Monday, November 30, 2015

papier-mâché bears and pseudo papier-mâche winter birds

I just finished a series of Sunday workshops for the North Vancouver Community Arts Council.

The last two weekends, the kids have been working on a papier-mâché bear head. They created their heads by wadding up some newspaper and then wrapping it in place with masking tape.

I had cut up an egg carton and gave the kids each two cups.  One that they taped on whole for the snout and the other they cut in half and taped on for the ears.

Then they went to town using white newsprint paper and a 1:1 ratio of good old fashion glue and water mixed together well. I had them do just one layer of newsprint.

We then set them out to dry on a piece of wax paper. 

Now for those of you who follow along with my blog (hi mom!), you know I have only done papier-mâché one other time. I avoid it like the plaque.


Because kids are all like, "yea! Papier-mâché!" 

Then after dipping the paper in the glue mixture half a dozen times, realizing their hands are now a gooey, sticky mess, quickly change the chant to, "ew! Papier-mâché".

It's a battle to get the majority of the sculptures covered in paper and everyone is just relieved when they can call it done.

Which is why we had an hour left in the workshop once finished with the bears.

Thankfully I have found a new and far better way to create "papier-mâché" sculptures with a pseudo method, just masking tape.

So once finished with the bears and after every one had scrubbed their hands cleaned, I sat them down to create a winter bird sculpture. At first there was a moan at the thought they would be covering their hands in glue again, but when I assured them no glue was involved they were quite eager to start.

This project seems like it would take a ton of tape, but in reality it really doesn't kill the budget at all. Each child looked at a reference picture of a cardinal and picked out the shape of the body. They then once again wadded up newspaper into the body shape they had determined. Now instead of just using enough tape to hold the paper in place, I told them to use the tape in the same way they had applied the paper strips with the bears... in other words, cover the newspaper completely with tape as smoothly as possible.

Then they repeated the process to create a head and then taped the two together until firmly in place.

Then with a small piece of Bristol paper (any card stock will do) they cut out a tail and wings and taped them into place on the bird. Some kids made their beak out of the paper and others created a beak out of masking tape.

Finished. No glue. No mess. No drama in regards to messy hands.

And the birds were complete just as the parents arrived for pick up. As the kids left, they were quite excited to come back the following Sunday to paint their creations.

6 year old

9 year old

6 year old

7 year old

The second Sunday of the workshop, the kids painted both their works with acrylic paint. Neither project needed any prep work upfront, just sit the kids down with some paint and let them go.

For the bears, I had each child first paint two thumbtacks for eyes. While they were drying, the kids painted their bears. The paint dries quickly and so it wasn't long before they were sticking the eyes into their sculptures. When they were finished, I added an eye hook to the top with a ribbon so they could hang them from their Christmas trees or in their bedrooms. (the finished work is about the size of a softball)

Aren't they cute? Almost makes me love papier-mâché.


They loved their bears and were thrilled with the results. They could hardly wait to start in on their birds.

Again, no prep work needed for the masking taped covered birds, along with no messy glue or paper strips. Did I mention how much I love this process for creating sculptures?

The acrylic paint works perfectly right on the tape. And the kids began painting their birds with gusto.

When finished, I hot glued the birds onto sticks and then added twine so they could hang as a mobile.

Here's my horrible attempt at a video, but you get the idea.

Adorable, yes?  The kids were IN LOVE with the finished work. Some even added some white paint to the sticks for snow because they just could not stand the idea they were finished.

Both projects were again completed with just a few minutes to spare before pick up. The kids were so excited and thrilled with their completed works.

I'm guessing from the way the parents gushed at pick up, they loved their children's creations too.

7 year old

9 year old

6 year old

To quote every southern girls' heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, "As God as my witness, I will never do papier-mache again" 

(OK not quite what Scarlett O'Hara uttered when she got back to Tara, but I know she'd agree with me when it comes to papier-mâché.)

And I will never have to do papier-mâché again now that I realize the kids can create the same great work with masking tape.

I have no doubt you will see more bear heads coming soon, with no whining of gluey fingers and strips of newsprint all over the studio floor to clean up. Hallelujah, thank you Jesus.

Pseudo papier-mâché project, you had me at hello.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Watercolor Butterfly Birthday Party

Yesterday afternoon there were ten children here to celebrate an eight year olds' birthday. The theme was butterflies and so I created a project using watercolor where each child would create a large butterfly painting.

I put out some reference for the artist to use and spent a bit of time showing them how to blend color, (they had only the primary colors and black) and several different techniques they might want to use when painting.

Instead of working out their sketches prior on working paper, I had the kids draw directly on the watercolor paper. I stressed drawing lighting so if they wanted to change a line they weren't left with a pencil mark on the paper after erasing, since any pencil mark will show through the paint.

The paper was so large that the working sketches would not of worked anyway and it was a great lesson for the kids to learn to work within mistakes since most still drew too hard and had lines showing on their paper even after copious amounts of erasing.

But without those extra marks, works like this would not of been created.

The green design is a direct result of having to incorporate the original wing she created on the left side. She decided it was too small but because she could not get the pencil mark to completely erase when redrawing the wing, she used that mark to create an interesting design that she then mirrored on the rest of the work.  She was very proud of her finished art in the end.

Using the liquid watercolors and exploring all the things they can do is always quite exciting for kids. Many get lost in the process and suddenly find themselves looking at a paper covered in so many different colors their subject matter gets lost.

Such was the case with these three artworks. The girls looked at me for help as they knew their butterflies were lost in all the color. What a great opportunity for them to develop problem solving skills and learning to think outside the box. 

The above two works were fixed by going over all the variety of colors in the butterflies with one solid color to bring it together then while they had pizza and cake, I went over their original sharpie lines with black india ink. These two things combined left the final works vibrant and quite beautiful.

This artist had every color in the rainbow on her paper, both on the background and the butterfly. She went over all the color in the background with a blue/black mixture she made and then added salt on top so some of her colors would show through.  I think all three works came out lovely in the end and are a great reminder for the artist to not give up and with a bit of ingenuity on their part, still find success no matter how daunting things might be in the beginning.

birthday girl!!

I love the way the birthday girl created the background on this work. Using blooming, salt, and a wet on wet technique that allowed the colors to mix and blend on their own, she got some very interesting results. I love how it works against the graphic nature of her drawings. Stunning!

This is a really lovely example on how adding black to the color can give beautiful muted results. I think it takes a lot of courage at eight years old to add black to bright color and she rose to the challenge marvelously. This is so pretty.

This is just all kinds of cute. How awesome are the color decisions she made?  The warm palette with just a splash of cool?  So great. 

As this artist was putting in her blue background, she chose to create a flower design using a blotting technique with the paper towel. Can you pick them out?

Combined with the salt, it created a stunning result. She was very deliberate with each color choice and technique she made throughout the process and was very proud of her finished result. I don't blame her.

Then there was this piece. For all my talk of "draw the butterfly big", she did the exact opposite with flare. It was a great opportunity to show the kids how making the butterfly small when everything else is large still puts the focus on the butterfly. The size combined with the color decisions she made created a wonderful result.

And finally the lone boy in the room, the birthday girls' big brother, who wanted nothing to do with butterflies. I gave him some bug reference to take a look at and he decided on created a centipede work.

Lots of singing, lots of yelling, lots of fun. Thank you Miss C for letting me take part in your special day.  

Happy 8th Birthday!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

UFO's, otherwise known as Unfinished Objects and this and that

Wednesday was one of those days that just got away from me. I had this great project idea using gel medium as resist with dyes, but wanted to do the project myself just to make sure there were no kinks in the idea. So I headed down to the studio an hour before class to run through the project before presenting it to the students.

Except for the fact that I walked into the studio mere minutes before the first students arrived!  That's right, my day was off by an hour.

I blame it on the fact I had spent the day hanging out with a good friend sharing stories while showing her how to needle felt. We had such a good time, it felt like we were only together a couple of hours, when in fact it was almost four. So I thought I still had lots of hours in the day, when in reality, I did not.

By the way, she created this adorable owl. It's not quite finished, but it is oh so cute.

21 at heart

So now I had a room full of kids and a new project that had yet to be tested. Not to worry because UFO's came to the rescue, otherwise known as Unfinished Objects.

I put the project I had planned to test and introduce to the side when I realized each child had come to the studio prepared to work on projects they had either not finished yet or projects they had requested to try with me in previous classes.

Projects my failing memory had conveniently forgotten, just like when my husband request I do not go out shopping.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! I was off the hook for my blunder. I had not just a project, but PROJECTS!

The week before some of the students had finished their wood burning paintings with a chunk of studio time to spare. Luckily I had some palm size canvases tucked away from a couple of summers ago that I brought out and asked them to recreate their wood burning with just acrylic paint.

I figured like the plaques, they would look really nice as tree ornaments this time of year that the kids could either put on their own trees or send to a relative as a gift.

10 year old

One student really wanted to make a mini canvas painting the week before but spent the class time working solely on his wood burning, so I had promised him that he could do one this week. A fact his memory didn't fail remembering when he showed up early on time for class.

He painted Rudolph with ornaments hanging off his antlers!

8 year old

Then I realized that the two older girls in the class had yet to finish the ink and graphite birds they had started, so I pulled those down for them to complete. Aren't they great? I love Toucans.

10 year old

10 year old

I have one little boy who absolutely loves to sketch. If he had his way, he would lie on the studio floor and just draw with a pencil the entire class. So when he finished his project last week, he began to sketch whatever his heart desired. When finished he showed me the most adorable drawing, "Mr. Bobby the elf". 

I fell in love with the sketch and had told him he should paint it...this week! Woo hoo! another great project I had let slip my mind.

7 year old

It is almost identical to his sketch and I love it. To me is captures the magic, charm, and all the other wonderful elements that makes children's art great.

I also can't help but hear Whitney Houston yelling at Bobby Brown every time I look at this work either. 


I'm probably the only person who remembers this reality show. It was all kinds of cray cray and like me, old, so just humor me the way all my poor students did last week when I kept singing the classic 70's disco tune, Burn Baby Burn, Disco Inferno while they were creating their wood burning pieces.

So now I had everyone busy with forgotten projects I had promised from previous weeks, except for one young girl. She liked the idea of creating an acrylic painting and she LOVED the idea that she could paint anything she wanted.


Because she is absolutely fascinated with some video game that her parents will not let her play, (isn't that always the way), and whenever given the chance draws the characters from the game when sketching at the end of class. 

I used the opportunity to have her work on shading skills while painting the character with a Santa hat because ya know, 'tis the season! 

Scary video characters and the holidays go together like marshmallows and hot chocolate, don't you agree? They do in this child's mind and I am all about embracing their visions.

At first the background was all black, which wasn't very "christmasy" and she said she was now going to add red and green over the top.  I told her to let the black dry and then paint on top of it so she began painting the character.

When she came back to the background, she was so thrilled with the discoveries she was making in regards to how the red and green looked when placed on top of the dried black paint. It was exciting to watch her surprise and happiness with the results.  Then I had her focus on adding shadow and highlights to her work.

She was very happy at the end.

8 year old

So although I got off to the rocky start, the kids all left the studio that night happy and content with the variety of work they had completed. 

And thanks to my failing memory, I'm sure I'll never remember the rocky start and just the great work  the students yet again created.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Acrylic Winter Paintings

On Sunday, I ran the first of the Holiday Workshops for this season. Each child created an acrylic winter painting on canvas.

I had put out a lot of different options of winter references to inspire the kids and each took some time to sketch out their compositions. I encouraged them to focus only on putting the shapes of the objects on paper, not details, as we would create those while painting.

When each child was happy with their composition, they transferred their sketches either freehand lightly on the canvas with pencil or by tracing their sketch onto the canvas with carbon paper.

Then I asked them to paint in their background only, discussing the importance of adding white to all the colors they were mixing to convey "winter".

7 year old

Once they had their backgrounds completed, they began to work on their subjects.  I showed each child how to use the brush to create interest with line, how to mix the colors directly on the canvas, how to find the shadow and highlights to add and asked them NOT to add any snow.  

For the evergreens, I showed both children how to dab on the paint with the brush to create the greenery and the importance of mixing three different tones of green to add to their work.

9 year old

I should mention that between each step, the kids used blowdryers to dry the paint.

Now for the next step, I brought out modeling paste and gave each student a palette knife. I then asked them to add all their snow. They had a great time with this part of the project and once again when finished, I asked them to dry the work.

Thankfully each child was finishing the steps at different times, so we didn't have horrible line ups waiting for a turn with the blow dryer.

8 year old

When the modeling paste was dry, they added white paint over all the modeling paste. I showed them how to use a dry brush to add the paint.  Again with the blow dryer! I asked them to make sure everything was good and dry at this point.

I then brought out a glaze and each child made a glaze with white to add over their entire work. This helped blend and soften each work to enhance the winter look of the pieces. And then using a high flow iridescent white mixed with a bit of soft body white, they tapped their paint brush over the work to create falling snow.

"Blizzard Night at the park", 11 year old

Now all was fine and dandy when all the kids added the glaze until the above work gave very unexpected results. The glaze did not dry the way expected on this work and was not in anyway what the artist was expecting. However he was quite excited by the surprise and was very happy when what had been just a dark winter night at the park turned into a blustery winter storm in the park. Isn't is great? I almost feel like I need to pull down my toque, wrap my scarf up to my nose, and hunch down into my winter coat while viewing this work.

The two hours went by quickly. The kids were all excited to share their works with their parents when they arrived for pick up. Some works will be going home and finding a place on the wall, while others are being wrapped up and given as gifts to relatives.

It was a wonderful afternoon to start getting into the holiday spirit of making and giving and today, I have high hopes of seeing some actual snow on the ground instead of just in these beautiful paintings.

holiday card workshop

This Sunday, I will be offering a workshop where the children will be carving their own stamps to create holiday cards.  Each child will go home with one print for framing plus cards and envelops to send out during the holidays. The stamps can be used for many years to come at home also. Sign up through 

The workshop runs from 2-4:30pm and is appropriate for ages 6 and up with a small class size for one on one attention. Cost is $60.00 and includes all materials.

holiday paper house workshop

Sunday, December 6 from 10-12pm, I will be running a workshop to create holiday paper houses inspired by the old German ones I have collected over the years. I am so excited to share this project with the children. Kids will even be able to add a battery operated votive to the back to create a warm glow through the tissued windows! There is only three spots left so if you are interested, sign up quickly at Cost including all materials is $55.00.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wood burning and acrylic, a beautiful combination

The studio has taken on the smell of an outdoor campfire this week as the students have all tried their hands at wood burning.

They have been fascinated by the technique and Tuesday night, the three girls enjoyed it so much I did not hear a peep out of any of them for almost the entire ninety minute class.

In fact with twenty minutes left to go, I had to entice them to put the wood burners down and pick up the paint brushes to put the final touches on their works!

I am so pleased and excited with the results the kids are getting with this art form. This is quickly becoming my all time favorite project.

I had picked out a variety of reference material of snowy landscape scenes and some Vancouver scenic pictures.

Two of the girls on Tuesday gravitated to the same reference picture and decided to sit next to each other to share, but look at how different their works came out!

11 year old

11 year old

It was also incredibly stormy during the Tuesday class.  We had wind warnings in effect and I had a burning candle plus a flash light in the studio..just in case. The morning after many people were without power and the sounds of chainsaws resonated outside as people were getting rid of fallen trees. So how appropriate is this stormy painting of Vancouver's famous Inukshuk?

11 year old

She definitely captured the weather we were experiencing during class.

Wednesday's class was not really all that sure about the wood burners and took a bit of convincing to give it a go, probably due to my stern warnings of being careful as to not to get burned, but I don't think walking out of art class with burn blisters is a good thing.

So once the nerves subsided, all five students were hard to convince to put the wood burners down.

7 year old

If you click on the above artwork, you will notice just how deep the burns go into the wood. He was the most vocal about not wanting to do the project at first and then had the most fun.  He even asked if he could do another one! 

8 year old

This little boy had a marvelous time creating snow flakes with the burner. He stuck with blue and grey because the ground is icy, not snowy.

8 year old

This artist was one of the other students who was not really sure about the wood burner.  She was extremely hesitant at first, so much so that I put my hand over hers for the first few times to make the burn marks until she gained her confidence.  By the end of class, she also was creating deep, dark burns into the wood so that the Inukshuk would look three dimensional.

10 year old

These two girls have become good friends over the past couple of months and love to work together on their pieces. I enjoy seeing how they each interpret the same subject matter and although similar always show the unique personalities of each child.

10 year old

All these artworks are so beautiful to me but the greatest testament to the success of this project was the pride I saw in each child's eye when they finished. They could not wait to show their parents at pick up.

Was there an upfront cost in adding the wood burners to the studio? absolutely.

Was it worth it?  A million times over.  I'm already mulling over new project ideas to use with them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Horace Pippin inspired wood burning paintings

A year ago I was introduced to Horace Pippin through an online art course.

I fell in love with his story and knew it would resonate with children. His desire to create was deep and he spent his life overcoming obstacles in order to create his work, a story I knew my students would find fascinating and inspiring.

I particularly love his wood burning pieces.

He created his work with a hot poker iron, adding paint to some areas but also letting the burnt wood and wood grain have equally important roles in the work.  They are simple, graphic and stunning.

Last night in class, I shared these pieces with the students along with a brief history of Pippin's life and the storybook, "A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin", by Jennifer Fisher Bryant.

Then while the kids created sketches to flush out their ideas, I heated up the hand held wood burners. I gave each child a small wood plaque to use for creating their works. It was interesting to see how each child faced the challenge of working with the wood burner.

One was quite concerned it would be too hard.  He needed some coaxing to get started and we simplified his artwork quite a bit so that the project wouldn't be too overwhelming. This lovely Christmas stocking will be quite special hanging from the tree this year.

(After taking this picture, I added a ribbon to the top with a hot glue gun so he would be able to hang it.)

9 year old

This young boy wanted to make a flower to give to his grandmother for Christmas. He lightly sketched his drawing on the wood before starting to use the wood burner. I was amazed at how deep his burn marks were in the work. I would of never thought of that, but it looked so great in the piece.

He really went to town burning out the negative areas of his work and the final product?  Gorgeous! I love the deep grooves he created for the blacks, it almost looks like lace.

7 year old

Then over by herself (because I only had so many outlets in the room and had to move the tables around to utilize them), this artist was quietly inspired by the beautiful winter scenes Pippin had created in his works. She sketched this beautiful and quite simple scene of a winter tree by a park bench. The street light is the only splash of color in the work....very much inspired by the splashes of color in Pippin's pieces.

Her artwork is simple, serene and breathtakingly beautiful.

11 year old

Her father's reaction at pick up was priceless, he was so impressed with her work.

I am so happy that I have been slowly collecting wood burning sets with every 50% off coupon I get at our local craft store.  I still need a few more until I get a collection of eight, but am so happy I finally had enough for one of the smaller classes to use.  I have had this project tucked away for almost a year now and it was well worth the wait

Monday, November 16, 2015

Simple printmaking for holiday cards

Sunday morning I did a workshop for North Vancouver Community Arts Council called Holiday Cardmaking.

I had five children in the class and they each created a series of cards to give to loved ones over the holidays.

Each student first created a pencil drawing on copy paper. 

When they were happy with their drawing, I taped down a square of styrofoam to the table (from a styrofoam plate pack I bought at the grocery store), and then taped the top of the drawing on top of the styrofoam. You don't need to tape the entire thing down, just the top of each piece.

Each girl then traced over her drawing with a dull pencil.

Before pulling the tape off, we made sure they had traced all their lines.  By having the tape there, you do not have to worry about matching up the picture if they need to do more work. Trust me, this saves lots of headache and tears later on.

Once they take the drawing off, I remove all the tape and ask them to go over their lines on the styrofoam once more to make sure they are deep BUT stress to them NOT to go all the way through the foam.

Then time for printmaking!

For this project the kids had three color choices, red, blue, and black. This decision was dictated by the number of brayers that were on hand.  I used palette paper for the inks since I was needing to get out quickly at the end of class to make my youngest daughter's initiation celebration into her sorority.

Clean up is easy when you just have to throw something away!

If you do not have access to block ink and brayers, stamp pads or paint will work just as well. Just make sure to put the paint on lightly so it does not go into all the line work.

The girls all did several prints on paper prior to starting their cards to help them get the hang of how much ink to use and how much pressure to place when pressing the plate onto the paper.

I had some clean brayers for them to use for rolling over the paper and foam, but the back of a spoon rubbed on the paper or even a wooden rolling pin would do the same thing.

skiing fun, 7 year old

When the students were comfortable, they got to work on their cards. They had a good time creating them and all made sure to share with me a favorite print when pulled. 

8 year old

giraffe hanging the tree star, 9 year old

They were quite proud of themselves when they finished and had a line of cards drying to take home. It was very impressive.

candy cane giraffe, 9 year old

We had about twenty minutes left in the two hour class, so I got out what has become the most popular art item in my repertoire, the old fashion ink pen. Gracious sake alive, these pens are getting quite the workout lately in my projects!

With a bit of india ink, each girl practiced some calligraphy and then got to work adding a holiday message inside their cards.

This seven year old is writing her messages in Czech. I know, pretty amazing right?

And with the realization that people on this earth for a whopping seven years are smarter than me, class ended. I'm sure whoever is lucky enough to receive one of these cards will cherish it for a long time.

I'll certainly look back fondly on the class and their sweet creations as time marches on.