Wet-in-Wet Magic

In 1860s France, art was to change for ever when a group of artists approached their art work as a recording of "impression" and capture what was seen at any particular moment. This art moment was called Impressionism. How the picture was painted was just as important as the subject matter. Monet was one of the most famous of the French Impressionist artists. He claimed nature was his studio and would often work on paintings showing the same subject but captured on canvas at different times of the day.

Allen Say's book, Music for Alice, evokes the same feeling as from one of Monet's famous works, Irises in Monet's Garden, painted in 1900. While Monet approached his painting using oil on canvas, Say achieves the same luminous effect using watercolor.

Based on:

Music for Alice illustrated by Allen Say


  • Watercolor
  • Watercolor paper


Learn wet-in-wet watercolor technique.

Going About Your Artwork
Wet in wet, is one of the most distinctive techniques of watercolor painting. It is an application of watercolor (color pigment) to wet paper. It is a challenging method which produces highly unpredictable results. There are many factors that affect the outcome--- such as paper texture and weight, the amount of water, the thickness of the color pigment or the timing. There's something magical about the way colors flow and blend with each other, often creating a beautiful, striking effect.

Watercolor paint is made from colored pigment mixed with water. Due to the transparent quality of the watercolors they often give an illusion of light. Soak the paper thoroughly with water. Apply color in loose strokes. Often used to paint backgrounds, you can also allow the colors to blend and create a tie-dye magic effect. Once on the page, you can dilute the pigment by adding more water or other colors. Due to water, and depending on the texture and weight of the watercolor paper, colors can run into each other.

Extension Activities

  • Think about the types of effects you can get with watercolors. Students can learn dry brush watercolor painting technique. How different and difficult is it compared to wet-in-wet watercolor painting technique?
  • Did you know if you change the word "in" in the words "wet-in-wet" and subsitute it with "on", the resulting is "wet-on-wet," a technique used in painting with oils? Find out more!
  • Look at  Allen Say's books for connections to famous artists such as Ansel Adams and Edward Hopper (Hint: The Sign Painter).

Image © 1900, Claude Monet Irises in Monet's Garden, Oil on canvas. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright is the author's life plus 100 years or less.