Friday, May 23, 2014

Deconstructing books

I have a slight problem.

I'm addicted to online art classes.

I find it extremely difficult to pass one up.

For some women it's shoes, for me?

Online art classes.

I am currently taking one, OK, five courses.

This is a huge problem for my husband when he sees our Paypal account.

For me?  Just fun.

And one of them that I have been enjoying is by Jeanne Oliver called, Studying Under the Masters.

In week two, Junelle Jacobsen did a focus on Antonio Gaudi.  I took the opportunity to apply his architectural style to a project I had been dying to try for quite awhile and seemed to lend itself perfect to Antonio Gaudi.

Deconstructed book sculptures.

Above is me working out the process inspired by Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.

The above project has been sitting down in the studio half finished and waiting for me to do something else with it but has garnered the attention of my students regardless.

Each week I hear, "When are we going to do this?" 

So when the local library had their damaged book sale, I bought a ton of books for next to nothing.  And tonight, TONIGHT!, I was so excited to tell the kids when they came to class and asked, "When are we going to do those books?"to hold onto their hats because we were doing it tonight!

And guess what?

The two twelve year olds went, "Eh.  I want to do a multi-media work on Jazz" said one.  The other went, "Oh.  I want to do another Marilyn Monroe work.  A lady wants to buy it"

Not exactly the reaction I was expecting and quite frankly I was shocked.  Shocked they didn't want to do it and shocked the twelve year old is selling more original artwork than me!

But bless the heart of the dear eight year old in the class.

He was ALL IN!

I knew he would like it as he enjoys to build.  And when I went to explain the importance of symmetry and the definition of Symmetry, I was met with a "I know what symmetry means"

That child is smarter than me!

Deconstructed Book Sculpture, 8 year old

I love his sculpture,  that was inspired by my sculpture, that was inspired by Junelle Jacobsen's class, created by Jeanne Oliver's course,  that was inspired by Gaudi's church!

Phew.  It's the telephone game with art!

And just to show you how much you can vary the project, here is a work that was completed in a Spring Break camp by very precious six year old.  In this case, I let her choose from a bunch of picture books I salvaged.  She choose one that was full of line drawings, so even colored in the illustrations.

A very different look and equally charming.

Deconstructed Book Sculpture, 6 year old

I love this project. 

Giving books on their way to the recycling bin new life.

Math skills.

Problem solving.

And at most the need for a pair of scissors and a glue stick to create magic.

I know the twelve year olds are going to love it too.

Just as soon as they are through counting their bank from the sales of their current projects in progress.

Maybe they will lend me some to buy another online class.

Yupo paper

I have a girlfriend in Seattle who is a wonderful art teacher. If you are anywhere close to the Woodinville area, you need to get your child enrolled at Seahorse Studio ASAP!!!  I had my own daughter take classes from her because no preteen wants their mother to tell them ANYTHING.  Suzy just about broke me buying frames from the artwork my daughter created under her guidance.

Together we volunteered in our children's elementary school for 10 years chairing the Art Docent program and she hands down is why I am now teaching today.  She is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met and also my greatest support as a teacher.  I truly enjoy our phone calls.  Phone calls which seem to end all too quickly and I realize we spent all our time excitedly sharing with each other projects we have done in our studio with children instead of asking how our own children are actually doing these days!!!.

How many times we each say, "You HAVE to try this project with your kids"!!

If you had to take a shot each and every time we said it, you'd be walking sideways.

I'm going to have to make sure my son doesn't read this or he and his buddies will be hanging out in the kitchen during our next phone call playing a drinking game doing just that!   He seems to find enough ways to drink now that he is in University without Suzy and I inspiring another one.

We should just stick to art.

Which I'm sure we will be doing lots of this summer when we are in France together meandering down the canals on a barge!  Talk that I'm sure will make our husbands happy there is lots of good wine for them to drink, although I doubt seriously they will be taking shots of it when we exclaim, "You have got to try this project!"

One of those things she insisted I had to try was watercolor on Yupo paper.


Yupo paper has since become a staple in my studio.

I could not find clear Yupo paper at our art supply store in Vancouver like Suzy suggested, but on a whim I tried a clear acetate they had with much the same results.

And because I was doing the project in a class of 12, I also did not have access to enough watercolor so I used a blue ink.

This was a great lesson to help kids see the importance of value!  I had them each put an animal of their choosing under the clear acetate and then begin by painting in the darkest areas.  Since it is a synthetic paper, the ink does not absorb.  It moves on a whim and even better still, if the child hates their work, they can wipe that paper clean and start all over again!

Every. single. child. did this at least once just because it was so cool to have a piece of paper that allowed a complete "do over" when painting.

Once they were happy with their work, I let them dry and then put a matte varnish on top to set the ink. I then used Spray Mount to put the work on a clean white sheet of paper and cut it to size.

I think they came out beautiful!

12 year old

9 year old

10 year old

9 year old

9 year old

8 year old

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tizzled Topped Tufted Maurkas

"I'll go to the African island of Yerka and bring back a tizzle-topped tufted Mazurka.  A kind of canary with quite a tall throat.  His neck is so long, if he swallows an oat for breakfast the first day of April, they say it has to go down such a very long way that it gets to his stomach the fifteenth of May"
-Dr. Seuss, If I Ran a Zoo

I love an open ended project and I love the results of this clay project when interpreted by the students with the above passage from Dr. Seuss.   This project was quite successful to me because no one really knows what a tizzle-topped tufted Mazurka looks like so the kids were free to create a bird of their fancy without any pressure of what might be perceived as right or wrong.

And I absolutely LOVE the results and how different each and every bird turned out.

This project was done with air dry clay, acrylic paint, and then sprayed lightly with a high gloss varnish.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hoarding with purpose

I have always had pack rat tendencies.

A nice way of saying, "Hello my name is Jeri.  I am a hoarder"

I can't help it.

I find beauty in the strangest places.

Case in point, changing out the lightbulbs in the laundry room a couple of weeks ago.

Now for most people, you would put in the new bulb and throw the burnt out ones away.

However at my house, you take out the lightbulb and immediately say, "I can do something with this."

Which quickly leads the 16 year old child who is helping you to remark, "Mom, you're a hoarder"

So just to prove her wrong, I immediately put them to good use in the next art class.

12 year old

We made hot air balloons!

I had them start by covering the lightbulbs with some maps I pulled out of old National Geographic magazines I had bought at a church sale.


Using some gel medium, the kids ripped and pasted down the map.  And then while they were drying, I gave them some Fimo to create baskets.  And then they decided who should be taking a ride in their balloon.

The artist above decided to take a puppy on a ride.  A puppy who had obviously been at a picnic as she painted the inside of the basket in a very sweet red and white checked blanket.  I wanted the kids to be able to take their passenger in and out of the basket so there was an interactive element to their sculptures.

This artist wanted to add a ladder to her work also and came up with a solution by creating it out of embroidery thread I picked up at a garage sale and some cardboard I had saved from packaging out of my cupboard.

(more hoarding)

7 year old

We then used some wire to wrap around the lightbulb and then connected it to the basket prior to putting the clay in to bake.  I made sure they put a knotted loop at the top of the "balloon" so they could hang it up once they got home.

This artist decided to paint their collage work on the balloon prior to finishing it.  And he took a penguin for a flight.

12 year old

Since we used white Fimo clay, I pulled out acrylic paint once it was baked for them to paint their creations.

This artist took an Ostrich for a ride and then decided she'd like to have a person holding on for dear life underneath!  She had him holding on with the embroidery thread I'd pulled out for the ladder and then built the sculpted figures hands around the thread and baked it all together then hooked it on to the wire at the end.

I love that although the instructions were the same, each student came up with very different finished sculptures in the end that reflect their unique visions and personalities.

And I love the next time someone in my family points out that I am indeed a hoarder, I can retort, "Yes, but a hoarder with a purpose."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Studio torture

So I decided to do blind contour drawing in class this Friday.

Lord have mercy, you would think I asked the kids to clean their rooms there was so much whining going on when I gave out instructions!


They gave my own teen hooligans, who whine with the best of them when asked to unload the dishwasher,  a good run for their money.

They hated, and when I say hated, I mean HATED, the idea of giving up control completely of their sight while drawing.

I had punched a hole in the middle of a paper plate, so even if they wanted too, it was almost impossible to peek and then put a sharpie marker in it so they would not be able to "correct" their lines when finished.

Grounds for torture as far as each and everyone of them was concerned.

But I was as determined for them to experience this project as they were determined to let me know how cruel tonight's form of torture pained them.

I have raised three children to adulthood, did they seriously think I have not developed mad skills at this point to persevere through mass amounts of whining?!

So onwards we marched, paper plates in hand into the horrible world of blind contour drawing.

Each child did several drawings.

There was lots of laughter as they looked at how each one turned out.

There was even talk about how in the world Dali became famous by working like this!!!

But after thirty minutes of listening to me chant, "Let go and just enjoy the process", they did start to enjoy it.

We did portraits, butterflies, cats, and flowers and then they each picked their favorite one to paint.

12 year old, "sea star and anemone" watercolor

This student has three of these drawings of different compositions of her sea star.  Although she only painted one, I sent her home with the other two in hopes that she would complete it as I think it would make a really nice series hanging together.  

However that being said, she did mention this was "drawer work".  Her polite way of letting me know this would not EVER see the light of day when others were viewing her work.

Which is quite OK.  As artist we do not have to like every exploration we take on this adventure, but just embrace the new experience and file it away in our resources of tools.  

When painting, I asked her to use a different value or different color for each new shape created in her contour drawing.   I loved how her work came out and I'm sure it will look quite nice even if it is never more than shelf paper in her drawer!

12 year old, "Chocolate the cat" marker on bristol

If I didn't think the first student was pained by this process, this particular student took it to a whole new level!   It was quite impressive the talent of different ways to bemoan my new choice of torture in the art studio.  The start of each new drawing brought yet another decibel level of whine along with it and this finished work was originally a "throw away" for another drawing where she may or may not of cheated and looked at her paper while drawing.  

And then while adding color to the first work, may or may not of cheated a little more by trying to add in more realistic features to the drawing...... a process she quickly realized destroyed the integrity of the first artwork and without me saying a word discovered that by embracing the unique qualities with blind contour drawing in this second work, she actually liked, no LOVED, her artwork.

Doesn't it remind you of an Andy Warhol cat?!

The minute she started adding color while maintaining the graphic nature of the drawing, she started to fall in love.  The whining stopped and was replaced with exclamations of how much she was liking the piece.

A piece she would of never created without trying something so new and let's face it, frightening.

She first added the story directly to the right of the cat.  A description of how "Chocolate" got his name.  

Not going to lie, I want to fall into a vat of hot chocolate and lather around in it too somedays.

Especially after surviving a lesson in blind contour drawing!

She liked it so much she decided to carry the typography throughout the artwork.  I love her discovery that words truly are just drawing symbols and can be utilized as part of art technique.

In the end, she was thrilled with this piece and I'm quite certain it will not be "drawer work".

7 year old, markers on bristol

Which finally brings me to my youngest student, a little boy who I thought would love this process.  I thought the idea of not knowing what the outcome would be was something he would truly enjoy, but alas, no.  He did not.

He did giggle at each drawing. 

He did not appreciate the line quality because he was so horrified by the abstract quality, yet he did finally pick one to complete after he realized the unique qualities of drawing blind were not going to change to something he more readily identified as "good" work.

I will say he enjoyed putting down the color even though adding that much green is A LOT of work!  I do think, much like the first student, this will end up in a drawer at his house.  But as I keep reminding them, this is about process- not product.  As long as they learned something, they have grown as artist.   

I will always be partial to this drawing as this is a real life study of some flowers he picked for me that evening on his walk to my studio for class.

Have I mentioned this child has stolen my heart with his big hazel eyes and sweet disposition?

Even when copious amounts of whining are involved in regards to my cruel and unusual punishment involving sharpie pens stuck in the middle of paper plates?

That he picked flowers for me with his sister on the way to class is icing on the cake!

All in all, even with all the complaining, I think the students will look back on this class and say they enjoyed it.  Whether or not their work is something they will display,  I think they will laugh at the evening and have walked away learning something new.  And they should not be surprised to walk back into the studio one day and see those paper plates out again.

And if they do, I believe there will not be the whining because they now know what to expect.  

The capabilities of what they can create having learned from this project what they liked and didn't like with their finished art work. 

Sometimes introducing new techniques is not pretty, even seen as torturous, but there is such gratification as a teacher to have a student trust you enough to try and even though then may not love it in the end, be able to appreciate their creation in the realization it would not exist without the courage to step forward into the complete unknown.

Would I do this project again?  Even when deemed torture at first?

You bet.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Using materials in new ways

8 year old- dye on paper

5 year old- dye on paper

One of the challenges in running a studio is utilizing the most out of materials.  Unfortunately supplies are expensive and can often be cost prohibited if you are unable to think "outside the box" to use them in new and interesting ways outside their original intended purpose.

Case in point, silk painting.

I love the medium but if I only used my supplies for painting on silk, there is no way I could justify the cost and so I started using the dyes on paper and the results are always breathtaking.
I have now done this project in several different camps and in my own studio classes with children and much like silk painting, the dyes allow every age group to be very successful.  It holds a lot of the same principles as water color but with a lot more vibrancy and a bit more control.

10 year old- Warhol inspired dream shoe- dye on paper

And most importantly, the kids LOVE IT!!!!!  And it works with a variety of project ideas.

9 year old- dye on paper

After the student is happy with their sketch, they transfer it onto watercolor paper and go over their lines in sharpie pen.  I usually give them a scrap piece of watercolor paper to go over some of the techniques they can use with the dye.  They always love the salt and we go over at length how they can use that texture to their advantage.  We also go over how they can mix the colors together directly on the paper too.

9 year old- dye on paper

This student really utilized the salt in the background!

6 year old- dye on paper

And I love the use of water with the dye on this one!

9 year old- dye on paper

When we start, I think they are always surprised at how "stingy" I look with the color on the palettes.  A little dye goes a very long way.

7 year old- dye on paper

11 year old- dye on paper

6 year old- dye on paper

And even students who struggle to find equal footing with their peers can be very successful with this medium,  I absolutely love this close up of an Emperor Penguin!

4 year old- dye on paper

And even when things go off the rails, the medium is quite forgiving.  No doubt this student LOVED working with the dyes and the original drawing was lost in all the color.  In the end, I had him go back over his original lines with charcoal and I thought the artwork came out quite charming.  

But not going to lie, there was that moment of "oh no" when I looked over at him going to town with the colors with complete abandonment, but how do you tell a child stop when they are lost in the process and loving it?

11 year old- dye on paper

How beautiful is this sense of movement created by the student with the dye?  She was so happy with her piece at the end.

Although I bought the dyes for silk painting, I have found I use them far more frequently with paper.  Not their original intention but I like them even better than watercolor paint now!   And have been so pleased with not only the students results, but also the joy and excitement they experience during the process of discovering this exciting medium.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

potty talk with Georgia O'Keeffe

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with some "nearly" four year olds.  They are so much fun and so much energy!

I decided we would work on large flowers inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe with chalk pastel because what almost four year old doesn't like to work with chalk?

I learned a funny thing about my studio that morning, the stools are not high enough for very little children and so we moved everything to the floor which I think only added to their excitement to be truthful.

I have pulled off the internet some close up pictures of different flowers that I keep in my reference files.  I pulled about six different ones out  and told them to choose one they wanted to draw.

The instructions given were simple.  The petals needed to touch at least three sides of the paper.  

In this case, I did not have them work with practice paper.  We just dove right into finished work.

Step by step I had them observe what they were seeing in the picture.  

What did they notice about the center of the flower?

How many petals did they really see?

How many colors were actually in a blue petal?

Then side by side, we drew what we saw.  The kids all ended up going in their own direction with color choices.  At first I believe this was their way of testing my reaction and when they realized I was all in for them to go with what they wanted, they embraced it with great zeal.

And while we were working, the kids were so eat'em up cute that I couldn't help calling them southern terms of endearment...

Sweet Pea


and Missypoo.

And this is where I learned a valuable lesson about the differences in cultures.  Here is Canada, or at least Vancouver, Missypoo is NOT a well known term of endearment.

So when I called a little girl "Missypoo", the little boy next to me did not miss a beat when he remarked, "Potty talk".

I had never even considered that yes, Missypoo, could be considered potty talk.

I found it even more difficult to explain that I was not referring to poo, which just felt like I was involved in way more potty talk and so I figured the best line of defense was to redirect attention to some more crazy color for the flowers and snack time!

Snack time is truly a girl's best friend when she has put her foot clearly in her mouth.

I did take the time to explain to the parents the exchange that had happened and we all had a good chuckle.  And yet again, I learned yet another valuable lesson when working with children.

Keep the nic name "Missypoo" to yourself.

So without further ado, I present to you the work of nearly four year olds inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe and a bit of potty talk.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Family Art Sunday at Seymour Art Gallery!

I love having the opportunity to work out in the community and introduce children in the community to different styles of art.  Seymour Art Gallery in Deep Cove has given me a couple of opportunities to come and work with them on a project they call Family Art Sunday.  For five dollars, parents can sign their children up for a two hour class.  The parents are even welcome to stay and draw too!

In April I worked on a landscape project inspired by Kandinsky.  I love this project and have done it several times because every age group seems to find success with it. It is a great project when you have a wide age group present.  

We talked about "wild beast" colors and how color can convey feelings in a painting.  I had lots of reference material for the kids to look at and went over they could pick and choose what they wanted to draw from the pictures.  After working out their sketches on practice paper, they transferred onto their final paper and were off to the races!  

All colors were mixed from red, yellow and blue.  I had white present so they could create value too.  The age group ranged from 3 to 10 years old and I thought the work came out marvelous!

If you live in Vancouver, I'd strongly suggest you keep your eye out for other activities at Seymour Art Gallery.  They are currently enrolling for a summer camp that looks fantastic!

four year old

3 year old

5 year old

10 year old

9 year old

9 year old

Thursday, May 8, 2014

being fearless

One of the best things about working with kids and art is that they are fearless.  

One of my students who just turned 12 came to class and announced she wanted to do a mixed media project with Marilyn Monroe.  She knew exactly what she wanted to do based on a work she had done over the past summer with a self portrait in a camp I taught through North Vancouver Community Arts Council.

She was very clear that she wanted to write the word "Passion" somewhere in the work and that she wanted to even add some stitching with thread.  (the three "x's underneath the word passion)

She started her artwork by placing down book pages with an acrylic medium gel.   

Once finished, she added some acrylic paint on all the seams and then a wash of paint in areas she felt needed to be covered in both titanium white and ecru.

She then choose some of the paper seams to go over with a black oil pastel and then used some pan chalk pastel in blue to add color.

When finished it was time to begin the Marilyn Monroe portrait.  To be truthful, at 12 I thought she had bit off more than she could chew, but she was so passionate in her vision and her confidence was so large, there was no way I was going to hinder her with a "are you sure?" comment.

With some reference she pulled from the internet, she began her working sketch on copy paper.  I'm a huge believer in taking the time to work out sketches on scrap paper with children.  It takes away the fear of mistakes, as I show them how they can do multiple drawings by tracing what they like from the first sketch and changing what they didn't like on subsequent sketches until they are happy.  Once finished, they transfer their work onto their final paper either by rubbing a pencil over the back and then laying the working sketch over top their final paper and tracing their lines, using a light table, or tracing it onto the final paper with carbon paper.

It did not take long before I heard, "this is hard" as she struggled with the initial drawing of Marilyn Monroe.  We went back to basics and began talking about things we know to be always true with portrait drawing....eyes halfway down the face, equal space apart.  The nose halfway between the eyes and chin and so on and so on.  

It wasn't long before she had a drawing that captured the essence of Marilyn Monroe.  Once finished she used a watercolor pencil to draw the portrait on her final paper.  She went over it with water in places she wanted shadow and then took a vine charcoal to add more contrast.  She even took some yellow chalk pastel to add a hint of blonde to her hair.

When she was happy, it was time to work on the word "passion" which she wanted in RED!  I had to chuckle under my breath because I don't think she was aware of Marilyn Monroe's sex symbol status but she was definitely capturing the essence of it anyway!  Especially when she decided to also paint in the lips red too!  Which was a great choice in my opinion.

To put in the thread stitches, I gave her a piece of craft foam and a thumbtack to put under the work.  She punched holes where she wanted her needle to sew, so the work was not difficult.  We just taped down the ends on the back so she didn't really have to worry about knotting.

Finally with a couple of old book pages, she punched out some stars to put down with the gel medium and once dry, she highlighted them in places with black oil pastel.

All in all, she came out with an artwork that most people would believe was far beyond the capability of one so young.  She was so proud of herself when she finished and when she announced it was the most favorite work she had ever done, well for me, that is worth more than a million dollars.

Even when she felt like she could not do the work, she fearlessly continued forward.  She didn't let it stop her from completion even when she was afraid it wouldn't "look good" or was feeling discouraged.  And by trusting in the process, by remaining fearless, and by not letting the "I can't draw" voice take hold in her head,  she ended up with her most favorite work ever!

Being fearless.  As adults we only have to ever look to the young to remember why it is so important.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

from yikes to yowza

One of the philosophies I adhere to the strongest at my studio is that there is no such thing as a mistake.

A mistake is just an opportunity.

An opportunity for ones work to take an unexpected turn you hadn't originally thought about yet.

With children, I think it is even more important to teach them to work within the unexpected because it is a chance for them to cultivate their imagination and problem solving skills.

Skills that will prove useful in life regardless of what road they choose as adults.

Most times the end result is something far more marvelous than anything I or the student had originally envisioned.

Case in point, this Kimmy Cantrell inspired sculpture project.

After showing and discussing different elements of Cantrell's artwork, the students worked with fimo clay, since I do not have a kiln in my small studio, to create their own pieces.  They cut away areas and added elements of texture and found objects to their work.

I'm particularly smitten with the nose ring added in the above piece.

Some students even decided to forgo the face subjects and create flower vases instead, which I fully support because every artist should share their own unique vision with the world. 

Once they were baked, they added acrylic paint and when dried I had them add an India ink wash over the top and wipe away.   

This was a scary proposition for some while others jumped right in and covered their artwork.  In the end, I think they were all pleased with the results and I sprayed a quick coat of gloss varnish over them and sent them home to be proudly displayed.

And then I got an email.


One of the sculptures had broken and the student was so disappointed.  She had made an extension too thin while rolling it out and it had snapped.  Is there something you can do?

Unfortunately because of the paint and varnish my original thought of letting her add some more fimo and re-baking it wasn't an option and so we started to brainstorm.

We could glue it.  But because it was so thin, we needed to put it on a base.

I happen to have some board hanging around and so I suggested painting a background and then we could apply her sculpture.

The result turned out fantastic!  She painted a table top by a window to sit her Kimmy Cantrell inspired vase of flowers on top.  She used acrylic paint and went over the top with a bit of black oil pastel before using an all purpose glue to put on the broken sculpture.  

You'd never know in the end that this was the result of a mistake. 

Through creative problem solving the student ended up with a work she loved and in the future I think if I explore this project again, I'll add the wood element as part of the overall idea.

Not only being inspired by Kimmy Cantrell, but also the genius of this particular student.

What's not to love about a yikes turning into a yowza!