Category Archives: all ages

Jon Scieszka-Inspired Writing Workshop

Don't Forget to WriteNot too long ago, I saw the book Don’t Forget To Write in the poets.org email newsletter and ordered it more or less on a whim. It looked good. Tuesday, all my kids were home for Election Day, so I decided to plan a writing workshop from one of the ideas in the book. I like having all my kids home, and while it’s true that in many ways, my middle child is less distracted when he’s the only one home, many explorations work better in a group. Some alchemy exists when ideas are shared, and who can deny the thrill of immediate positive feedback*?

This book is full of activities written by writing workshop leaders, including published authors, and I don’t remember the last time I browsed a kids’ writing book and wanted to try just about all the prompts. This book is good. Because we enjoy Jon Scieszka’s books, I decided to begin with his “lesson,” which consists of him sharing the inspiration for many of his books and inviting us to write stories in the same way. We own The Stinky Cheese Man, and I brought home a couple more from the library last week and left them around so they’d be fresh in the kids’ minds.

Scieszka books

The Stinky Cheese Man is a book of “fairly stupid tales,” created by changing something in a fairy tale in order to make it, well, stupid. Squids Will Be Squids is a book of fables written, Scieszka says, by taking stories of annoying or gross habits, turning the people involved into animals, and attaching a lesson. And The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is simply a fairy tale written from another character’s point of view.

And so we all got to writing, or dictating, in the case of my 6yo. She chose to tell the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff from the troll’s point of view, that poor tired troll, who was trying to take a nap and got woken up by all that trip-trapping over his head, plus a very bad headache, too. My middle child also visited the troll and billy goats, creating a fairly stupid tale by having the troll yell so loudly at the goats that they fell right off the bridge and died, so he ate them. I took the testimony of the duck, the dog, and the cat, who never showed an interest in gardening and wouldn’t have planted the seed anyway, so why is the Little Red Hen so grumpy over pursuing her own hobbies? And my oldest, my almost-teen, good-naturedly agreed to participate and then wrote this fable, which he said I could share. It made me laugh out loud.

Turtle had a pretty good life. Most of the time, he was able to do what he pleased. But one day, Lion came by. Turtle had a day off from work, so he was looking forward to a day of relaxing. But Lion had other ideas. Her cubs were doing schoolwork, and she thought that turtle should do it too, even though it was his day off. So she had him do work and constantly reminded him of what to do.

Moral: Some people don’t enjoy the same things as others. Think of others’ point of view.

For the record, he laughed out loud reading Squids Will Be Squids, and he contributed really good comments on everybody else’s stories. Maybe I can talk him into sitting in on another writing workshop with us on Veteran’s Day…

*The kids were told before anybody read out loud: We’ll be sharing something we like about each other’s stories. This was a workshop focused on generating ideas and getting words down, not tearing apart and revision.

Postcards!

Two nights ago I sorted out all the kid postcards I’ve received. Here’s a badly lit photo of my living room floor (the cat, of course, had to plop himself in the middle of the action).

sorting postcards at amyhoodarts.com

A total of 98 postcards were made by 21 children from Connecticut, Missouri, Rhode Island, Indiana, Washington state, Virginia, California, and New York. They used collage, markers, stickers, watercolors, stamps, pastels, acrylics, and more. They were creative, they wrote notes to the recipients, they made me smile over and over. Eight adults also made postcards, which I loved to see.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

Some of the postcards made by children for the summer mail art swap.

The first batch is getting mailed today. I’m sending them out in groups, in hopes of drawing out the fun of getting mail on the other end. Much better to get your postcards spread out a little instead of all on one day, yes? I didn’t place a limit on how many postcards any one person could send in, but if a child made roughly 6 or more, he or she will most likely get more than one from the same person in return. (It’s math, folks. Had to be done.) But hopefully nobody minds, as all the postcards are fun and fabulous.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

More fabulous postcards.

Big thanks to all the families who made postcards and bundled them up with stamps and labels and got them in the mail to me, trusting a perfect stranger to sort these works of art and send them on their way. Does it sound too sappy to say that every envelope I received added happiness to my day?

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Sculpey or air-dry clay; paint; yarn/other scrap materials for decorations; fabric for body; glue

Not long ago, we read quite a bit about artist Paul Klee. I considered him for the featured artist for Art Together: Printmaking (I went with Hokusai), but in the meantime, we really enjoyed learning more about him. Of course, as we read about some of his techniques, my kids said, “Can we try that?” This is one of the can-we-try-that projects, completed by me and my 5yo daughter.

In Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry, we learned that Klee created puppets for his young son, and we saw a picture of them. This set on Flickr has images of them, and there is a book about them as well. (We didn’t read that book, but the cover shot is a photo of the puppets.) The Vry book contains Klee-related activities at the back–the sort that leave the product wide open. (That is the sort I like!) It suggested using clay for the puppet heads. We have both air-dry clay and Sculpey, but the latter was much easier for 5yo hands to mold, so we used that.

Child's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

G’s puppet.

Mold the heads so that your finger fits inside the neck–this is how you’ll control your puppet. After molding the heads, we cooked them according to directions (I burned my puppet’s nose and chin!), then painted on their features using liquid acrylic paint. We attached yarn hair using craft glue–G wanted beads in her puppet’s hair–and then sewed their clothes. The shirt/dress is a simple template–make sure the top opening is big enough to fit over your puppet’s neck, and keep the neck hole and the bottom open. Finally, we used craft glue to attach the neck opening of the shirt/dress to the neck of the puppet.

Adult's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

My puppet.

The ribbons are there to cover up the join between the cloth and the head and because, as G says, “They’re so pretty.” We are rather chuffed with our puppets.

Color Round-Up

(I’ve announced the winner on the giveaway post and emailed her. Thanks to all who entered, and if you still want a chance to win a copy, head over to Jen’s…her giveaway is open through Thursday!)

Issue One of the Art Together e-zine is all about color, and I love color. Playing with color makes me very happy! As you might guess, we have plenty of activities on the blog exploring color as well; I wanted to gather some of the best in one place as an extra resource.

Make A Simple Color Wheel from the Art Together series: We do this two ways, using circles of watercolor and using acrylics (shown to the left).

Preschool Color Mixing Using Colored Water: There’s nothing quite like watching colors mix yourself at this age. It’s magical, and the best way to learn about color mixing is doing it.

Preschool Color Mixing Using Tempera Paint: This activity incorporates squeeze bottles, experimentation, and stirring. It’s a winner for preschoolers.

Tints and Shades from the Art Together series: This activity uses one shade of color plus white and black to make monochromatic paintings.

O’Keeffe Leaves: Using Autumn leaves for inspiration, we drew really big leaves and filled them in with color.

colored eggExperiments with Natural Dyes: One Easter we did just that to color our Easter eggs (left), getting some really interesting colors.

Experimenting with Bleeding Tissue Paper: This type of tissue paper “bleeds” out its color when it touches water, which can be an interesting way to play with color blending, make prints, and investigate.

Tissue Paper Painting: Using Eric Carle’s method, we painted tissue paper with brightly colored designs.

Color and Texture: Using primary colored paint and a variety of textured objects, we created our own bright decorative papers.

You don’t need to buy the zine in order to join the Flickr group and share work by you and your kids–New Flickr makes my eyes hurt but I promise to be over there more often; I’d love to see what everybody is working on!

Announcing Art Together E-Zine and a Giveaway

I’m really excited to announce and share with you the first issue of the Art Together E-Zine. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now and working on this issue over the summer. My plan is to offer a quarterly magazine, each with a focus; Autumn’s issue investigates color. Each issue will include a Featured Material and an Artist Spotlight, as well as plenty of resources, activities, and ideas. The two book lists–one on color and the other on van Gogh, the subject of this issue’s Artist Spotlight–are annotated, which means I give some information on each book to help you decide if it sounds right for you and your children. You’ll also find plenty of encouragement and, hopefully, inspiration within these pages.

You will not, however, find craft projects. The activities within firmly support my belief in the importance of open-ended, process-oriented art. Because there is no right or wrong way to do these activities, you and the children you’re working with can approach them from wherever you are right now. The only necessary quality is a willingness to explore and experiment. My hope is that artists of all ages will find something within these pages.

My 9yo working on an activity from Issue One.

I wrote this for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters–anyone looking to explore art with children they care about. The idea of art together–parents and children side by side–is so important to me because, for a long time, that was the only way I could find time in my day for my own creative outlets. If you’ve always thought you couldn’t “do art;” if someone along the way made you feel shamed or less-than when it came to art or creativity; if you’ve always kind of wanted to try something artsy but thought it wasn’t for you; if your child loves art and you’re just not confident in your ability to sit down with him or her–I especially wrote this for you. Playing and experimenting with art is for everybody (yes, you too). Whether or not you buy the zine, I hope you hear me whispering encouragement to you, because I am really passionate about helping people gain confidence in their creativity. (Encouragement is always free of charge. Email me anytime!)

Drawn and painted still life, acrylics, 11-year-old.

You can find all the details about this first issue, including the “buy now” button, here. This issue is 27 pages and $5, but because it’s my birthday on Saturday, you can use the code BIRTHDAY for 20% through the end of September. And because the best way to celebrate is by giving, I’m offering a free copy to a reader. Just leave a comment on this post letting me know you’re interested (make sure to include your email address in that field in the comment form). This giveaway is open to anyone, worldwide–aren’t digital giveaways so easy that way?! Comments will be open until midnight EST on my 40th birthday, Saturday, September 21. And stay tuned–a few other bloggers will be hosting giveaways over the next couple of weeks as well.

I had a great time creating this magazine, and I hope you enjoy it too.

**Drawing results: Random number generator brought up Jen as the winner. Congratulations, Jen!

Setting Up An Outdoors Painting Area

My kids and I are trying out activities from the first Art Together e-zine issue, which I plan to have available for you next month. Today was not too hot or humid, so I decided to set us up to paint outside, and I wanted to share with you how easy this can be.

We have some basic plastic deck furniture–nothing too fancy or precious. The brown boards are masonite boards from Home Depot, cut to size–the same thing drawing boards are made from, but much cheaper. I’ve brought out our paints, brushes, glass rinsing jars, and a pitcher of water–this way, it’s easy to refill the rinsing jars without running back and forth into the house. My kitchen is on the opposite side of that wall, so it’s not that hard to refill the pitcher, either, when necessary.

That’s it! It’s that easy. Fresh air on a not-too-hot day and painting. Two good things together.

Summer T-Shirt Round-Up

Decorating our own t-shirts is a summer staple here. These range from simple (printing with leaves) to more complicated. I’ve gathered up the ones I’ve posted about here, in case you’re looking for ideas.

glue batik

Several years ago we each designed and decorated our own t-shirts using a glue batik process. I posted about it at Kidoinfo here.

sun print shirts

We experimented with sun printing right on t-shirts, with variable success. We learned cheap watered down liquid acrylics worked best for this. The full post is here.

freezer paper stencil

A favorite technique that we’ve used over and over–freezer paper stencils. The shirt above still gets worn regularly and complimented. The full post is here.

scratch foam shirt

Because my daughter was a bit too young at the time to design her own freezer paper stencil shirt, I helped her print a shirt using scratch foam. Our full process is described here.

The kids and I haven’t yet discussed what this summer’s shirts might entail. We’ll keep you posted!

{Art Together} Summertime Art Ideas

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

It’s getting on towards summer, at least where I live. Here in Southern New England, summer is my favorite time, and I try to make the most of warm and sunny days. That means art activities can shift outdoors as well. For this last regular Art Together post before summertime, I want to share some of the outdoor art activities we’ve done in the past—just follow the links for full details on each activity. And of course, don’t forget you can just set up a table or easel out-of-doors and paint en plein air—which also makes clean-up much easier!

Bright, strong summertime sun means making sun prints is a breeze (photo above). It requires specialty paper. I ordered ours online, but it seems to be much more commonly available now; I’ve even seen it in local toy stores.

We really enjoyed making hot rocks by drawing on hot rocks with crayons, and the rocks we decorated are still used in building play indoors. And if, like us, you compulsively collect smooth rocks from your local body of water (ours happens to be the Atlantic Ocean), you may want to try painting them, too.

Sidewalk chalk is a big hit in our house. We tend to be old-fashioned and just draw with it, until the driveway is covered with doodles and designs, but we’ve tried fizzy sidewalk paint, too.

If you happen to have a child at the spray bottle/squeeze bottle stage, try arming him with spray bottles of colored water and letting him loose, like I did with my daughter. Along these lines, toddlers and preschoolers will usually enjoy painting outdoor surfaces with water; yes, their paintings will disappear as they dry, but the process is the main thing! They will probably also enjoy “painting” you, themselves, and each other.

And, of course, summer is a great time to bring sketchbooks and supplies outdoors and draw and paint in nature. (Here, we drew irises.) Try to remember to bring the sketchbooks on your excursions. In case you forget, though, keep a traveling art box in the car.

More-organized art activities and challenges are available online this summer, too. Tammy is once again hosting the index-card-a-day challenge, and kids are welcome to participate. Michelle recently acquired Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists and is looking for company as she and her girls work their way through the book: a draw-along! And Coursera, which offers free online classes, is currently enrolling for Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques, which is a beginner-level course exploring the concepts of line, shape, value, texture, and color through readings and art projects (hat tip to Karen at Mail Me Some Art).

Whatever your summertime plans, I hope you enjoy the season and I hope it includes some art! I’ll still be posting about our activities, just not as a regular series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these first three months of weekly posts. I’d love to hear what you found helpful and what you’d like to see more of, either in the comments or via email (amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com).

{Art Together} Books From Our Bookshelf

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

Art Book List at amyhoodarts.com

Books have come up often in the {Art Together} posts and comments, so I decided to pull some of our favorites off my shelf and share them. I ended up with a huge stack. These aren’t meant to represent books someone must have, or a comprehensive list; they’re just books I own and use. Think of them as a jumping-off point—and it will also give you an idea of the types of books that inspire us. I’ve loosely grouped them into categories. Let’s go!

Philosophy-Type Books (with activities too)

Young at Art by Susan Striker: Striker has strong ideas about art-making (see her 10 Cardinal Rules for Teaching Children Creative Art). I’ve broken a couple of these “rules”—take what works for you. Her book is interesting reading to me not only for the ideas she suggests but for the information on developmental progression in art-making.

The Language of Art by Ann Pelo: This book presents inquiry-based provocations in the style of Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. The activities are open-ended, and Pelo includes her own documentation of actual students’ experiences, which is helpful in its own right if you’re trying to document your child’s learning (and not just the finished product). Part One, Studio Investigations, has sections on textures and movement, color, 3-dimensional media, and representational drawing and painting. Part Two, Moving Art from the Studio to the Classroom, gives examples of how to use art-making in long-term project work.

Posts inspired by this book:
Preschool Color-Mixing Activity (II)
Preschool Color-Mixing Activity
Sunflower Study

Beautiful Stuff! Learning With Found Materials, by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini: This is another book rooted in Reggio Emilia philosophy, one which explores the use of found materials with a classroom of primarily four-year-olds. In the preface, they explain, “Rather than focusing on the creation of products, this book is based on observation and recording of children’s and teacher’s processes.” Again, this book offers a glimpse into the process and documentation of project work.

Post inspired by this book:
Working With Found Materials

Don’t Move the Muffin Tins, by Bev Bos: After Karen recommended this one in the comments, I discovered it’s out of print, but my library system had a copy. The book itself seems dated, but the ideas do not, and I found myself wondering why we are still struggling so hard to get open-ended, process-oriented art experiences to children when Bev Bos wrote it all so succinctly more than thirty years ago. The subtitle is “a hands-off guide to art for the young child,” and that sums it up. She presents activities, but they are of the sort that involve offering materials and stepping back. Her preface and first chapter, “Getting the Feel of It,” are worthy reads.

Art Project Books (intended for kids)

I’m careful with these. I don’t want crafts; I want open-ended activities that I can modify so all my kids can participate at their own level. We’ve tried activities from all of these, so I include them here.

Art Lab for Kids, by Susan Schwake: I previously reviewed this book here. The book includes techniques organized into projects, but the outcomes aren’t narrowly defined. I used this one with a homeschool co-op class as well; the “labs” I chose were modifiable across a range of ages.

Art Explorers series by Joyce Raimondo: We have What’s the Big Idea, Express Yourself, and Picture This! Raimondo pairs projects with famous artists, using the latter to inspire the former. Again, the projects are suggested, directed techniques that I can modify across the range of my kids’ ages. She includes examples of actual children’s art and they all look different. (That’s a sign of an open-ended project.)

Posts inspired by these books:
O’Keeffe Leaves
Marker + Watercolors
Matisse-Inspired Collage

Art Project/Technique Books (intended for adults, but used by all of us)

Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists, by Carla Sonheim: Another in the “lab” series…it has 52 drawing prompts in it. Flip through it, find something interesting, and…go!

Post inspired by this book:
Watercolor Blot Animals

How to be an Explorer of the World, by Keri Smith: Anything by Keri Smith is worthwhile to spark creativity and thinking about things differently.

How to Make Books and Magic Books and Paper Toys, by Esther K. Smith: I love her books. You’ll find lots of ideas in here to make books or other paper things that can be used in open-ended ways or combined with your art ideas or artwork or words…just fabulous books.

Water Paper Paint, by Heather Smith Jones: As I mentioned in the watercolor post, this book is a useful compilation of information on materials and techniques, with different explorations to try. Someone who is interested in going deeper with watercolor work will also find helpful advice here.

Print Workshop, by Christine Schmidt: I am a big fan of printmaking, and this sparked lots of ideas for me. It’s full of information on materials and techniques. It’s also full of very product-oriented projects, which I ignore. I bought it for the methods. There are many books like this out there—on first glance they appear to be very step-by-step, but I’m thinking this is a publisher demand, because they think most people want to know how to re-create something exactly. If you look close, you can tell which ones are also giving you the skills to use the method to create whatever you want. Those are the sorts of books that come home with me.

Posts inspired by this book:
Carving Stamps
(You Can) Carve a Stamp (tutorial)
Labeling the Studio

In addition to these, we like books that show artwork itself, for discussion and inspiration–art history books, books devoted to a specific artist or style…the library is a great source of these. I’d love if you’d share in the comments–do you have favorite books you use for adult/child art inspiration?

{Art Together} Take Your Art on a Field Trip

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

Drawing at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.

One of the best, unexpected things that happened once I made art-making a priority for all of us is that my kids became accustomed to bringing sketchbooks on day trips and outings. This is as simple as it sounds; when packing for the day, sketchbooks and pencils go into the bag along with snacks and water. Why do I like having our sketchbooks along?

* Inspiration is everywhere! Sometimes you just need to draw your idea when you see it.

* It’s a balancing activity in a busy day—a time to focus and settle and look closely.

* It adds another layer to remembering the day. We have not just photos and memories but drawings and notes.

* If we’re learning about something in particular, those drawings and notes are part of project work.

Sketching in our own yard.

You don’t need to go to a museum or tourist destination to take your art somewhere new. We take our sketchbooks into the yard and on nature walks too. Take them on a city walk or on your daily errands. Sometimes the kids ask for them at certain points, and sometimes I ask if anyone wants to join me in drawing something. Sometimes ours don’t come out of the backpack at all during an outing; that’s okay, too. I’m not trying to force them on anyone, rather, just make sure they’re available.

Some things to keep in mind:

* If you’re visiting a museum or other institution, make sure to check their visitor’s guidelines before bringing your sketchbooks. Most art museums, for example, list restrictions on what type of drawing materials are allowed, and some limit the size of your sketchbook, too.

* If you’re going someplace where guidelines don’t apply, consider bringing along more than just drawing pencils. Experiment with watercolor pencils, watercolors, and colored pencils. A water brush makes using paints and watercolor pencils even easier. This shows you how to make your own.

* Clipboards can be really handy for loose sheets of paper.

* If you want to be ready for anything, consider putting together a traveling art box for the trunk of the car.

I bring my sketchbook when I go places by myself, too.

The more you and your kids keep a sketchbook with you, the more it will get used. I keep this as rule-free and simple as possible. At minimum, I have a pencil pouch with a variety of drawing pencils. If the destination allows, I’ll bring my pouch of drawing pens and markers, too. We all have more than one sketchbook going, and the kids bring whichever one they want. (It would be more organized to fill one completely before starting another, I know, but I have problems doing that myself.) It’s nice to date the drawings and make a note of where you were and what you were looking at. And that’s about it.

Take it Further

Brainstorm a list of where you might take your sketchbooks. Is there any place on your list you go regularly—daily or weekly? Challenge yourselves to take your sketchbook and draw in the same place more than once. Do you notice anything new the more you visit? Does your drawing habit force you to look more closely?

Take your sketchbook to the zoo or a farm and try to draw some animals. How is your child’s approach different from yours? Which animals are easier or harder to draw? I find chickens really hard—they never stop moving! They force you to practice gesture drawings.

I love this little post of Lori’s from several years ago, showing her and her son’s drawings of a place they pass often.

Further Resources

There are numerous books full of sketchbook inspiration.

Clare Walker Leslie focuses on nature sketchbooks. If that’s what you’re called to sketch, you’ll enjoy looking through her books for inspiration.

Artist’s Journal Workshop is just gorgeous to page through and has information on materials as well.

Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists is on my wish list, so I can’t tell you exactly what it contains. But I suspect, by the title, it covers a wide range of styles, reinforcing that a sketchbook is whatever you want it to be.

If you’re drawn to cityscapes, you may find inspiration in The Art of Urban Sketching.

Truly, a few minutes searching Amazon for “sketchbook” or “art journal” will bring up so many choices…I could spend all day browsing there.

Share Your Work

Reminder, if you have any photos of art-making going on at your house that you’d like to share, feel free to join the Flickr group.