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The Process of Process Based Art. India Ink and Watercolors in the Rain.

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Sometimes I like to break out some of my old school art materials with my kids, just to see what they will do with them. Have you ever heard of india ink? It's a black ink made up of soot and water and people have been drawing with it for thousands of years. Once it's dry it won't bleed. This makes it a great material for outlining. It also works well in combination with watercolors. I thought maybe it would be a fun material to try for a process based art project.

Watercolor in the rain.

It was another rainy day today in California. While both of my kids were napping I set up a little project for them on our back porch. I always try to set up projects while they are napping for two different reasons:

1) If you try to set up supplies while your kids are awake they will immediately want to do it, and you'll be left scrambling to get everything out. If your kids don't nap you could set up the night before. Or if they are at school you could set up while they are at school.

2) Setting it up while they are napping makes for a great surprise when they wake up. If your kids are at all like mine, the afternoons at home are the hardest. My younger one often wakes up fussy, and he immediately needs some sort of distraction. Telling him I have a surprise set up outside always makes him happy.

I set it up in typical process art fashion. I put out a variety of materials, gave my kids a few ideas how they could use the materials, then let them get to work. When they said they were done I gave them another piece of paper. I gave them fresh water when necessary.


India Ink (or you may want to invest in a larger one from

Thick drawing paper


Pompoms and/or cotton balls

Clothes pins

Paint brushes

Cup for water

Paper plate or other container for india ink

Paper towels

Blue painters tape to hold down paper

Rocks to hold down plates

Step 1:

Set up the supplies. I recommend taping down a large sheet of butcher paper first, it will give your kids an extra layer to paint on when they finish their small paintings. Tape the small paper on top, use blue painters tape so it can be easily removed.

you can add water to the india ink

Step 2:

Invite your kids to the process. Show your kids how to dip the string in the india ink. I keep a rock on plates outside so they don't blow away. You may want to add some water to the india ink, but not too much, it will thin it out. Show them how to clip a pompom or cotton ball into a clothes pin. Explain that they can dip it into the india ink and draw with it or make dots.

Step 3:

Stand back and watch. When they say they are done remove their paper and give them a fresh sheet. When they get to the point where they start losing interest you can introduce a pan of colorful watercolor paints and a fresh cup of water. They can go right over the india ink with it.

Step 4:

Collaboration. When they finish their second or third sheet you can remove the small paper and let them work together on the large sheet of butcher paper. See the video below to see how this part turned out with my kids.

If they want to splash water onto the paper let them. This is why I do this project outside, anything goes and it will get messy. If they want to "mess up their picture" let them! Process art is fun for kids, remember it doesn't matter what the end product looks like!

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