Thursday, December 8, 2016

acrylic cupcakes

The elementary class created cupcake acrylic paintings that worked on composition and the use of tint. Before beginning the students explored the work of artist Wayne Thiebaud and I had them take some time to dissect a painting and make a multitude of discoveries on their own.

8 year old

This project idea however was not inspired by the work of Thiebaud but by the students' interest in the palette knives they had seen in the studio the week before. I took note of how fascinated they were with the tool and figured what better way to introduce them than by "icing" a cupcake the following week.

So when the kids got to class that Wednesday, they each found a cupcake sitting at their seat.

8 year old

I asked them to start by deciding where to put the cupcake on their paper to create visual interest. Then they each drew a cupcake shape on the paper and began to put in a background. I encouraged them to think about the direction they were using their paintbrush and to add lots of white to whatever color they chose to mix for their palette.

Once they had a background painted in I asked each of the students to mix a brown, remembering to add white. We basically baked a cupcake with paint, creating the entire shape with the brown paint they created.

Then while the paint was wet, they added a bit more white to the color where they saw the paper and I brought out some spatula tools I have that create texture. I figured as long as they were going to explore other tools for painting, why just stop with palette knives? The spatula tools make a natural pattern that imitated the lines in the cupcake paper. Although most of the students gave it a try, some also just flipped their brush around and used the top to create lines.

9 year old

Once each student was happy with where they were in the painting, it was time to break out the modeling paste and the palette knives.

I definitely had their interest peeked when I put a small mound of the modeling paste on each of their palettes along with a palette knife. I showed them how to mix some white acrylic paint with the paste using the knife and then told them to ice their cupcakes with the knife.

There was a small learning curve as they figured out how to manipulate the knives, but each child quickly figured out how to make it work for them.

After they were done, they each took a small brush and added the final touch- sprinkles!

When finished each student devoured their "live" subject and we were left with some very delicious looking paintings hanging to dry on the studio walls.

8 year old

 It was a yummy project from beginning to end.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

silk painted scarves

North Vancouver Community Arts Council asked me to run two workshops for them on silk painting- one for adults and one for children. I unfortunately do not have pictures to share of the adult class, since they took their scarves home to wash and set themselves, but I do have all the kids since I set and washed them at my private studio and then took them down the NVCAC's gallery for pick up.

This project required me to be brave as I had to modify it to fit into a two hour timeframe and within a certain budget. For the first time, I did not use the frames I have built from PVC pipe. Instead I used freezer paper and ironed the silk scarves onto it. I was uncertain if the resist would work as well and if the students would be able to manipulate to dyes the same way they can when on the frames.

(Building PVC frames for 9-10 students was not cost effective for the council since they cannot be purposed for other projects other than silk painting.)

All that worry was for nothing. I'm not sure why I have spent the extra time pinning silk onto frames all this time after seeing the results!

I usually run this project as a three hour workshop and have found the students work until the last minute and still need to come back to pick up the finished scarves as I do not have time to set and wash them before the workshop is over. These two workshops were only two hours and so instead of having students spend time created a final sketch on paper and then tracing it onto the silk, each student just freehanded their design right on the silk.

This minor change was all I needed to make in order to successfully have the kids finish the project in two hours. Because by having to freehand their drawings, they automatically simplified their ideas that allowed them to apply the dyes in a timely manner that allowed them to finish without being rushed.

So here is a rundown on how to do this project.

First, iron the silk scarves onto freezer paper, lightly sketch the design onto the silk with pencil, add resist over the lines (we used a water-based one), then add dyes. Once finished, pull the silk off of the freezer paper, use a hot iron to set, and wash in the sink using hot water. I iron them when wet just because I'm impatient and can't wait to see the finished product, but you can hang them to dry if you want and then iron straight.

We did this project the Friday before Remembrance Day and obviously this student had practiced making poppies at school and was quite excited to use the new skill on her scarf.

8 year old

I suggested to her to make the poppies different sizes and then because of time, she just used the dyes free form to add leaf shapes and background.

For those students who were stumped at what to draw or were a little less confident on drawing something freehand without being able to erase, I suggested just creating a design using shape.

We had polka dots,

overlapping circles where the artist changed the color at each line intersection,

and an amazing spotted cow print! Yes, a spotted cow scarf. I love the way kids think, love even more that the spotted cow became a rainbow spotted cow because she couldn't resist playing with the colored dyes.

This artist knew from the minute she arrived that she was making a rainbow scarf. She had a vision, stuck to it, and was so pleased with it when finished.

Not going to lie, there was a moment I was a little worried about the above scarf. She had such a wonderful time trying different techniques and color combinations in the stars, I wasn't sure at first how she was going to unify everything. But adding the black made all the difference and allowed each of the amazing colors to really pop and make visual sense. She also painted in some smaller stars without using resist to give a sense of depth to the scarf. I worried for nothing as the final result was stunning.

5 year old

This was the youngest student in the class. At first I was concerned about a five year old being able to focus for two hours on one project, but again, worried for nothing. She was without doubt the most focused of anyone and did not waiver from beginning to end working hard on her scarf. This was for her granny, who she was leaving to visit in Hawaii, for her birthday. The hearts are for how much the student loves her grandmother. What a special gift. I'm sure her grandmother was very touched when she opened it.

I fell in love with the watermelon scarf. I love the colors she chose, as it just looks like summer. If you could bite into a scarf, you would definitely want to eat this one. It just looked refreshing.

She also varied the sizes to create visual interest with great results.

Usually I have a lot of color choices with the dyes for the kids to choose from but in this case, the kids just had the primary colors and black. So everything you see here was created by the kids directly on the silk. 

I also had salt for them to add for texture. I have never met a child who does not like to use salt on the silk. They are fascinated with the patterns it creates.

I stressed the importance of washing the brush throughly between colors, otherwise they would no longer have a true red, yellow or blue.

I also showed them how to scrub the dye on the silk, lift the dye out of the silk, and how to blend colors for effect.

From the "ooh's" and "ahhh's" of the staff at the council when I dropped these off for pick up, I'm going to say without hesitation that each and every student used the techniques they learned with amazing results.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

monoprints inspired by artist Hope Forstenzer

It's been far too long since I have posted here. I have just found it difficult to find enough time to edit photographs of recorded work and write of late but hopefully things are settling down a bit now and I will be able to post all the great work and exciting activities I have been apart of in the last month.

Starting with a school group workshop I did for Seymour Art Gallery in Deep Cove last month for their Hope Forstenzer exhibit called Stories for Children.


I found it interesting and fun to work with three different school classes, an elementary age group, a LARGE group of kindergartners and a high school group.

The show was just as interesting! Glass blown balloons with characters from stories for children sandblasted onto them. The artist is quite fascinated that we tell children all these stories with really terrifying characters in them and has focused on those characters, both from recent stories and stories told over the centuries, on balloons. Balloons that invite the viewer into the room in a playful, non threatening way, just like the stories that contain these characters, before revealing a more sinister truth.

All the kids were fascinated by them and recognized many of the characters and were anxious to learn about the ones they did not know. Through the discussions they came up with reasons why we tell kids stories with such terrifying things in them. After the discussion, the students all participated in a hands-on workshop inspired by the exhibit.

We modified the project for each age group, but the one common thread was printmaking. The elementary age group made suncatchers with a gelatin monoprint added of a storybook character they liked and the kindergarten group made a stamp from craft foam.

Needless to say, the younger groups made for a very busy hour and so I do not have photos to share, although the works of art were very cute and the kids all had a great time.

But I am quite excited to share the work of the high school group! Their class was in the process of making 3D sculptures of an original story character at school that they created from a writing assignment given in class. The teacher thought the gallery exhibit tour was a nice addition to what was happening in the classroom, so we decided to have the students create a gelatin monoprint of their 3D characters that they could add to their written stories.

I loved listening to their perspective of the exhibit and afterwards they had time to really look at the balloons and the different ways Forstenzer illustrated the characters. Each student spent time in the gallery sketching directly from the balloons to gather ideas on how they could draw their own original characters too.


Then all of them began to work out their character sketches and paint them onto the gelatin plates. The students had access to black and gold ink for painting directly onto the plates.


The results? Amazing!

Now it was my turn to be fascinated by the stories these characters represented as told by the students. I loved the variety of ways they illustrated their characters and the multitude of different kinds of characters represented in their artwork.

This is a wicked princess witch. I love the border surrounding the character, the sense of overgrown, thorny woods it brings to the illustration to give the character an even more ominous presence.

Some of the students had time to create a couple of monoprints and took the opportunity to explore a couple of different ideas for their illustration. I love the way this artist used the pencil eraser to create the circle background in the print.

And I loved seeing how this student played with the idea of adding a background instead of just focusing on the character alone.

Or this set where the student played with pulling away to show the whole character vs a close up.

Some illustrations told a narrative while others just focused on the character itself.

But the best part was at the end, how proud each student was of their work and how excited they were to look at what each other had created and talk about them. It was a great afternoon spent at Seymour Art Gallery and I am quite humbled to have been asked to share in this experience as sixty plus students discovered a really beautiful exhibit.

Monday, October 31, 2016

British Columbia animal acrylics

The lunch art program I am running at a local elementary school is focused on creating art highlighting high risk species.

For their acrylic paintings, I introduced them to some animals right here in British Columbia that are considered at risk

My hope was that by highlighting animals close to home, the issue would take on a personal meaning to them.

I brought some photos of several animals, a grizzly bear, a Vancouver Island marmot, snowshoe hare, and the spotted owl.

spotted owl, grade one

The majority of the children decided to draw and paint the spotted owl with a few kids who picked the hare, the bear and the marmot.

Vancouver Island marmot, grade one

That sounds like the title of a children's book!

Each child spent time working on a sketch first. I used this as an opportunity to have them start focusing on what they really saw in the pictures and how to record on paper the observations they were making.

spotted owl, grade one

Since for the most part this is a very young class, I began by having them find the shapes that made up the animal and then combining the shapes with line to create their drawings.

This was also an opportunity to share with them how to make conscious choices about composition and creating one that pleased the eye and drew the viewer into their works of art. Sounds like a lofty concept for young children to comprehend, but they always seem to get it.

Vancouver Island marmot, grade two

Never underestimate the mind of a child.

As the class ended, they each used a piece of carbon paper to trace their sketch onto acrylic paper and then went over the drawing once it was transferred with charcoal.

This past week, they painted. Each child had a palette of primary color plus black and white. I used this as a real opportunity for them to practice color mixing. I encouraged them to create their own colors instead of just using the blue, yellow or red someone else made.

spotted owl, grade one

Immediately the question was raised, 'Do I have to paint my animal brown?"

Which was a wonderful opportunity to discuss how many artist use color to show emotion and create mood or abstract a work for interest. I emphasized that color was an important decision they would make as artist when creating their work.

spotted owl, Kindergarten

For a couple of children, it was also a great opportunity for them to explore how to create mood with tints and tones. These two artist had made some very interesting choices with their backgrounds- one using a lot of white and the other mixing with a lot of black. As I walked by, I encouraged both of them to continue adding this element to the colors they were mixing for their owls and was so excited to see they decided to give it a try! 

The black certainly leaves the viewer feeling like they have happened upon this spotted owl at night.

spotted owl, grade three

I like to share with the kids what I call, "artist secrets". There is something about calling them secrets that really captures their imagination. The first one I shared was starting with painting the background first. I also encouraged them to mix their colors directly on their paper instead of the palette.

ninja fighting snowshoe hare, grade four

I also spent some time as they painted showing them how to use brushstrokes to add interest to their works of art.

Finally as they finished their painting, I gave each child another opportunity to use the black charcoal to add any black lines they wanted. By adding charcoal while the paint is just semi-dry, it adds a very interesting look and adheres to the painting without the need of fixative.

spotted owl, grade one

spotted owl, grade one

It also gives the students more control than trying to add black line with the paintbrush.

In the end, there were some absolutely adorable works of arts. Each and every child should be incredibly proud of themselves and hopefully their artworks share with others some of the animals right here in our own part of the world who need a little extra TLC from us.

grizzly bear, grade one

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween inspired shadow boxes

I love when students take a project idea and make it their own.

I learned a long time ago to trust children when they divert from an original project plan. Great things have always been the result.

My original project was to have the kids create Day of the Dead inspired boxes. I had pulled several reference photos and as a group we discussed the details they discovered in the photos. I told them about the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and they shared with me storied of loved ones who had passed away in their families. We talked about how when we shared stories of our loved ones who were no longer on earth with us, they continued to live through those stories- the basis of the loving and beautiful holiday tradition in Mexico.

I learned about Pancake Grandma. A child's great grandmother who was famous in the family for making the world's best pancakes and several other wonderful family members.

But in the end, the kids were not to interested in creating decorated skeletons. 

Not interested at all.

They wanted to create Halloween boxes and sculptures of themselves trick or treating.

9 year old.

One wanted to create a box of bats flying on Halloween night.

9 year old

So while using the design elements of the Day of the Dead boxes as inspiration, the class project took a sharp turn left with the students at the wheel.

Using oven baked clay, each child created the characters for the narrative scene they wanted to create. They also painted the box with acrylic paints.

Close up of 9 year old box, she's a cheerleader this Halloween and she even added details like the skeleton on the shirt and her pigtails with ribbon, along with the black stockings.

At that point, the hour and a half was finished.

The following week, they painted their sculptures and then built their boxes to tell their unique Halloween story.

Close up of 9 year old box, he consciously chose to simplify the bat form and make one bat a different color. This was a great example of learning about back, mid and foreground.

There was A LOT of glitter applied to the backgrounds.

Rhinestones and holiday themed wasabi tape I picked up on clearance along with some holiday theme greenery.

5.5 year old box. Mom and dad are pirates, she is a princess and their dog is dressed up as Olaf. She added spooky faces to the tree branch! And enjoyed creating a stack of jack-o-laterns for the dog.

I had sticks and wood blocks the students could apply their imagination too.

And they had a ball painting their characters and assembling their shadow boxes. Most of them were creating until the very last minutes of class and they were so thrilled with their final results. 

Close up of 8 year old box, "Vampire" Love the "harvest moon" he created in glitter.

I had them each take a moment to write a note to their future selves on the back of the boxes. The wrote Halloween 2016 and then the story they had created. Since most used themselves as the hero/heroine of the box, in their costume holiday choice for this coming trick or treat night, I believe these will become a cherished decoration of their childhood in years to come.

Close up of 9 year old box. Best friends (you'll notice the cheerleader again from the above box) out trick-or-treating with the artist's pet cat, Taylor. Again the Harvest Moon makes an appearance.

Regardless I am glad I handed control of the project over to the students so pure magic could happen in the studio this holiday season.

Happy Halloween Everyone!