Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wolfgang Paalen inspired tree trunks

While we were discussing Emily Carr, I shared with the campers a book I have from an exhibit that ran last fall at the Vancouver Art Gallery with Emily Carr and Wolfgang Pallen. 

Paalen visited Carr while traveling from Europe to Mexico and it was very interesting to see their artworks side by side and see how his visit to her and British Columbia influenced his work. 

It was also a wonderful opportunity to show the campers the difference between Carr's abstraction and Paalen's pure abstraction.

We then created pure abstraction acrylic paintings inspired by the patterns found in the different tree trunks we saw while hiking in the woods.

Each young artist sketched a pattern they found interesting from a tree trunk. 

I too was taken by surprised at just how many different patterns and textures you find in tree trunks when you really stop to look!

Then when we were back in the studio, each camper sketched their pattern on acrylic paper and we discussed monochromatic color.

I then asked them to choose one color they felt best described their time in the woods. I showed them one particular painting that Paalen created after his visit to British Columbia where the color choices he made are said to be inspired by his time here in the forest up and down the coast.

Then each artist began mixing their chosen color with white and black and quickly discovered the wide variety of colors within just one color!

The final results are some of my favorite of the week! And I think the kids were pleasantly surprised with the results too! It was most exciting to watch them discover that pure abstraction is not just paint splattered on paper. That there is real thought and concept behind what abstraction artist are creating.

What beautiful paintings the campers created inspired by the forest of British Columbia, just like Carr and Paalen all those years ago.

Monday, August 28, 2017

painting the forest like Emily Carr

I could not do a camp focused on creating art inspired by the forest without sharing the art of Emily Carr. She spent her life in the rainforest of British Columbia changing the way citizens and artist view our beautiful forest forever.

We talked about how Emily Carr would spend the summers in the woods creating sketches and paintings on paper where she thinned her paints with gasoline and then during the winter months take those sketches to create her famous paintings.

Then like Emily Carr we headed to the woods, some of the very same woods she actually painted in almost a hundred years ago! Each child had some manila paper, charcoal and graphite to create a sketch of something in the woods that left them saying "wow".

We then pretended winter had come and headed back to the studio to create acrylic paintings of our sketches, just like Emily Carr.

Before beginning the paintings, we looked at some of the sketches and paintings Emily Carr had created and discussed whether or not the painting was exactly like the sketch. As they discovered she had in fact made artist choices on what she added or subtracted from her sketches, I encouraged each young artist to do the same. 

We also talked about abstraction and how Emily Carr abstracted her forest paintings in what was a new and modern way when she was painting. I also told them how many people did not like her new modern way of painting but she stayed true to her self and her instincts and painted that way anyway.

The campers discussed how she abstracted the shapes, color, and line to create her beautiful artworks. We talked about how they too might decide to abstract their paintings of the forest.

I also shared with them some things about trees that never how a tree always divides to create a "y" and that a tree will always be thicker at the bottom and skinnier at the top.

The young artist so enjoy sketching in the woods. You can see why Emily Carr loved spending time doing the same while watching the children sit and get lost drawing amongst the trees.

It truly is one of my very favorite thing to do with children. You can't complain when spending a day sitting in the woods creating art.

And I love the variety of work created by the young artist and my own discovery of what "wow'd" them.

All I know is that I am completely in awe of each and every work these young artist created while being inspired by British Columbia's own Emily Carr.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

creating a fold out nature book

One of the camps I ran this summer was called Forest Frenzy. It seems families and I cannot get enough of running around in the woods creating art.

On the first day of camp, we went on a small wooded trail near the studio where kids had the opportunity to sketch and also begin a project that we would build upon during the entire week, fold out nature books.

I brought with us small watercolor pans with just the basic of colors, one brush per child, and a jug of water with small dixie cups. When each young artist was loosing interest in sketching, I gave them the watercolor paper I had folded to create the fold out book.

I simply cut a large piece of watercolor paper into three long lengths, then folded it into equal parts so that you could easily stretch it out to one long piece.

The idea being that each individual page was an artwork on it's own while at the same time revealing a larger whole work when stretched out.

So on the first day I asked the kids to find some interesting shadows that the sun was creating in the forest. It was fun to watch them all focused on the forest floor and for what was probably the first time ever while walking through the woods, paying attention to the interesting and wide variety of shadows on display.

Each child could decide to focus on just one shadow or several. When they picked one they wanted to paint, they started by washing the paper with water where the shadow was making shapes and then began adding color. I challenged them to chose one color to create their shadows also, some took on this challenge and others did not.

Not only did this young artist take on the challenge, she did so using black! What a brave and unusual choice for such a young girl and I personally think it came out terrific!

When everyone was finished sketching and painting shadows, we went back to the studio and put the books away to work on another day.

In the middle of the week, we gathered leaves from the forest to use for printmaking. Each young artist picked some leaf shapes from the trees that they found interesting and painted either the front or back of the leaf and pressed onto their book paper. Again I challenged them to use the same color they started with their watercolors. Needless to say, the kids had a great time printing the leaves on into their books. When finished, we put them up to dry.

Then the next day I had each child go into their artwork with a pencil to either enhance the prints or paintings they had already added or draw additional leaves or marks with the graphite.

And then on the last addition to the book, something magic happened. One of the artist we highlighted during the week was Emily Carr. She is a very famous artist from British Columbia who lived in Victoria. She was most at home painting in the rainforest of BC and even painted in the forest in the neighborhood of the studio. However when she passed away she was actually better known for being a writer than a painter!

And I shared this fact with the campers and told them we too were going to be writers inspired by the woods around us. I have never met a young child who does not like to create Haiku poems. Even the youngest artist catches on quickly clapping out five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. I always start by having them clap out the syllables of their names and they quickly catch on to how to create the poems.

"No clean room today. I don't want to do a thing. I am in the woods"

This time we created a large number of silly poems as a group. The kids laughed and collaborated for a long time on these poems. They had such a good time and it was magically watching them enjoy each other creating art together to use for their books.

When finished each child picked one of the poems to add to their books. Because I had several very young six year olds in this class, I brought out a variety of different typography stamp sets I have from years ago. Have you ever met a child who does not like stamps?

Some kids wrote the entire poem and some did not have time to finish. What is terrific was the discovery that the poems still stood up as finished artworks even when the entire poem was not placed in the book!

I added a plan brown piece of card stock on the front and back of the paper and glued a piece of twine between the cover and the fold out paper for the kids to wrap around to keep it closed. My original thought was to have them decorate the outside. However their was something really special about this plain outside revealing these beautiful colorful artworks when unfolded so I ended up leaving them untouched.

The icing on the cake was when one of the youngest artist came to camp in the morning and loudly gasped as she opened up her book. She and all the artist were so very proud of their creations and when asked what was the project they enjoyed creating the most, this was the one most of them picked.

I can't say I blame them one bit.