Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

When I stumbled upon the use of mirrors for first-hand observation online, I was instantly captivated. It was a brilliant way to see things in their true form, translated onto a two-dimensional surface. This technique enhanced the experience of drawing and painting three-dimensional objects on a flat canvas, empowering the artist in me.

Let me clarify that my goal is not to achieve perfection in my paintings, but rather to develop a keen eye for observing the world around us. Through consistent practice and guidance in first-hand observation, I believe my children and I will gradually produce artwork that truly reflects what we see. While there are quicker ways to teach them to draw, such as demonstrating techniques, I’ve come to realize that by doing so, I deprive them of the ability to independently observe their surroundings. Instead, they become reliant on my drawings or simply copy from existing images. Although there is a place for copying the works of masters to learn specific styles or techniques, this should not be confused with the skill of first-hand observation drawing and painting. But that’s a topic for another post.

Recently, during our morning exercise routine, my children and I stumbled upon a tree teeming with bees, birds, and butterflies. The sight of the vibrant yellow flower clusters on the tree caught our attention. Fascinated, I decided to engage my kids in a mirror reflection observation activity, taking advantage of the extra time we had during the school holidays. I gathered all the necessary materials—large “mat” (a shower curtain from Ikea), rags, brushes, paints, palettes, papers, two tubs of water for cleaning brushes and hands, a mirror, and crayons.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

The children began by drawing with crayons, and I directed their attention to the tree trunk, branches, and flowers. “What colors do you see on the pretty flowers? What are the shapes of those flowers? Do you notice that the round shape you mentioned is actually made up of tiny flowers clustered together like a ball?” As they drew closer to inspect the flowers, they agreed with my observations. My eldest, A, added a clever drawing of the mirror (a black rectangle) in the corner to reflect the activity they were engaged in. He chuckled as he drew his own tiny head in the “mirror” to reflect himself staring into it. Meanwhile, I noticed that my middle child would observe for a while, then incorporate his own imaginative elements into the drawing instead of replicating what was in the mirror. For instance, he added stones and additional trees that were not present in the reflection. That was perfectly fine with me. I simply acknowledged the presence of his imagination in the drawing and asked if he had included his observations of the surroundings as well. He nodded in agreement. As for my little one, she was busy making her own marks, and I let her explore her creativity without interference.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Next, we moved on to painting the tree, starting with the trunk and branches.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

We also paid attention to the green spots and streaks on the tree bark and encouraged the children to incorporate these details into their artwork. J noticed spots and dabbed his tree trunk with green, while A made a streak of green.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

As they mixed colors, I posed questions like, “What will happen to the color if you mix it with purple? Will it become lighter or darker?” This not only engaged them in the thinking process but also expanded their vocabulary.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Living in a Singaporean housing estate, the boys incorporated elements of their surroundings into their drawings with crayons.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

My daughter, E, happily grabbed a paintbrush and started painting, bringing her own interpretation to the artwork.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

A’s tree is on the left, and J’s on the right.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Now comes the fun part—painting on the mirror itself! It’s a sensory delight with a silky-smooth texture. We started by painting the tree trunk and branches.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Then we captured the yellow flowers by laying drawing paper over the mirror and lifting it just in time to create a decent print on the right. We deemed it a success to have captured something from our mirror play. From that point on, there was no turning back—we dove into pure fun!

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

For added texture, we experimented with leaves and grass.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting
Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

We also discovered how smearing the mirror could create intriguing lines when the paint was cleared away.

Discover the Art of First Hand Observation with Tips Tree Planting

Lastly, we made another print from their final paint play.

Let your artistic side shine with the magic of mirror painting!

For more gardening and art inspiration, visit Tips Tree Planting.