Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Few Spots Left!

There are still a few spots left in the Spring Break camps I'll be running in March.  I limit the number of students to 8 in order to give each student the attention they deserve.  I make sure the kids are introduced to a wide variety of materials and techniques, never forgetting it's really about having a lot of fun!  You can reserve a space for your child at or leave a comment here.

All classes are $100.00.

Here's a chance to be inspired by the artist of British Columbia both past and present.  Create oil pastels inspired by the trees of Emily Carr, abstract acrylic paintings like Lawren Harris, try printmaking kindled by the works of Bill Reid, watercolor ignited by the works of B.C.Binning, clay sculptures prompted by the work of Joe Average and much more.  Other artist students will be introduced to and inspired by are local artist Dana Irving, Ross Penhall, and Douglas Coupland.  Also included are Molly Lamb Bobak and Jack Shadbolt.

I am also running this camp for the North Vancouver Arts Council (Best in the West) in their Spring Break series and it is now sold out!  There are just a couple of spots left in this one too.

March 9-13, 1-3pm

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 underwater creatures, relief prints of jungle animals, graphite drawing 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 animals.  It is sure to be a fun week full of creative artwork.

I have run this camp a couple of times for the North Vancouver Arts Council with great feedback and am excited to offer it for the first time at Kudzu Studio.  There are just a couple of spots left before it is full.

March 16-20, 9am-12pm

And just for fun, I'm going to try something I have never done before.  If you share this post on your Facebook page or other social media and leave a comment here letting me know,  you'll have a chance in a drawing for a free spot in the camp of your choosing!

Friday, February 27, 2015


I have a feeling you are going to be seeing a lot more of these blobimals inspired by artist Carla Sonheim on the blog.  They are a lot of fun to make.

Kind of like searching the clouds for things, but with watercolor blobs.

After 'scrumbling' a watercolor blob with two primary colors of their choice, we added a bit of high flow white acrylic paint to it while still wet.

That process alone is fascinating!

Then a quick dry with an old blowdryer I have on hand and the artist is off to the races to find an imaginary animal in the blob.

Such a great way to exercise one's imagination!

I gave the option of using pen and ink or colored pencils to add detail.

This 12 year old artist was so happy with her imaginary animal in the end.

Stay tune for more blobimals to come.  I know each and every artist at the studio is anxious to give one a try.

12 year old, water color with pen and ink

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shibori Sculptures

Japanese Shibori is a traditional textile painting technique that I thought would be fun to introduce to a couple of students today. When I explained the process, they replied, "so it's tie-dye"

Well yes, that's true. It's basically tie-dye. But we are going to use silk and paint with dyes!  And then we are going to make sculptures out of it!

And with that I received the look that I have come to know over the many years of being a mom that says, "you are nutty"

But thankfully my students are use to my nutty ideas and so they took a deep breath and followed along with me. One student wrapped her silk up with rubber band ties and the other knotted her silk by hand.

Then they each chose an analogous color palette, which happened to be the same palette, and began applying the dye. Once set, we gave them a quick iron to dry them out and then it was time to use them for sculpting.

But how in the world do you use silk to create a sculpture?

Well in our case, I had some Stiffy fabric glue but any medium that hardens will do. We dipped the silk into a small bowl filled with the stiffener and then squeegeed off the excess. They were then free to wrap and drape around a variety of things of their choosing I had in the studio.

Old bottles, styrofoam bowls and anything else they could use for a temporary surface to hold their sculpture until stiff and dry.

And then because I'm impatient, they spent the last half hour creating chalk pastels drawings without any comment from me

and they choose pigs flying because, well, when am I EVER without comment

while I used the blowdryer to speed up the process of the fabric hardening so we could see the sculptures finished.

And how amazing they turned out to be!

10 year old, silk Shibori sculpture

Too bad my photography skills are not as amazing....

What you can't tell in this picture is that this sculpture is a vessel. The artist will be able to keep her earrings or other things inside of it at home.

And they are so sturdy, they can choose to arrange the sculpture in whatever way they want too. Since I'm not sure how this artist will finally decide to present her work, here are a couple of different positions of the sculpture.  

I think it gives you a good idea on just how amazing these things are once they are hardened.  

12 year old, Shibori sculpture from silk

This is the same work presented in three different ways.  I love the organic quality of the art.  The silk is so beautiful and they are much more breathtaking in person.

I could not be more thrilled with this project and can hardly wait to try it again very soon!

Monday, February 23, 2015


There is a lot of watercolor happening in the studio right now.

A couple of students in the Preteen/Teen class have been exploring the medium for the past couple of weeks and to mix it up a bit, I brought out one of my favorite papers, which really isn't even paper, for a student to use for a different look at watercolor.

Yupo paper

Yupo is interesting because it is synthetic and the paint never absorbs. If you hate what you are doing, you can actually wipe the surface clean and start all over again. It is a great way to get students to really focus on darks and lights and also about loosening up and letting go since the watercolor has a mind of it's own on the paper.

I think the tiger cub this grade 9 student created is quite incredible and I know after watching her complete the work, several of the other students are anxious to give this a try.

14 year old, tiger cub.  Watercolor on Yupo

And if you don't have access to Yupo paper, you can do the same thing with clear acetate. I actually use it with younger students so they can put the reference underneath for an easier study of finding the darks and lights.

Here is an example created by an 8 year old a couple of years ago using this method.

8 year old, watercolor on acetate

Once the artwork is complete, you need to put a protective coating (Krylon clear coat) on the work so that the paint will not continue to activate if it gets wet. Then when using the clear acetate, spray mount the backside of the work and place on white paper (I use Bristol) for mounting.

In the younger class, I introduced a project I saw on Pat Howard's blog, The Painted Prism.  You can see it here,

Using her instructions, the student created a lovely forest picture. Sometimes it seems silly to reinvent the wheel when you see such a great lesson to help a student discover new techniques and skills. My hope now is that we can take what the student learned and create a work all her own using this idea.

However, the forest this 9 year old created is quite beautiful and I think she was quite excited to discover what you can do by focusing on the negative space and building a work from foreground to background.

I think this piece is just waiting to become an illustration in an original fairytale story created by the student! Oh the possibilities!

9 year old, forest.  watercolor on paper

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Happy Birthday to Miss Ruby!

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of returning a favor to a woman who helped me so much when my three children were young.  I will never be able to truly pay her back for all she did for me so many years ago, but it was so great to be able to do something for her, even if it was small.

Three little ones under four meant I could use all the help I could get back in the day and I could not be more grateful for the time, energy and love given selflessly by this amazing woman to our family.  Although my three children are adults now, they still remember her as a loving and important part of their very early childhood.  She will always be considered family in our home.

And so when she asked me to come out to her home and do an art lesson for her youngest daughters' birthday party, I could not of been more thrilled for the opportunity to hopefully help create the smallest happy memory for her kids.

Ruby wanted a bird theme party and the bird dye painting project I have done several times before seemed perfect.

There were eight very sweet little girls and we started by letting them rummage through the reference material I brought of birds to help them along.  At first we talked about finding all the shapes that make up the birds to help make the process of drawing them a little less challenging and then using copy paper, they began to work out their sketches.

Once they were happy with them, I showed them how to shade the paper on the back so they could just lay their final sketch over the watercolor paper and trace.  The best part of working out a drawing this way is that they can now take their working sketch home and transfer it onto any paper, to do as many different artworks as they like, using whatever medium they choose.

Once they had the pencil image on the watercolor paper, they went over the lines with a sharpie pen and then we brought out the dye paints.

I showed them several techniques they could use with the dyes.  Wet on wet, lifting, salt, and blooming.  More exciting was watching them make their own discoveries with the dyes.

This little girl in particular came up with a beautiful way to interpret the dyes all on her own. Below is the final artwork.

Here are the other lovely creations made during the party.

The owl is Ruby's big sister, Summer.  She chose such a challenging idea and I loved the way she decided to interpret it.  I think she was quite proud of herself in the end, I know I was proud of her!

And then there is the birthday girl, Ruby, who loves peacocks.  Her enthusiasm was catching as both girls sitting next to her decided to do peacocks too.  It is interesting to see how each girl creatively rose to the visual challenge of interpreting the reference material.  Each one is unique and beautiful.

the birthday girl!

What was suppose to be an hour and a half project turned into more like two and a bit hours as the girls all got lost in the process of creating their artwork.  It was such a privilege to be able to be part of such a special day for the little girl of a very special woman in our lives.

Happy Birthday Miss Ruby!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A morning full of color

This morning I ran a workshop for the North Vancouver Community Arts Council focusing on chalk pastel works inspired by Monet.

After looking at some of Monet's work and going over the technique of optical blending, 9 students between the ages of 5 and 10 embarked on their own impressionistic landscapes in chalk pastels.

Halfway through the two hour class and most students were sporting colorful beards, mustache faces and clothing had taken on a very rainbow hue.  Thank goodness it washes out!

It was at about this point that a reporter from the North Shore News showed up to see just what was happening in class.  An unexpected surprise that left the kids all thrilled because who doesn't like the idea of being in the newspaper?!

So it will be fun to see their work and their very colorful faces beaming from the pages of our neighborhood paper sometime soon.

Until then, here's a look at what these talented students created today.  I've included the reference so you can see just how each child interpreted the visuals.

Here is how a 9 year old handled a Koi pond garden

And how incredible is this 5 year old drawing!  I could not believe how well she understood the concept and her visual interpretation of the reference she chose was quite impressive too.

This 8 year old boy came to class feeling a little less than confident in his art skills.  A sport fanatic who in the end excelled just as wonderfully with his art as he does on the hockey rink or football field.  I think he had a great time "crashing" the waves into the glacier too...kind of like crashing into the boards with hockey. 

It was interesting to watch this 6 year old work through the challenges of the reference picture he picked.  I loved seeing all the changes he mades as the time went on and thought he came up with a beautiful picture.

By the end of the class, this 9 year old looked more like the Incredible Hulk at pick up than the boy his father dropped off in the morning for class.  There was no doubt when looking at him what picture he had completed!

And what a lot of work this 9 year old put into her piece!  She went over the chalk a lot of times getting this just right.  Lovely in the end for sure.

I love how the water really seems to glow in this work created by a 10 year old.  What a challenge working with all that dark!

This enthusiastic 9 year old was a little late getting to class so had to jump right into the artwork without the benefit of going over Monet's work and technique but it didn't seem to hurt him at all.  He caught on very quickly to the concept and was off to the races without a lot of direction on my part.  He was so happy with his work when finished.

And finally this 9 year old who created this artwork without use of reference.  I think she used a bit of everything she saw on the table around her.  I love the way she came up with her own technique for an inspired impressionistic piece.

So although a little more colorful at pick up than when they were dropped off, I said goodbye to a group of very proud children at the end of class.  As you can see, they had every reason to feel that way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

brought to you by the girl of the year

Like many nine year olds, I have a student who loves American Girl dolls.  A couple of weeks ago she asked me if I could help her make a romper for her newest doll that her father surprised her with and I had to sadly say no because my sewing skills are less than stellar when it comes to making clothing.

I did let her know that I could help her make something either with wet felt or with needle felting and she settled on making a rug for her American Girls' house.

(her dad deserves the title of "Father of the Year" because he has also turned part of her closet into what sounds like a lovely apartment for her dolls)

So after hearing all about the Girl of the Year doll, Grace who I believe lives in Paris, the new doll her father bought because he thought it was particularly special since the student had also been to Paris, we got to work on a new rug to put in front of her bed.

And since Grace is all about Paris, she decided to do the Eiffel Tower in a style inspired by Monet.

Using a piece of wool felt in light blue, she picked through my large supply of roving and created a lovely rug for her doll.

I'm sure Grace will love it!

And so without further ado, here is a lovely work brought to you by a nine year old artist and her beloved girl of the year, Grace.

9 year old, needled felt

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bas-Relief clay tiles

I realize I forgot to post the finished clay work I hinted at a few post back.

Once the clay was dry, I applied some gesso and then the students painted them with acrylic.

No easy task with all the nooks and crannies!

It was a great skill lesson on learning to control a paint brush in small, confined areas.

Once finished and dried, I applied a high gloss varnish to protect the work and also give it the look of being fired and glazed.

10 year old

Love this baby duck taking a swim.  I think the student did such a great job putting different textures into the clay to create interest.

12 year old

I have an etching a friend did for me in the studio washroom of a coral reef.  This particular student LOVES it and from time to time uses it for inspiration for a project.  A project like this one!  I was completely surprised when she said she wanted to finish her clay in all grey.  I completely assumed she would do a colorful coral reef and I think that must of shown on my face because she immediately explained that she wanted it to "look like the picture in the washroom".  What an interesting choice and I love her final results.  I can't wait to send it to my friend as I know she will get a kick out of how a student interpreted her etching.

I really love all the skills this project touched on while the kids had a great time creating and could not recommend trying something like this at home.   

If you would like the instructions, send me a note and I'll be happy to share.

On another note, the Spring Break camps are beginning to fill up!  If you are interested in having your child join me for some fun, make sure you contact me through the website at

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pastel Portraits

I have a confession to make, I cannot walk by any type of portrait work at the thrift store.  I buy it all.   I can't stand to think that an artist who took the time to create a work of someone they loved is now sitting with a $12.99 price tag on the floor of the local thrift store.   These works obviously meant something to someone at one time because most are expensively framed and yet here they are discarded.  I have this inner need to purchase them and once again give them the honor they deserve, which for now is on display in my personal art room right off the studio.  This gives my husband further proof for his argument that I am a person with hoarding tendencies.

For the Tuesday class, I brought out all the ones done in chalk pastel for the students to view.  The first response was, "Oh no!  Not self portrait work!" but then I highlighted one portrait of a collie dog- obviously a much loved pet of someone.  With a large sigh of relief, the students hit the reference files and found an animal they would like to create a portrait of in chalk pastel.

For this project I wanted to highlight two skills with the kids.

First if you complete the eye it will not matter how incomplete the rest of the artwork is, it will still have a finished look.

Second, I wanted them to really study line work.

Neither student did a working sketch for the piece.  They both worked out from the eye, which helped them tune out the part of their brain that always wants to self correct what they see with what the brain feels they should be seeing.  By really looking at the shapes, the lights and darks, and the direction of line in small parts instead of the whole, the work created was astounding.

The 10 year old in particular gasped a couple of times as she saw the whole picture coming together.

I am so impressed with the outcome of each art work and I have serious doubts I will ever find either of them with a $12.99 price tag sitting in the thrift store.

10 year old, chalk pastel, Irish Setter

12 year old, chalk pastel, Spirit Bear

Friday, February 6, 2015

the latest brought to you by the teen set

So my preteen/teen class continues to impress me with their creativity and talent.  Here are a couple of pieces finished this week in class.

First, this student was working on an artwork with a mandate.  Her mother wanted a large painting in purples with a winter tree to put over her bed.  I love the way the student interpreted the request.  She first used india ink and a straw to create a structure for the branches.

I hope her mom appreciates that step because she practically hyperventilated while doing it!

And then using the india ink, she brought together the work and added any additional branches.

I'm guessing she will NEVER use india ink again.  The problem was every time she wanted to do something over the ink, it would reactivate, causing streaking that she absolutely hated.  So she would end up going back in and "fixing" the purple and recreating the branches.

I set it but then we forgot she did some small touch ups afterwards and when she went to put the finishing touches on it in the last class, there was some very minor streaking again.   I thought she would throw the canvas through the studio window but even though she was horribly frustrated, she continued forward and finished the work.

Her mother's reaction when she came to pick her up made all the hard work and frustration worthwhile and I know she will enjoy it for years to come.

And then another student was working on a mixed media piece.  She kind of let the work evolve as she went along.  After watching the above student hyperventilate blowing ink around the canvas with a straw, she strangely enough decided to do the same thing and guess what?  got light headed...

Anyway what happened was the ink surprisingly enough made what could be interpreted as a tree and so she decided to paint some deers as her subject matter.  I think the end result is wonderful.

13 year old, acrylic, ink and collage

14 year old, mixed media

I can hardly wait to see what these students do next!