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Drawing and Painting: Landscapes with Cows

When my daughter, Lucy, was born we were given a sweet little board book by Woody Jackson about counting cows in the landscape.  Woody Jackson is most known for his cows which are part of Ben and Jerry’s packaging, and he happens to be a distant cousin of mine.  When we were given the book, it got stashed away in a basket with tons of other board books and didn’t see much action but one day I was clearing things out, came across it, and was instantly inspired to do a project based on the beautiful illustrations.

I love the way he divides the land into such beautiful shapes and his use of color so I structured our project around those two ideas, as well as an opportunity to learn about drawing cows.  The kids began by creating horizontal bands across their red paper which they filled in using multiple colors of oil pastel mixed together.  I love the idea of using a bright color paper so that when bits of it show through a drawing, there is a back lit quality.  I encouraged them to use colors that aren’t always typical of the land so as to avoid the use of green and not much else.

We put the landscapes aside and worked on drawing cows. Students did two cows each on blue paper and then filled them in with black and white oil pastels. When the cows were colored and cut out they got pasted into the landscape. Many students haven’t completed theirs yet but here are two that did get finished. Beautiful!


Drawing and Painting: Oil Painting!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve introduced oil painting to one of my groups of younger students but when I entered the studio yesterday to prep for my class, I suddenly had the urge to do it! I deviated entirely from what I had planned for the day and instead starting prepping canvases, paint trays, rags and brushes so that the kids could learn about oil paints while painting an owl.  We used water soluble paints in order to avoid the need for smelly chemicals (the kids thought the paints were smelly enough).

Part of learning to paint with oils at any age is learning to be patient.  Students are usually excited to take home their projects the day they make them so I could see them adjusting a bit when I told them it would take a few weeks to finish.  I worked with them to create a painting in the same way I would if I sat down to work: toning the canvas  and wiping away a general outline of the owl, working lean (thin) to fat (thick) with their paint by adding plenty of linseed oil in the beginning stage and thinking about the overall shapes and characteristics of the owl rather than getting caught up in details in the beginning. We even learned to mix a “black” using brown and blue!

The kids were excited to be working with such grown-up materials and their under-paintings came out great. Next week we’ll go back into them to further develop the surface, details and value structure.



Sculpture: Day 2

My lawn is slowly developing a carpet of fallen leaves and Fall is in the air (though not really today since it was close to 80 degrees!) and so we were inspired by the season today as we made fall trees!  Students transformed paper bags into trees full of character by drawing on them, twisting them and gluing them to a base.  The trees and ground were further embellished with paper, moss, sand, twigs, and leaves. The results were great –each tree has lots of personality!

We also began work on clay figures but you’ll have to wait until next week to see those!

Drawing and Painting: Day 2

The silhouette landscapes are done and they came out great! Today students created land scenes on their “shade” (blue + black) paper which had to include some sort of vertical element coming off of the land (building, tree, animal, boat, etc.) We spent some time discussing the idea of silhouette and what is and is not visible within a silhouette. These were cut out and glued to the “tints” (blue + white) paper they created last week.   The results are a great visual representation of the color blue and it’s range of values.  Though not part of my original plan, these glowing moon skies were also a nice way of celebrating last night’s full moon and eclipse!

We also spent some of our class learning to draw people by breaking the human form into shapes, most specifically, ovals.  Students practiced creating figures in different positions by altering the placement of their shapes.  Once students felt ready, they began work on an apple-picking painting in which figures will be picking apples in the orchard. We began drawing the trees and figures today and will work next week to complete them!

Sculpture: Day 1

Today was all about jellyfish and owls!  The jellyfish seemed particularly intriguing to the kids…nothing like beautiful ribbons, silks, strings and glitter to entice the inner artist! We started by attaching the hanging elements to the inside of the bowls and then decorated the outside of the bowl with tissue, Mod Podge and glitter to complete the jellyfish.  In addition to our discussion about process and how to use the materials to get successful results, we also talked some about color and how to create unity or contrast with the material options we had. The finished products came out beautifully!!

After a brief snack break we moved onto owls which we made using recycled egg cartons.  A little glue, paint, some feathers and paper and the kids had transformed their cartons into unique owl sculptures!  My goal for them was to create unity through their use of color and materials, to find ways of indicating feathers through the use of actual feather texture or implied painted texture and to come up with unique solutions to create their sculptures given the materials they were provided. They did great!

Drawing and Painting: Day 1

Today we focused on the property of Value as we began two projects:  1. A silhouette landscape painting using tempera paint,  2. A pastel drawing of pears from observation.  As students began work on their paintings, the goal was to explore Tints (color + white) of the color blue in subtle gradations to create a glowing effect in the sky of the landscape.  Remembering to mix colors rather than always using them straight from the tube can be difficult for experienced and blossoming artists.  And yet, it is the nuance of color that comes from mixing different hues (color), values (light and dark) and intensities (level of brightness) that helps create captivating and complex works of art.   We had to get used to using very small amounts of blue as we mixed so that we did not change the value of our color too quickly.   We also explored Shades (color + black) as we prepared a blank paper which will be turned into the silhouette of the land next week.   These projects are off to a great start!

Next, we continued our exploration of Value by beginning pastel drawings of pears from observation. We used an image of pears with clear highlights and shadows as our source so that we could more easily identify the range of values that were present.  Students then used pastels to sketch in and roughly block in the color of their pears. Next, they developed the shadows using a combination of black, blue and brown, and enhanced the highlights by working in white and yellow.  Some students even got so far as to complete their stems and backgrounds.   Pastel can be tricky because of the ease with which it smudges but students worked hard to control the smudge and to use it as a way of creating more realistic looking fruit.

Jug Heads

I’ve been collecting trash and recyclables for awhile now and it was so nice to finally have a way to make something lovely using them! Each student was given an empty milk or juice carton (with the back cut off so that it would hang easily on a wall) onto which they could create an eccentric face using all sorts of recycled objects: bottle caps, silverware, bells, game pieces, foam, dominoes, wire, and more.  They came out great!





Water Lilies: Paper Goes 3D!

Paper isn’t always a material that comes to mind when students set out to make a sculpture. I often try to sneak in a paper sculpture project from time to time as a way of reminding my students of what is possible with simple, familiar materials (and without a hot glue gun — every sculpture student’s favorite tool whether it is necessary or not!).  Though I can’t take credit for conceiving of this project idea, the results are lovely and the project is a good one for kids of varying ages and abilities.

Today my Sculpture Camp students (Ages 7-10) created these lovely Water Lily low-relief sculptures inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet. I think they quite beautifully capture the movement and serenity of water!




For the past two days, the students in this week’s Sculpture Camp have been completely absorbed in the creation of their trees and tree houses. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a group so excited about a project or witnessed a project that held a group’s interest for so long. After two full days of work, most are still not done!

We started off yesterday by building a tree armature out of paper, wire, cardboard and LOTS of tape and then proceeded to paper mache. Our trees had a little trouble in the balance department but lots of toilet paper rolls and dowels as props seemed to hold them upright while they dried. I was a little nervous when I entered the studio this morning (I envisioned all sorts of toppled down trees) but they were all standing and a little duct tape here and there seemed to remedy any issues.

The project continued to evolve as students painted their trees, collaged with tissue paper to create a colorful ground and used crumpled tissue to create the foliage. Students also had a variety of natural materials to choose from (moss, sticks, leaves, etc.) and they embellished their trunks, foliage tops and grounds with these objects.

Last, but not least, came the tree houses! We started these tree houses yesterday and today they just continued to evolve into amazing living environments.  There were zip lines, pulley systems, fire pits, swimming pools, and much more. I am continually amazed at how creatively students but together a mish-mash of materials to create unique, creative and beautiful pieces. These tree houses are no exception.  At times it proved difficult to balance these masterful houses in the trees but we used plenty of hot glue and a few extra supports here and there (dowels) and they seem to be staying put.  I am just blown away by these (almost) finished pieces!!