Tuesday, August 1, 2017

elephants from india watercolor and pastel

This past spring my husband and I did a month long safari vacation through India. It was one of the most exciting and memorable vacations we have ever done and I really wanted to share some of it with the children in the studio and so I created an India Jungle Safari summer art camp.

My thought was that I would use some of the hundreds of animal photos we captured to inspire campers artwork and one of the first projects did not disappoint.

We happened to be in Jaipur during a festival and all the domesticated elephants were elaborately painted. It was stunning and I had a couple of photos to share with the kids. I also referenced google images to show them others as their interest was peaked.

9 year old


We then got down to creating.

First, the campers sketched an elephant head onto watercolor paper. I kept stressing for them to draw it BIG so they would have lots of space to later decorate.
6 year old

10 year old


I then put out liquid watercolors in primary colors for them to create a background using a wet on wet technique. The paper was so large that by the time they finished, it was dry enough to begin working on the elephants.

12 year old


I did put out some black liquid watercolor but I find it is a bit blue, so warned them upfront. We also discussed that since there is no white in watercolor, to create a grey they would need to dilute the color with water.

8 year old


Once they were finished, we put the paintings away for the day to dry.

The next morning the campers were given chalk pastels and sketched out a design to decorate on their elephant heads. When they were happy with their design, they dipped the chalk pastel into water to create a "paste" and began drawing.

10 year old


They LOVED this part of the process and got lost in creating. In fact, they began to cover surfaces on the elephants outside of their original plans because they just did not want to stop.

10 year old


The final results are stunning.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to create an open ended clay project

I try very hard to leave all projects I introduce in classes, camps and workshops open-ended, so each child has the opportunity to explore the process and come up with their own unique solutions.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to see how an invitation to create a pot of strawberries ended with a wide variety of imaginative pots in the "Art and Nature" summer camp beyond my wildest dreams.

Campers arrived in the morning to find my terra-cotta strawberry pot in the middle of the table for inspiration.

my terra-cotta pot of strawberries and lazy bulldog basking in the sunshine


We discussed all their observations including that leaves were dark on the top and light on the underside, the different stages of growth of the fruit from flower to a succulent strawberry ripe for the picking and the way the vines shot out from the main plant.

I then gave each camper a small terra-cotta pot of their own and put out some oven baked white clay, florist wire, and scraps of watercolor paper and watercolors. I told each of them to use the materials however they wanted to create their own potted strawberry.

I envisioned vines made of wire with watercolor strawberry tops crowning strawberries made of clay when I was deciding what things to put out to entice the kids imaginations.

Silly me to think the kids' imaginations would be limited to my simple original idea.

Yes there were traditional pots of strawberries.




Before some of the kids began to venture off into purple dirt and flatten strawberries painted in wild colors.



Not one child utilized the watercolor paper and watercolors, not one. But the wire was a different story.


There was this rainbow creation where the wire bridges between the two stems.


And this amazing plant where the young artist first created a wire maze and then covered it in clay. He topped it off with creating plump purple fruits just begging to be picked and eaten. Any thoughts on what these juicy purple beauties would taste like if you could really eat them?


And then there was this abstracted strawberry plant that seems to be from another world. Is it not amazing?!



A couple of the younger artist played with the idea of a tall stem that either ended with some flowering leaves or a vine wrapped around it. Again lots of wild beast choices when it came to painted colors.


And finally this christmas tree strawberry plant. How simple and sweet is this?

I have always allowed the children in my studio to take the projects I present and make them their own, be it subject matter or how they decide to solve the challenge I have put before them but my best guess as to why this particular project took on such a life of it's own was the addition of the wire with absolutely no instructions whatsoever from me as to how to use it or any of the other materials.

This project is proof that when children are trusted to create something from materials with the end goal of pleasing no one but themselves, magic happens.

My wish to you is to give it a try and watch what magical things you will witness form right before you very eyes.








Friday, July 21, 2017

a relaxing morning painting in the woods

There is a small wooded trail not far from the studio that I took the Art and Nature campers to for Wednesday's class.



There is something so lovely about watching children play and paint in the woods.



I brought along some watercolors and told them to find a peaceful spot to paint and create.







Look at all the lovely results!

6 year old

I am blown away by the abstract painting this very young boy created inspired by the trees in the woods. I am always so surprised by what he creates.




Of course the three friends who will be entering grade one this fall stuck together not only in the woods but also with creating the same subject, panda bears.


This artist seemed to find inspiration in some of the other things we had done during the week, like the strawberry pots!

11 year old


A couple of boys painted dragons. I'm not sure what about these artworks pull on my heartstrings but I'm guessing it is the fact that as they begin to reach their teens I know little boy dreams of dragons while sitting in the woods will be packed away.

8 year old

A couple of artist were quite inspired by our surroundings and stuck to painting the woods.

10 year old

Of course the huckleberry bushes the kids loved to gather fruit from made an appearance!


10 year old

And this abstraction of the wooded trails as it leads toward the opening and sunlight just took my breath away.

What a relaxing and lovely morning we all had, it was the perfect summer day.