Tag Archives: art & tech

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.

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

Marker Bots 2016

Today the kids made their own marker bots. They started with a single cell AA-battery, a broccoli band and a 3V motor. Once they figured out how to get the motor running, they grabbed a “marker bot body” and began to create. To see a more in-depth explanation, check out my previous “how-to” post on these cute scribbling machines. Otherwise, check out their drawing machines:

LED Embroidered Art

LED embroidered art

Lit up with LED Chibitronic stickers, conductive ink and some conductive thread.

Not surprisingly, I love art.

I love to make art. I love to draw, to paint, to sew, to embroider and to knit. I like to attend musicals and theater performances, and I loved tap dancing in college. But, like most people, my art is done on the side and usually done at home. It has changed mediums over the years – from drawing to sewing to knitting, but it’s always there. The creative side of my INFJ personality needs some sort of artistic outlet.

Thankfully, as I have delved more deeply into the study of robotics, programming and electronics, I see more ways to mesh art with simple technology. In fact, there was a whole field of study at MIT with a focus on high-tech and low-tech. How much fun do you think those grad students had?!

chibitronic and conductive ink

Using the Circuit Scribe conductive ink pen, I added a Chibitronic SMD LED sticker and a coin cell battery. Instant flow of electrons!

If you are in the Gainesville area, you may be interested in how UF students are combining art and science. A friend tuned me into this limited exhibit and I can’t wait to check it out.

LED Embroidered Art

As I was brainstorming samples for the upcoming Making in Action camp, I was messing around with a conductive ink pen and some leftover Chibitronic LED stickers. Voila! What if I hand-embroidered a picture and found a way to light it up?

First, I brainstormed something to embroider on card stock. I was inspired by fireworks, so I drew out the pattern and made sure to poke holes in the card stock (with my needle) before I tried to embroider. I also determined where I would put the LED lights. I knew I wanted them in the middle of my embroidered fireworks.

hand embroidered art

I used a Crewel size 12 needle and only 3 strands of embroidery floss.

Lately, embroidering has become a zen-like activity for me. I like the ease of use, and the accomplishment that I get from quickly finishing a piece.

B&W Hand-embroidered fireworks

I like how you can see the contrast of the colors in this black and white photo.

After I finished the embroidery, I started work on the LED lights. I knew I needed parallel circuits  to power the three LEDs, so I sketched out my circuit path onto another piece of cardstock. I made sure to mark where the LEDs would line up.

Then, after a little bit of testing and rummaging through my electronics stash, I came up with a Lilypad battery holder (with embedded on/off switch) and some conductive thread. After a failed attempt at soldering the thread to the conductive ink, I settled for a piece of Scotch tape.

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Place the LED card behind the embroidered card and enclose in a frame, making sure to allow the battery to be connected to the backside of the frame. That’s the purpose of the conductive thread. Hot glue the battery holder onto the back of the frame and your light-up LED embroidered art project is ready to display. Feel free to “wow” friends, in-laws, and hopefully, the parents of the kids you teach.

LED Embroidered Art - small

Lit up with LED Chibitronic stickers, conductive ink and some conductive thread.

a gift for his teacher

This year Ronan was enrolled in a local Montessori preschool. He went five mornings a week from 9-12, as part of Florida's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program. He had a great experience – he enjoyed being there and it jumpstarted him with regards to combining letters to form words (CVC, for those Montessorians). It also allowed me some alone time with just Calum. It was wonderful to be able to give this time to Calum like I had given it to Ronan at that age. While I think there are some things that could use improvement (stricter adherence to the "snack" protocol and more Montessori materials), one of the things that we felt made his year a success was his teacher. She is patient and kind, but firm. She's always available to talk about concerns and she's genuinely excited about learning and that translates to the children. In short, I think she was a major contributor to his success this year. So, of course, we wanted to find a proper way to thank her.

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So, we made her a "thank you" book. While I would love to take credit for this lovely idea, I was merely the recipient of such a wonderfully crafted book when I was a Montessori teacher.  It made such a lasting impression on me, that three years later, I thought it would be the perfect gift to give to a wonderful teacher. A way to say thank you – in homemade fashion.

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Ronan and I both contributed to this book. I wanted to make sure she understood how important we felt her role was in Ronan's past year. It could have been a bad experience, but he excelled and enjoyed himself. (Plus, we tucked in some gift cards for good measure)!

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All of the artwork was done by Ronan (or me). We used sheets of cardboard (from the back of the construction paper collection) for the front and back pieces, which were then painted by Ronan. It was a quick project that we hope had a lasting impression.

 

birthday crowns

Among my our new family traditions is the very popular birthday crown. We started with Ronan's fourth birthday and it seems to be one of the easiest handmade birthday gifts to give (and make). It's simple, doesn't take up much space and is genuinely well-received (always nice for a handmade gift to be well-loved). Plus, I get to stretch my creative limits and consider the personality of the child and how the crown will be used. Each time I make one, I think it is my favorite. And, then another comes along. A recap of the past few months…

…delicate and full of brightness…

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…fit for a princess…

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…calm and playful (even with a bit of a cold).

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I love this picture – the boy, his crown and the action of a mind-blowing sneeze.

Handmade Easter gifts

We all came together this weekend for good food with family and friends. There was lots of thanksigiving and joy for the season. Easter baskets were filled – in the nick of time – and spinach pies were made and delivered to the table. And, there were lots of handmades for the kids.

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First, we dyed eggs with all natural materials. From left: roasted beets, red cabbage, curry powder, turmeric and a spinach/cilantro mix. We steeped the veggies and herbs for an hour with boiling water…and the eggs were soaked for four more hours in the fridge. Not too much instant gratification here, but very nice results.

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The green deepened the next day and the red cabbage was a big dud. And, I needed to mash the beets a bit more. But, of course, I had some handmades that I needed to finish.

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Pom-pom chicks…you can't have a mama hen without some babies! (From the book, Creative Play for your Baby). They were pretty easy…I ended up felting them to keep the yarn from pulling out of the pom-poms.

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And, what has become my Easter handmade tradition : mama-made people. Last year, it was a fireman. Initially, I couldn't find one that I liked, so I made him. This year, our minds have been on farming and urban homesteading. There was very little thinking about this year's doll: a little farmer girl seemed like the perfect addition. She's already working on her animal husbandry.

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(Joe made the wooden gates too…we all got in the handmade act. More on that project later).

From the hand to the the heart

Our house seems to be a very busy place. I know we don't have the monopoly on activity – in fact, we probably can't even come close to lots of situations. (Especially since I have a cousin who is the mother to four boys). FOUR! Oh goodness…

…but, they love her a lot and are fiercely loyal to her (two are grown up and out the house and they are still this way). I want that for my boys. And, so, I quiet the "messy" voice in my head and turn up the "let's go outside" voice. I try to listen to the "he's learning something" voice. I place special emphasis and value the "homemade" voice the most.

So, of course, we've been busy…

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(Winter squash medley for Calum…ready to be frozen)

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(a 1st birthday crown for a friend)

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And, in my house, homemade can't be complete without a sewing project (or two) left out on the table. Waiting for a few minutes here and there to be eventually be finished.

It's completely normal to listen to the voices in your head, right?

watercolor painting

Last year, when I began reading about the Waldorf philosophy of education, I was intrigued by the emphasis on art and handiwork. During my Montessori training (and subsequent teaching) there seemed to be a lot of lip service paid to art. It was something to be admired, but it was not at the forefront of a Montessori classroom. Many of the activities were craft projects – created to express art – but separate from real life.

So, I was drawn to the idea of creating and crafting with children- while they assisted or not. During the past year, I worked on craft projects while Ronan "helped" or worked on his own project – or went on playing by himself. He saw me crafting on a regular basis. And, while my regular crafting has slowed down to a trickle, I've been more aware of making sure he has some art-based projects to call his own. (With a little help, of course…)

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As I am new to wet watercolor painting, I enjoyed that this book described some "typical" types of paintings (by age) and emphasized the process and feel of the art. I especially liked that Ronan was included in all aspects of this set-up: he wet his paper with the sponge and helped to mix the paints. It's always more fun for me when I get to paint my own picture while simultaneously watching the deep concentration that the paintbrush brings out in my son.

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