Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mixed Media Owls

With no end in sight in regards to the school closure in British Columbia and owls symbolizing education and intelligence, it seemed appropriate to share some children's mixed media artwork created around owls!!

In lieu of the first day of school.....sigh.

I have had great success with mixed media projects with kids.  I find that because there are several steps in creating this type of artwork, it keeps children engaged for exceptionally long periods of time.  They seem to throughly enjoy watching their artwork change and evolve with each new addition.

This time we started with newspaper and the students were so particular about what they wanted to cut out and place on the paper.  So much so I had to keep reminding them that most of it would be covered by paint, oil pastels, chalk pastel and charcoal in the end.

I told them to pick one or two of their favorite things they found in the paper that they could leave uncovered but they needed to start considering where to place it on the paper so it did not get covered by their final owl drawing, basically getting those gears turning in their head to start thinking about their composition!

4 year old

The students used glue sticks to stick down all their newsprint and then it became a process of learning how to make sure ALL the edges were securely glued down before moving onto the next step.

This is quite a learning process for many children.  Loose edges are a child's worse enemy!

7 year old

Then I had each of them pick a color to add acrylic paint over their newsprint.  They chose between the primary colors.

8 year old

9 year old

(sorry about the lighting on some of these, user error....)  Then once they were done with the acrylic, they went over some of the seams with black oil pastel. 

6 year old

I kept harping on covering the newsprint and then to wipe away the wet paint from anything they wanted to show through...but not have it glaringly stand out but as you can see, this student listened to my instructions and then made the artistic choice to ignore them.  And this is a great lesson for me because my instinct was that this artwork would not work due to the refusal to "blend" in the monkey found in the newspaper at all.  Yet in the end, it came out great!  As if this owl has a monkey on his mind.  Lesson learned for me to trust in each and every student choice, even when it is the choice to ignore my advice and instruction.

8 year old

8 year old

6 year old

And finally after all the paint, oil and chalk pastel, it was time to draw the owls.  I did do a teacher instructed follow-along "how to" with this project and we all drew our owls together.  I find it fascinating that although all the students followed along when drawing the owl with me, they all came out completely different!  It is always interesting to me to see how each child uniquely interprets the same instruction.

I had a bunch of different sizes of vine charcoal for them to pick from when drawing the owl, thick to thin, and they each made a choice as to which they would prefer.  When finished they all had the opportunity to pick from any of the media we had used to make final touches on their artwork.

And what great artwork it turned out to be!  But most important, the kids had a hoot. (sorry, couldn't resist.)
5 year old

5 year old

7 year old

And for those of you who are local, I will be holding all day art camps until the school closure ends from 9am-4pm at my studio in Lynn Valley.  I will be sharing all sorts of different things with the kids - clay, wet felting, printmaking, drawing, painting, and we will even hit the trail at Lynn Valley Canyon (two block walk)  to sketch and collect things to inspire our artwork in the studio.  Each week will run $250.00 but siblings get a 20% discount and the fee includes all materials and taxes.  Of course if school opens during the middle of the week, refunds for days not used will be reimbursed.  I keep my studio classes small in order to give lots of one on one attention, so space is limited.  You can find more information about the studio at  This camp is appropriate for all ages.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Monet visits summer camp

Today I was invited to teach at Seymour Art Gallery during a week long camp they were holding.  Over the past five days, they had different instructors share their talents with the students and I was so lucky to come on the last day because I got to see all the spectacular work that has been created!

They even had an art show at the end with refreshments!

First the curator at the gallery gave a short talk on Monet and presented three different artworks for them to discuss.   I think the kids found it interesting that Impressionism was once revolutionary.  I think they found it even more interesting that during the time Monet was painting was the first time paint was offered in tubes which opened up the door for artist to really go outside to paint.

And so once the curator handed the day over to me, we talked quickly about what the students noticed about Monet's paint style and then we went off to do artwork inspired by the man of the hour himself, Monet. Then like Monet, we headed outside to paint.

It's hard not to be inspired when this is the view right outside the gallery.

I mean like ten steps outside the gallery!!!

It doesn't get much more inspirational than this view.  Monet would of been envious even.

Deep Cove, outside of Seymour Art Gallery, British Columbia

Don't you feel sorry for these children?  Forced to go outside and paint this?

Actually it had the potential to be quite overwhelming, but I told them as artist they got to pick and choose what they liked from the scenery.  That by no means, should they try to draw EVERYTHING!

We did some sketching with pencil and I instructed them to work on composition and shape, not detail.  They would put that in when they started painting.  I think between worrying only about shape and having the knowledge they could pick and choose what they wanted to include made them much more comfortable.

And here's the results, inspired by Monet and the beautiful scenery at Seymour Art Gallery

10 year old

I love the clouds and the kayakers this artist chose to include in her painting.

Another student focused on this large tree in the park.  I think unknowingly she was channeling not only Monet, but also Van Gogh.  What do you think?

8 year old

11 year old

Not only were there kayakers, but also sailboats.  Oh yes, feel very sorry for the ugly scenery these students had to endure on an absolutely gorgeous morning in Deep Cove.

10 year old

So here's where I'm thrilled to see a student really understand "artist interpretation".  Below is one of the kayakers that we all found so inspiring and then her interpretation of that kayaker.  I love that she added a rowing crew in her painting inspired by the kayaker.  

We were outside mid morning and the sun was making the most beautiful reflections on the water.  When the students were looking at the different boats moving through it, I had them pay particular attention to what the water was doing behind the boats and in the above painting, and all the paintings with boats, you can see how the artist chose to capture that movement and light behind the boats.

The mountains in the distance were a beautiful shade of blue.  A blue this student below captured quite lovely in her work.  How awesome is that sailboat in the water? If that doesn't say impressionism, I don't know what does!!  And there's that water trail again.

7 year old

One last beautiful artwork inspired by Monet and the view outside in Deep Cove.  You want to move here now, don't you?

10 year old

Finally, I am quite frustrated with myself.  Somehow I overlooked one artist at the end of the day and did not capture an image of her final work.  I was so proud of her because her sketch was quite complicated.  She had the playground, the marina, the street light, all the mountains and trees..basically the entire first photograph in this post.  I knew I had to get her to edit down her idea and I asked her what the favorite part of her drawing happened to be.  She pointed to the "drooping" tree and the park bench she had drawn.  

(see photo above, if you know what kind of tree that is please let me know otherwise it is the "drooping tree" I thought it was a willow but the branches are so short.)

So I showed her how to crop into her picture and asked her to draw it again.  She did a wonderful job, but I'm not going to lie, I don't think she was completely sold on the new composition but I asked her to trust me and that she would be glad she made the edit when she started painting.

She was glad and her artwork was wonderful.  I'm just so sorry I don't have it to show you because I was so proud of her knowing the work she put into her original sketch and the trust she put in me when I asked her to edit the sketch and simplify.

All in all, it was a very fun day. How could it not be with a location like this on a sunny morning?  At the end when I asked if they liked painting in the style of the Impressionist, the response was a resounding, "YES!"

It doesn't get much better than that.

A quick reminder that fall classes and should school not start on time due to the strike, a full day camp until it opens, are on the website at

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

getting to know Eric Carle

When I was little girl, my mother spent a lot of time telling me that when I grew up I should do something with my art.  And while I enjoyed art all through my childhood, I usually dismissed my mother's advice because I didn't feel I could make a living selling my art.

To me,  "doing something with your art" meant I would need to be the next Picasso, Cassatt, or Carr in order to make a living when I was a grown up. I didn't want to be a poor artist.  

I had no idea all the other opportunities available to someone who was artistic and enjoyed spending the day lost in their imagination and so I spent my time trying to find something that I would enjoy doing as an adult with a creative bent.

It wasn't until I was in my second year of college, desperately trying to fit a square peg into a round hole so I would have a "career" when I graduated, that I happened to read an article on a job in Art Direction.

An article that would change the course of my life and allow me to "do something with my art"

Basically cementing the fact, a fact we all work hard to deny, that our mother is usually right.

From an Art Director to an Art teacher wasn't such a big leap when I became a mother and now I am truly following my passion and living MY dream, combining art with my love of working with children.

And although it pains me to admit it, working with children was the other thing my mother use to harp that I should do when I grew up.......


Long story short, I love showing kids people who are artist making careers in different creative fields.

Children illustrators are one of those careers.

And I love this project inspired by the work of Eric Carle.

I first did this project when my now 19 year old son (soon to be 20 in a couple of weeks, but I'm still in denial on that one) was in first grade.  The kids enjoyed the project from start to finish.

Every kid has read numerous Eric Carle illustrated books.

To this day, I can still recite "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "The Hungry Catelpillar" by heart thanks to the numerous times I read it aloud to all three of my children when they were little.

And I'm sure I'm not the only mother and father who can make that claim. Which is why Eric Carle is such a perfect choice for an introduction into the different ways an artist can express themselves.

This project starts with creating a "paper factory".

I love this part of the project because it is all about collaboration.  As a group, we are creating papers in different colors and textures.  I have always just used copy paper for this part.  It works fine and because we are creating so much colored paper, it is the cheapest way to do it.

As a group, the kids create a variety of colored paper.  I find this fosters huge amounts of teamwork as they keep track of what colors they need more of and what colors are in overabundance.

They love all the different things I bring in to make marks on the paper too, potato mashers, combs, sponges, it goes on and on and they have a blast and are usually disappointed when the paper runs out and it's time to close up shop at the paper factory.

The next day I have all the now dried colored paper they have created in stacks sorted by the dominate color on the page.  I have a large number of Eric Carle's books out for the kids to study and look at how he uses cut paper to create his illustrations.

I highlight how he uses more than one "brown" paper design to create interest..or whatever color it happens to be he is using for the animal.  I highlight how he doesn't always use a realistic color to create an animal. 

Then they sketch their animal onto the paper and begin cutting out the shapes they need from the stacks of paper they made the previous day.

8 year old

On the above illustration, you can still see the pencil sketch the child use for his paper cutting pattern.

Again more teamwork as the kids cut from one piece and then share it with another peer who is also looking for that color.  NOTHING is thrown away because even the smallest piece might be perfect on another student's work.

5 year old

The kids have no trouble embracing creating work inspired by Carle.  I guess it is because, like my own children, it is something they are very familiar with and usually have very positive feelings toward because they love the stories and associate it with quiet moments spent reading aloud with their parents.

11 year old

When this project is finished, without a doubt,  I will have kids ask me if we can do it all again tomorrow. Basically cementing the fact that not only are Eric Carle's stories cherished and loved by children of all ages, so is his artwork.

And hopefully for those kids whose mother spends a lot of time harping on how they should "do something with their art" when they grow up will realize very early on all the opportunities that are open to them in the art world and listen to their mother much earlier than I ever did.

Because let's face it, like it or not, our mothers are always right.

Love you mom.

Monday, August 18, 2014

math and art

The last project I have to show from Sculpture Week at North Vancouver Community Arts Council is deconstructed books.

I did this during the school year at Kudzu Studio and it is a project I find the kids really enjoy and they tend to get lost in the production of the sculpture.

I especially like it because it is chock full of math and a great lesson in symmetry.

Bonus is that it is a very cheap project to put together.  All you need is a damaged book that is looking to be revitalized in a new and beautiful way, scissors, and a glue stick.  You can add a hole punch and speciality scissors with different designs if you have it, but it is totally unnecessary.

all good things

8 year old

I brought in some old Shakespearean paperback textbooks of different plays and picture books for the students to pick from for their project.

First they have to find the middle of the book, which means they have to count the pages in total if it is a picture book. For books like the Shakespeare plays I brought in, the kids have to locate the last page number and then add any additional pages not numbered to come up with the total pages. 

Once they know the total pages of the book,  they have to divide this number in half to find the middle of the book. (which with this age group I helped with the division, thank you iPhone App!)

Lotsa math!!

Once they have the middle of the book open, the only rule is that whatever you do to one side, you have to do to the other side also. 

Hello lesson in symmetry!

From there it is an exercise in pattern and numbers.  Paper folding, paper cutting, paper tearing, paper building....well you get the idea.  The sky is the limit and open to wherever their imagination decides to go!

so fun

6 year old

You want the students to fold away from the binding when doing this project.  And they have to make sure they bring the edge of the paper into the binding before folding for it to stay in place well.

They can cut pages in half to curl or fold and even pull them out to cut, curl and add back into the project for height.

Again, whatever happens to one side though must happen to the other.

7 year old

As you can see, a couple of students were inspired to add even more of their own personal touch to the work by using markers to color pages, adding origami, and making cut outs.

Like I said, the sky is the limit.

I love the beauty of these finished projects and I still have a bundle of books that were destined to be thrown away waiting to be brought back to life in a new way.  Next time I want to try this project as a mobile.  I can't wait!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday to Miss E!!!

Today there were eight children at the studio to celebrate a fifth birthday.

It was a ladybug theme.  You should of seen the cupcakes the mother made for the party!!  so cute.

After a couple of discussions with the mom, it was decided that the project would be a ladybug sculpture.

birthday girl!

I had some beautiful stones in the studio that my oldest child, who knows how much I love collecting the cast offs of others, brought home from her retail job when they were changing out the store decor. I thought they would make a great base for a ladybug to take a rest.

So we started off building a ladybug out of Fimo clay. The kids had the opportunity to make a form out of aluminum foil, which all but one did, and then I told them to cover it completely in clay so it would be "top secret" what was underneath.

One little boy literally would not tell his mom what was inside his ladybug when she picked him up!  He loved having a "top secret" from her.

Once they had it covered, I asked them to roll it between their hands "like a meatball" to smooth it all out.   Then with a bit more clay, they made their wings and added them to the body.  Then they made another meatball and placed it on as the head.


Now it was time to add the spots.  I gave them a few options.  They could use a toothpick to poke holes, the eraser on a pencil to make indented circles, or add small clay "dots".  I don't think anyone took me up on the dots but we had a variety of toothpick and eraser holes.

first grader  

I had cut some wire before they arrived and each child had the opportunity to add legs and antennas.
All added the antennas, but only some added the legs.  

Ladybug sculptures complete. phew.

While those were baking, I handed each child a palette with blue and yellow acrylic paint.  I'm a big believer in teaching children to mix their own colors.  I think it is a skill that will serve them well as they grow.  They all knew blue and yellow made green, but I wanted to show them how they could make different colors of green just by changing the ratio of the two primary colors.


I even delved into a bit of optical blending, showing them they could make lines of just pure yellow or pure blue and still end up with something that the eye would read as green.

I then asked each of them to mix two different colors of green.  One blue green and one yellow green and all of them were very successful with this task.


And with sound effects just for fun, I even suggested they add whisk of color to look like blades of grass.

Once that was all done, it was time for snacks and cupcakes.  Boy did the kids have a good time "sucking the heads" off the ladybugs.  

Yes, one little boy gleefully told all of us, "I sucked the head right off!"  

fun, fun, fun

Once the tummies were full and sugar was running at full steam through the blood streams of eight little partygoers, it was time to paint the now baked ladybugs.

first grader
It is always interesting to me to watch the kids begin to understand that they need to turn a sculpture up, down and all around to paint.  Their first instinct is just to paint what they see and they will let me know they are "done" and then when I ask them if they checked all sides and the bottom you can see the lightbulb go off.

ah! not done.

second grader

Once they were done painting, the birthday girl opened her presents and my oldest and I frantically dried all the ladybugs with a blowdryer as old as me, then hot glued the ladybugs down onto the painted stones.  The kids were able to bend the legs and antennas however they wanted and I think they came out cute as a bug.

yea, I went there, the world of the double entendre.


I love all the different perspectives created from the exact same directions and instruction.  The choices each and everyone of the kids make are so very charming and make for fantastic work that is all their own.

As unique as each and every one of them.

On another note, fall classes are now up on the website at  If the times and dates don't work, please send me a note and we can work something out since it is still early.

Until then, a very happy, happy 5th birthday Miss E!!  Thanks for letting me be a part of your special day.

one more look at the birthday girl

Saturday, August 16, 2014

H.E.double toothpicks froze over

I did paper mache.

As a parent of three almost grown children, I hate paper mache.  It's a mess which is why I was quite happy for it to be a project my kids did when I WASN'T around.

Unfortunately it is now time to pay the piper.

I am the art teacher.

Not the parent.

And it is my penance to now do the messy paper mache project with the kids because like me, I'm sure their parents want them to experience the joys of flour, water, and newspaper away from the house too.

And so we embarked on trophy heads made out of paper mache.

Me kicking and screaming, the kids just screaming, "yea!!! paper mache!"

cat,7 year old

They made their forms out of wadded up newspaper covered in masking tape and then we tore strips of plain newsprint and delved into the world that is messy, gooey flour paste.

And it wasn't that bad.

aricorn, 6 year old

Maybe my kids were exceptionally messy back in the day, but it wasn't as horrible as I remembered.

I was worried about them wanting to put too many layers of paste and paper on the sculpture, but they were in fact pretty much done once they had the second layer.

raccoon, 7 year old

And I was glad I had not done the project too large or I don't think it would of held their attention to the end, but then that might of had something to do with the fact that it was near a hundred degrees outside and we were all sweltering.

Ironic since paper mache is my own personal h.e.double toothpicks....

The plus side is that in heat as hot as Hades everything dried very quickly!!

They were very excited about painting the work and they all came out very cute.

bird, 8 year old

Once the paint was dried, I added a gloss varnish to protect the artwork and now they are ready to hang on the students' bedroom walls.

H.E.double toothpicks hath frozen over.  I have done a paper mache project and lived to tell the tale.

Holton Rower inspired sculptures

So I have been dying to try a Holton Rower project ever since I have discovered his work.  His pour paintings are so engaging and when finished and hanging on the wall very beautiful.  There is just something so calming about watching the paint interact with each new pour put on the base.

Sculpture Week at North Vancouver Community Arts Council seemed like the perfect place to finally give a Holton Rower inspired project a whirl.

I had been holding on to some wood scraps and so put some gesso on the different pieces and took them into the studio.  Using wood glue, I had the kids place the pieces how they desired after we talked about how we would use gravity to paint the work.

Needless to say, this project was very popular.

The kids LOVED pouring paint on the work.


I think they would of done this for hours if I would of let them but then we would of had paint dripping down the sculpture to the table to the floor!  At first it was all about the pouring but once there were several layers on they were fascinated by what the paint was doing with each and every pour.

I had originally asked them to pick three to five colors to work with but as you can see that suggestion went out the window in their excitement.

I am so pleased with this project from beginning to end and the kids were too.

They took four days to dry in very warm temperatures.  I put a high gloss varnish on top once they were completely dry so that they would look like wet paint.  I had hoped to put a hanger on the back so the parents would put them on the walls, as I think this is the best way to display them, but just ran out of time.

There was a bit of cracking but nothing that I feel takes away from the work.  I certainly didn't have any paint falling off and I think it adds to the charm of the piece.

So without further ado....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Soft sculptures

In the Sculpture Camp week through North Vancouver Community Arts Council, I decided to spend one day working on creating some textile soft sculptures with the students.

I started with an exercise in creating "stuffies".  I am currently the President of the North Shore Needle Arts Guild in North Vancouver and I love introducing stitching in my classes.  I love it even more that I have not had a student yet who also doesn't enjoy learning the different stitches.  It is usually a very relaxing day with the kids and they catch on quickly on how to do the sewing.

turtle, 7 year old

I first had the students draw out their design on paper, stressing throughout the process that they needed to keep their shapes big and that any small parts would have to be sewn in later.  This reduces the frustration in cutting out the pattern, sewing it and ultimately stuffing it when there are no little parts.

The student who created the turtle actually had done a lot of line work similar to zentangles on her drawing and utilized the thread to simulate it.  I thought that was pretty clever as I had told all the kids that we could add on some glued parts afterwards for details yet she wanted to create it with thread.

robot, 6 year old

I found the easiest stitch for them to use was a simple backstitch.  It's forgiving in that it doesn't really matter where they come up into the material and it is easy to remember to push the needle back down into the last stitched hole.

The arms and legs on the turtle and robot are simply cut pieces of felt that they then placed between the felt body and backstitched into place.

snowman, 8 year old

I told each student where to stop so they had a large enough opening to stuff their creation and then they used some raw roving a friend donated to me.  They were quite fascinated with it since it is in a natural state...including bits of seed hulls and such from the farm and we had quite a discussion on how animals are sheared for their wool and that it is like when their daddy shaves in the morning.

To which I got to hear just how each of their dad shaves and/or keeps a beard and at what point the mom tells them to shave/trim their beard.  I even got an impersonation of what dad looks like when he shaves his beard.

yes it's true, there are no secrets when you have kids....

OK, so here is where things get especially cute and I get a huge, wonderful surprise that something like a pickle can be elevated to all kinds of wonderful.

Dill Pickle, 7 year old

Here is what inspired the Mr. Pickle bust in the prior post.  The Dill Pickle.  Why a pickle?  I have no idea, but I love it. She used a blanket stitch to sew her felt together.

I had a Mason jar at home that I brought in the next day for her to complete the sculpture.  And she went home that night and made furniture for the dill pickle's "home".

Are you ready for this?

She made a chair and a jar of pickles for it to eat.  Yep, that's what you are seeing inside that jar, the pickles very own jar of pickles to munch on while hanging out in his jar.

Oh my gosh, I thought I was going to die it was so cute.

So cute I can't resist one more picture of the pickle "hanging" in his new home.

At this point, I lost two of my campers to the water park and so I embarked on the second textile activity with only two students. (another one was down with a stomach virus) 

And I only have a picture of one of the creations because the other student left for vacation before I could take any pictures of her wet felting.

But the one project seriously just about did me in when she created a snake using wet felting.

It takes cute to a whole new level!

I love needle felting but I think it is too dangerous with a young age group.  However they are all fascinated with wet felting and it is not only a great art project but also a great science project as they watch roving turn into felt with nothing more than warm water, a drop of dish soap, and a lot of agitation by rubbing the wool between their hands.

We created snakes.  

The sculpture consisted of pipe cleaner with roving in a color of their choice wrapped tightly around it.  They could add stripes of other roving if they wanted to create a pattern on their snake too.  Then you submerge it in very warm, soapy water and start rubbing it between your hands as if you were rolling a snake out of clay.

snake, 6 year old

This student only wanted one marking on her snake and found it fascinating as her roving turned into wool. 

And her fingers turned into prunes.

The pipe cleaner allows her to bend the finished snake into various positions of the artist choice.  When she finished, I needle felted the eyes on for her.

Isn't it cute?

And how could I leave it out in the cold?  Like the pickle, it needed a home.  And she giggled when I suggested bringing in a jar for her to keep her new pet, just like if she had found it out in the wild and brought it home in a jar.  And it was beyond precious to see her reaction this morning when she came in and found her pet snake resting in his new home.

I threw in a few pieces of different color green roving and grabbed a couple of rocks from outside, then placed her snake in his new home.  Honestly this is just the sweetest thing ever as far as I'm concerned.

So sweet, I can't help but show you one more picture because I can't get enough of this work.

It kind of makes my insides melt a little. 

So even though the kids were dropping like flies this day, the work is some of my favorite pieces.  The students really enjoyed creating soft sculptures and I think their work reflects that love.  

I'll definitely be repeating these projects again and am already anticipating the amazing work the creative minds of very talented children will create.

I can hardly wait.