Category Archives: Kid’s art

Programming Art with Scratch :: Sunset

This past summer I repeated my role as Scratch programming instructor. I was flattered to hear  I had a number of returning students. Unfortunately, that meant my standard plan of activities needed to be enhanced for those experienced students. I needed some new assignments! For this course (Create with Scratch), I focused on art and music, rather than video game creation. Therefore, I needed projects that combined programming art with Scratch, the icon-based language designed for kids.

It’s fun thinking of new projects, but I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to create an example (or find some child to create one for me). Often, a teacher-created example can intimidate students. I usually try to have student examples, like this volcano.

C's animated volcano in Scratch

I uploaded C’s volcano animation. Check it out: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/108661198/

For my recent project addition, I didn’t have a chance to obtain student examples. My family and I were traveling this past summer and we only got home a few days before camp began. I decided to do the creating – in class – while the students worked on their own animations.

Setting Sun Art Animation — Scratch

After a few days of introductory lessons, I asked the students to make an animated volcano  (which we did last year). Since I focused more on the art of animations, I wanted the students to make another complex animation. I suggested a setting or rising sun. I showed a few sun examples from the Scratch web site, and I set out to create my own.

A few students made simple animations while others spent multiple class periods getting their pictures “just right.” It took me a few class sessions to finish my initial animation, especially since I was needed to help other students. I went back and “fixed” it during the second round of classes.

I hope my students watched as I made mistakes and went back to change my programming. It certainly demonstrated the value of revising one’s work. If anything, they picked up a couple of new art and programming techniques to use with Scratch. Finally, I hope they had fun creating their own animations and were inspired to make others.

Visiting the Art of the Brick

Last weekend, my family and I met up with friends (and more family) to see the “Art of the Brick.” This free show, held in Tampa, displayed a number of pieces by artist, Nathan Sawaya.  The catch? All of the art was constructed with LEGO bricks.

A picture of a LEGO replica of part of the Bayeux Tapestry, made by the brick artist.

Sawaya’s work included replicas of 2D art, as well as original 3D sculptures. This is part of the Bayeux Tapestry ( a personal favorite of mine).

LEGO Art – The Art of the Brick

I have seen pictures of his work, but it was quite amazing to see it in person. The sheer number of LEGOS required for each sculpture was astounding! Most ranged in the thousands.

Obviously, we have a love for LEGO in this family, but I found Sawaya’s introductory video inspiring. He declared that art is not optional. In a world where we focus more and more on academic subjects and social media, art is often dropped from the school curriculum or brushed aside for more money-making ventures. Or worse, it’s turned into an academic subject itself — no creating required.

a picture of the sculpture of Degas Littel Dancer, made out of LEGOS by artist Nathan Sawaya

What if high school students had to collaborate (in math or science class) to make this? After learning about Degas, of course.

Well, art isn’t going to feed you.

I understand. We need people to clean up after ourselves. We need doctors and researchers. We need teachers. We even need a few lawyers to protect people, but I would argue that suing someone doesn’t adequately feed one, either. I am satisfied with my paid job, but I must create beautiful things.

What would happen if we, as a society, figured out our bare necessities (healthy food, safe shelter, attractive sustainable clothing, books/knowledge, and creative hobby pursuits) and eliminated the filler? Do I need to spend my time with people on Facebook? Twitter? Do I want to encourage the proliferation of social media for self-promotion’s sake?

All of us have wonderful things to contribute to our communities. Why is it so hard to do that well? The shy among us hope to get lucky in our creative careers, but unless we promote ourselves, we lose out. Imagine if we could wear the same thing for five days (all clean, of course) and spend the rest of our time making art (fully recyclable and sustainable art, of course).

I wish I was brave enough to wear the same thing everyday for a week. Of course, one could argue that fashion is a creative display of art. Ahem.

Creativity & Mental Health

There are some theories suggesting we aren’t creative enough and it’s hurting our mental health. We need to make things as young children (painting, drawing, building, playing music, reconstructing engines, etc.) to become productive adults. We need to lighten the social media burden. I choose to do that with visual art. I make my own art and I encourage my kids to do the same. Their chosen medium has been LEGO bricks (see The Brick Chronicles). It makes my heart smile to see the connection they make with a fellow artist. Art does matter — and I encourage you to support it.

a picture of the statue of liberty made out of LEGO bricks

In June, we saw this LEGO sculpture at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Check out this video on how it was constructed (not created, but actually put together).

 

 

Art Lab :: Minecraft Paper Sculptures

As part of our ongoing series, the boys are testing projects from the book, Art Lab for Kids. This week’s lab: paper sculptures. They don’t have to be Minecraft-related, but in my house, Minecraft is always on the brain. The kids’ brains anyway, not mine.

Check out the past Art Lab posts: book review and reverse color underpainting.

a picture of a paper Minecraft sword. Inspried by the book, Art Lab for Kids

C, age 8, made a Minecraft sword. All of those cuts too him a long time….not to mention the stapling!

Minecraft Paper Sculptures

So…you may be thinking: Minecraft, eh? I thought they were learning about art!

Yes, it seems like they just made toys for this particular lab, but the concept was the same. They created a stuffed paper sculpture, but instead of a fish (the given example), they took a familiar idea and ran with it. Even though I do try to discourage consumerism and branding, this was a great pairing. (Besides, I may have a thing for Harry Potter and the Florida Gators…some branding is allowed, and possibly encouraged). Anyway, the boys were super excited about this lab, and they had to use the design thinking process to figure out how their sculptures were going to work.

 

a picture of a green construction paper being used for paper minecraft sculptures. Inspired by the book, Art Lab for Kids.

R (age 11) made a complicated creeper and had to sketch out his design ahead of time.

Crafting to Retain Information

It should be no surprise that we do a lot of arts and crafts at our house. What I find surprising is how much information my kids retain when they make something. Our crafting isn’t just limited to “art time.” Over the years, we have done a number of suggested crafts from our social studies curriculum, Story of the World. During the weeks when we “crafted,” the boys remembered the event much more clearly. I think it has something to do with the generative process of using information to create something new.

We are definitely one of those families that takes time to make things. We don’t cover as much material, but the topics are easily recalled.

a picture of paper sculpture Minecraft creeper and diamond sword

Creeper made by R, age 11. Sword made by C, age 8.

**This post was originally published on June 19, 2017. Sadly, it was deleted from the site when my server was switched. I have finally fixed the issue. (P.S. Don’t use GoDaddy for web site hosting. Their customer service is awful). **

Art Lab for Kids :: Reverse Color Underpainting

The kids and I have been making our way through the book, Art Lab for Kids. This week’s featured lab: reverse color underpainting. (Check out the Art Lab book review post).

a kid's painting of a seaside using reverse color from art lab

R’s landscape painting. He used the reverse color underpainting technique.

Underpainting

According to Jerry’s Art Arama, “underpainting is a first layer of paint applied to a canvas or board and it functions as a base for other layers of paint. It acts as a foundation for your painting and is a great way to start your painting off with some built in contrast and tonal values.” For a more advanced explanation, see how the old masters used this technique.

The masters used oil-based paints, but my kids use acrylic paint and watercolor paper. They are practicing, so there’s no need to have a stack of canvas boards laying around! I like how Susan Schwake (Art Lab author) showed a completed example for this lab. My oldest son wanted to do something similar, but it was up to us to figure out what colors to use for his underpainting.

a picture of a boy sketching from a picture on the ipad. Inspired by the book Art Lab for Kids

We found a landscape picture online which looked similar to the example given in the book.

All told, this was a fabulous art lab. He learned a new technique and created some cool art. Plus, he had to wait between layers, so it reinforced the idea that art can (and should) be a multi-day project. There’s no need to complete a piece in one sitting.

a picture of a boy painting with acrylic paints. Inspired by the book, Art Lab for Kids

Since we didn’t print out the picture, R write down the colors he wanted.

Of course, now I want to add some Chibitronic LED stickers to this landscape. Wouldn’t it look great with a flashing buoy in the distance?

a kid's painting of a seaside using reverse color from art lab

Book Review – Art Lab for Kids

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

a picture of the art lab for kids book

Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake.

Target Audience: Art teachers, parents, homeschoolers & kids, ages 7 and up
Schwake, Susan. Art lab for kids: 52 creative adventures in drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media for budding artists of all ages. Quarry Books, 2012.

Art Lab for Kids

You could say I have a thing for books.

You could say my kids have a thing for books.

Needless to say, we bring home a lot of library books, every week. Often, I am enthralled with my latest non-fiction choice and Susan Schwake’s Art Lab for Kids is no exception. It is well-organized and easy to read.  The accompanying photographs (done by her husband, Rainer) contribute to a simple, but informative format.

But, that’s not the only reason I feel compelled to write about this book. Since we do check out a lot of “how-to” books from the library, many of these books…well, they just get read. We don’t bother with the projects — even if we enjoy the content. Sometimes, it is a time issue. We might be in the middle of a busy work season or everyone is deeply involved in other projects , but often the format looks too messy (for me), or complicated (for the kids). I’m happy to say that Schwake’s book is welcoming and inviting.

There’s something about Schwake’s book that made us jump in and create. In fact, rather than sitting and thumbing through the pages, we’ve chosen projects from her book to complete. Lots of projects.

landscape drawing project from the book, Art Lab for Kids

C (age 8) is sketching a landscape.

Art Labs

Each project is styled as a “lab.” Schwake has divided the book into six main units: making art, drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media. Each two-page lab spread includes a picture of the project, detailed instructions and more pictures of some in-progress projects (all done by kids). Most of the labs have a call out which highlights an artist using a similar technique. The profiled people are current artists, and you can find more information about their work with a simple web search.

Art Techniques

I can’t figure out why this book has settled so firmly into our household. After all, we’ve brought home The School of Art, and a number of other kids’ drawing books. We’ve enjoyed reading through those books, but other than Ed Emberley’s drawing books, my kids are not going to sit down and draw from any book I bring home. I know because I’ve tried a lot. Maybe, it’s because this book shows a sample project? They don’t feel so overwhelmed? There’s enough flexibility to copy the project, but also add their own spin to it?

C’s in-progress landscape acrylic painting.

There’s a fine line between teaching, dictating, and facilitating. We need to have room to be creative, but also learn key techniques. I think if we want our children (or ourselves) to become deep learners, we need to ask them to replicate a certain technique correctly. Then, they can add their own creativity to the project. Sometimes, I let my kids do their own thing first, but in a later lesson I will ask them to do it “my way.” Occasionally, they grumble, but I have seen their hard work pay off in later projects – whether that’s in writing, math, or art.  I don’t want to stifle their creativity, but I do want to try something new. At our house, it helps to have an adaptable project to follow.

That being said, we are embarking on an Art Lab project series. It’s a good way to keep the kids’ interested while fostering my own desire to make some art.

a picture of an acrylic landscape painting project from the book, Art Lab for Kids

C’s completed landscape painting.

Impressionist Art With Kids

The Florida weather has been gorgeous, but it won’t be long before it’s stifling and humid…at nine o’clock in the morning! Taking advantage of the cooler temperatures, we grabbed an old table and took our painting outside. We were practicing painting – en plein air – a perfect compliment for our study of Claude Monet (the last artist from the Meet The Masters series). After watching the slide show, I knew we were going to do some impressionist-inspired art. However, I was a little hesitant since this lesson wasn’t my favorite (too simplified). Thankfully, the art activities stretched my kids’ abilities. It forced them to think like impressionists.

a picture of kids doing impressionist art with kids

Everyone has a space, but still need to share water…

Impressionist Art with Kids

We skipped the “make a color wheel with crayons” activity; instead, we chose to jump right into making an impressionist painter’s palette – using only red, yellow and blue.

a picture of completed painted impressionist art with kids

These are my samples from the provided “Meet the Masters” lessons. I got the kids started and then finished after they were done. I noticed they were looking at my colors and just copying, so I gave them a chance to think about it on their own.

This was a great activity for my youngest (who just turned eight), as he was a little shaky on the difference between primary and secondary colors. For my oldest, it was a great way to stretch his thinking by asking him to create “mixed” colors – without mixing them! Impressionists tried (try?) to lay their colors side-by-side so one gets a wide variety of color with very little formal mixing.

Final Project – Impressionist Watering Can

a picture of a kid drawing amidst a table covered with paint supplies.

C starts his watering can painting – with a pencil sketch.

We never made it to the formal, final lesson in this series. I think it was a impressionist re-creation of some flowers. Instead, I asked the kids if there was something they might like to try and paint  – in the style of an impressionist. My oldest (age 11) chose to do his own realistic painting, but my youngest was open to trying something new. He looked around, and simultaneously, both our gazes locked onto the plastic watering can that resides at the front of the house.

We brought it to the table, and he quickly sketched its shape. Then, he began painting. He asked for some black paint (to make gray), but we talked about how the impressionists didn’t use black…how was he going to compensate? Would he imagine it in a completely different color, such as bright pink? Would he try and make a mixture of white and blue – to replicate the soft gray? I was so impressed with his willingness to try something new – especially since he couldn’t quite imagine it in his head.

a picture of an impressionist-inspired watering can - doing impressionist art with kids

Drawn, painted and imagined by C, age 8.

Learn More About Claude Monet

Like I said earlier, Monet was the last artist left in our subscription for the Meet the Masters series. However, we dragged our feet on undertaking this study…I think because we felt we already knew his work. Two years ago, a Monet exhibition came to our university’s art museum and we did an entire study of Monet.  We read books (Linnea in Monet’s Garden & The Magical Garden of Claude Monet), and dabbed paint onto our canvases. We visited the museum and saw real Monet paintings. It made quite an impression (ha – I couldn’t help myself). Regardless, we thought we knew all there was to know about impressionist art for kids.  I’m glad we were wrong. Everyone picked up something new with these lessons. Plus, it reinforced the brain connections from our earlier study. (For those without access to the Meet the Masters series, try this lesson from The Getty Museum).

Reviewing the Meet the Masters Series

Back in November, I purchased “Track A” of the Meet the Masters series of artists. This track included Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassat, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. I have been both impressed and disappointed with the accompanying activities for this series. (I bought ages 8-9). Sometimes, they seemed too simple, but often they were completely appropriate. I really liked the slide shows and the breakdown of artistic activities, but next time – I’ll be purchasing the curriculum for ages 10 and up.

Combining Art & Tech

On a final note, we took our impressionist study just a bit further with the use of the app, Chatterpix. While attending FETC, I participated in a session given by art and tech teachers from a Colorado charter elementary school. They were presenting past school projects that combined art with tech. Chatterpix was one of the apps they mentioned, and I downloaded it that evening.  It’s funny, goofy, and yet easy enough for my eight-year-old to use on his own. Of course, the teachers used it for hand-painted portraits of historical figures…but I’ll work with what I’ve got: a talking, impressionist-inspired watering can. Art is subjective, right?

FYI – I am not compensated for my opinion of Meet the Masters; it’s just a curriculum we’ve used for the last five months. When trying to decide how to spend my limited homeschool budget, I prefer reviews that are comprehensive (rather than shallow overviews). It’s my hope this review will be helpful to fellow art teachers and/or homeschoolers.

Harry Potter Art

Sometimes the stars align, the sibling squabbles cease, and everyone is content to do the same thing at the same time. It didn’t hurt that the topic was Harry Potter. This beloved fantasy series ignites all sorts of childhood (and adult) interest. So it was no surprise that we all did some Harry Potter art for a friend’s upcoming birthday party.

A little rummaging in the “card-making box” and R unearthed some Harry Potter stickers.

Hogwarts Castle

A few days before the party I asked the kids what type of card they wanted to make for their friend. Did they want to try and draw something? a castle? Harry? a house-elf?

My youngest son, recently into all artistic endeavors, decided that he would like to draw a castle. Hmm…okay. Would you like to find a reference picture or maybe a YouTube video?

“Definitely a YouTube video of Hogwarts,” he said. So, we did.

C (age 7) watched a line drawing of a YouTube video and made this drawing.

After he finished, we took it to the copier, shrunk it down and created a card for the birthday girl. Meanwhile, my oldest son started free drawing and came up with a respectable looking castle. Apparently, all of those Mark Kistler drawing lessons have been paying off!

C’s shrunken drawing becomes the front of a card while R’s hand-drawn castle is the start of his magical world.

More Harry Potter Art

While they continued to add more and more stickers to their cards, I was working on my gesture sketches. I haven’t drawn a lot of people, but have recently been working my way through a Craftsy class on drawing children for children’s book. I took this opportunity to quickly sketch Harry and the sorting hat.

R incorporated his stickers to become part of a wizard’s home, while I practiced rough sketching Harry Potter at the sorting.

All told – we spent hours drawing, playing and talking about Harry Potter. I’m glad I let myself relax and enjoy the afternoon doing some art with my boys. I know they liked it too.

 

Studying Van Gogh

The Artist Who Sparked His Interest :: Vincent Van Gogh

Recently, my youngest son is fascinated with art. He likes looking at paintings, talking about them and learning about the artists. He is drawing more, working through the “hard” parts and developing a growth mindset. 

In fact, after visiting the Morse Museum he returned to the hotel room, set himself up in front of the window and declared he was “doing art.” He didn’t end up drawing anything, but he did have an awesome view of the setting sun. I think that counts as observational skill-building!

I’d like to take credit for his interest, but Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings caught his eye. In November, we learned about Van Gogh; his life and paintings were fascinating and we gobbled up as many books about him as possible (Mike Venezia’s artist series is a favorite around here). However, I think the artist concept truly hit home when we started making our own impressionist art.  After learning about Van Gogh, we made oil pastel drawings of Starry Night.

a child's drawing of Van Gogh's Starry Night

C’s (age 7) recreation of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

a child's depiction of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

R’s (age 10.5) recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

oil pastel recreation of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Liz’s recreation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (using only 12 oil pastels).

Studying Master Artists

We’ve always taken the kids to museums and read books about artists. Last year, we studied Monet; a few of his paintings were on display at our local museum. For our family, it makes the experience much more valuable if the kids know something about the topic ahead of time. This is especially true for my older, more active child. If he is truly interested, he can wander in a museum for hours. If not, we’re done in thirty minutes!

For this project, we’ve been studying the “masters” with a guided curriculum. I purchased the first set of ‘Meet the Masters‘ lessons. So far, we’ve completed three out of five artists (Van Gogh, Monet, Cassat, Picasso, Mondrian), and the kids look forward to listening and learning new techniques. It has taken our art and art appreciation to the next level with just the right combination of art history and hands-on application. And no, I do not get paid to say that. We just like the curriculum.

I’m not too worried about stifling their creativity with a formal curriculum. We don’t follow it completely, but it does teach them techniques to apply to other art work. I see the value in copying master artists; my kids pay attention to the details and start to internalize the lessons of light, value and color. Then, they get to apply those same skills to their own art. Since they are confident in their skills, they are willing to spend more time drawing and experimenting. Thankfully, that means more art time for me too.

Following our interests – drawing

Evolution of a Drawing Parent

When I was pregnant I had dreams of all of the cool things I would do with my child. We would sit together and color, go for long walks and do a lot of drawing. All of the parents can see where this is headed, right? My first child was born and he hated to color; he refused to pick up any writing instrument. He wanted to build, destroy and take things apart. He was fascinated by machines, noisy toys and television. So, I quietly put away my own interests (art and drawing) for his interests. We bought him wood blocks and spent hours building. We jumped into legos and computers. We taught him to create with these things, rather than to passively consume them.

a picture of a kid's drawing

Drawn by R, age 11. We’ve done some prep work from the book, Drawing with Children.

Same Parents, Different Kids

A few years later, we added another son to our family.  He seemed quieter and more willing to pick up a pencil, but he was enthralled with his older brother’s antics. And so I waited. My older son showed an interest in drawing (around age 8) and my younger son (now age 7) is also showing a strong interest in drawing and art history. I can’t say that I am an especially patient person, but I am thrilled that their interests are finally dovetailing my own.

A picture of a kid drawing a skyscraper.

C, age 6, drawing an Atlanta building for the city project.

Drawing Instruction at Home

Four years ago, a friend turned us onto Mark Kistler’s online video lessons. Since we’re homeschoolers, we buy a yearly subscription through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. The videos are separated by skill level and novice artists can stop the videos as much as they want. He takes the students step-by-step while infusing his lessons with the language of art. He speaks of perspective and shadowing. He addresses the importance of direction and the size of foreground objects. He does all of this while drawing – it’s his natural language and the students don’t realize they are picking up art terms. It gives them the confidence to add these elements to their own drawings.

a picture of a blob monster, drawn by a 7-year-old.

Drawn by C, age 7. Instruction by Mark Kistler.

Returning to Drawing

Although I incorporated art into our daily life anyway – it was to help the kids learn to love art – not really to increase my own drawing ability. During their younger years, I felt like I needed to become an expert educator/parent and so my art took a back seat for the past eleven years. But, after a little bit of soul-searching this past year (mid-life crisis, perhaps) and thanks to a few other resources (the book Essentialism, and the web site, Craftsy), I have brought art to the forefront of my life. I am drawing more and refining my ability. Thankfully, my kids are on board.

A picture of a hand-drawn, pencil drawing of a lily.

Drawn by Liz looking at a color picture of a lily.

 

Following his interests – Frank Lloyd Wright

My eldest child is quite the extrovert. His high energy levels fuel his interests and he takes to new ideas with a fierce passion. So, it’s not quite surprising that my “robot engineer” now wants to be an architect when he grows up. And who sparked this interest? Frank Lloyd Wright.

a picture of two lego houses made in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright

R’s take on Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

Art and Architecture

After a particularly lucky day at our “Friends of the Library” sale, I brought home a kids’ book on Frank Lloyd Wright. He did some work in Florida and I thought it might be a fun side project for us. Not that I need an excuse to travel, but an “educational” trip is often easily justified.

He read through the book, found other relevant sources, and was well on his way to loving Frank Lloyd Wright. These books sparked some lego creations, a Minecraft structure and a deep desire to visit Falling Water.

Picture of inside of frank lloyd wright house in Minecraft

The interior of the Minecraft structure: this one was designed after Wright’s own home.

As I said before, his interests vary and you never know what might stick. Well…that was six months ago and while the intensity has chilled, the interest is still there. He recently spent hours pouring over a book about tiny homes, and we just discovered this book at our local library.  My younger son and I have also been absorbing information. We’re learning just as much about this very cool architect-artist.

picture of frank lloyd wright home in Minecraft

A Wright-inspired home built in Minecraft.

Art Interest

In fact, my younger son has shown an increase interest in artistic endeavors. He has been very interested in drawing and painting. This past spring, we made it halfway through this fabulous Craftsy course on colored pencils. Both of the boys sat and tried out the lessons before the pull of summer (and the pool) took over. At the present time, we’re diving more deeply into art, art history and various techniques, and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to see what we do next.

IMG_2460

This is my attempt at recreating an autumn leaf using appropriate color-pencil blending techniques.