadn't known it was just pollen and soap, I certainly wouldn't have guessed the truth.

We tried adding a few embellishments to our flowers with dirt and soap paint...

and grass, or mint leaf paint.

But, unlike the pollen, dirt and grass have to be pounded into a gel, or powder, and it is difficult to get rid of all the larger bits, so it does not mix as well with the soap. It's more like painting with mud and muck, than with paint, and the colors were quite washed out.

Pollen, being a fine powder to begin with, doesn't need any preparation before being mixed with the soap. I suppose there are some allergy, or potential germ warnings, that should go along with such a thing, but I don't know what they are. Neither, do I know if it stains clothing, or hands, though it seemed to wash away nicely from our paint brush, I know left on a table cloth the pollen alone will stain. My advice on the subject would be to use common sense, and enjoy.

Now, if we could just find some blue and red pollen, we might never have to buy paint again - at least, as long as the flowers are blooming.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

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