Friday, January 30, 2015

the courage to try

Last spring, I took a student in the studio on a hike during her class time and together we sketched on some of the trails around the house.  While we were on the trail, we stumbled across a mass of feathers from what must of been a hunt where the bird was on the losing side of the battle.  Thankfully there was no blood, just feathers, so I collected some to bring back to the studio.

Over the past months, they have been used as reference for scratch art and sketching but last night one actually became a canvas for a painting.

I took a picture of the student working on the feather just so you could appreciate how small the surface was the artist used for painting.

To be truthful, I wasn't quite sure how to go about painting on a feather.  Years ago I had brought back some paintings from China on a feather and a leaf and I brought those down for the student to study before starting.  She chose to do a leopard resting in a tree for her subject matter.

What was discovered is that if you build up the acrylic paint slowly, it holds quite well on the feather.

I'm thinking I'll give her a quill pen next week to add any fine black lines she might want, but in the end she got a great result.

At one point she asked if she could just do shapes because she didn't think she could get the picture she wanted, but I told her to not change focus and keep moving forward with her original vision and when it started to come together, I knew.  There was a loud, YES! as it began to work.

I have mounted the final work on bristol board.  Unfortunately it is so small my camera is having a very difficult time focusing on it and this is the best I could do for a final picture.

Needless to say, in person, the work is quite wonderful.

I'm so impressed that this student had the courage to try a path that not one person in the studio really knew what would happen in the end.  I'm so very proud of her.

12 year old, acrylic on feather

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spring Break Art Camps

It's that time of year again!

Spring Break!

Here are the camps being offered at the studio this time.  I will be trying some new things and also redoing a very popular camp from the past.  Hopefully I have created something for everyone.

Here’s the chance to be inspired by the artist of British Columbia both past and present.  Create oil pastels inspired by the trees of Emily Carr, an abstract acrylic painting like Lawren Harris, try printmaking kindled by the works of Bill Reid, watercolor ignited by B.C. Binning, clay sculptures prompted by Joe Average, collage motivated by North Shore artist Dana Irving, and a large painting driven by the work of local artist Ross Penhall.  We will also explore the work of artist Molly Lamb Bobak, Jack Shadbolt, and Douglas Coupland in this fun class all about getting to know your neighborhood artist.

This class is suitable for children age 6 and up.
March 9-13

Spend a week creating a variety of animal artwork.  We will create clay sculptures, acrylic paintings, learn to use a grid while trying our hand drawing enlarged animal eyes with oil pastels, dye paintings of our favorite underwater creatures, relief prints of jungle animals, graphite drawings of our favorite stuffed animals, and even discover how fun Yupo paper can be!  Students will be introduced to a wide variety of techniques and mediums while exploring the world of all things animal.  It is sure to be a fun week full of creative artwork.

This class is suitable for children ages 6 and up.
March 16-20


The cost of each camp is $100.00 for the week and includes all materials. I am keeping the class sizes small so I can work individually with each child, so space is very limited.  Call 604-971-1147 to reserve your spot.

I also wanted to do a preteen and teen camp too.  I thought it would be fun to explore how artist have highlighted heroes and heroines whose message is important to them.  We will look at everything from Warhol to Grecian Gods.  Then students will have the opportunity to focus on who they want to honor in their own artwork.  This class will give students a chance to learn skills such a portrait work, composition, and most importantly a chance to give a voice to those people whose message has resonated in their personal lives.  A bit of history with their art, but shh!  don't tell them.  It will just be a lot of fun to learn new techniques in a variety of mediums including sculpture, printmaking, drawing and of course, lots and lots of painting!

1-3pm  (I know, the crack of dawn for the preteen and teen set)
$100.00 including all materials.

Again, space is very limited so call 604-971-1147 to reserve your spot early.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

sneak peek of Bas-Relief

I can't contain my excitement.

Last night I introduced the students to Bas-Reliefs which are now in the studio drying.

They all came out beautiful.

Here's a sneak peek at what to expect on the blog in the near future.

coral reef, 13 year old

Once they air dry, the students will paint them and then I will seal them.

I can't wait to show you the finished projects in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


One of the things I have learned over the years when working with kids is that building upon a project is a good way to keep interest high for extended periods of time.  It is especially good for nipping in the bud those kids who love to holler out ten minutes after a project has started, "I'm done!"

This project started out with some Plaster of Paris circles left over from another project earlier in the year.  Since all these students had created on plaster before with paint or pastel, I decided to do something a bit different and have them use graphite only.

Once done, I let them put in some pastel color over it if they wanted too.

Then I got out some leftover Fimo clay I had from summer camp and had them create a few sculpture  "charm" pieces that related to their plaster drawing.  I told them to make sure they put a hole in it so it could hang from their artwork.

Then while the Fimo was in the oven, I pulled out some cardboard I had salvaged from the many different paper packages I buy for class projects and had them paint with acrylic just the environment their graphite sketch would live in.

Finally on more salvaged cardboard, we glued down some leftover burlap I had used to create plaster pieces for other projects.

Then we assembled all the pieces created from the leftover bits into a finished artwork.

10 year old, deer

She used a deer reference that had a baby hiding in a yellow flower field.  You can see she picked up this reference in her charms and in the painted background.

13 year old, stag

Another deer, this time wading through grasses.  I love the way she picked up the same motion in the painted work also.

8 year old, crazy chicken

He wanted to create an image out of his imagination.  How cute is this chicken and the story that goes along with it?  In case you are interested, he likes to eat doughnuts and pizza. He also likes to bowl. And he enjoys dreaming of flying in the sky.  I love the whimsy of this sketch and funny enough all the other classes who were looking at the works during the next week were also drawn to the funny nature of this sketch.

It was fun working with just leftover bits and pieces in the studio and seeing what we could make out of it.  I thought these were quite interesting when completed and not once did I have to wrestle with "I'm done" 10 minutes out of the gate.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Plaster Paintings

Yesterday I taught a morning class through North Vancouver Arts Council for their second session of Young Creative ARTeliers and I introduced the students to plaster painting.

I have had great success with this project in the past and yesterday was no different.

Working on plaster is very different than working on paper and the kids seem to find it fascinating.  No matter how much I try to get the surface completely smooth, there are always a few bumps and crevices the students have to contend with on the work and that makes everything much more interesting.

Yesterday I used tempera pots for paint. I also gave them thumbtacks at the end that they could use to scratch into the plaster if they chose. I brought along reference material for some landscapes, dogs and cats.  Before starting I showed them how with plaster you could paint an entirely new picture over an old one, so mistakes were not something they needed to worry about at all.

And then the students began working on copy paper to work out their drawings and once they were happy, we transferred their work onto the plaster.

A few of the students had time to even complete a second picture using the same working sketch.  I had them try the tempera paint on paper the second time so they could judge just how different the medium worked on different substrates.  What is even more interesting is that they could see first hand the benefit of holding on to their working sketches to create more than one work of art and just how different they could manipulate the sketch in a final work.

I thought the results were completely charming and once again I find myself smitten with each and every piece.

10 year old, "working like a dog"
tempera on plaster

10 year old, "working dog takes a vacation"
tempera on paper

How cute is the dog buried in the sand?! I loved this idea.  Same sketch but two very different results.

9 year old, "cat with log"
tempera on plaster

This student came to me with her finished working sketch and it was so small.  I asked her if she wanted to consider making her drawing bigger and she said, "No.  I want it at the bottom of the picture."  I was quite interested to see what she would do with all the space and I think the clouds are perfect.  I love this composition.

9 year old, "managerial dog"
tempera on plaster

9 year old, "dog on beach"
tempera on paper

At first I thought this plaster dog was graduating university, but when I asked him to tell me about his painting he explained the dog was wearing a hat and that the "$" symbol showed the dog had a "managerial job".  This made me smile and my heart might of melted just a little.  He put a full shirt and tie on his dog too. In the morning while we were waiting for everyone to arrive, he had been sketching palm trees and it was fun to see him then incorporate those trees into his paper painting. I love the way he used brush strokes to indicate the ocean too.

9 year old, "peaceful pug"
tempera on plaster

The pug is definitely zen.  She's got her love beads on both front legs and for a collar.  I love all the design work she added by scratching into the plaster once she finished her painting.  I think she got great results with the technique she created to add the black ears and nose. I know all my pug loving friends are going enjoy seeing this artwork.

9 year old, "stretching cat"
tempera on plaster

This is a great example on how you can continue to add color over a finished painting when you are not completely satisfied.  The artist finished this work and the hind leg was not over the log.  In hindsight, she wanted to see that leg and because you cannot erase on plaster AT ALL, she thought it was too late to do it.  I told her she could just paint the leg over the log and that it would be fine.  You would never know at first there was no hind leg on the finished piece. 

And last but not least, the youngest and by far the most timid student in the class. When he first arrived, he would not draw at all he was so shy.  To encourage him, we drew side by side so I could show him how if he broke things down first into shape that he was capable of drawing anything.  I'm not sure he believed me until after he finished his sketch of a wolf, but then he was so excited with what he had done, I didn't have to worry about him the rest of the class as he was off to the races.

6 year old, "dream wolf"
tempera on plaster

He had fun scratching in the stars with the thumbtack and I love all the under layers on this work. I don't think there was one color pot he did not use on his wolf but it all came together when he put a layer of the orange on top of it.  He had a lot of fun slamming the plaster on the floor to add cracks and chips too.

6 year old, "jungle wolf"
tempera on paper

All the students had a chance at the end to throw their works on the ground.  This cracks and chips the art so it looks like the old frescoes we see from the past.  The students are all quite fascinated that it stays together on the burlap and there is always lots of questions on how that is possible.  Some students chose to slam their work on the countertop and on the floor and others didn't want to do it at all.  However even the ones who decided to bypass this step, still had lots of fun watching everyone else slam and throw their work around. There is never a lack of giggles during this part of the process.

Two hours went by quickly and the kids were all very excited to show their parents what they had created at pick up.  I can think of no better way to start a weekend morning and was so proud of each and every one of these children.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

mixed media cat

At the moment, I have a nine year old student who is working on creating her own personal deck of cards made out of some stylized princess drawings she had done in her sketchbook. When she brought her sketchbook to the studio to show me her drawings, I suggested maybe using them in a deck of cards. She was quite excited but reality has set in that it means creating 52 cards.  52!!

That can be overwhelming and so what has begun to happen is that she works on her cards at the beginning of class until she's had enough and then we work on something completely different.

Over a period of two half class periods, she created the mixed media cat below.

The first week, she completed the base of the canvas so that it was ready to put her painting on the following week.

The second week, she painted on her cat using high flow acrylic paints.

I was so proud of her because she finally has become confident enough to allow her work to really loosen up and embrace what different paints do on different surfaces. Because of this new found confidence, I think this is probably one of her best paintings yet.

Once she finished her cat, I gave her some stencils to choose from and a couple of paper punches I had that she could place a few more layers on top of the painting.

The end result is breathtaking.

9 year old, Tuxedo Cat

Saturday, January 24, 2015

charcoal drawing

 I first met this student when she volunteered as an assistant with me for a camp through the North Vancouver Community Arts Council. With 12 students ranging in age from 5 to 11, it was a very busy week and I was so appreciative to not only have her there but also for all the hard work she put in to make sure the week was very successful. Toward the end of the week, I noticed her sketching with her pencil this amazing skeletal piece and realized she was quite a talented artist.

I had planned to get her a Starbucks card as a way to say thank you (since she is not paid) but instead invited her to spend a month in one of the classes at my home studio instead. I am happy to say she has stayed ever since.

Since she began, I have wanted her to really explore that pencil sketch I saw her do so long ago and finally with charcoal, she did just that! I find myself drawn to this work, just like I was to that rough sketch back in the summer. There is just something so fascinating and beautiful about this sketch. I know it would be framed if it were to be in my house.

I particularly like that she left bits of it unfinished.

One day I think it would be quite interesting to see her do a body of work exploring this subject but for now, I'll leave you to just enjoy this one.

14 year old, wolf skeleton

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Inspired work by artist

Recently I have been trying to introduce the students to more working artist.  I don't give a lot of art history, but spend time showing them the artwork and letting them create their own inspired creations, discussing the techniques the artist used and having them really delve into things they notice in the works.

This week, I introduced some of the students to a local artist named Dana Irving.  She describes her work as, "Emily Carr meets Dr. Seuss" and I cannot think of a more perfect way to describe her paintings.  I fell in love with her art and knew the students would really enjoy it also.  It was fun letting the kids discover how working artist today can be inspired by some of the same artist we have studied in the past.

For this project, the students used dyes and collage.  Here is Dana Irvings' website if you are interested in seeing some of the work the kids used for inspiration,

10 year old, cherry tree

Another local artist and a wonderful friend, Liane Varnam, does wonderful monoprints (among other things) of animals in very unusual environments. I love her work, which is probably why I have so many pieces in my house!  I brought several of them to the studio for the students to look at before creating their own monoprint.

We used the exact same process Liane does for her own works. Here is a 9 year old take on a couple of owls. Check out Liane's website to see her wonderful work at

9 year old, "girly owl"  love the purse

9 year old, starry owl

Another class looked at the work of Canadian artist, Lawren Harris. We looked at how his work progressed over the years to very abstract landscapes and then the students could choose how they wanted to interpret a landscape work inspired by the artist.

Here is an abstract landscape created by an 8 year old with acrylic and oil pastel.

8 year old, lava and rocks

And finally one student saw a study I was doing on Australian artist, Brett Whiteley, and wanted to do her own "chaos painting"  Using a piece of scrap wood, acrylic paint and charcoal this 12 year old created an amazing work.  I absolutely love the negative words she added to it to show the viewer how negative thoughts can throw our own lives into chaos.

12 year old

Every day the students leave me breathless with how they take what they see and translate it into an original work.  They come up with things I would of never thought of and usually by the end of class, they have inspired me to go away and try new things.  I always wonder who learns more when class ends, them or me.

Either way, it is fun to spend some time exploring the artwork of artist both past and present and see how it changes our perspective and inspires new ways to share personal visions of the world.

I am so impressed with each and every one of my students and I'm sure all these artist would be too.