Monday, February 29, 2016

mixed media silly birds

Wednesday's class is a creative bunch of girls.

I am always amazed at how they will take the project I have presented and then interpret it in their own original way. I decided to tap into the confidence they each have in their own unique visions and create a mixed media project that focused on intuitive drawing.

At the beginning of the project, each girl picked out a sheet of scrap book paper I had already cut in half and a piece of sheet music, which I had also cut in half.

They glued each of these two sheets down well to their mixed media paper.

I told them not to fall in love too much with these papers as much of it would not show at the end.

Then I proceeded to introduce a bit of soft body acrylic paint in white and cream and asked them to paint "crazy" on the paper, trying not to blend the colors completely. (you could do the same thing by watering down basic acrylic paint if you don't have soft body)

A bit of panic set in as some artist began to lose all of their pretty paper, but I showed them how they could damp a paper towel and wipe away some areas so the paper showed through where they wanted.

Then they each chose a bird reference from a large grouping of photographs I had pulled out before class. Again I stressed that we would not be drawing the birds "lifelike".

In fact, I had each girl lightly draw their bird while not looking at their paper and using a continuous line. I promised they would be able to change the bird anyway they wanted afterwards but the goal was to create a bird in their own unique style.

6 year old

They drew their birds with just a regular school pencil and then went over the lines with a fat water-soluble graphite. Then using a bit of water on a paintbrush, went over those lines to begin creating some interesting tones.

Then while the paper was damp, went over the bird again and added details or changed things as they saw fit with a smaller black water-soluble pencil.

6 year old

Once they were happy with their birds, I gave each girl a box of chalk pastels and told them to add color wherever they felt it was needed. Most caught on quickly that a little bit of color went a long way, while others colored the entire page.

8 year old

Once I saw the girls were finishing up with the chalk pastel, I brought out some watercolor pans. Using their fingers dipped in water, they threw in some watercolor wherever they wanted on the paper.

10 year old

And just when they began to say, "I'm done", I brought out the white soft body paint one more time to soften all the color and bring the bird back out as the hero.

8 year old

The white paint over the chalk pastel and water color did some very beautiful things and the girls quickly began to fall in love with their works.  But before they could begin to say, "I think I'm done now", I told them there were a couple of more things they could consider.

8 year old

Like adding some pencil marks or words into the work,

10 year old

using the back of the paintbrush to scratch into the work,

6 year old

or by far the most popular choice, take the black water-soluble pencil, dip it into water, and then splatter the ink onto the paper by tapping the pencil over top of it.

This project was a great way to maintain a high level of excitement since it kept building upon itself. The girls had a great time exploring and discovering how each new medium changed and enhanced their project, When they were unhappy with a mark or decision they had made, they had the opportunity to resolve it by using a new medium or going back to a medium they had already utilized to bring the artwork back to a place where they were once again pleased.

In the end, it's hard to pick a favorite. Each work is quite incredible. I'm quite proud at how each artist embraced the unexpected, even when it could of been heartbreaking in normal circumstances. 

For example in the artwork three pictures up, the paper started tearing from the excess water the artist had used. Under normal circumstances this would of been devastating but because this project required students to let the process lead the way, the torn paper became ruffled feathers and the rips actually enhanced the work!

Due to all the layers in these artworks I find something new that I hadn't noticed before every time I look at them, making me fall in love with these wonderful birds all over again.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

acrylic portrait painting

When the preteen class finally finished their Santo inspired dolls, we had about 15 minutes left in class.

For fun I had each girl begin to sketch their sculptures and then we worked on the importance of adding value while they finessed the drawing.

As their parents arrived for pick up, they had some really interesting and funky little unfinished sketches.

So interesting that it seemed a shame not to create something with them. I decided to create a collage project so they could see how they didn't always have to start from scratch to create an artwork. I also wanted to challenge them with an intuitive painting project, where they let the work lead the way instead of having  a definitive vision of what the finished work would look like in the end. And finally I wanted the girls to explore creating their own unique style for the painting that was not really based on what things actually looked like in real life.

Each girl started with black paint and a bit of their favorite color. With that paint, I had them cover the paper to create a background.

Then they cut out their sketches and glued them down to the paper. Here is where the first "argh" moment happened. The background paint was not completely dry so when they started putting the matte medium on to flu down the sketches, then added the medium to the top of the sketch to make sure the sides of the drawing were adhered well to the paper, some of the black paint began to get on the sketch.

I assured them this was a great thing, even though they did not think it was great.

Then they began to add acrylic paint on top of their drawings.

Now I knew that would cause the graphite to smear and begin to make some great darks and lights for their painting, but again this caused a bit of panic in the girls.

More assurance on my part and they continued to march forward on their "weird" paintings.

Now just so you don't think everything was doom and gloom in the studio, they giggled their way through this process. Mostly giggles directed at me, that I could think any of these things were "great", but they pulled together and supported each other as they dealt with their nutty art teacher.

So as they added the paint, I told them they did not have to maintain the original drawing. They should change and add things as they saw fit to the painting- basically using the sketch as a guideline. I encouraged them to paint "outside" of the sketch.

While the paint was wet, I handed them water-soluble pencils to add in line work. I encouraged them to add arms to the dolls if needed and then a funny thing happened.

11 year old

This student, who more than once declared how much she hated her work, followed by exclamations that it was awful, suddenly announced, "I like this". Although by chance, I pulled out some art by Modigliani for her to look at as I felt her artwork had a lot of similarities to his pieces. In the end, she did a full 360 on how she felt about this project, which as a teacher is what I dream about when creating these ideas! 

To introduce something "weird", that makes the students a bit uncomfortable and unsure at first, so they can discover something new and exciting that they didn't know they would like just makes my day!

11 year old

I handed this artist a white gel pen as she got close to finish so she could add some marks into the work. I love the halo she added so we gain a perspective of the personality of her subject. I would agree that her original doll did look quite angelic and the sweetness of this picture warrants a halo too! I also encouraged her to had loose sketch lines back into her work and am quite pleased with the way she incorporated this suggestion. I think she was too in the end.

12 year old

As this painting was nearing completion, the lack of arms looked a bit strange. So I encouraged the artist to add them but she didn't want to disturb the dress since she was really, really happy with how it looked. So I told her to put her arms behind her back.   We all laughed as we decided it looked like she was hiding something with a "who me?" expression. Giggles ensued as we decided this particularly little girl was quite naughty.

And something marvelous happened in the creative process, the portrait took on a true personality. The artist named her "Naughty Nona" and I told her it might be fun to anchor the artwork with the words. I showed her some examples in my own artwork that I have been playing with recently where I incorporate words and then I gave her a water-soluble crayon and let her write. Once she had the word in place, she painted around it so that some of the color bled into the paint, incorporating it into the painting.

We all decided she might be hiding the crayon behind her back.

I'm quite pleased with the journey these three artist travelled in this project. They went from unsure, to I don't like this style of work, to being quite surprised and happy with the final pieces. I like that they now know they can take a sketch, cut it out and begin a painting with it. I like that they realize they can create their own style in a portrait and like it! Things don't have to look just like real life.

But most of all, I like that this work was inspired by one of their other original artworks. What a lovely little display they will have at home when they put the painted portrait with their beautiful sculptures!

Well done girls.

Friday, February 26, 2016

wacky pack and Roy Lichtenstein inspired drawings

On Monday night, the studio was filled with giggles.

That's because a week or two before, the students discovered a book on the studio shelf full of Wacky Pack designs.

A sticker collection I was personally obsessed with in elementary school that you collected much the same way as you collect hockey cards. I drove my mother crazy begging for a ride to the local 7-11 every time I had 5-cents in my pocket so I could buy a new pack of stickers to put on my notebook.

Yes, 5-cents.

And that was hard earned money people!

I can still hear my mother's exasperated voice in my head telling me I was wasting my money, but I didn't care. Like every other kid in my class, I wanted to complete the sticker collection proudly displayed on my notebook or be able to trade my doubles for stickers I didn't have.

And they certainly weren't always appropriate by today's standards. As a child of the 70's, my stickers included parodies of beer and cigarettes that I chuckled over while smoking on a candy cigarette.

Ah, good times.

Anyway for those of you who were denied these most amazing creations, here's a look at one of the stickers that not only fascinated me growing up, but also the students in Monday's class when they discovered my book full of every Wacky Pack sticker ever made.

(for my mother)

So how to create an art project inspired by Wacky Packs? Well, introduce Roy Lichtenstein! I thought his pop art style would meld perfectly with the potty humor of Wacky Packs.

I presented several styles of his work, including Sunrise.

As a group we discussed how he used primary color. We talked about Ben-Day dots, man did the kids love saying Ben-Day dots! And we giggled over the comic book art he created. 

I even pulled out some vintage comic books and a magnifying loop so the kids could discover the Ben-Day dots for themselves! 

And then the students all set off to create their own original "Wacky Pack" designs inspired by Lichtenstein's pop art technique.

Potty humor reigned supreme and giggles commenced! Lord, they had fun.

Some students brought packaging from home, where they had discussed and laughed about ideas on parodies with their families. Others used packaging designs I printed out and made available in the studio.

7 year old

Some students decided, "why mess with perfection?" and recreated old Wacky Pack designs.

Each student created their design on Bristol paper and used markers for color. I had a grid for them to use for circles, but many just decided to create their own Ben-Day dots. 

We discussed that the dots worked best where they were trying to create a lighter color and each child understood that concept quickly.

9 year old, parody of Cadbury's Caramilk chocolate bar

It was fun to watch how they all worked as a team to help each other work out their concepts. It was a joy to watch them build each other's confidence up as they laughed at everyone's final ideas.

We had Gagbury's Carmilk bar, made with 50grams of real gasoline! mmmmmmmm

9 year old, parody of Cheerio's

And "Geario's" made with 100% nuts and bolts.

8 year old, parody of 7-Up can

Feel free to wash down those Geario's with some Barf-Up. 100% real barf, not just any barf either, but the real, smelly gross barf! yum.

9 year old, Smarties parody

Or you could enjoy Canada's favorite candy, Farties, with your Barf-Up if you prefer. They're a real gas! Made with real farts and a warning "not to eat too many".

I'm having way too much fun writing this post

Anyway, I'd be lying if I wasn't a little nervous as pick up time got closer. What would their parents think? Would they allow their kids to come back to the studio? 

I mean these aren't exactly the artworks you show off to grandma.

But I was relieved to see the parents jumped right into the fun. One dad was quite excited to frame them up even!

This project was a hit from beginning to end. The kids loved creating silly parodies of every day products. It was the perfect fit for explaining Pop Art. And they loved exploring the techniques Lichtenstein used in his artwork.

Win. Win. Win.

And if I still had my school notebook covered in my beloved Wacky Pack stickers, I would surely trade one of my doubles for any of wonderful works my students created to add to the collection.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

peerless watercolor on vintage photographs

This is a project I have been storing for quite some time. Anytime I see old photographs in a pile at a junk store for a dollar or two, I'll pick a few up and put away for this particular project.

Last Thursday, I gave the teen class three project options and lo' and behold, they chose to use the old photographs to tint with a booklet of Peerless watercolor.

Why is it coveted? I'm not really certain other than I love the paper book and the designs some of the colors have on them. So I was glad the teens got me over the hump of actually using and enjoying them.

I cut a small square of each color for the girls while they each picked an old landscape photograph. 

I explained up front that they could not take away any color they added to the photograph. It is immediately permanent when applied. I suggested they start adding color lightly and build up as they gained confidence.

The golden age of hand-colored photography was from the early 1900's until about 1940, thanks to artist, Wallace Nutting, and his hand-colored landscape photographs. I was quite excited to share this bit of art history with the teens and they were eager to give it a try.

That is until we got started......

What looked to be easy in theory was anything but and the girls quickly had to start problem solving to figure out how best to create the desired looks they were after. And more than once I heard the statement, "I don't like this" come out of their mouths.

But to their credit, they continued forward and I am so glad that they did! Their creations are beautiful! 

13 year old

This artist loved the style of the work in the end. She was so happy with her piece and I was so happy watching her admire her work.  I love the soft quality the photograph takes on with the addition of color too! I mounted the work on Bristol and had the girls sign it underneath.  

I have a 15 year old girl who is a bit of a perfectionist in the studio. She says her father calls it "her tick". She can focus on a project and work on the finest of details longer than any artist I know- professional and student! I am always amazed at what she finally ends up with and have accepted she will rarely finish a project at the same time as the rest of the students.

That is until she entered an advanced art class at her high school with the requirement of presenting her sketchbook with new work every week! Art class has become a great resource for her to get her homework finished each week and I could not be more thrilled to finally have more of her work to present on the blog.

(she is notorious for taking projects home to work on throughout the week and never bringing them back because she thinks they are no good)

She is her toughest critic and many times I am looking at the work thinking, "amazing", and she is loathing it.  Like the work she created for this project....

15 year old

She hated it.

It serves only the purpose of being able to go in her sketchbook for marks. She has no plans for it to ever be displayed. I'm hoping her mother has other plans and suspect she will place it on the fireplace mantel to admire once the teacher has seen it.

And rightly so! Because in this particular case, the student became the teacher. I learned so much watching her fight this project. 

She added copious amounts of water to the photograph, which I really did not think it could withstand. 

She layered color upon color, again something I didn't think was possible. 

And when I told them to start lightly with color, she cannonballed into the deep end and put the brightest, darkest colors into the work first- then somehow layering lighter colors to highlight afterwards.

And finally, she asked me for white. There is no white in watercolor, however there is with gouache. I was very upfront with her when I gave the tube of color to her that I had no idea what would happen if she added white gouache to the photograph, but she courageously gave it a try anyway.

And created a marvelous piece.

So many potential new ideas are swirling in my head now that I see you can do so much more with the photos and color!! Maybe a surrealist project where the artist actually paint in nonexistent animals, people, and things?!  Oh the possibilities are endless!

I mean that starry sky she placed in this work alone just gets the gears in my head turning with endless ideas.

My hope is that after stepping away from the work for a bit of time, she looks at the artwork with fresh eyes and sees the beauty the rest of us see in the work, the beauty the first artist, rightly so,  sees in her work, and wants to have it displayed.

I'm so proud of both of these pieces. I'm proud of the determination each student displayed to try something that was so different. 

I'm proud of each student's perseverance as they faced and conquered the unique challenges they had to work through in this project.

And I can't wait to collect more landscape photographs so I can present this and new project ideas using this technique again and again and again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

clay Santo inspired dolls

The preteen class has been working hard over the past three weeks on some Santo inspired dolls.

I never run projects in the studio that I have not worked out previously on my own. I always want to make sure I work out any kinks prior to introducing the project to the kids and make sure skill wise it is appropriate to the age group. I had done a "test run" of this project a few years back and created a ballerina doll for my youngest daughter, in honor of a dance performance she had done as a tooth fairy when she was four years old.

The doll sculpture had somehow come off the base and so I had it in the studio to fix. The preteen class saw it and wanted to do one themselves.

And why not?

This project is a great way to introduce all the details of creating a face in 3D. We used a very lightweight air dry clay and the girls started these with a small cardboard cone that they taped an egg shaped head made from aluminum foil too.

The first week they just worked with the clay to create the upper body, face and hair.

The following week once dried, I gave each girl a small piece of sandpaper so they could sand off any really rough areas. Then using acrylic paint, they did all the painting. With this clay, there is no need to gesso. 

Once they finished the painting, we adhered the dolls to a wooden dowel base with some hot glue. As you can see, one student was able to begin adding a skirt before the end of the second class.

The final week was spent getting the dolls all "gussied up". 

First they each added a skirt to the doll. I had a bolt of white tulle they could use, but also offered up some old book pages they could pleat to make the skirt.

They all chose the white tulle but quickly discovered it was not as easy as they thought to trim up to create the desired skirt length they wanted once it was hot glued into place.

Each girl came up with their own unique way to problem solve this challenge. Some separated each individual layer and then trimmed and others just gathered it all up into a small bunch, cut, and then cleaned up any frayed edges.

Needless to say, the studio looked like there had been a cat fight between two brides at the end of class with bits and pieces of tulle scattered all over the place.

Once the girls were happy with the skirts, they added a bit of ribbon around the waist to hide where it was glued on and then could add any other accessories. 

11 year old

This lovely lady has flowers created from crepe paper and a design added on the skirt using some glitter glue.

10 year old

This artist wanted to make flowers out of clay, so I gave her some oven baked clay to use. She also added some details to the skirt with glitter glue and if you look carefully, you will see she also gave the bride a couple of beauty marks near her eyes made of glitter!

Here's a look at the doll's veil, held in place with some more flowers. We went over the traditional saying of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" which is how the pretty, soft blue ribbon was chosen, instead of white.

And finally, a fairy godmother! Because who doesn't need a fairy godmother in their life?!

10 year old

The artist adorned the skirt using rhinestones I had left over from a pinecone elf workshop at Christmastime. She used a HUGE glittery gold ribbon to create a bow, so that her fairy godmother looks like she has wings to fly.

As the girls finished, my eyes teared up as I could literally watch their chest swell up with pride as they admired the final work. They were so pleased and happy with their dolls. It was such a special moment for me as a teacher to watch each of them.

Each girl was so excited to finally get to take these works home. In fact, one artist was heading straight to her grandmother's house to share her doll. Her grandmother is a local artist who exhibits textile dolls and her granddaughter was hoping she would use her creation as inspiration!

I have no doubt that these dolls will be very special pieces in their rooms at home and I can't say I blame them. I hope they enjoy them for a long time to come.

Monday, February 22, 2016

acrylic still life paintings using complimentary color

Recently I had both elementary classes explore using complimentary colors as an under painting in their acrylic artworks.

That's a mouthful to write and a challenging task for young children, but I knew they were up to the task.

We looked at a couple of works by Cezanne and discussed his use of black and loose paint strokes. I encouraged them to use this style as inspiration for their own works.

Then using a color wheel before getting started, the kids had fun finding the complimentary partner to each color I called out. Once they got the hang of that,  we focused in on the complimentary colors to the real life compositions that were in front of them.

8 year old

Each child created their own unique compositional study using charcoal before starting with the paints. I then asked each child what they were thinking for background color and what colors they would need to create a full underpainting in the complimentary colors.

6 year old

I am not going to lie, it was an undertaking in itself to get the kids to really comprehend why you would create a full painting underneath that you wouldn't actually see at the end. It was one of those moments that I was grateful for the trust that each child has given me as an instructor because they took a leap of faith with my instructions that the underpainting would indeed add interest and depth to their work.

9 year old

For the Monday class, I created a real life study of apples with a pitcher and for the Wednesday class, a very large bunch of grapes. Once they had their underpainting created, they began working on their final paintings. 

6 year old

8 year old

As you look at these works, keep in mind that each child was only given primary colors with white and black to work with. Everything created here, they mixed themselves. Between the mind workout of painting everything first in the opposite colors and then mixing their own colors, I am more than proud of these students.

8 year old

I love the way the above artist decided to paint in her final grapes using a spiral paint stroke, such a unique way to problem solve painting this many grapes!

10 year old

And the pitcher the two 10 year olds decided to include in their paintings was a very big challenge. It had an interesting decorative painting on it that was difficult for the girls. I think they both found a great way to hint at the pitcher detail.

10 year old

8 year old

10 year old

This group of friends asked if they could make large grapes, which I wholeheartedly agreed they should try. I really want to encourage each child to create their own aesthetic with what is in front of them and loved that they even thought to enlarge the grapes paper.

9 year old

I also had one young boy decide to add a plate and knife to his apple composition. He also added a slate table! The art tables in the studio are far less interesting that this lovely he created.

9 year old

As they finished their paintings, the kids had one more opportunity to use the charcoal to finesse any black line work they wanted.

7 year old

And as they completed the works and saw how interesting the addition of the underpainting made their final pieces, they were believers. Even though it seemed I was off my rocker at the beginning in having them created full paintings in crazy color that they were just going to cover up.

6 year old

It will be interesting to see if any of the kids relook at this technique the next time I introduce an acrylic painting project. Regardless I am so pleased they trusted me and took a leap of faith to try this technique in their work. Although difficult to understand in the beginning when I was describing it, each child, regardless of age, rose to the challenge.

Just like I knew they would.

Friday, February 19, 2016

water soluble graphite on acetate drawings

An entire week of projects started on a whim when discussing ideas with one of the teens before class. In the teen class, I try to present a variety of ideas at the beginning for them to choose from, as I'm a firm believer in letting them be in control of what they are working on while they are in the studio.  There are always techniques and discoveries I am hoping to show them in the projects, but I feel like they should always be invested in what they are doing and enjoying it...which happens best when they feel they have made the decisions on what is being created in class.

So a week ago the teens were all finishing up different projects and one student, who is taking an advance art class in high school, wanted to create a work she could put into her school sketchbook for marks. So after a bit of discussion, we decided to create a work with a focus on the importance of making sure your work contains at least 4 or 5 different values. The best way to do this is working in black and white and so she chose a cat for subject matter and began to create.

To add a little more interest I introduced a very different surface for her to draw upon, acetate. To make it a bit more interesting, I gave her a water soluble pencil also. This particular student likes to control everything about her drawing and I thought the combination of water and acetate would force her to loosen up and try a new style.

By the end of class, she had created this beautiful cat for her sketchbook.

15 year old

And I had a beautiful project I could not wait to share with a few other classes in the coming week.

Starting with the drawing class on Friday! Since Valentine's Day was Sunday, I thought it would be fun for the students to create a drawing they could adhere to cards to give to their parents on the holiday.

7 year old

9 year old

10 year old

Pretty amazing, don't you think? I would be thrilled as a parent to receive these cards. We talked about puns to add with the pictures, "You're so tweet, be my Valentine" or "It'd be a hoot if you'd be my Valentine".


They weren't sold on that idea either. 

In the end I think each child just signed with a simple, "Happy Valentine's Day"

A couple of the girls finished a bit early and so with pen and ink did simple line drawings of a bird.

7 year old

10 year old

Well I was so pleased with the card drawings created in the hour class, I decided to do the project one more time with the Monday elementary class on a larger scale. And yet again, the work took my breath away.

9 year old

7 year old (close up of coiled snake)

So how is this done? They do an initial drawing with the water soluble pencil and then with a small paint brush dipped in water go over the lines. This will give them a light grey value. Then they just begin to do the drawing over and over again, each time focusing in more and more on the dark. Because the work is on acetate, in the end they can take a semi-dry brush and pull out the white.

If at anytime they want to start over and try again, add water and wipe with a paper towel. You are back to a clean piece of acetate! 

9 year old

9 year old

8 year old

By the time they are pulling out the white, most of the water has dried on the acetate. For those kids who put a lot of water on the acetate, I will quickly use the blow dryer on the picture. Then I spray a clear varnish over each picture that dries very quickly and spray mount them onto a heavy stock paper.  That's it.

A couple of students again finished a bit early and so this time I asked them to recreate their artworks in scratch art. Same concept, but doing the opposite.

I'm so impressed with how easily they were able to apply what they had learned and create these works in a 20 minute period of time. I love them as much as I do the original project.

8 year old

I am beyond thrilled that this project was challenging and enjoyable to such a wide age group. Each student was so proud at the end of what they had created. Can you blame them? I know each child walked away with an understanding of the importance of light and dark in their works too. It will be easy to now suggest adding more dark or light to future pieces they create without much more explanation needed from me.

Will I present the project again? You bet! I can hardly wait.