Wednesday, August 31, 2016

scratch board animals

Another project the kids did during the art camp at Seymour Art Gallery, focused on the Ben Lim exhibit, was scratch board.

Working off of one of Ben Lim's beautiful sketches from his sketchbook the gallery had used for promotional materials, it seemed like a really good match to have the kids focus on creating an animal using line.

The idea for the project is actually a combination from two different exhibits at the gallery.

In the spring, the gallery has an art exhibit strictly for children. It's my favorite yearly show and the artist who participate sell their work only to children sixteen and under. One of the artist this year whose work really stood out to me was a Vancouver artist named Andrea Hooge. I had filed away in my head the idea of creating an art history project influenced by her scratchboard work because I knew it would resonate with the kids.

But while looking at the promotional material for Ben Lim's exhibit with the gallery curator, I was struck that the project idea I had been thinking about inspired by Andrea Hooge married quite well with Ben's sketches. We both agreed it would be a nice match.

The stars aligned when I saw that our local art store, Opus Art Supplies, was having a workshop put on by none other than Andrea Hooge where she was presenting her method for creating the scratchboards. It seemed to me the stars (or Ben) was trying to tell me something and that I should indeed make sure I included this project in the camp.

Andrea was most gracious with sharing with me her techniques and spent time answering questions on ways I could create a clay board knock off that would allow the kids to experience the method without breaking the piggy bank.

So using small wooden boards I bought at the craft store, I covered each with three layers of white gesso- sanding between each layer. Then I covered the gessoed board with india ink.

That's it.

A bit of time and elbow grease on my part, but I now had a clay board knock off that would allow the children to experience a new technique and medium.

Each child created a sketch on copy paper. Other than the shape of the animal and key points (eyes, mouth, nose, wings, legs, or paws) there was not a lot of detail. That would happen when they began to scratch into the boards.

They transferred their sketches onto the boards by rubbing a bit of white charcoal on the backside of the drawing and then laying it over the board and retracing their sketch.

Once they had a carbon copy on the board, I gave each of them a scratch pen for drawing. (If you can't access scratch pens, a thumbtack would work just as well.)

I suggested they not outline their tracing but just start adding fur, feathers, or scales to the piece. I have no doubt I sounded like a broken record as I kept repeating to pay attention to the different direction of lines on their reference material...the same way I do at home when I continue to repeat over and over and over for my kids to put their laundry away! Only difference is these artist listened.

They all caught on quickly and really enjoyed scraping into the board.

The works were quite arresting when finished. I was especially thrilled to see that the initial scrapes they made were a grey and that the kids needed to go over a scrapes more than once to get a true white- which created some nice tones on the piece I had not seen kids be able to achieve just using scratch paper.

Could I have better photographs? yes. 

However this was the project I had saved for Friday morning while the children's art show was being set up. There was just not a lot of time to get great photos before these were on display in the show and then carried home. But the project had been so successful, I figure the blogging world will forgive me for the opportunity to learn about a project the kids found exciting.

It was great to see such a wide age range of children enjoy this medium. And I am eternally grateful and forever humbled by the graciousness of artists who not only share their talents with me, in this case Andrea, but also create art that inspires me, (Ben), which helps me hopefully create projects that ultimately inspire kids. 

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire art community to inspire and raise a lover of the arts. A fact proven in spades with this lovely little project.

Thank you Andrea Hooge and Ben Lim.

Monday, August 29, 2016

clay and paper collage assemblage

When the curator and I were first walking through the Ben Lim exhibit a couple of weeks prior to the Seymour Art Gallery summer art camp, one of the artworks I gravitated to quickly were Lim's clay and paper pieces.

I love them so much I had recently purchased one to give my daughter for her 19th birthday.

A panda, her favorite animal since she was in preschool.

(obviously not the panda artwork) Ben Lim

During the tour with the children, they discussed his subtle use of paper color to suggest the background along with other nuances they observed in the work- including using the clay to cut shapes out and layer to create the animals.....almost like paper.

These artworks are truly magnificent and were one of the first projects I conceptualized for the camp. The process seemed like such a natural draw for children.

Each child started off with a rectangular piece of wood that I picked up for under a dollar at the local craft store.

8 year old

Using matte medium, (Modge Podge or a glue/water mixture would work well too), the kids cut and began to layer tissue paper onto the wood surface to create a background. The only thing I really needed to stress during this part of the project was keeping the tissue paper contained within the board, easy to do since wrinkles were a great addition to the texture of the artworks and tissue is so light it is very easy for kids to manipulate with the glue.

9 year old

They quickly realized layering the same color added value and really seemed to understand and were inspired by the processes Ben had used in the pieces they observed during the tour.

8 year old

They really loved and got lost in cutting the papers, adhering them to the wood, watching how each layer added to the nuance of their background, and throughly enjoyed "painting with paper".

9 year old

It was a pure joy to see them enjoying this project as much as they did! I gave each child a small amount of oven baked clay in white. They rolled out the clay and began to cut shapes out to create their animals. They took time to add textures and seemed to really catch on and enjoy the abstract nature of Ben Lim's animals in the artwork they had spent time enjoying during the tour.

6 year old

Once it was baked and hardened, they kids lightly painted the clay with acrylic paint and we used some strong glue to place them on the wood boards with their tissue pictures.

7 year old

The kids were quite excited to see the artworks finally come together and were quite pleased with the final outcome.

8 year old

The curator, myself, the artist working with me and the gallery assistant were all quite excited about them too after camp finished when we looked at them as a group.

8 year old

This was a great project for a wide range of ages, very engaging and a great way to build their artistic confidence. There was not one child in this group of 12 who did not fall in love with this process.

12 year old

Each and every one of the kids were fully engaged in each step of this project and it is one I have already decided to do again this fall with a lunchbox program I am running at a local school. I felt it was that successful from beginning to end.

12 year old

But the part the kids were most excited about? Putting on those chops! They could not wait until everything was complete and it was time to stamp their artworks with their signatures.

The perfect end to a perfect project.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

artist Ben Lim inspired animal sculptures

If you toured the Ben Lim exhibition at Seymour Art Gallery, Ben's love of clay was obvious.

There were an array of animal clay sculptures everywhere and the children had a wonderful time looking at them with the curator during the tour.

She was full of so many interesting facts in regards to the works.

Like how the original crane sculptures were created to represent his family.

Or his love to show majestic whales in motion, either using the surface they were sitting on to represent the water they were breeching from or these bowls that are incorporated to show them swimming.

The curator also pointed out how he created a clay slab that he made into a cylinder to create his sculptures and left clues for the viewer to see his process.

This polar bear was a great example to show the kids exactly how Ben Lim began his works of art.

The curator also highlighted the textures and patterns Ben added to his sculptures and let the kids spend time discussing their own observations they discovered in the works.

Then the kids headed back to the work area and began creating their own animal sculptures inspired by the Ben Lim exhibit. We created the clay sculptures out of air dry clay and the kids all tried their hand at creating their animals using the cylinder slab.

For a couple of the younger children, this was very challenging. As I saw a couple of them getting frustrated, I quickly found some aluminum foil and gave that to them to create an armature all the while praising them for their tenacity in continuing to try the cylinder slab.

It was so interesting to see what each child took away from the curator's tour of Ben Lim's clay sculptures in their artwork.

7 year old

This child was very moved by the whale fins she saw in the exhibit, but was also obviously moved by the story the curator told about how Ben had created the crane sculptures to represent his family because there is a fin here to represent each member of her family.....the smallest fin representing her.

How wonderful is that?

This young artist was obviously paying very close attention when the curator pointed out how Ben was able to use the table surface the sculptures rest on to represent the water as this whale is coming in and out of the water. 

I was so excited to watch her during the process of creating this piece.

7 year old

8 year old

6 year old

The fins were a big hit with the kids and it was interesting to watch how each interpreted Ben's textures and painting style on their own clay works.

8 year old

And we even had a child take the bowl idea and incorporate that with a fin, like I said, the fins were popular.

Then there were the animals.

12 year old

We had a lovely peacock.

9 year old

And this adorable penguin that is very reminiscent of Lim's birds she saw in the exhibit. If you look closely, you can see some of the textures she added in the wings inspired by what she saw during the tour also

12 year old

And then the lone wolf. I love that the artist was confident enough to follow her own path when everyone else was either doing whales or birds.

Once the clay was dry, the kids painting them with acrylic paint and I then set them with a high gloss varnish. They were so lovely when finished.

And without doubt, these clays were a highlight at the art show Seymour Art Gallery put on exhibiting their artworks for family and friends on the last day of camp. 

How could they not be when they are so wonderful?!

Friday, August 26, 2016

pen and ink zine

In May I had a student create a monoprint zine as a gift for her mom on Mother's Day.

Ben Lim

Inspired by Ben Lim's sketches, one of the projects the curator and I discussed was having the kids create a zine in pen and ink using the artwork in the exhibit as inspiration.

Little did we know what a great insight it would be for us as adults of how the kids process the information we were giving them and their perspective of the exhibit.

But as far as the kids were concerned, they really enjoyed creating the books and I think of all the projects they were quite excited to share this one with their family and friends.

The books are quite easy to make and you can find clear and easy instructions here on Experiment with Nature's blog. I went through the steps with the kids using copy paper, but because it was a large group of children of different ages, I did go ahead and create the final books prior to class using a nicer paper.

The first thing the kids did was review Ben Lim's sketchbooks and then they spent time creating sketches of the different artworks that they felt a connection too.

With clipboard, paper and pencil in hand, each child got lost in the relaxing process of just observing Ben's work and sketching the things they found most interesting inspired by the processes they had seen in Lim's own sketches.

I did stress to the kids that these were their rough sketches, not finished drawings and that to think of them as just notes on the different things they wanted to spend time further exploring and finessing in their final books.

However that being said, there are some really wonderful drawings in their rough sketches.

Once they felt they had enough material from the exhibit sketched to create a zine book, they began using pen and ink to work directly on their final papers. I had them write in light pencil with an arrow pointing up on each page (you'll notice in some of the final drawings the kids went ahead and inked this in) so if they wanted, they could unfold the book and work on it as one large piece of paper- knowing where each page was on the paper and which direction they needed to draw.

Because what the kids discovered once the paper was unfolded was the fact that all the page numbers were not in order nor were they all facing the same direction.

I'm not sure what it is about pen and ink, but kids love it. 

Every. single. time I introduce this medium, you can hear a pin drop in the room as the kids get lost in creating with them. For most of the children, this project was something they enjoyed so much that they spent several days working on them.

There were some pretty wonderful books once they were all completed, many of them melted your heart while reading.

Like this six year old's book called, "Jack's Stuff".  After going through the gallery he asked if he had to sketch the items from Ben's exhibit. I told him that at the end of the day, he should draw and create the book that he wanted first and foremost and so here's a book full of what I can only assume are the most important possessions to him at the ripe ol' age of six.

age 6

Along with his bookcase and bed, his stuffy, table, home and cat were what was most important to him. I thought this was such a precious keepsake for him to look back on years from now and when finished, this little zine truly touched my heart.

And then there was this zine created by a twelve year old called, "Birdie Friendship"

age 12

She processed and interpreted Lim's exhibit in the most interesting way, using the kimono works to dress the bird and picked up on a lot of the line work she saw in his sketches.  But the dedication is what made me get a little teary.

"To my dad who loves ducks, my mom who loves hummingbirds and little Cameron who loves Pheonexes. Illustrations inspired by Ben Lim" Just typing this makes me catch my breath, what a thoughtful girl to create something so touching for her family.

pages from 7 year old zine

I encouraged the kids to try to tell a story by creating the narrative with pictures instead of words so they didn't get overwhelmed with things taking so long. Did Ben Lim have Pokemon in the exhibit? No. However the bird flying in the sky is very reminiscent of some of the clay birds in the gallery, which for me was extremely interesting to see how he used Ben Lim's artwork as a jumping off point to tell a story he had a personal connection too.

This child's illustrations were heavily influenced by the works within the exhibition. And she also had to work within an "oops" when she forgot to pay attention to the arrows she had made herself as a reminder to which way was up in her book while she had the paper all spread out as one sheet.

So she embraced the "upside down kimono" with full gusto and created them flying in the wind amongst the clouds.

zine created by 9 year old

I purposely did not correct any spelling mistakes. At the beginning of the project, I presented any writing to be viewed as artwork, not traditional writing like they did in school. Therefore, spelling, capital and small letters, and spacing no longer were confined by rules. Misspellings, mismatched letters and wonky spacing were all opportunities to enhance artwork. 

And to be really honest, I find the spelling mistakes add to the charm and know when I look back on  my own childhood works my mother saved, the ones me and my family enjoy the most are those with my spelling errors. Somehow they capture the innocence of my youth.

I love how some of the artist decided to make their drawings bleed over more than one page.

This twelve year old artist even had the wind and water lines connect and continue throughout the book. It looked wonderful!

It was very interesting to see which works of art in the gallery really resonated with the kids. I was quite surprised to see how many of the kids were drawn to the kimono pieces in the exhibit and absolutely no one focused on the dinosaurs! If you had asked me, I would of thought that would of been the exact opposite.

And finally, there was this sweet book which gives you a tour around the gallery through her drawings. For me and the curator, it was extremely enlightening to see what information had been retained and was important to her from the gallery tour.

As a retired Art Director and a typography geek I absolutely love the writing in this work of art, but it is the message that made it difficult to maintain composure when stopping by to observe her work in progress and for the curator when she was taking some photographs.

This flock of flying birds greeted guest as they walked into the exhibit, birds that were left unfinished at Ben's death and completed by family, friends, colleagues, and members of the community in a collaboration put together by Seymour Art Gallery prior to the opening as a way to remember Ben and honor his work. This particular installation was one the kids were drawn to all week and had obviously touched the above artist enough that she dedicated two pages of her zine to the story.

It was a real learning experience for me to read her book when finished as it gave me great insight into what parts of presentations really resonate with children.

For something so simple, this project was one the kids put a lot of time into, for them it was quite special and important. They seemed to really enjoy the idea of creating an art zine they could go back and read at later dates.

And as always, the kids really enjoyed working with just the pens and ink.

What a wonderful keepsake to remember a week at the gallery and Ben Lim.