Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Art Book: Animals Giveaway

Toward the end of last year I was approached by DK Publishing to contribute to an upcoming book of children's art projects with animal themes. I love all of the DK titles, and find them especially wonderful visual learning tools for children and families. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be a part of it, and was honored to write the foreword for the upcoming release: My Art Book: Animals.

To pay it forward I am giving away a copy of My Art Book: Animals to three of my followers! Please leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favorite animal is and why. And please make sure I have a way to reach you via email. I will also be posting my experiences with some of the projects from the book soon.

The 3 winners will be chosen on April 25th, 2012 by random drawing, and announced in a future post. Good luck on winning this title to add to your library!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pysanky: Ukranian Egg Decorating

This spring we decided to branch out on our Easter tradition of decorating Easter eggs, and learned to create pysanky. I was having trouble finding a place to buy supplies or a person to ask advice of. I then found that there was a Ukranian church about 20 minutes from my home with a church goods store, and it sold pysanky supplies! Not only that, the woman who was working in the shop the day I visited was a former art teacher! She was a great help, and we swapped stories. This art form actually predates Christianity, even though it is now associated with the Easter holiday.

The term pysanky comes from the word pysaty, which means to write. Designs are written with beeswax, dipped in dye, and then the wax is removed to reveal the resist design. Then the process is repeated for each turn with another color of dye. Pysanky also refers specifically to an egg decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs. It is not just a term for any egg decorated using wax resist.

The process takes some time, but the end results are just lovely! I have seen an art teacher or two blogging about creating pysanky with their classes, but I think I would modify the project to a watercolor resist on egg shaped paper, and concentrate on the Ukranian symbols and their meanings. Between lit candles, such specific supplies and containers of dye I'm not sure how successful it would be in the classroom environment. 

But I will say that spending the day with family, sharing stories and each others company, learning a new skill, exploring other cultures, and creating tiny masterpieces together was an experience that I would not trade for anything!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fauvism Landscapes

In the fall I introduced the 3rd graders to the "Wild Beasts" of France. We looked at examples of work by artists like Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, and noticed the non-realistic colors of their landscapes. I also reminded them that their paintings should have a foreground, a middle ground, and a background.

This was one of the funniest experiences during my full-time gig last fall. In one class, as we talked about what makes a landscape, one boy asked me if he could paint a desert. I said, sure, the desert is a landscape, with dunes and sand, the sky etc. Another child asked if he could do the beach. Of course! The shore, the sand and sky could all make a landscape scene.

As we worked on our projects I returned to the table with the desert landscape student. In the middle of his desert scene was a man who lay dead of dehydration. I told him that people live in the desert in many parts of the world without dying.

Then I visited the sea shore landscape. In the ocean was a shark jumping out of the surface of the water and devouring a swimmer. "Why all of the peril?" I asked the boys. I received devilish grins in return. Honestly, I love the fact that the kids were hesitant to make choices about what kind of landscape they would picture, but had no qualms about the death and destruction they would place within their landscapes! Ahh, boys...

Here are a few of my favorites, sans the drama. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Art Sites for Kids—Reasonably Clever

Reasonably Clever is a site for the Lego designer in all of us! Users are guided through the steps to create their own Lego character complete with accessories and background! If you are looking for a quick and fun visual adventure for kids, this may be the place to visit. Here are a couple of versions of me. The first is done in Mini-Mizer 3.0, the second is done with the classic, kid safe version. I enjoyed both and would say they are both appropriate for children. Check the Mini-Mizer tab for the different versions. Enjoy!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reflections on NAEA Convention: Speakers

There were so many speakers at convention that choosing was a difficult decision. Once or twice I couldn't get into the talks I wanted to see, or I was just too pressed for time to get to everything I wanted, but I did my best. The two creative giants I did have the pleasure of hearing, and who left me uplifted and inspired were Chuck Close and John Maeda.

John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design, gave a talk on the theme of STEM to STEAM. Check it out if you haven't heard about this movement to recognize the arts as part of the equation for innovation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Mr. Maeda spoke about the impact of art and design on education. He stated that artists make connections that others my not see, and made the correlation between scientists and artists as people who both ask big questions. He made it clear that art is a "need to have" element in the education system, not a "nice to have." He also spoke about the art teacher as one who shapes a person's journey in life, no matter what profession they choose. Hear hear!

Chuck Close inspired me in a completely different way. I have never had the opportunity to be in the same room as an artist whom I admire, who has achieved such great success, and who I know mostly through art history books and classes at art school. Really, have you ever gotten to hang out with say, Picasso and hear him talk about his life?

Mr. Close shared his childhood, obstacles he's overcome, his education and his professional career. The greatest thing about his talk was that it was informal and full of humor and anecdotes. It was not a stuffy, formal dictation of events in order. I left with a sense of getting to know a new friend.

For this session I decided to put down my notebook and just enjoy the ride, but I do remember one great bit of wisdom, that Mr. Close told us to take home with us: Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up and work everyday.

I was also particularly struck by a talk given by a gentleman from the midwest. He was featured as an award winning teacher, and gave a presentation of his art room and lessons. At one point he shared with us how many students he taught and his yearly budget. There was a collective gasp from everyone in the room! It seemed nearly impossible to be able to offer an art curriculum with the monetary constraints he had. When he heard the reaction he calmly said, "I know, I know what you are thinking. But where I live, most students don't have any art supplies outside of the school environment, and I am glad to be able to give them these experiences." This was truly inspiring!

Lastly, many teachers from all over the country spoke and gave me great ideas for new lesson plans, class room management, art materials I haven't tried or have shied away from, and interdisciplinary themes for the art room. I was given a boost of enthusiasm, a new perspective, and a chance to experience the greater community of artists and art educators— something that is usually limited to the handful of staff among an entire district of employees. That connection was very empowering.