Saturday, May 30, 2015

Underwater dye paintings

This is a take off of the dye bird painting I have done several times in the past.

I needed to mix it up a bit for my own interest sake and since this class is only an hour, I thought fish might be easier to complete in the timeframe.

This time I did have the boys work their sketches out on copy paper so I could show them how easy it is to transfer a final drawing they are happy with onto their watercolor paper.

I like to do this because I can show them how they can work out their sketches, using a window as a light box, to trace the marks they do like onto a new paper and then fix what they didn't like until they have a drawing they love.

Then transfer that onto the final so that there is no need for erasers or fear of making a mistake.

Once most of the boys had a drawing they likes, I quickly went over some of the fun things they could do with the dyes.

Then sent them off to start working.

To say it gets a little crazy busy in the studio when working with the dyes would be an understatement.

It's a lot of fun, but I definitely get a workout.

Here are their final works.

As you can see, some moved away from colorful fish and there was one reference for a shark that was quite popular.

They all seemed quite happy at the end of class as they left the studio with their artwork.

8 year old

6 year old

7 year old

8 year old

6 year old

7 year old

10 year old

7 year old

7 year old

Abstract Watercolor

11 year old

I am in love with this abstract watercolor created by one of my students.

I wanted to have her create a work focused on the negative space using organic shape.

I pulled some coral and anemone reference for her to look at to find a shape she liked and she gravitated to a picture of fan coral.

After choosing a color palette, she got started.

I'm not going to lie, she was hating this piece for probably the first 15 minutes or so and I encouraged her to keep the faith.  There was a method to my madness, even when it was very hard to see.

She first washed a very light color over the entire paper.  She even added a little salt. Then we dried it with the blowdryer and she lightly penciled in her organic shape.

Then using just a slightly darker shade of her original wash, she painted the paper up to the outside line of her shape.

Dried it again. Lightly penciled the same shape a bit larger and repeated the process. Each time changing the color slightly within her chosen palette.

I'm guessing it wasn't until she was 5 shapes in that her attitude changed towards the positive in regards to the project. Then as it really started coming together, she fell more and more in love with the work.

I thought we were done but then she saw this abstract bird image in the piece that she fell in love with and so I gave her a very fine point coptic pen and told her to loosely trace it in, going around her lines at least three times.

Since the work started off inspired by fan coral, she decided to call the artwork "Seabird"

Simply stunning. I'm so glad she kept the faith through the first stages.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Making Cupcakes

Today is my birthday.

And so I decided to kick it off a little early by celebrating with my teen class last night.

And what kind of celebration would it be without cupcakes?!

They are so small because I didn't decide to do this until about an hour and a half before the start of class and I made them from scratch.  I needed them to bake quick so I had time to throw them in the freezer to cool off in order to ice.

I gave the teens brayers and palette knives for painting. I told them to create paintings where one could feel like they could swipe their finger through the icing.

We also discussed how tint makes things look more appetizing too.

And off they went.  It was a bit of a learning curve while they learned to to manipulate the paint with a knife.


We discussed how contrast creates drama in a painting.  I even handed out some tonal finders for them to find at least 4 different tone values in the cupcake and check if they had at least four in their work.

They worked right up until when their parents arrived for pick up, so the paintings were wet leaving the studio and in the pictures. This is the last class of the school year, so we couldn't let them spend the week drying here.

14 year old

However this artist did leave her piece since she is coming for the summer teen classes that start in July. She's not completely satisfied yet with the work and wants to tweak it a bit more, but I LOVE the cupcake she has done. 

14 year old

13 year old

I'm not sure this is a favorite style for all of them, but I think they had fun experimenting with the project.

13 year old

It was a fun evening. The girls enjoyed submerging themselves in the process without getting hung up on the end product. We laughed. We enjoyed our last evening together before taking off on summer adventures. What better way to kick off my birthday? I have loved the year I have spent with these four girls. Enjoy your summer girls!

For those interested, there will be a once a week Preteen/Teen art class during the summer. It is limited to eight students and we are going to explore some really interesting things. Each night will include pizza too. 

July 7-28, 6-8pm, $125.00
August 4-25, 6-8pm $125.00

We will explore silk painting, image transfer, life drawing, pen and ink, printmaking among other things during these months. I'm pretty excited about some of the projects I am creating to share with them. To register, please contact me though

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Wednesday's class continues on an unintentional food theme....from healthy foods (fruit bowls) to not so healthy food, doughnuts.

7 year old

6 year old

The look on the faces of the boys when I placed doughnuts in front of them was priceless, they were big fans to say the least.

10 year old

I showed them some work created by Wayne Thiebaud to use for inspiration and then handed out the chalk pastels.

8 year old

I encouraged them to add A LOT of white in their color choices, like Mr. Thiebaud does, and also brought out the color wheel to encourage them to make use of complimentary colors for shading and such.

7 year old

We also discussed horizon lines and I showed them how it doesn't always have to be with the doughnut.

7 year old

And how to use the same color for the background in two different values, using darker values for background and lighter for foreground.

8 year old

Of course the best part was when they finished these delicious looking works of art, they got to eat it! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

black out poetry

A couple of weeks ago, I took my youngest daughter to Seattle for the weekend to buy her dresses needed for high school graduation.

This played out like an Emmy award winning soap opera including crying, hair pulling, world ending panic, laughter, elation, and love, but I digress and need to get back to the subject at hand.

After a full day of shopping for gowns, I needed a glass of wine and my daughter needed some downtime with her childhood best friend. So we headed to our old neighborhood where she met up with her dearest friend and I met up with one of mine for a glass of wine.

I worked with my friend for years running our elementary schools' Art Docent program. As we usually do when we get together, we began sharing projects that have done very well in our studio and she mentioned how much fun her students had creating black out poetry.

She was adamant I just HAD to give it a go with my students.

And so I did.

As the school year classes are coming to a close this week, I was trying to think of something special to do with a group of girls in the Tuesday class that they could enjoy throughout summer.

And I quickly thought of what my friend had said about the black out poetry and knew it was the perfect project.

The first week, I handed them some old books I had picked up at a church sale.

I pick up grocery bags of them for three dollars. I just look for old books with lovely hard covers, I really don't care what the subject matter might be as I usually make use of them in mixed media projects anyway where the words become inconsequential.

I put of few out and told the girls to choose one.

Then I brought out a variety of materials and had them create a painted book cover to make it their own.

13 year old

When this student finished her butterfly, she realized she had painted it with the book upside down. It really doesn't matter because who's to say which way a butterfly flies off one's lap? I love that she did not fret much about it at all and didn't even want to change it when she realized what could of been perceived as a mistake. 

9 year old

I really try to get the students to move away from symbolic drawing. However this student finds a lot of comfort there and really wanted to go with that style. After a bit of explaining why I'd like her to try to use reference and move away from a symbol style drawing, I told her as an artist the final choice was hers as she was the one who needed to love it.

To be honest, I am really glad she was confident enough to go with her instinct as I really like the finished work in the end. It truly does reflect her personality-energetic, outgoing, and completely unique.

9 year old

And finally a student who decided to focus on a Koala Bear in anticipation of a trip she will be taking to Australia. What an interesting perspective to be looking at the bear from behind! This is why it is always so exciting to work with children, their perspectives are refreshing and inspiring in my own growth as an artist.

10 year old

Once all the paint was dry, I put a matte varnish on them for protection as my hope is the books will be carried around and used this summer. 

For the last class, I showed them examples of Black Out Poetry. 

I told them to first circle lightly in pencil words that "jumped" out at them and then go back and create something out of the words.  It could be a poem or a story. A simple sentence even.

Once they were happy with their chosen words, I gave them a black pen to circle them with and they gently erased any words they didn't want. I even told them if they didn't want to do black out poetry in the book, they could just smear paint across a page and use it for a drawing journal.

you can see the "pathway" she has marked on the page before finishing
and a second page she will be using for a drawing

Then once they had a path of words that worked together, create an image or black out the rest of the words so that the page became their poem.

"He was so ugly to look at and he spoke nothing for all of his life"
Black Out Poem in progress
9 year old

Here are the results in all their glory. The are poignant, funny, and thought provoking.

"the figure of a dozen beast drove the dog beyond the hills"
9 year old

"I did children investigate father"
9 year old

"you want to give them a whole summer"
9 year old

You can tell this child has grown up in Vancouver all her life since she relates rain to summer!

10 year old

Funny story, this student picked, "The Catcher in the Rye" as her book of choice and opened it up and immediately exclaimed, "It has bad words". This of course immediately led to the other girls wanting to see the "bad words" and a fit of giggles.

The bad words she discovered immediately were "hell" and "crap". What it is about kids and their uncanny ability to zone in at the speed of sound on the inappropriate?

Anyway I suggested finding another book and she was, of course, hellbent on keeping the one with "bad words", so I did what any art teacher would do (and father) and told her she needed to call her mother for approval.

It turns out her mother's major was in Literature and this was one of the first books she studied and so was quite OK with her daughter's book choice...bad words and all. 

"no horse had the chance to turn suddenly as Blue Streak and Dapple Gray"
13 year old

How brilliant is the above student? She is always thinking outside the box, one of the traits I love most about her. Instead of creating her poem from the top down, you read this one from the bottom up.

How did she make sure you knew where to start? 

She added the start and finish line! So dang smart.

Does dang constitute a bad word? Look at me, right up there the writing prose of Catcher in the Rye.

The girls had a great time creating poems and stories and then adding visual interest to their words. What I find wonderful about this activity is that you can get lost in creating a page over a long period of time, creating something quite detailed, or by just simply blacking out everything but the words create something quite quickly.

In reality, these students will need nothing more than a pen or pencil to create something quite wonderful. And given that most of the books used were at least 50 to 60 years old, there is something fragile and precious about what they hold to use for their creations. There is a built in "special" quality to their books that makes them even more dear.

My hope is that they spend time with them over the summer and enjoy creating artwork. It will be a great way to keep exercising their brains while at the same time enjoying a carefree summer. One day I hope to see them again filled with their own personal words and pictures.

Enjoy your summer girls!

landscape painting

Several classes have been experimenting with acrylic landscape paintings.

Two students tried their hand at an impressionistic inspired landscape, stressing using the brush more as a tool and not doing a lot of blending.

9 year old, flower meadow

9 year old, Misty mountainside

Aren't they pretty?

Then another student tried a Fauvist landscape. Kids love the idea of painting "wild beast" colors and really embrace this concept.  She also focused on creating a landscape from our very own city...which is really hard to do when you live in a city as beautiful as Vancouver. I mean, what to choose? There are so many options!

11 year old, Seawall

She did the seawall at Stanley Park with the skyline in the background.  I think it's awesome!

Then there's the teen class. Let me just say that creating art can be hard work, especially when the vision in your head is not translating on the paper. It is a challenge that every artist faces at one time or another, regardless of age and talent.

And it is easy to drop a project half finished when this happens. Unfortunately I think every artist at some point in the process feels this way, so it is also a very bad habit to develop. So with the threat of becoming the "mean" teacher, the last couple of weeks I have forced, yes forced, the artist to finish any work that has been put aside during the past months.

Including this landscape.

13 year old

She had a lovely background complete (the sky, trees, and far hillside) and then it sat.  She wasn't sure what she wanted to do next and just wasn't loving the work.  This past week, she completed the work with a cabin in front. 

I'd like to spend a weekend cozied up with a book in that cabin!

So three very different styles, but all with the same results.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Printmaking with summer in mind

I had two students who wanted to explore printmaking.

Both will also be spending the summer abroad, one in Southeast Asia and the other in Argentina.

And so I figured it would be a good opportunity to have each student create not only a print for framing but also some cards that they could use during the holidays to converse the old fashion way.

Yes, I know I live in a dream world, snail mail for a generation attached to their phones and computers.

The 14 year old admired a sea turtle print I had in the studio that a friend of mine had created for her family Christmas cards a few years ago.  A friend who I worked with in our children's elementary school running the Art Docent program for years and is a very talented artist.

The students' attention to detail when it came to carving her block was quite impressive, especially to the other teens in the class who had done this project already.  They knew the time and effort she had taken to create her work and praised her accordingly.

14 year old

Once she had a print she was happy with, we took a collection of the other prints and made them into cards.

And then just for fun, I had her take the silk dyes and paint a background on silk that we then adhered to bristol board with matte medium.  She is not necessarily happy with this print, but next week will use it to create a mixed media project by adding details with a white gel pen and whatever else interest her.

I'm sure it will be quite interesting in the end.

The eleven year old student made the cutest little dolphin.  She used the soft cut block for carving and even added a second block for a "thought bubble" for adding messages to her cards.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures with the thought bubble added, so you'll have to take me word for it when I tell you how cute it actually looked.

I then had her print on a variety of colored paper using the same colored ink so she could see how a single color can change depending on what you pair it with.

I also had her explore tone on tone.  By the end of class, she had a lot of prints. So many in fact that her younger brother walked into the room with an exclamation of, "whoa!", he was so impressed. I mounted several for her that could be framed so she'll have gifts for her grandparents and relatives when visiting in Argentina if she so chooses. She might even decide to send her daddy one of her cards (or her art teacher) who will be staying in Canada during the summer.

All in all, I think both girls had a great time with the project.  Not really a surprise as I've yet to meet a child who doesn't like printmaking. There is something magical about creating a work with an element of surprise to it since you never know exactly what you are going to get when you pull the paper to see the print.  I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more printmaking projects during the summer camps with all the students not lucky enough to be visiting family in far away places.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I could form a baseball team

When I was young, a neighbor had a house full of boys and my father use to say, "Pretty soon they could form their own baseball team."

If only he was alive to see my Wednesday afternoon art class!

I could literally form my own baseball team.

9 boys!

9 lovely, creative, energetic little boys.

So before the first class, when I was trying to figure out what project to run, I decided to go to the house expert, my 19 year old son.

And when I asked him what kind of art project he would want to do at that age, he told me build something.


I had been thinking about doing a Cezanne inspired paint project with palette knives but my son's words resonated with me and what was once a project with palette knives transformed into clay.

The still life I was going to arrange with a bowl of fruit for the boys to paint became a project where they would build a bowl of fruit with clay.

We started by creating slump bowls.

How much fun they had dropping their rolled out clay over a styrofoam bowl to shape.

Then I told them they could add any details they wanted to their bowls and showed them out to "glue" on additional clay pieces properly.

(scoring and slipping)

And like all creative processes, some boys took off on a different path than expected and bowls became nest.

I didn't think we would get past creating bowls (and nest) at one point but when I brought out the aluminum foil, I had their undivided attention once again.

WHY was I bringing out aluminum foil?! they wanted to know.

And when I told them we would use it to first shape our fruit (or birds) and then wrap our clay around it so the clay would dry faster, they were game.

Some boys continued to design their bowls while others were proficient at creating so much fruit I wasn't sure it would all fit in the bowl!

I had real apples, pears and bananas for them to really study in order to get all the details they might not think about from heart.

I pulled out bird reference for the boys creating nest.

In the end, I was so impressed with each boys' creation.  What's more, I gained a lot of insight about how they approached their art and how open they were to direction with a project that was not intimidating to anyone.

A week later, they painted the dry clay with acrylic paints, mixing their own colors from a primary color palette.  Then I sprayed them with a high gloss varnish.

The other classes have all admired them throughout the week and the boys all seemed quite proud and thrilled to take them home today.

I think when looking at the pictures it's easy to see why, each boy definitely hit a home run.

8 year old

7year old

6 year old

7year old

Although this artist created a nest with a bird and egg, his intention is that the bird will not be in the nest.  He wanted to display it separately so he could play with it.

7year old

7 year old

When the above artist told me he was finished, my first instinct was to tell him to smooth out the clay. However my immediate second thought was that this work was an amazing three dimensional interpretation of Cezanne...which of course was still forefront in my brain.

10 year old

8 year old

6 year old