Sunday, November 30, 2014

unplanned paintings

13 year old, mixed media

The above student was working on a self portrait in acrylic in the high school class and was at that point of frustration every artist feels now and again where you just have to put it away and go back to it at a later date.

In this case, that might be six months later, but the work is not nearly as disastrous as she believes it is and given enough time away from the painting, I believe she will see that herself and finish it.

But for now, I was either going to find my paintbrushes broken in half or give her a new canvas to start something completely different.

I had a half finished painting that I was working on and she has always been fascinated with the dripping paint effect on the canvas. She asked if I would show her how to do that and so that is how this piece started.

After choosing a color palette, she began blocking in a background and spritzing the canvas with water and letting the paint drip as it may.  She then decided to paint a crow, but she wanted to paint it white.

I wasn't quite following the vision, but OK.  Her work, her vision, her joy.  She then spritzed it a bit more and created this really interesting result. I then gave her some stencils to choose from, some modeling paste which she mixed with black and she added it to the painting. Class finished and she was quite pleased with how the work was coming together. I was thrilled with the piece and quite excited for her also.

I figured the following week she would come back, maybe add some charcoal or pastel and call the work good.  However that is not what happened.

She had been on Pinterest and had seen some pins with melted crayon.   She asked me if I had seen this too and I told her that yes, I had seen some different things done with dripping crayons but in my head, I was thinking, "oh no. please don't want to do dripping crayon"

But she brought some old crayons she had at her house, all within the color palette she had already set, and asked if I would show her how to do it in the painting.

Well since I hate most of the work I have seen on Pinterest with dripping crayon and loved her artwork, I started trying to come to terms with how she could add this without it looking like a lot of that hokey stuff I had seen online.

I gave her a hot air dryer and set her up on an easel and she began to drip.  Thankfully she also didn't like the original effect but started manipulating and experimenting with the technique on her own that ended up being quite beautiful.

As the crayon dripped and melted, she would add heat where she thought it was too thick or "drippy" and wipe it away with a paper towel.  This left a transparent residue on the canvas that is quite stunning.  I got quite excited at what she was discovering and how she was finishing the piece.

In the end, I think this is a beautiful artwork. I think it is one of her best to date.  I love the emotion it conveys.  The crow would not of been near as impactful in black, the white adds such a ethereal feeling to the piece.  From beginning to end, this artist made great choices.  She was so happy when she finished and it was so obvious how much she loved this work.

It is a completely different style for her.  I was quite proud that she was able to let go and just see where the process took her, instead of having an end result in mind at the start.

Completely unplanned and utterly beautiful.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Warming Up

12 year old

This is an acrylic project to help warm up students.  

I had already prepped the acrylic paper by painting it a lime green.  I wanted to show the student how painting an undercoat of color can create interesting work.

The student then created this work with only primary colors, black and white.  We used a black oil pastel to divide up the squares in the end.

Although this was just a warm up exercise, I love the results.  I would love to see her now choose one of these pears and do another painting on a large canvas.

Which one would you choose if you were her?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

artist choice

I decided to do an "artist choice" for class.  Other than doing a painting, the artist could choose their canvas size, subject matter, and style.

8 year old

I had just sourced some new reference material and when I saw the photo of some airplanes flying I thought of the above artist.  When I showed it to him, he got very excited and started sketching.  In fact, he was so excited his mom had a hard time getting him to stop when class was over.  However this week, the picture went from being a day painting to a nighttime painting.  As interesting as I thought it was to show the planes at night, I was surprised by the choice until his mom arrived and told me he had been so excited about his sketch last week, he had already painted a daytime picture of the above subject!

He had never said a word.

I love the huge moon in the sky which was influence by the painting the other artist in the room was creating.

12 year old

Although her moon is much different,  I love that one student was inspiring the other during the class.    

This artist started off using Emily Carr for her inspiration but quickly began to combine her own style into the work.  Her favorite part?  Flicking the paintbrush toward the canvas to create the snowflakes/stars.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SEAson's greetings

Another student creates her stamp carving for holiday cards.  Of course it had to include her favorite animal, the Orca.

10 year old

What's not to love about this one?  Scallop shells for a tree and a sea star on top!  And just a quick shout out to my awesome husband who made up these safety blocks so I no longer have to worry about the students cutting off a finger when they use the blades.

The edge on the other side catches on the table edge so it stays in place.  I love them and I love him.

Monday, November 24, 2014

tis' the season. well almost.

We're starting early for the holidays at Kudzu Studio.

I like to kick things off by having the students work on stamp carvings.  We do a print at the studio and then they can take their stamps home to make cards for friends and family afterwards.

Here are a few created by some students last week in class.  I'll have to add what the high school students create this week too.

9 year old

Love the Snowman Cat and her idea for a card message?  "Have a Meowy Christmas".  brilliant.

11 year old

She wondered if you could tell it was a puppy.  How could you not?  It's adorable and I wonder if this is a gigantic hint for what she would like to see in her stocking this year?!

8 year old

When his mom came to pick him up and saw the print, she immediately exclaimed,"It's our fireplace!" I had no idea he was referencing his own house while he was making this piece.  I love that it is all a bit off kilter.  I think it adds a lot of charm and personality to the mouse hiding under the hat.  Although his mom thought it was the cat and maybe it's best she keeps thinking that now that I know this is the students actual living room.......

Ho, Ho, Ho everyone!  From here on out, the studio will be a very busy Santa's Workshop as the students start creating projects they can ultimately give away as gifts.  My post might be waning for the short term as I won't want to give away any surprises.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

plaster pictures

This project always seems to create a lot of excitement in the studio.   I have done it on three different occasions and each time the students beg to do it again soon.

All you need is some burlap, Plaster Paris, and a bit of prep time.

Mix the plaster according to the instructions and pour onto the burlap.  (place the burlap on some cardboard for the bit of plaster that will seep through.

I give it a few taps once I pour it on and spread it out just to take out any air bubbles and smooth the surface.  Then let it set for an hour before using.

The first two times I did this project, I put out chalk pastels.  Just have the kids dampen the surface of the plaster with a bit of spritz from a water bottle and they are ready to go.

But here's the thing, there are no "take backs" with this project.  Once you put a mark on the plaster, it does not come off.

I usually have the students do their original drawings on copy paper and then trace it onto the plaster. If they put it directly on top of the plaster and trace over their lines, they will crave slightly into the plaster thereby giving them guidelines for their work.

Once they are finished, I let them "break" the work.  They slam them against the table and throw them on the floor.  No doubt some of them will be hesitant at first to do this step.  Some will flat out tell you they won't do it at all.  I always tell them it's up to them if they do this step or not but I have not had one child skip it yet- even the ones most adamant that they will not break their artwork.

The burlap and plaster adhere to each other so no matter how hard they try to shatter the work into a million pieces, it will ultimately stay in one piece.

Once finished, I cut back the burlap, spray a bit of clear matte varnish and mount on a heavy weight paper.

10 year old

7 year old

6 year old

9 year old

Throwing the work and creating the cracks give the piece an aged look of old fresco.  I love the finish on them.

8 year old

7 year old

The below work tickles me to no end.  This student told me at least a dozen times she would under no circumstance throw her work around to break it.  No way. No how. Not a chance.  A dozen times, at least.  Then while she watched her friends start the final step and realized the artwork really did stay together on the burlap, she said she would do it "just once".  Needless to say from the picture below, she did not stop with just "one time".  In fact, she loved tossing and slamming her work around so much, I finally had to tell her that was probably enough.  So you can see below, it does not matter how many times they shatter the work, it will stay in one piece because of all the pieces, this one is definitely the most extreme.  The child who most emphatically told me she would NEVER, EVER break her work....

7 year old

And then last week, I changed it up a bit and tried this project with some old watercolor tubes I had laying around the studio.  I love the way the watercolor worked on the plaster almost as much as I love this "Prissy Kitty".

9 year old

This student also did not want to do the final step.  I thought at the end I might of just found the first student who would actually follow through and not give it a slam or two.  At the very last minute, she did give it a slight whack and there are some small cracks in the work but they are hard to see in the picture.

Great project.  Definitely on my "do again" list of things I want to introduce to new students who come to my classes.  I can't wait to see what the high school class does with it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A lump of clay and imagination

At the last Young Creative ARTelier workshop through North Vancouver Community Arts Council, I introduced clay.

And instead of having a definitive project in mind, I just handed them a big lump of the stuff and let them go to town.

Funny a lump of clay is like a blank piece of paper, it can be overwhelming at first with what to do with it.

So as they sat staring at their lump of clay, I began throwing out a multitude of ideas at them and quickly showing a bunch of different ways to tackle that lump in front of them.

I encouraged them to just start playing with it and see what happened, letting them know that nothing could go wrong.

If you don't like it, wad it up and start again.

And then finally,  I had the students throw that lump a dozen times HARD onto the table to break the ice and get them to relax.

And here is what they kids ended up with once their imaginations and that lump of clay became friends.

11 year old

A pinch pot dragon.  This piece is actually two parts and the artist will be able to lift the top off and keep items inside of it.  The ultimate "keep out" box, don't you think?

8 year old

A reindeer.  Love the added wire work for the antlers!

8 year old

This penguin was created by "one armed artist".  The poor child is still in her arm cast and between this workshop and the wet felting workshop, I am testing the limits of what can be done with one arm.  I'm quite impressed with how she has figured out how to do some lovely work without involving getting her cast too wet or too dirty.  Again, this started with a pinch pot design.

9 year old

Another penguin, but look how different!  And this one has a nest to go alongside it. 

Other than the artist who created the dragon, he worked on his piece for the entire two hours, the other students finished up with about thirty five minutes to spare.  So I got out some black pastel paper and the oil pastels and asked them to use their sculptures as subject matter for a drawing.  I went over how the oil pastels are much more interesting with you layer them and that I expected them to color the entire piece of paper.  Yes, even color black even though the paper was black. 

9 year old

This is the artwork inspired by the above penguin.

9 year old

I love this wolf.  The artist worked with the lump of clay and just "took away" and "added from the lump to create this piece.  I think it came out spectacular.

And here is the artwork she created inspired by the wolf sculpture.  Equally spectacular!

Lots of talk about background, middle ground, and foreground on this work.  She originally was sketching the moon in the upper corner and I suggested she drop it down behind her wolf.  Her "oooo" when she did it was priceless.   I love when students have an "ah ha" moment and realize moons, suns and stars do not always have to be at the top of their artwork.  At first she thought I had lost my mind when I asked her to color the entire paper black, even though it started out black, but in the end she saw how this helped her create a nighttime picture.  Love the hint of cedar in the foreground too!

Quite amazing what a child can do with a lump of clay and their imagination.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wet Felts in baggies

For the second week of the Young Creative ARTelier workshops, we did wet felting.

There is something about baskets filled with colorful wool roving that pulls you right in and the first three students who showed up this morning could not resist immediately putting their hands all over the wool and touching each one.

For me, when I see a basket full of colorful roving it's just like opening a new box of crayons when I was little.  I just can't wait to use each and every one and my creative mind is immediately sparked and ready to work.

And it seemed to have the same effect on the kids who showed up for the workshop today too.

Here are a few of the works in progress.  They first put a layer of roving across the freezer bag in a vertical direction.  I told them to make sure to keep their design small enough to finally fit inside the bag.

ocean scene

seal in ocean 

"fudge" beloved teddy bear of artist 

The second layer of wool roving goes on horizontally and the students then started thinking of what colors they wanted for the background.  Those students doing ocean scenes choose "water colors", the students with outdoor scenes choose blue for sky and green for grass, and the artist who did her teddy bear choose two different colors to give a horizon line.

The third layer is where all the fun begins as they can now add the picture.  It doesn't matter what direction the roving goes since they have created the two foundation layers.

Then the challenge of getting it into the baggie.....most did this without issue but a few needed to do a little touch up work once they got the work into the bag.

I then add hot water (not too hot that it might burn them!) with a drop or two of Dawn dish soap mixed into it.  I pour a bit into each bag and pat down the roving until it is all wet. 

Then gently push out all the water that did not get absorbed by the wool out of the bag onto a towel, push out the air and seal the bag.

Good thing I decided to do the felting in the baggies since I had one student in a cast that could not get too wet!!!  The baggie keeps the room relatively dry, minus the damp towels when you release the excess water at the beginning.

Now time to work.

First the students "massage" the baggie to get the roving to start to stick together.  This just takes a minute or two and once that is done, they roll the baggie up like a rolling pin.  And then as if rolling out a pie crust, roll it back and forth twenty times.  Unroll it, straighten out the felt as needed, give the baggie a quarter turn and repeat.

They did this until the baggie had been turned completely around, then flipped it and did the process again.

At this point, I let them pull it out of the bag so they could observe the changes happening in the wool.  It wasn't quite felt yet, but well on it's way.   They were quite amazed that something that started so fluffy could become so dense and shrink!  

This was also an opportunity to add more roving for the couple who had developed a hole in their work.

Then we put them back into the baggies and started the process all over again.

By this point, most felts were done.  I then rinsed them out in warm water, then cold water, wrung them out and had the kids roll them up in a towel to dry them even more.

Tada!   Their final works of art in felt.

"FUDGE"  9 year old

Octopus, 8 year old

My pet dog,  7 year old

outdoor scene, 9 year old

Seal, 8 year old

red bird,  10 year old

There are still two more weeks in the Young Creative ARTelier workshops.  Next week is printmaking and the following week we will be creating LARGE paintings.  You can register through the North Vancouver Community Arts Council.  The classes are a great deal!  $25.00 per class for two hours on Sunday morning- 10am-12.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cajun Wire Screen Mask

Cajun Wire Screen Mask

Every winter a handful of Louisiana folk artists assemble a mixture of materials to create masks for their Cajun Mardi Gras celebrations. Using window screens, chicken feathers, yarn, paint, markers, and other found materials, they create an unusual variety of masks that will be worn just one day in the year.  The creations hide the identities of the wearer as they move through the countryside singing, dancing, and begging for food and money.  They climb trees, chase chickens and create playful havoc amongst the town. 

Unlike their counterparts in New Orleans who ride around on floats or celebrate in ballrooms, the Cajuns' mask need to be durable and are steeped in rich traditions that make them beautiful folk art today.  I had the pleasure of running into a display of these mask that are photographed here when my husband and I were in New Orleans to celebrate my half century mark in the city of my birth.  I knew I wanted to create a project to try out with the students in my studio and found the perfect opportunity at the start of the North Vancouver Community Art Council's "Young Creative ARTelier workshops" that I am running every Sunday until December 7th.

7 and 8 year old artist

Using wire window screen I bought at the local hardware store, cut, and covered with duct tape so the kids didn't hurt themselves on sharp edges, they used acrylic paints, sharpie pens, and found objects out of the art closet to create their mask.

7 year old

What is interesting about these mask is that even with paint and such on top, the students can still see out of them without any issues yet the artwork hides the identity of the artist since the viewer's eye focuses on what is on the screen instead of what is behind the screen.  It actually creates an eerie look as you can see the person underneath but are unable to focus on the identity.

8 year old

The students also had the opportunity to sculpt the wire by pushing it down on different objects.  Using the acrylic paint bottles, chair corners, and rounded jars, some students raised up the screen to highlight areas of their mask.

9 year old

Although it is hard to tell in this picture, this girl has raised out the eyes on her screen.  She has not finished it yet, but is creating a beard out of yarn that will hang off the bottom.  One of the other things I shared with the students is that a lot of mask wearers take on the identity of the opposite gender to further hide who they really are when out and about as revelers. 

11 year old birthday boy

The wire mesh made it easy to weave through found wire and sew yarn and such into it.  With more time, these could become quite elaborate with beads, buttons and other materials and it will be interesting to see if any of the students continue to add to their screens when they are home.  The two above found the process interesting enough that they asked to take home some extra screen to create more mask once they left.  

It remains to be seen if they will find any chickens to chase in their neighborhood once they are finished but I certainly hope all four students have a grand time creating harmless mayhem under their very own versions of Cajun style wire mask.