Monday, June 30, 2014

Elvis has left the building

charcoal on paper, 12 year old

A few post back, I presented a work by the same artist of Marilyn Monroe.  She wanted to do a portrait of  Elvis for her father's birthday, he is a big fan.   I'm so proud of her courage to take on such a challenging project and so proud of her results.  I've been dying to post it but needed to wait until after her father unwrapped it.  I'm sure he loved it.

And with that, Elvis has left the building.   I will be on holiday for the next two weeks.

See you all soon!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Modigliani Princesses

Opus Art Supplies, our local art store, is having a children's exhibit at the beginning of August.   For the month of July, you can go in and for a donation to Children's Hospital sign up and pick up a board to paint and return it by July 31st and pick it back up when the show ends.  I think this is a great experience for children to have the opportunity to participate in an art exhibit and so went in and signed out boards in each of their names.

For the first two girls, I introduced them to Amedeo Modigliani.  I asked them what they noticed about the work and of course, THE NECKS!, were the first thing they both remarked on together.  We went on to discuss other aspects of his work and then set off to work on creating their favorite fairy tale princess in Modigliani's style.

One picked Ariel and the other picked Rapunzel. 

They giggled as they started making long necks and in the end, neither of them could really embrace the extra length that Modigliani was famous for as they thought it made their subjects look like giraffes.

We used acrylic paints and I gave them each a black oil pastel to go back over with once the paint was dry.

I think both girls ended up with darling works and I hope they both decide to take them back to Opus for exhibition.  I know people would truly enjoy viewing them.

We giggled that Ariel's expression looks like her dad just told her she was on restriction from bringing home anymore 'thingamagigs'.  I think the artist nailed the "you've got to be kidding me" look, don't you?

And here is Rapunzel with a look that says, "seriously?  you want to climb my hair?"  She is definitely so over Prince Charming!

It was fun to have the kids explore creating a traditional Princess in an unusual painting style you usually don't associate with creating their portraits.  I think the girls had fun too and maybe next time will really go for those giraffe necks.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Printmaking with watercolors

Like many art instructors, I am sometimes faced with "challenging" budgets when working out in the community so it becomes necessary to find different ways to use the same materials to provide children with a variety of art experiences.

Discovering a way to do a printmaking project with watercolors has to be one of my favorite "ah ha" moments.  Yes, there was a lot of prep time up front the first time I did the project but it has been well worth it as the materials I made have been used in so many different ways over and over again since I did this the first time two years ago.

First, you have to create some plexiglass plates.  

I bought the cheapest sheet I could find at the local hardware store. Seriously, the hardware store is my nirvana for art supplies.  I think I am there more often than the art store.

Anyhow.... I then divided the plexiglass into eight squares and my wonderful and fabulous husband who only sometimes annoys me, like now when I asked him what type of saw he used to cut them and he tells me it is a "trade secret", cut them with a SKILL saw.

So much for his trade secrets.

Then I sanded all the edges until smooth with nothing sharp the kids could cut themselves on and one side of the glass so it was "rough".

THAT my friends is the prep work and before you say, "Gurlll, you are crazy!  I am not putting that much time into getting a project ready." and move on to another blog, hear me now.  As God as my witness, you will use these plexiglass sheets in so many different ways you will be singing my praises for the next decade.  Believe me, it's the best investment of time and twenty bucks EVER.  I promise.

So now that you are still with me and are singing, "I'm ALL IN" and have created your plexiglass plates, here's what you do to create some great monoprints.

Before the kids arrive to class, wipe on Dawn dish soap on the rough side of the glass and let it dry.  Do NOT wash it off.  I am not sure why Dawn dish soap is an art instructor's best friend, but it seems to be the dish soap of choice for many a project.

Anyway then there are two ways to proceed with the kids.  You can either have them find a reference picture they can place their plate on top of- rough side up- or first have them draw their sketch on paper and then place it under the plexiglass.

Once the kids have done this, hand them the watercolors.  I have used both pan and tubes and personally like the cheap tube watercolors for this project.  I place a bit in the palettes and give them a jar of water and a paintbrush and tell them to go to town.

When finished, let it dry.  It won't take long and you'll want to photograph them anyway because they are truly beautiful.

watercolor on plexiglass before printing, 9 year old

I use watercolor paper for printing and so spritz it with some water and then wipe off the "glossy" shine.  The kids lay the paper on top of their plexiglass, painted side up, seriously I have to actually say this because there is always one child bless their heart who will march to their own drum, and then with the back of a spoon give the entire work a good rub.

Wow.  Do some of the kids get into the rubbing and you'll have to watch that they don't actually adhere the paper to the plexiglass they have rubbed soooooo hard.   Usually the same kid you had to remind to put the glass painting side up......

I do have them go over the edges of the glass so they get an imprint into the paper as if I was actually lucky enough to have a printing press to use for these also.

Then pull the print.

Kingfisher monoprint, 9 year old

Oh yes, it prints in reverse so tell the kids not to do any writing, especially the one in the corner enjoying the beat of their own drum.   

And they will have had so much fun, you can spritz another piece of paper and let them do it all over again to pull a ghost print with any paint that remains on the glass.  Once they have this print, I usually put out the chalk pastel and let them go over it for a whole different work of  the same subject.

chalk pastel over ghost print, 9 year old

I have been so happy with this project and I hope I've convinced you to do the prep work up front to try it too.  If you only ever use your glass for this project, it is successful enough that you will use those plates over and over again for years to come making the time and money a great investment.

Here are a few more examples for you to enjoy that have been created over the last couple of years.

12 year old monprint

ghost print with chalk pastel

8 year old monoprint

ghost print with chalk pastel and pen

9 year old monoprint

9 year old, ghost print with chalk pastel and pen

11 year old monprint

11 year old ghost print with chalk pastel and pen

8 year old monoprint

12 year old monoprint

11 year old monoprint

9 year old monoprint

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When stars align or in this case, polka dotted birds

A while back, I introduced a mixed media project to the students at Kudzu Studio.  I like for them to see that they can use a variety of materials and mediums to create an artwork and that EVERYTHING is fair game when creating.

When one particular student was just about finished with all the under layers of her canvas, I asked her what she thought she might want to paint as her subject matter.

Without hesitation she said, "a polka dotted bird"

Why not?

I thought it sounded quite wonderful and when the artwork was complete, it was in fact, wonderful.

10 year old

I simply love this piece.  Isn't the shape of the bird awesome?!

Fast forward a week or two later and I introduced a bird sculpture piece based off a verse from a Dr. Seuss book.  (you can read more about it under the post Tizzled Topped Tufted Mazurkas).  And when she began to shape her work in clay, the artwork took on an uncanny resemblance to the picture she had created of the polka dotted bird.  So much so she actually remarked that it looked like her drawing.

Although I hadn't planned it, what a great idea to have a student take a drawing they completed and turn it into a 3 dimensional work!  And so I encouraged her to pursue the sculpture inspired by her original artwork she completed previously.

11yr old (she had a birthday between projects)

Not exactly the same, but a nice interpretation of the original painting. Her mom mentioned the two works are displayed together in the house.  Don't you know that just looks great?!

Although not planned on my part, what a great idea for future projects to have students create a painting first and then interpret it in clay.  I just love it when the stars align when I least expect it.

Or in this case, polka dotted birds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

making felt

There is something so satisfying about taking a bunch of loose roving and turning it into felt. It is a magical process for students to experience, although it can be a messy one too. For me, the fact you need a pair of water wings due to all the water sloshing around in the room is a big hurdle to get over when deciding whether or not to take a wet felting project on in class.

That is until I found a technique that kept the water and soap suds contained in a simple Ziplock baggie.

Yes, there is a Santa Claus and his name is Ziplock Large Freezer bag.

10 year old

Combined with a bit of warm water and Dawn dish soap magic happens without drowning everyone joining me in the studio.  A few simple supplies and you end up with some really fun results and the students absolutely love the process from beginning to end.

Here's what you do, start with a base roving and have the students lay the first layer in strips horizontal, a second layer of roving strips vertical, and then a last layer of roving horizontal again.  Once finished, they can add all the color roving on top to create a picture.  

I have them do this part on top of the baggie so they make sure it will easily fit inside and zip close once they are finished.

When they are happy with their artwork, gently place it in the baggie and add just enough hot water with a drop of dish soap to soak the work and close it up.

8 year old

After you have added the water, have them gently "scrub" the work until they see the fibers start to hold together.  A few minutes work.  Once you see the fibers are holding together slightly, give them either a bamboo placemat you buy at the dollar store or a sheet of bubble wrap and them have them roll the two up together like a sausage and roll as if they are rolling cookie dough. 

I should mention you need to make sure you release the air out of the baggie before sealing it close.

They should roll it inside the mat or wrap for 50 times one way, then unroll it and turn the artwork in the once clockwise and roll it up again and repeat the back and forth motion another 50 times.   They should repeat this process at least two more times in each direction and then have you take a look at it.

9 year old

If when you pinch it you don't get any loose roving to stand up, this part of the process is finished.  The water should be completely absorbed into the work by now.  Take it over to a sink and rinse it out with cold water and wring it out, then hot water and wring it out, and then cold water one more time until there are no suds left.

You can submerge it in a water/vinegar bath also if you would like to protect the work.

10 year old

Then you just let it hang dry and voila!  A felted artwork.  With the above artwork, I then introduced embroidery and taught each student a simple running and stab stitch they could implement.  Amazingly no one stabbed a finger.   Even more amazing, I thought this would hold their attention for, ummmm, 30 minutes?  And they worked on this part of the project for well over an hour and some of them even chose NOT to take a short break on the playground and stay inside to continue stitching.

And do you know who enjoyed the embroidery work most of all?

The boys.    In fact they enjoyed it so much that I now make this a "go to" project when I have a boy heavy class list.

Although not wet felting, I had one 7 year old boy enjoy the process so much he asked me for more sewing projects and so he created this Monster to scare away bad dreams out of old sweaters I felted from the thrift store.
7 year old

I have since done this project in the more traditional way without the baggie and to be truthful, I think the kids enjoyed the above process more.  Although the traditional way did allow more freedom to create a larger work.
10 year old

I love this student's work and that she also thought to add the shadow and highlight to the vase. She had so much fun, she asked to keep going when we finished a bit early and so I brought down a small plastic basin I had purchased at the dollar store and let her have at it to create a couple of beads and a snake that had some pipe cleaner in the core so she could manipulate it when finished.

Which she promptly turned into a necklace

10 year old


All in all, I can't say enough about this project.  Kids love it and if you take my advice and stick to the baggie method, you won't even need water wings to complete.  I'm just thrilled with the end results all of these talented students produced.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Miss M!!!

Today I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to a birthday party to draw with some five and six year olds.  We did enlarged flowers with chalk pastel.  Thank you Miss M and family for inviting me over and I hope you had a very happy, happy birthday!!!

The birthday girl!  I love the "Fairy/mermaid" peeking through the petal!

They were all given the same reference material and I always enjoy seeing each child's interpretation in their work.   So different and so interesting.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bird's eye view on finger painting

There's always an excited energy as students walk in the door for class. 

When they walk in and are greeted by plates of apples on the floor, the excitement level goes up tenfold.

And then when you tell them that when we finish at the end of class they can eat the apples,  HELLO! Just go ahead and place the best art teacher ever crown on top of my head full of glitter hair.

Yes that's right, glitter hair.  God bless the child who deemed all my grey hair "glittery".  As a southern woman, I'll love her forever because there is nothing a southern woman loves more than all things glittery...even if that is grey hair.

9 year old

Between every two seats, I placed a white paper plate and three apples onto a piece of white poster board.....on the floor.  

The poster board was mostly to keep said apples off the floor since I knew they would ultimately become the snack that would earn me high accolades as greatest art teacher EVER but also because it is easier for the kids to see the shadow marks created by the objects.

I then gave each child a palette with primary colors plus black and white acrylic paint.

No paintbrushes.


I believe the kids figured along with the excessive glitter hair their fabulous art teacher had also lost her mind and forgotten the need of paintbrushes.

I did however hand them some popsicle sticks in order to mix paint colors.

8 year old

That's right, all the colors were mixed by the students from primary colors only. Pretty amazing, right?

We discussed what a bird eye view meant and prior to sketching, talked about what they noticed about the apples from the perspective of looking down on them.  We also discussed what they noticed about the shadows, were they really just black?  Was color reflected in it?  Was an apple really only red? Was a plate only white?  We then talked a bit about impressionistic painting and I encouraged them to not over blend and to even blend colors directly on their papers!  I also encouraged them to create energy in their artwork by paying attention to use of paint strokes.

11 year old

All fine and good, but where in the world were the paintbrushes?!

You should of seen their faces when I told them their finger was the paintbrush.  That's right, they were to use their index finger to paint.  Honestly, I thought this would cement my best teacher of the year award as who does not like finger painting?

Evidently once you reach the ripe ol' age of six, you don't like to finger paint anymore because my room of students between the age of 6 and 11 let out a groan the likes mothers around the world hear every morning when they wake their kids for school.

Once the shock wore off however, they were all in!  And set off to work to create apples on a plate in an impressionistic style.

I told them to feel free to place their plate on any color background of their choosing, since the poster board was white, and of course that led to some students even adding more things of their choosing.

Like more apples.

6 year old

7 year old

5 year old

And one student who went off on an entirely different path, ignoring not only the plate, the three apples, and the choice of color background, but also the bird's eye view.

10 year old

I'm quite glad he did as I think he ended up with a beautiful piece!

When the work was finished and dry, I let them take a black oil pastel and add any line work they wanted to the piece.  Some choose to do this and some did not.  I love the variety of work even though they were all given the same subject matter to observe and they were all thrilled with their results.

Hooray to rediscovering finger painting!

Learning grey hair is really glittery!

And teachers who allow you to eat your assignment at the end of class.

All in all, it was a good day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Proud moment!

My students are my surrogate children and I could not be more proud (or excited) when I see good things happen to them.

The above 12 year old student just found out she won the Paradise Valley Art Scholarship with this mixed media artwork she created in class.

She was so sure she had not won and I'm so thrilled she found out otherwise!

Congratulations Ms. J!  You have a bright future in front of you.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

kinda like jello

While the two older girls worked on their mixed media pieces, I had the 8 year old do some monoprints on a gelatin plate I made.   I'm so thrilled with the recipe I was given because I don't have to keep it in the refrigerator and it should last for a very long time! 

A VERY long time!!!

Best. discovery. ever.

And it was quite an interesting thing to an eight year old.  It has a great rubbery texture to it and it took all his restraint to not want to pick it up and wabble it all around but since I'm not quite sure just how durable it really would be in the hands of an eight year old, I quickly set the limitation that it had to stay on the table.

That did not stop him from touching it and picking up the corner and an endless stream of questions of what exactly was this stuff and how did I make it.

Telling him it was made with gelatin and glycerin did not do the trick.

But he seemed content when I told him it was kind of like jello.

Although I'm a little afraid from a couple of his remarks that he might go home and try to make a similar plate with flavored jello since at one point it mentioned something about if we did a flavor plate it would pick up the jello color too.

I probably should call his mom about that.......

Anyhow,  below are the results from his work on the gelatin plate.

First he cut out some shapes.  I had him stick with one shape of his choosing and gave him different material to cut from and asked they be different sizes.

I then gave him a variety of yarn and string.

Finally I put out three different Speedball waterbase inks and Speedball black ink on a piece of plexiglass with a brayer.

He rolled out the first color, put down his shapes, and placed a piece of paper over it then burnished it well with the back of his hand and pulled it off.  I had him put the paper face down and started a stack.

This direction befuddled him as much as wrapping his head around the fact he was printing artwork off something "kinda like jello".

But he went with me and then pulled all the shapes off the plate, laid down a new piece of paper, and again burnished it with his hand and pulled another print of just the shapes that were on the paper.

This led to exclamations of "COOL".

Again a bit befuddled when I told him to lay it face down on top of the first pull.

He did the same thing again with another color and pulled the same two prints.

I would of had him do a third color, but he mentioned he was getting a little tired so I changed gears quickly and had him just work on the first four pulls to completion.

We turned our pile back over and he laid out a second color ink different from the first ink on the pull and laid down his shaped and string again.  Then taking the first printed paper, we did the whole process over.  And then once he pulled off the shapes from the plate, took the second pull from the pile and printed over it again.

Are you following?

Once we finished all four papers, I convinced him to take two and do one more pull with the black.  For this I had him take a piece of copy paper and cut out a large "S".  The first initial of his name.

He then did the whole process again and below are the results.

Oops, almost forgot to mention that the lines you see were stamped with cardboard into the ink prior to laying the shapes down.  This particular print is sideways because he quickly learned the "S" had to be placed on the gelatin plate in reverse in order to print the correct direction.  

One of those "oopsies" that creates a whole new artwork when you problem solve with your imagination.  And looking at this picture I realize I am getting old because my memory has failed.  He actually did do all three colors before the black on this one!  He obviously mentioned he was tired a little after the third color was introduced.  

I hate old age and I love his "oopsie" print.

Below is the "S" laid down in the reverse.  I think this would be very fun displayed on his bedroom door.

I'm not quite sure why my camera read the black as purple, but that is really black- not purple.  Although I really like the purple so maybe next time.......

Here is one of the prints pulled after the shapes are taken off the ink with the original pulls.  You can see why I had him use papers with different textures because in this pull, they really show up.

And the final second pull once the shapes were taken off.  This one I had him leave at the studio so we can create another artwork with it.  Do you see the face within it?  I think it is going to make a very cool cubist work in the end.  I love this monoprint!

I am in love with the gelatin plate.  It's cost effective, long lasting, and the project possibilities are endless.  I can hardly wait for the next class to start so I can use it again!

Who knew "kinda like jello" could be so fun?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Take a hike

A portion of every weekly class seems to be spent catching up on what we all did during the time we were apart and a few weeks ago was no exception when one of my students told me about a trip she took to the Vancouver Aquarium.  A fantastic place but she was mesmerized by a person who was busy sketching while observing the tanks and she asked if we could do that too.

Well I can't take the kids to the Vancouver Aquarium for an hour and a half class, but one of the benefits of living by Lynn Valley Canyon is that I can take them on a spectacular hike two blocks from my studio!!

So I told her that the next nice day when we had class, we would go outside and do some Plein Air drawing.

Of course in Vancouver that could take six months of waiting! 

But lo and behold, this Tuesday night was beautiful!  And so I grabbed a couple of sketch books, some graphite, charcoal vine, and a very happy child who couldn't wait to give this new drawing experience a try.

We never made it to the trails.

We made it as far as half a block and realized we only had a half hour left in class!

I figure when the student says, "It doesn't feel like we've been gone for an hour", things have been quite fun in her book.

Things are really fun when she questions if you really know how to tell time because there is absolutely no way in God's green earth an hour has already gone by.

Where did the time go?

Well it started right outside my front door.

A lone orange poppy that I have no idea how it even got into my garden!

I had her warm up with the ever torturous blind contour drawing but she didn't seem to mind.  I had her label her sketches so we can go back and pursue some of her observations in a painting in an upcoming class.

She made it about six more steps until she happened upon the scraggiest of daisy plants I have ever seen in existence. But she saw beauty in it.   She spent some time looking at a tight bud, which was interesting when you really took the time to study it and I couldn't help but sense how Georgia O'Keeffe must of felt when sitting in her garden drawing and why she felt such a passion for making sure the rest of the world saw the beauty is such small things we don't take the time to admire. 

I probably could of made a better choice in regards to wearing white jeans while sitting in the garden dirt drawing and taking in the beauty, but that's a story for another day....

She then spent some time drawing a daisy in bloom and made some new discoveries when she really took the time to look at it.  Like the fact that each petal has three distinct grooves in it and that instead of coming to a point, it actually dips down in the middle.  We also discussed the symmetry of the center and while doing so got quite a treat when a small insect came to collect nectar and display it's very long tongue in all it's glory!

At this point, an hour was gone and she was questioning just how well I really was able to read my watch so we took off down a small heavily wooded trail that connects two streets a few doors down from my studio.  

We barely made it off the street when a flock of Chickadee's literally almost smacked right into us.  They congregated low in the shrubs near us, complaining quite loudly that we had disturbed whatever it was they had been doing prior to our arrival.  It was a great experience for this student to try to draw something that was moving constantly.  She got about 30 seconds before they all flew away in a huff looking for a place without giant two-legged creatures carrying sketchbooks.

So then we stopped to channel our best Emily Carr and sketch one of the giant old cedars lining the path.  We got right underneath it and worked on an unexpected perspective.  She worked on using line to create the textures she saw in the trunk and the branches overhead.  This was a very quick sketch because she by then realized I did in fact know how to tell time and our class was coming to an end quicker than we would have liked.

For something a little different, I had her place a fern leaf under the paper and do a rubbing so she could take it back and draw it at a later date.  She thought that was pretty cool, but she thought what happened next when she turned the page was even better!

What a great surprise!  Won't this be interesting for her to explore in water color later?  She was thrilled when she realized what had happen while taking the rubbing.

And then it was time to turn around and head back and we were both struck with the beauty of the path in the late afternoon sun so spent a moment to quickly put it on paper.  Directly in our line of vision was a large tree branch (Forest Trail is labeled in it).  We actually had to duck back under it to go home.  I think this is going to make a beautiful painting one day when she goes back through these sketches to flush them out.  I love the ghost print on top left by the charcoal when she closed the book too!

We headed back but she couldn't resist one more stop on the way.  The street drain of all things!

But I too thought the line pattern on it was quite lovely and am glad to see that she can find beauty in all sorts of mundane things we usually take for granted.  It will be interesting to see where she goes with this work and it was a great experience for her.   It was a great lesson in slowing down and really spending time looking at all the small details we are surrounded by in our daily lives. 

And of course, I came home with my arms loaded with more things than I started out with on our journey because as I have mentioned before, I'm a hoarder!

Sadly it was obvious a bird had met it's demise on the wooded trail as there was a large gathering of feathers.  Feathers I collected because I know they will be great for reference in the future!  Along with a interesting piece of bark and a few pinecones that I figure will make an appearance in a still life for the kids to draw at a later date.

This will not be the last time I tell a student to take a hike when they come to the studio.  And we just might make it the two blocks to Lynn Valley Canyon next time too!