Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to create an open ended clay project

I try very hard to leave all projects I introduce in classes, camps and workshops open-ended, so each child has the opportunity to explore the process and come up with their own unique solutions.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to see how an invitation to create a pot of strawberries ended with a wide variety of imaginative pots in the "Art and Nature" summer camp beyond my wildest dreams.

Campers arrived in the morning to find my terra-cotta strawberry pot in the middle of the table for inspiration.

my terra-cotta pot of strawberries and lazy bulldog basking in the sunshine

We discussed all their observations including that leaves were dark on the top and light on the underside, the different stages of growth of the fruit from flower to a succulent strawberry ripe for the picking and the way the vines shot out from the main plant.

I then gave each camper a small terra-cotta pot of their own and put out some oven baked white clay, florist wire, and scraps of watercolor paper and watercolors. I told each of them to use the materials however they wanted to create their own potted strawberry.

I envisioned vines made of wire with watercolor strawberry tops crowning strawberries made of clay when I was deciding what things to put out to entice the kids imaginations.

Silly me to think the kids' imaginations would be limited to my simple original idea.

Yes there were traditional pots of strawberries.

Before some of the kids began to venture off into purple dirt and flatten strawberries painted in wild colors.

Not one child utilized the watercolor paper and watercolors, not one. But the wire was a different story.

There was this rainbow creation where the wire bridges between the two stems.

And this amazing plant where the young artist first created a wire maze and then covered it in clay. He topped it off with creating plump purple fruits just begging to be picked and eaten. Any thoughts on what these juicy purple beauties would taste like if you could really eat them?

And then there was this abstracted strawberry plant that seems to be from another world. Is it not amazing?!

A couple of the younger artist played with the idea of a tall stem that either ended with some flowering leaves or a vine wrapped around it. Again lots of wild beast choices when it came to painted colors.

And finally this christmas tree strawberry plant. How simple and sweet is this?

I have always allowed the children in my studio to take the projects I present and make them their own, be it subject matter or how they decide to solve the challenge I have put before them but my best guess as to why this particular project took on such a life of it's own was the addition of the wire with absolutely no instructions whatsoever from me as to how to use it or any of the other materials.

This project is proof that when children are trusted to create something from materials with the end goal of pleasing no one but themselves, magic happens.

My wish to you is to give it a try and watch what magical things you will witness form right before you very eyes.

Friday, July 21, 2017

a relaxing morning painting in the woods

There is a small wooded trail not far from the studio that I took the Art and Nature campers to for Wednesday's class.

There is something so lovely about watching children play and paint in the woods.

I brought along some watercolors and told them to find a peaceful spot to paint and create.

Look at all the lovely results!

6 year old

I am blown away by the abstract painting this very young boy created inspired by the trees in the woods. I am always so surprised by what he creates.

Of course the three friends who will be entering grade one this fall stuck together not only in the woods but also with creating the same subject, panda bears.

This artist seemed to find inspiration in some of the other things we had done during the week, like the strawberry pots!

11 year old

A couple of boys painted dragons. I'm not sure what about these artworks pull on my heartstrings but I'm guessing it is the fact that as they begin to reach their teens I know little boy dreams of dragons while sitting in the woods will be packed away.

8 year old

A couple of artist were quite inspired by our surroundings and stuck to painting the woods.

10 year old

Of course the huckleberry bushes the kids loved to gather fruit from made an appearance!

10 year old

And this abstraction of the wooded trails as it leads toward the opening and sunlight just took my breath away.

What a relaxing and lovely morning we all had, it was the perfect summer day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

acrylic paintings inspired by Monet

On the second day of the Art and Nature summer camp, my plan was to have the campers go through their sketchbooks and pick one of their sketches from our hike through Lynn Canyon and use it to create an acrylic painting.

I decided to show them the work of Monet to inspire the painting style for their work of art for a couple of reasons.

One, there is an exhibition of his work currently on display at Vancouver Art Gallery and I thought it might be a nice entry point to encourage them to go and have a look at it.

And two, Monet loved to paint outdoors.

The match of Monet's style of painting and the artist work seemed like a perfect match. It was also a perfect day to be outside and so I asked the children if they would enjoy painting in my backyard instead of in the studio.....

since Monet liked to paint in his backyard.

A resounding YES meant we taped the acrylic paper down on the cardboard I save from old paper tablets, grabbed the paintbrushes and water jugs and the box of paint and headed outside.

Now let's be clear. My backyard doesn't hold a candle to Monet's yard.

Although I have a goldfish pond, mine is in a container and definitely does not have a bridge.

I do have a small water fountain though.

And while a couple of artist decided to create paintings of the woods,

10 year old

6 year old

Most of them were quite inspired by my small water feature in the backyard.

They patiently waited to catch a glimpse of the three goldfish I have put in the pond and these fish made an appearance in several of the paintings.

11 year old

If you look closely, you'll see the white fish with the orange marking on it's head peaking out from this young boys' painted lily pad. Pretty much exactly what the fish does when you are looking for it in the pond.

10 year old

You'll also see the two orange fish along with a great rendition of the bamboo fountain in this boys' painting too!

6 year old

And then this endearing painting, where it seems my fish when night falls enjoys some flying acrobatics! This young artist had me at flying fish with this painting.

And then the waterlily paintings. I need to stress again that "my plan" was to have the kids paint forest scenes from their sketchbooks in my backyard. I had shown them Monet's work to inspire painting style along with hopefully exciting them to go take a look at his artwork in person.

NOT to paint waterlily scenes and yet something magical happened with the combination of my humble pond and looking at Monet's artwork.

11 year old

Because suddenly these beautiful water lily paintings were being created in my backyard as the kids congregated on a blanket around the pond.

5 year old

6 year old

8 year old

I think they all caught the essence of impressionist painting, my goal when I first introduced Monet. But what happened in my backyard that day came as a complete surprise to me as children began to bring me their finished works of art as we packed up to head back into the studio.

8 year old

I did have one young boy who had grander ideas about the best way to spend a beautiful Vancouver summer day other than in my backyard. I have to agree a day at spent on the shores of the Pacific Ocean would be marvelous.

But until then, I am quite content with the day I spent with these talented young artist sitting in my backyard painting.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

sketching and charcoal drawings while hiking through the woods

The second session of summer art camps was called, "Art and Nature".  The first day we spent the day in Lynn Canyon for almost three hours. This is always a fun but tiring day for the kids.

I created a sketchbook for each camper. It was a simple construction, copy paper folded in half with a piece of cardstock on top and stapled together. While hiking we stopped whenever something caught the children's eye and drew in the books.

look at the wind marks! it was breezy that day.

this camper took me up on the challenge of drawing in the shadows first

bird's eye view of river below as we crossed the bridge

For some of the younger campers I showed them how to take leaf rubbings, which of course, was absolutely thrilling and engaged each of them.

Although there is always a chance we could run into a black bear, I can assure you we did not run into any panda bears that day- no black bears either thank goodness.

We finally made our way down to the 30 foot pools in the canyon. This is a popular spot for those in our neighborhood, along with tourist who visit from around the world. I had prepared a cardboard easel for each camper with charcoal paper taped down on it. In my bag, I brought along a piece of charcoal, white charcoal, a blender and gummy eraser for each child.

After they finished sketching the pools in their books, we gathered in an area surrounded by ferns where we could set up to draw.

6 year old

First the campers rubbed the charcoal over the entire piece of paper and blended it in to create a tone value. They then erased the shapes out with the gummy eraser and added some white chalk into the highlights and blended. This created a value of light grey. From there they added dark or white charcoal, erased, and blended until they were satisfied with their drawings.

I have one boy who absolutely hates charcoal, so he worked with his pencil instead.

For the most part all the campers decided to draw just one leaf of the fern. However I had one camper who decided to take on the challenge of the entire plant.

I think he found a very interesting way to interpret the fern, don't you?

By the time we finished the charcoal drawings, we needed to pack up and head back to the studio. Tired, ready for snack, but happy each child washed up, ate, and happily drew in their sketchbooks until the parents arrived shortly after we got back.

The campers enjoyed the sketchbooks during the rest of the week, returning to them again and again when they finished projects to draw whatever they pleased. When photographing them for my records, I came across this drawing that made me laugh so hard I startled the dogs.

When talking about my own sketchbooks and how I always have one when I travel to record what I see, I showed some of my drawings. I am fascinated with tourist while traveling and our behaviors when visiting other countries. I jokingly told the kids that this could make me seem kind of creepy to others as I stare at them while drawing. 

One eight year old boy asked me if he could "be creepy" and draw me in his book. I was busy with some of the other campers in a project and told him in passing of course he was free to draw me. I didn't think about it again until I saw this picture.

Here I am! In all my glory, glasses on top of my head wearing my paint apron. That's a pencil and paper in my hand and we were at the end of the camp day when he asked to draw me, so maybe I'm quite tired explaining my closed eyes.

Or I'm looking down at a child's work while he was drawing, but I'm guessing I was in need of an espresso. I must say I love how long he drew my eyelashes! Wish they were that long in real life.

Needless to say, this drawing made my night. Actually it has made my summer! I love it. I smile every time I look at the drawing if I'm truthful.

What a great start to an exciting week of camp.