Friday, October 30, 2015

self portraits in watercolor by three year olds

Right next to puppies and kittens, the cutest thing on earth is watching three year olds create self portraits.

Honestly, nothing could be cuter.

I put out a large piece of watercolor paper and gave each little girl a permanent marker. 

Then I placed a mirror in front of them so they would be able to see themselves and began asking them questions.

What shape is your face?

Draw a very big circle on your paper.

What connects your face?

Draw two lines to make your neck.

And here is where it got very cute.  I asked them to study their eyes in the mirror and then draw them. They then studied their nose, their mouth, their ears, and their hair.

They loved looking at themselves in the mirror and concentrating on their reflection and then they would draw their features exactly as you would expect a three year old to draw them.

So funny.

So sweet it made your teeth hurt.

After they finished drawing themselves with the marker, I gave them liquid watercolor in the three primary colors and asked them to begin putting in a background.

I encouraged them to mix the colors together to see what happened and gave them some salt to explore.  I was quite impressed how well they did not putting the backgrounds into their faces.

Then I asked them to put out their hands and asked what color was their skin, pink, yellow, or orange?  One said pink and the other said yellow. (I think she actually said orange but ended up just using yellow)

Then I showed them how to water down the color so they got a light pink or yellow.

Then they got to work painting in their hair.  Both had bangs and they may of been a little long but by no means did they hang down past their mouth.

Or their nose.

What a fun 45 minutes this was watching the girls create self portraits. What a great start to my Monday morning! No matter what happened the rest of the day, it was hard not to feel good after such an endearing morning.

I have no doubt these will be cherished works of art for years to come by their families. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

painted pumpkins with 6-10 year olds

And just like that, the October classes are finished!

It seems we just got started as I was waving goodbye and wishing all the kids a Happy Halloween.

We have done several projects throughout the month that are now completed inspired by this holiday month, starting with painting pumpkins in acrylic paints.

I think my oldest daughter is the most excited to see the project come to an end because she can FINALLY carve the pumpkin I have been using in the studio for real life reference.

I love doing this project with the kids because it is a great opportunity to have them focus on blending colors, complimentary colors, and practicing creating a pumpkin not as we have learned to draw it symbolically but how it really looks in real life.

I have one tween in the Monday class, who because of a dance conflict cannot participate in the Tween Night Tuesday evening group.  To add a little extra challenge for her, I gave her the hardest angle of the pumpkin, with the stem facing towards her. I think she rose to the challenge magnificently and her piece turned out beautiful.

11 year old

No this artwork was not photographed in reverse.  When I asked this six year old to write his name, he did it backwards by choice! I was quite impressed as I don't think I could whip my name out backwards as quickly as he autographed this work.

He worked hard on paying attention to his brushstrokes and enjoyed mixing the colors directly on the paper in the background. I think he did a really nice job blending the red and yellow too!

The kids all used charcoal to sketch in their pumpkins before painting. I like how the charcoal gives them a lot of opportunity to choose how much of the black lines they will keep in the end.

This seven year old didn't want any of his lines to show in the end. He was quite adamant about that desire too when I suggested he consider adding them back in the work.  I really enjoyed watching him work out his background color. Believe it or not, during the course of the project it was three different colors.  He truly loved the process of mixing and blending and watching what happened to his background color. I think he made some great choices, including not adding lines into the pumpkin. 

7 year old

This painting is exactly why I leave projects open ended and stress to the kids over and over that they are the artist and their artwork is their vision.  By no means do they ever have to draw EXACTLY what they see, evident here since I did not actually have a pumpkin patch sitting in the middle of the tables. He asked me if he could draw more than one pumpkin and I told him of course.  At first they were all separate and I suggested he let the "hero" pumpkin overlap the ones in the background in order to make it look front and center. I think he did a lovely job and his color choices certainly makes it look like you are visiting the pumpkin patch on a moonlit night.

7 year old

This eight year old asked me if we could work on color blending a couple of weeks ago and so for her, I really stressed blending colors.  She was quite happy with the results of her background as she was experimenting with gradually changing the color from light to dark. It made me smile as she could not stop herself from exclaiming out loud how thrilled she was with the results of her sky. She worked really hard blending her yellow and red and then I had her really find the highlights and shadow on the pumpkin we had as reference. I even showed her how to shadow with blue (orange's complimentary color) instead of black to make her work seem more alive.  I think she did such a great job working on blending with this project.

8 year old

Why choose one color when there is a whole rainbow of colors to use for your background?  That was the philosophy of this nine year old.  He wanted to create all sorts of color from the three primary colors I gave him, along with white and brown.  I think he did an amazing job really paying attention to the details of drawing the pumpkin and he placed that stem on so accurately from his viewpoint. He showed great restraint painting the pumpkin after creating the multi-color background, really taking his time to blend the colors in each segment of the pumpkin. Because of this, the background really worked nicely. Again, love to see how uniquely each child interprets the project.

(he was actually eight when he created this work but just turned nine last week and I think would be quite insulted if I put his age down as eight. Happy Birthday Mr. D!!)

9 year old

And last but not least, the two ten year olds. 

This artist started putting her background in by dotting the colors with the paint brush.  The best way to describe her process is to relate it to pointillism. She is quite focused when she works and tends to spend a lot more time than the others paying attention to details.  I think her choices in this work are marvelous, look at that moon! And as time began to get away from her, she made the choice to use a brushstroke much like the other students for the pumpkin.  Interestingly she is the only one who decided to include the vines coming off the stem. I think this piece is amazing.

10 year old

This artist has been with me for a year now and I am just so proud of her with this work.  I love her composition and use of color. Her eye for detail interpreting what she was seeing in the middle of the table is quite awesome too. As I was taking the tape off the paper when she finished, I told her I thought this was one of her best works. It's like she has suddenly taken a big step forward in her art and for me, it is very exciting to see all the skills we have been working on come together naturally for her when she paints.

10 year old

These paintings were all completed in an hour and a half class. In fact Wednesday's class finished with almost 40 minutes to spare and so we began working on some bird drawings...focusing on line.  Here's a sneak peak of one of the seven year olds' work.

I think as October comes to a close, all the kids are looking forward to saying goodbye to skeletons, mummies, and pumpkins at the studio.  Although like me, they are all quite proud of the work they have created over the month.  I think each and every one of these pumpkins are stunning in their own right.  

Happy Halloween everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

an evening with the kids from Canuck Place

I started my art career as an Art Director at an international ad agency and said goodbye to it forever while pregnant with my first child.  I had three children in a four year period and so you can imagine life was busy just keeping up with them. So any art was whatever I did with them in our day to day life.

We left Vancouver, moved to a suburb of Seattle called Woodinville and the kids began school. As much as I was looking forward to a little "me time" while the kids were in school, I suddenly found myself bored with nothing to do. 

That's when I found myself volunteering for the PTA and getting involved in the Art Docent program at school.  A program I quickly began to chair with a woman who would become a lifelong friend over the next ten years. During the 11 years I spent at the school, I also founded the Artist in Residence program and the Afterschool Arts Program and found my true passion, sharing art with children.

Although I 'gave away' my skills, I gained so much more and without those years of working in the PTA at Hollywood Hill Elementary school, I would not be able to pursue my dream and passion of owning my own studio for children's classes nor working within my community instructing art classes today.

I also met some of my very best friends who are still constant sources of inspiration, including one of my son's best childhood school friends, a child who was born with a very rare muscle condition that left him wheelchair bound.  A condition his mother was told he would never survive infancy and is now 21 years old, going to University and writing a sports blog.

Watching my friend make sure her son enjoyed a normal childhood by advocating and caring for him truly changed my life perspective. To say he was a sports fanatic was an understatement and he participated in sports until high school graduation- managing the high school basketball team and football team. Along with our own children, we cheered for him as he ran on the elementary school track team. 

He couldn't sleep over at our home because of the stairs, but many a night my son spent the night at his house. Playing video games and horsing around as children do, never paying attention to the hospital bed he slept in nightly, the respirator needed, or any of the rest of the medical equipment that was part of his normal life. Although my son's friend needed extra help in life, my son and the rest of the children at school accepted their friends unique circumstances no differently than their own unique qualities and challenges that made them, well, them.

As his mother told me when I asked if it was OK to write about them in this post, her son's biggest gift to this world is that he paves the way for kids with disabilities that don't have his outgoing personality. Without doubt, he did just that to the hundreds of children who call him friend from childhood (and their parents) and the many more who meet him as a young adult.

He and his mother are also the reason I contacted Canuck Place when looking for an organization to give back to the community the only way I knew how, by teaching art.  As I read about Canuck Place, I felt a personal connection thanks to the lifelong friendship I have with this mother and son.

I was thrilled when Canuck Place asked if I would come out this past Friday evening to the camp they were running out in Squamish for the kids and their siblings. The theme for the day (and evening) was Disney's "Big Hero 6".

Working with a liaison at Canuck Place, we decided to have the kids create their own robots in acrylic paint. There were a wide range of ages and challenges, but how exciting to see how each person interpreted the project in their own unique way.

The time went by in a whirlwind of fun and I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, them or me.

As we started the lesson, I spent a moment showing them one of Georgia O'Keeffe's large flowers. I suggested focusing in on just a part of their imaginary robot instead of trying to show the entire thing to create interest.

Then I asked them to think of the geometric shapes that made up the parts of their robot and draw them on the paper. Once they had completed this, using just the three primary colors, I asked them to paint in their backgrounds mixing the colors directly on the paper.

When finished with the background, the kids got to work painting their robots. I showed them how to add black to one side of the shape and white to the other and then bring the two colors together by blending. This instantly creates a bit of dimension to the shapes.

Once they had painted their shapes, I asked them to pick up their graphite pencils again and draw in the parts to connect the robot shapes. From there I showed them how to use white to create a highlight and then asked them to use the colors again to add details like control buttons and faces.

But most importantly what I stressed was my directions were strictly suggestions and as artist it was up to them to decide what to implement and what to ignore. And based on the amazing variety of results, I could not be happier they took to heart this steadfast philosophy in my instruction.

I had brought a picture of Baymax with me, since he was the inspiration for the project, but I'm not one to ask the kids to copy another artist creation. However the little boy above was so excited to paint Baymax, I couldn't deny him the pleasure and gave him the picture to use as reference.  He was so proud of his artwork in the end, it did my heart good to see him proudly show me his finished work.

The three little boys below jumped right into the project with complete abandonment. They were uninterested in waiting for the next instructions in their exuberance to paint and create.

The above work started off with one small robot coming in on the right side. I suggested maybe adding some friends and this is what he created. 

The energy emitting from these two boys really comes through in the art and I'm not going to lie, there was a moment where I wasn't sure how to offer direction in the below painting as he enjoyed just mixing colors on the paper. In the end, I knew I could spark his interest by asking him to use his paintbrush in the most unexpected way, backwards. He loved the idea of drawing into the thick paint he had put on the paper with the paintbrush tip.

Don't you just want to snuggle up to the below robot?

And I enjoyed walking by this artist work periodically to see what changes she would make to the work. I think her robot came out quite adorable in the end.

And this work is just amazing. This certainly looks like a robot you would want on your side in a fight.

And this artist came at the project in the most unexpected way, I asked if she wanted to put a face into the work and she quite firmly told me no.  Her art reminded me a lot of some of Paul Klee's pieces and I wrote his name down for her in hopes she might take a look at some of it later.

I met some amazing adults that night, who like my friend whose son I mentioned earlier, left me amazed and inspired. And like all the children I work with, I met a large group of children who took a little bit of my heart with them at the end too.  

Thank you Canuck Place for letting me be apart of your successful camp.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

painting and building paper birdhouses

This past Sunday there was a birthday party at the studio for a little girl turning six.

When her mother called, she said her daughter's request was she wanted to build something. A birdhouse perhaps?

I went round and round with ideas, but settling on something that was age appropriate, worked with a large group and could be completed in an hour and a half proved more challenging than I expected.

Until I started playing with ideas of building with paper!

Because of the girls ages and time constraint, I cut out the bird templates prior to the party and had them ready to assemble.

There were three parts, the house itself, the roof, and the "ground".  I placed these on the table, along with a permanent marker and the supplies needed for watercolors.

Once all the first graders arrived, we got started.  I gave each girl a palette of liquid watercolor in the primary colors.

I had them start with painting the piece that would become the ground.  I figured it was a great starting point for them to get a feel of what the watercolors could do while learning how to blend colors they wanted and play with a couple of techniques.  I also asked them some open ended questions of what they might find on the ground if they were looking and they shouted out some great ideas. 

This particular house covered most of the ideas, it also happens to be the birthday girl, her ground is covered with spiders, worms, and birdseed.

When they finished the ground, I had the girls move onto painting the roof piece. Again with a couple of open-ended questions, we discussed different ways they could design and paint the roof. There were lots of ideas and many interesting solutions created by the artist.

There were spiders and birds.

Some traditional roofs in slate and tile and a multitude of rainbow colored roofs with many different interesting patterns.

Then the girls began designing their homes. I asked them to think about their own houses and then what a bird might like in a home. Some of the artist simple applied color to the house while others created detailed exteriors.

I love the warm light emitting from the window against the dark exterior of the house.  Doesn't it just welcome you home?

Once they finished painting the house exteriors, it was time to get to work putting the pieces together. I did not anticipate the girls spending as much time as they did on the roofs and ground and so we were unfortunately running short on time if the girls were to eat pizza and cake before their parents arrived for pick up.

I put out some fast drying glue on paper scraps with Qtips for the girls to apply the glue onto the house flaps. I asked them to hold the pieces together and count to 50.

Now here is one of those "who knew" moments I run into as an art instructor. Counting out loud together as a group was LOTS of fun. The girls loved it and counted way past 50, which was great because I wanted to add a piece of tape over the flap to help keep the house in place until the glue really had time to set up and harden.

Then they placed glue on the bottom flaps and added the ground. I gave them pencils and told them to use the eraser as a hammer to put it in place. Then they added the roofs.  All but two stayed in place with no problem.  So while the girls ate their pizza and enjoyed birthday cake,  I hot glued the two remaining roofs to make them stick.

I love these sweet little houses and how unique each one turned out.  The girls were all quite pleased too when they left the party.

birthday girl

Happy Birthday Miss S!  Thank you for letting me be apart of your special day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

group art inspired by Gordon Smith

This past week Seymour Art Gallery in Deep Cove asked me to participate in their school outreach program.  This is a program for local schools, where a classroom can come to the gallery for a private tour with the curator and then create an art project inspired by the current exhibition.  

Four different school groups toured the gallery's 30th Anniversary show. The show was set up on a timeline with artist work on display based on when they first showed at the gallery. What a treat for the kids since several of the works exhibited were from the artist private collections.

The curator and I selected a work by Canadian artist Gordon Smith to inspire the art project.

Here is the Curator discussing Gordon Smith's work with some Grade 2 and 3 students. It was quite amazing all the different things the kids started seeing in the work the longer they looked at it. While the curator showed the students a video of the artist talking about his career, (Smith is 96 years old and still creates from 9-5 every day!), myself and one of the gallery volunteers set up a large sheet of paper in the gallery and placed down the first of many drawing tools the kids would use throughout the project.

I explained to the kids that we would be working on a project as a group for them to take back to their school. They could decide to display it at school as one piece or cut it up so each of them could take a  part home.

I also went over the importance of line in artwork. We discussed how we use line to create letters to communicate, texture, emotion and rhythm in a work.  Then referring back to Gordon Smith's artwork, I explained the difference between copying and being inspired by other artist. That for this project, we would be using not only Smith's work as inspiration but also music to interpret line and create a new and unique piece of artwork all their own.

We started with pencils, then moved on to ballpoint pens, graphite, erasers, and oil pastels.  

We played a variety of music, Disney, classical, jazz, country, techno, pop and hard rock. Although all the music was just instrumental, more than once the kids began to sing along. EVERYONE knew "We will rock you" and without doubt, I believe it was the highlight of the musical numbers.

As you can see, the kids had a great time creating line on the paper.  The results were quite exciting when it was all finished.

While the students got cleaned up, we took the opportunity to take some pictures of the works.  The paper was quite large and below are some sections of the different works created by four school groups from Grade 2 through 5.

It was interesting to watch the students explore the variety of drawing tools we gave them. Each used them in their own unique way and they had a ball crawling into the paper to draw, creating very large strokes that overlapped their neighbors work, and having the pencil dance across the paper.

Lots of laughter and joy in the gallery and the student's excitement was contagious. I think Gordon Smith would be smitten to see all the fun he inspired in the gallery last week.

Happy 30th Birthday Seymour Art Gallery. Thank you so much for allowing me to be apart of such a wonderful place that inspires artist of all ages.