Thursday, March 30, 2017

etchings of beloved stuff animals

A while back I did an etching project around Halloween inspired by Rembrandt's etchings that I had seen during a visit to Amsterdam.

They were creepy and eerie, perfect for Halloween, but I have been dying to bring the project out again with something a little more cheerful.

So in the "Landscape and Still Life" camp, I decided to have the campers create etchings of their beloved childhood stuffed animal. We all have a doll or stuffy that we look back on fondly and I thought it would be a lovely still life subject to always have a remembrance of the special companion in years to come.

I handed each camper a very thick piece of acetate. It is quite small so the actual etching process doesn't overwhelm a child. 

Then using a sharp point stylus, the kind used in scratch art, each child began etching in the dark areas of their subject.

When they felt like they had finished, we smeared some printing ink over the plate, wiped away the excess and had a look to see if they wanted to add any more lines. When they were completely happy, the campers began pulling prints. 

They all learned quickly that there is a fine art to just the right amount of water on the paper and pressure between the plate and paper. If I had a press, this step would be a little easier but I'm still on the lookout for a small second hand press at the moment.

Each child inked their plate, wiped away whatever amount of ink they wanted from the plate, and then placed it on the damp paper. I then had the campers turn the paper over and give the paper and plate a very good rub. For good measure they could take a clean brayer over the paper if they wanted. 

I have them turn the paper over to try to keep the print side clean.

printing plate, 8 year old

8 year old etching print

The plates were so pretty at the end, I actually mounted them too. I put spray glue on the inked side and simply adhered it to a piece of paper.

etching plate, 11 year old

etching print, 11 year old

A couple of the stuffed animals were very well loved and obviously very special to the child, which made it worthwhile to keep trying when pulling a good first print proved to be challenging.

etching plate, 11 year old

etching print, 11 year old

This particular teddy bear had such a beautiful history. It actually belonged to the campers' mother, then her grown sister, and now has been handed down to her. How lovely to now have a group of prints of this very special family keepsake.

The older two campers finished earlier than the younger one and so I brought out the gelatin plates for them to explore. Both girls really enjoyed printing with them.

I think this artist got a lovely series of prints of her stuffed animal.

As did the other camper, how cute is the sun? This bear is definitely the sunshine in this family's life.

I love that I had the opportunity to introduce an etching project with a subject matter other than skeletons and mummies. Next on the horizon is doing self portrait tronies, just like Rembrandt did all those years ago.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

wet felted geodes and watercolor geode paintings

You know a project is great when children finish and immediately ask if they can do it again.

Such was the case on the second day in the "Sculpture and Paper" spring break camp.

I was so excited to share this project in the camp as I had a hunch it would be a hit. Children have always enjoyed wet felting in the studio and my kids always loved opening up geodes growing up, so combining the two seemed like a win/win....which it was!

I started by bringing out wool roving in a variety of colors. Each child told me what color they would like to start with and I gave them a tuft. (at the end of adding roving, each child had a ball close in size to a grapefruit or softball)

This is the only time I stressed rolling the tuft into a ball shape tightly...or as tightly as they could. Then I told them to decide on three other colors to roll around their wool ball then finished with covering the entire thing in brown roving to resemble a rock.

Once each camper had completed this task, I brought out warm bowls of soapy water.

In truth the hotter the water the quicker the roving felts, but when working with children you need to keep in mind they will have their hands dunked in the water continuously and adjust the temperature of the water accordingly. Warm water along with a drop of dish soap is all that is needed to take a fuzzy ball of wool roving to a felted geode.

And oh my goodness, did the campers LOVE this part of the process. This was the only part I was concerned about when planning the project. Wet felting is not something that happens immediately and sometimes in a world full of instant gratification, things that take patience can cause interest to wane, but I worried for nothing. This part of the process held their attention beautifully and they were excited to see if what I said was true, their grapefruit size ball would reduce to half it's size when finished and that their soft, fuzzy ball of roving would become "hard" felted wool in the end.

I was quickly forgotten in the room as they excited talked and giggled amongst themselves. Needless to say by the end, never had hands or table been cleaner in the studio! And when the children said they were finished, I asked them to squeeze their geodes in the water another 10 times for good measure.

Then it was off to the sink to rinse them under the tap and get rid of the soap suds.

wet felted geodes

You have no idea how painful it was for them to let me take this photograph of the finished geodes. The campers could hardly wait to cut them open and reveal the beauty inside. But here are what their "rocks" looked like when finished.

If you are going to try this project and want to take a photograph such as this, I strongly suggest you have each child eagle eye their geode at all times or you will not know whose is whose when giving them back to open. Thankfully the kids in my camp were not taking their eyes off their prized possession.

Then came the real fun, cutting them open. Make sure you have very sharp scissors for this part. I brought down the kitchen shears along with a couple of pairs of sharp fabric scissors. Yes I know for some that would cause you to bring out the smelling salts, but a girls' gotta do what a girls' gotta do for a good cause.

And one look tells you it was worth it.

Oh my word, were the kids excited as the geodes revealed their beauty hidden inside!

This class was boy heavy and the younger ones truly looked up to the ten year old in the class. So much so they waited until after he made each and every color choice for roving and then asked for the exact same thing. I'm not sure how thrilled the ten year old was with this unrequited love, but I assured him that even if all the colors were the same, each geode would be unique and different when opened since one has no control on how the roving will move around during the felting process.

So happy I didn't have to eat my words during the reveal!

And the lone girl in the camp? She marched to her own drum.

Here it is easy to see how the children took what they learned from the first felting and applied it to the second, as the second one is much more felted in the end. I think a combination of understanding the felting process combined with knowing what the inside was going to look like, which resulted in a little more patience, contributed to a more felted geode the second go round. 

We had one geode in the first bunch where all the color congregated to one side. Do you see the purple and blue in the upper left corner? I'm not sure why this happened, maybe his original "ball" was not tight enough? Maybe it was the way he squeezed and rolled the ball when felting in the water? Either way, it made the geodes all that more authentic as the truth of the matter is sometimes when you open one, the inside can be more "ho hum" than you hoped for.

Although I would of let the kids create a second geode either way due to their excitement level, I would of tried to convince them to do one more so this particular child could have another go for something a little more exciting in the end....although in truth, he was just fine with this result.

When finished each camper crowned this "the best project ever" and asked repeatedly if we could do it again the next day. I'm not sure I could of asked for a better response.

I think with a bit of thread sewn through, these would make great necklaces. As a mom, I might of confiscated one of the halves if these came home and worn it!

And no need to have them wash their hands while they ate a snack either! Which gave me time to set up the next part of the project, watercolors.  The camp is called "Sculpture and Paper" for heaven's sake! A painting of their felted sculptures was a no brainer.

10 year old

Using liquid watercolors in primary colors only, I asked each child to create an interpretation of their favorite geode on paper. I brought out some salt and showed them a wet on wet technique.

6 year old

Simple, but fun for them to watch the colors move and blend into each other. I love the finished paintings. They look very "kandinsky" to me.

8 year old

Love this composition! The open geode in front with the closed one behind! 

10 year old

This young girl was in love with her watercolor. It might of been her favorite painting of the week that she created. She admired it throughout the rest of the week while it hung on display and several times mentioned how much she liked it.

So there you have it. Without doubt one of the most successful things I have done in studio. A project I'm giving two thumbs up too and five gold stars. 

A rating I have no doubt each and every camper would second.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

still life silk paintings

During the second week of spring break, I ran an afternoon camp called, "Landscapes and Still Life".

One of the project the campers explored was creating a silk painting using a vase of flowers I had arranged in the studio.

This time I did the resist a little different, I had them use a small paintbrush rather than the narrow nozzled tubes. I thought it would challenge them to keep their lines loose.

Before starting, I put out what I like to call "magic paper", it is a grey paper that you can practice brush strokes with water but dries quickly so you can do the whole thing again on the same piece of paper. Warming up with this paper prior to beginning drawing on silk with resist on a paintbrush helped significantly for the campers to get the idea of the process.

The biggest challenge was not getting too much resist on the paintbrush. Young artist always have a hard time believing that the resist is going to continue to spread after the initial application on the silk. If too heavy handed, they will end up with nothing more than a white blob on the silk as all the lines converge.

The campers applied their resist at the end of day, so began adding the dyes at the beginning of the next day of camp. They were so excited and I challenged them to limit their palette to three colors. I also suggested their colors be in the primary color families so they would have the ability to mix additional colors.

So some chose pink as their red or purple as their blue, as long as they were in the primary color family they would be able to do some interesting mixing.

After learning a few blending techniques and getting comfortable with applying the dyes on silk with a scrap piece of silk I had set up, they began.

The results were beautiful.

11 year old

8 year old

11 year old

Monday, March 27, 2017

sculpted and painted cactus

The second week of spring break I ran a morning camp called, "Paper and Sculpture". The first project I introduced was a cactus project.

I first did part of this project three years ago and have a sculpted catcus on display at the front door of the studio. Over the years, many children have commented on the cactus and admired it so this seemed the perfect time to revisit this very popular sculpture creation.

10 year old

You can read all the details on how the cacti were created in the original post link above however this time the campers all stayed true to creating traditional cacti, not ones with personalities.

6 year old

We created these cacti with oven baked clay and I have learned a few things about adding wire in the past three years so could tell the kids to add a little ball of clay at the bottom of the wire they were adding and to be sure it was pinched closed once adhered. This ended any issues with wires falling out once baked.

10 year old

While the cacti were baking, the campers all created a composition of their sculpted cactus on acrylic paper using charcoal. We discussed the rule of thirds and other compositional considerations. By the time they had done this and eaten their snack, the clay sculptures were ready for painting.

8 year old

When these were finished, they used the same acrylic paints to being their paintings.

6 year old

When all finished, they had a lovely set of companion artworks.

10 year old

10 year old

The campers were so excited with their creations at the end of camp, they could not wait to take them home. Please note the last of the cactus sculptures in the below photograph. Somehow I do not have a large individual photo of it and it is lovely. The young artist even added a snake slithering around the bottom of the pot.

I should definitely not wait another three years before visiting this project again.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

green eggs and ham inspired cupcakes

It only seemed appropriate in the "Once Upon a Time" spring break camp that we look at Dr. Seuss's book, Green Eggs and Ham for an inspired art project on St. Patrick's Day.

However I was pretty sure no child would get excited over actually green eggs and ham so I brought in green and white cupcakes for us to create green cupcake pastel drawings.

Nothing seems to be more exciting than actually drawing a cupcake that one will later get to eat and with this group of campers the reaction was no different.

Each child put a cupcake in front of them and then using  pastel chalk began to create their own green cupcake inspired by the classic "Green Eggs and Ham".

And unlike Sam, I did not have to spend a lot of time convincing the kids to eat the green cupcakes at the end.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

inspired by the children's book "ish"

In the "Once Upon a Time" spring break camp, we read the children's book, Ish.

I cannot recommend this book enough as an art teacher. It is a lovely little story about a child who loves to draw. However one day after creating a vase of flowers, someone laughs at his drawing. The child then is frustrated with every drawing he ever makes because "it doesn't look real" and crumples each and every one up until finally he just quits drawing all together. Then the child learns that his younger sibling has quietly been gathering every crumpled drawing and pinning them to her bedroom wall. When he sees his drawings through her eyes, he realizes he doesn't have to draw things real. That a drawing that is "ish" is wonderful, a vase "ish" full of flowers is a beautiful thing. This discovery reignites his love of drawing and as books go, he lives happily ever after.

What a great story to read to a group of young children drawing with me, an affirmation that their unique style of drawing is beautiful. It was amazing to see this simple story boost their confidence as we ventured to create our own vase'ish' flowers.

8 year old

I brought in a bouquet of flowers from the corner grocer but told them to draw them anyway they wanted. Yellow flowers didn't have to be yellow, they didn't have to draw everything, and if they loved one particular thing in the arrangement they were welcome to draw ten of them even if there was only one.

5 year old

I first gave each child a water-soluble pencil to create a line drawing and then put out the water and brushes and told them to run over their lines. They were unaware until that point that the pencil marks would give them to lovely grey values. They loved this discovery and excitedly washed and rewashed over their lines.

9 year old

Then I gave each child some liquid watercolor in the primary colors. I quickly showed them a few techniques they could explore using watercolors, such as blending, wet on wet, and how to simple lay the brush onto the paper to create petals and then sent them off to create their masterpieces.

10 year old

I encouraged them to add flowers into their painting that they hadn't originally drawn if they wanted too.

8 year old

There was a wide variety of vase'ish' flowers in the room and the book seemed to give the campers the confidence to paint freely and in their own unique way.

8 year old

I was truly impressed and excited for each camper in the room as I was walking by them and viewing their artwork.

And then as I was pulling the papers off the table as they yelled out, "done", I stumbled across this.

5 year old

No watercolor at all. A vase of flowers with some pretty intricate work. When I began to ask about his drawing, I was fascinated. Evidently he has a secret code with his older brother, a code that is quite impressive in it's detail. Symbols stand for numbers and when put together, create other numbers. It was quite something and there is so much to look at in this drawing! I love how he placed his name amongst the flowers too. How much confidence this child had to create his very unique "vase-ish" flowers without ever touching the watercolors or water.

I so fell in love with the message from this book that I promptly bought one for my studio. To see it free the campers and reiterate to them that their drawings, their way were good enough was thrilling and the work speaks volumes to the power of books.