Wednesday, May 31, 2017

abstracted acrylic flower paintings from real life

A few weeks ago I bought a small arrangement of flowers from our neighborhood mom and pop store on my way home from Vancouver Art Gallery. I unceremoniously plopped them into a vase and stuck them in the middle of the studio tables just prior to the preteen class arriving that night.

After they arrived we began to talk about abstraction. We discussed the broad range of different ways artist abstract their work and the definition of abstraction and then I challenged them to find a way to change the shape, color or line (or do all three) to create a painting of the vase of flowers on the table.

To help them along I put on the palettes some orange/red paint and asked them to first just block in the shapes of their composition with only that color

no detail

just simple shapes of circles, rectangles, squares, and triangles.

Once finished I handed each of them a palette of primary colored acrylic paint along with black and white to begin painting.

Although I usually always have the students start with painting the backgrounds, in this case I asked them to wait until the very end. I also told them they did not have to paint their flowers and such to the edge of the shapes if they didn't want too. They were more than able to change their minds and adjust their original compositions.

In fact this artist had her vase originally bleeding off the bottom of her paper. She was quite unhappy and I told her she certainly could still change it drastically by just painting the negative space of the background. I don't think she quite believed me at first but was thrilled when she discovered sometimes I might know what I'm talking about.

The other interesting thing both the above artist discovered was that because they had painted these shapes in orange first, they could go back into the wet acrylic paint with the wrong side of their paint brushes and scratch in line work. You'll notice in both paintings how the artist used this technique to abstract their lines in the flowers and leaves.

What I was most excited about at the end of class when I looked at the final artworks is the wide variety of final compositions. I always stress that as artist the students have an open invitation to make whatever artistic choices that please them. This means they can edit or add to their artwork as they see fit. 

The students were looking at a simple blue vase of flowers that included a lily, one stem of daisies, three small pink roses, and a variety of leaf stems. Look at everything else these artists began to add!

Abstracting the flowers was not an easy challenge for these students and I was so impressed with their willingness to not only embrace something that was surprisingly difficult for them in the beginning, but work through it and find their own personal way to conquer the challenge.

Just look at this artwork! She was not so sure of the challenge I set forth in the beginning but charged forward with a confidence most practice artist can only dream about.

And finally there was this piece. In a million years I would of never thought to lose the vase entirely and take the flowers and put them in a completely different environment. And I love the red leaves she left from when she originally blocked out the shapes.

When the artwork was finished, the students had left, and I was hanging the paintings up on the walls for the week to dry, I was struck at just how uniquely each young artist resolved the challenge I set forth for them inspired by a very simple vase of flowers.

I was beyond impressed with each of the final artworks they created and very proud of each of them for being open minded, trying something new, and not giving up as they navigated their way through the process.

Their efforts were certainly rewarded in the end.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

letting preschoolers paint big

This May I have had two preschool classes running in the mornings and one of the first projects I introduced was watercolor. I use liquid watercolor with this age group as I find it is far more inviting- easy for them to use and vibrant color.

I always present them with just the primary colors so they can explore mixing them together and observing the new colors they make when blended. I also make sure there is salt, paper towels, and water on hand to manipulate the watercolors by diluting, blotting, and absorbing the color.

I also decided to give the children paper almost the same size as them! It is not often very young children get the opportunity to draw very large and it is a great way to help develop their motor skills.

For the Monday class, we created self portraits. Do I really believe they will retain any of the information regarding the rules of the face? Absolutely not.

However I also believe that young children are quite capable and enjoy adults recognizing their ability to grasp big concepts. What I do love about introducing the rules of the face is that it is an invitation for the children to really study themselves in a mirror and an opportunity to build up a positive self image about themselves.

What do you notice about your eyes?

You have such lovely almond shape eyes.

Look at the beautiful blue of your eyes.

It is always a joy to watch them literally bloom under the compliments as they see the features that are unique to only them and take pride in those differences.

Each child first created a drawing with a permanent black marker. There were several additions each young artist decided to make when creating their drawings such as tongues sticking out and crowns. 

It was quite cute how excited they all got when they realized there were not steadfast rules as to what they could and couldn't do on their papers. Each time they would ask if they could add a bow, a crown, or whatever else, I would simply respond, "You're the artist. Do what pleases you."

I got a huge kick out of the above artwork with the tongue sticking out. She giggled as she added the tongue to her portrait but somewhere along the way the self portrait became a portrait of her grandmother. I asked her if her grandmother stuck her tongue out a lot and was assured that in fact, she did not. 

Once they were happy with their portrait drawings, they began to play with the primary watercolors and created the most incredible palettes. They had fun exploring what happened when they "bathed" their paper first, added salt, put lots of bright color on but then blotted it away with a paper towel. 

In the end, their self portraits are charming. If only as adults we could paint with such abandon and create such whimsy.

Since the other group of preschoolers had done self portraits in the past, I put a vase with a large yellow daisy in front of each child.

Using the same steps as the self portraits, I asked the children to notice what they saw in the middle of the flower. Then the shape of the petals and how many petals they saw. 

Again my expectation is not that they create a replica of the flower or even that what they observe ends up being recorded on the paper, but respecting their ability in not only observing their visual world but their capability of recording it on paper in their own unique way.

And unique way they did!

There was one yellow flower in front of them and after several questions of "can I add more flowers?" and me responding "you're the artist, whatever you decide" this is what was finished in the class.

Again I gave the children primary colors so they could explore and observe how they blended and what new colors emerged. This is always so much fun to watch because there is still such surprise as yellow and blue merge to create green. And each new discovery is shared excitedly with me as if it's Christmas morning. 

Really there is no better job in the world in these moments.

This little one spent the entire class just putting one color at the top of a petal and another at the bottom, then adding plain water in the middle to coax the colors to come together on a "play date" and watching what happened. 

And this sweet child, who asked for black paint from the moment we started. If you look carefully you can see some very small petals, which I love as they were created from her original observations of the flower on the table. Surrounding the middle was a fringe of small petals and I love that she added them to her final drawing. 

As they finished their colorful flowers, I brought out the black paint as promised. 

One mixed the black with color to see what happened but the little girl who wanted black from moment one added it with pure abandon to her background, from time to time adding a little salt or water. She talked happily as she added the black and was beyond thrilled with her results.

As you can see, each child left the studio with a painting almost the same size as themselves and although each and every one of them was adorable, they were in no way near as adorable as the children who created them.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

paper art projects

I'm always surprised by what goes sideways in the studio.

I have done origami in the past with children with huge success. They love creating the folds and watching animals begin to form and usually I find once they understand the basics get lost in the process of making and creating without much want of me.

However for some reason, this was not the case when I introduced origami cranes in the Paper and Sculpture camp. I mean how could you not do origami in a camp all about paper and sculptures? But for whatever reason, none of us could get them to work.

I wanted to bail on the project but the mother voice in my head kept telling me to continue so the kids could learn a valuable lesson of not giving up when things get hard. So let me just say this, I AM SO PROUD of these young artist. While I led them down the garden path to nowhere, they stayed with me until even I had to cry "uncle".

However I refused to give up and walk away, what kind of example would that set with the kids? So I told them sometimes you have to be able to bend and look at a problem in a new way when things are not working out.

So instead of origami crane sculptures, we created origami crane collages using the only the basic shapes they would find in a finished origami sculpture and all the tossed aside papers of less than successful prior origami attempts.

I think they came out really great, I loved the graphic nature of the collages with the pretty origami papers and it was quite interesting to what how each child interpreted what we had learned along the way down the winding garden path to nowhere with the original project. 

We took lemons and made lemonade and my hope is that beyond the project, the kids filed away that hope is not lost in even the most hopeless of situations if you are willing to relook at the problem and solve it another way.

So now on to a project that was VERY fun for the same group of kids. This was a paper "painting" project that I saved for the last day of camp since there would be no worries about drying times. And lo and behold, they had a great time doing it.

This is created with colored card stock and those little round circles that have adhesive on both sides to not only stick the papers together but also create raised layers. 

Sorry but I don't know what those things are really called, if you do please share so I am far more succinct in the future.

The kids and I together created the beginnings of the base until they got the hang of the concept, which took very little time. Each paper is a little smaller than the last, creating layers of colorful sky and water.

From there, each artist began to add details to create their own visual story. Above we have a person being eaten by sharks after falling off a boat. Those little confetti's are blood.

Gruesome but oh so creative.

There were whales and sailboats all cut out of layers of paper. To say the kids enjoyed  cutting and figuring out their own way to "paint" with paper would be an understatement. This project really held their attention until the end of camp. I hardly had time to photograph them before the parents were picking them up and I was saying goodbye for the last time.

Here's to warm days ahead full of lots of sunshine and when it's not, the ability to take those lemons and make some delicious lemonade until the sun shines again.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"drone" view clay tiles

I decided to try and become the "cool" art teacher and hip things up by creating drone view clay tiles instead of bird's eye view.

I didn't fool anyone.

But the kids did have a lot of fun and had fun working out a landscape from a drone or bird eye viewpoint.

I left it open ended as to what type of landscape the kids created with the air dry clay.

One young artist created her drone landscape tile focusing on cabins at the lake, just love the addition of the dock and canoe! And I thought her color choices she made when it came time to paint them with acrylics really reflect a lovely, sunny summer day. It certainly makes me wish to head off to a lake cabin!

This young boy created a snow capped canyon with rapids running through it. Although had to see, there is a wire running across the river to represent a suspension bridge. How brilliant is that?!!

And finally this lovely landscape created looking over the ocean. I really love the way the artist decided to show the water breaking by layering up the clay. She had a great time painting in the fish and then using washed of the acrylic paint to create starfish and such laying on the bottom depths.

I was so impressed with these students and how each came up with their own unique drone landscapes. I did my best to create a little video of the tiles as if a drone was going overhead.

Listening to me on this video pretty much seals my fate as a less than hip art teacher, but there's no doubt the kids embraced the idea of creating a drone view tile- regardless of how uncool I happen to be.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

deconstructed books

One of the last projects I planned for the Sculpture and Paper camp was a deconstructed book. I have done this in the past on the last day of camp and found I underestimated how long the project would hold the children's attention, so this time made sure I left plenty of time.

This project seems to really capture the imagination of the kids.

I first started by showing them four basic folds and from there they did whatever they wanted. I put out scissors and glue, a hold puncher and some fun scrapbook scissors that create different edges.

 The only rule was that whatever you did to one side you had to do to the other.

Half the fun for this young artist was looking through his sculpture as he created it!

And in the end, the campers were all quite proud of their final creations.

10 year old

8 year old

10 year old

6 year old

Left alone to create, this captured the kids attention for almost two hours. They got completely lost in creating folds, cutting and pasting. They were very excited shared their discoveries with each other and each inspired the other throughout the project.

Leaving me once again to exclaim, "best project ever".

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

acrylic real life studies

In the Landscape and Still Life camp, the campers had the opportunity to create an acrylic painting from real life.

I had set up a group of objects in the middle of the table and told the kids they could pick as many or as few of the items that they wanted. There were flowers, onions, bananas, lemons, asparagus, grapes and a cutting board.

Each camper was given a piece of charcoal to lightly sketch on their paper until they were happy with the composition and then began by creating an underpainting using the complimentary colors of the final colors they would be choosing. For fun I challenged them to work with a white only background.

The results were beautiful.

8 year old

11 year old

11 year old

Monday, May 1, 2017

creating a daruma

I have been sitting on this project for quite a long time. I originally saw the Daruma project on Dick Blick years ago and filed it away for a later date. The Sculpture and Paper spring break camp seemed like the perfect place to use it!

Daruma's are a japanese toy, some say it is a talisman for good luck. But I fell in love with the story surrounding the Daruma. When you first get a Daruma, the eyes are blank then when you make a goal, you color in one eye. The Daruma is then a reminder of the goal you set and only when you complete the goal do you color in the other eye.

If that wasn't great enough, Daruma's wobble around but you can't knock them over. They will always stand upright...a metaphor for no matter how many times you may fall down and fail, keep working and you will be upright and succeed.

Could there be a better message in an art project for kids?!! I think not.

So with easter right around the corner, I picked up some plastic eggs at the craft store. I super glued a heavy nut into the bottom of each egg and then stuffed them with some cotton balls tightly and closed them up.

Now this project should be done with papermache. But I had a time issue and did not think the papermache would have time to dry before the end of the week, so we used masking tape. I'm not sure what the fascination is with kids and rolls of masking tape, but they absolutely love working with it.

Each camper covered their entire egg in tape, exactly the same way they would have with papermache. And then we painted them with acrylic paint.

I showed them some examples of japanese Daruma's but told them they could create anything they wanted for their character.

10 year old

This became the favorite project of the week. Even more popular than the geodes, which I did not think was possible. They loved making them almost as much as they loved playing with them. The quickly became prize possessions.

8 year old

10 year old, owl

6 year old, hawk

I'm going to age myself here, but the Weeble Wobble toy commercial kept running though my head the entire time they played with them, ''weebles wobble but they don't fall down"

Here's my sad attempt at a video of how one works,

More than once I heard how great this project was, how much fun they had creating the daruma. So no doubt this will be a project I won't wait years to try again.