Category Archives: art history

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

Field Trip: Hokusai

Hokusai. amyhoodarts.com

Hokusai is the featured artist in the printmaking issue of Art Together, and the kids and I really enjoyed learning about him, his life, and the times he lived in. So when I saw that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was opening a Hokusai exhibit in April, of course I wanted to go. My husband wanted to come, too, and between his travel and weekend activities and trips to Maryland, it looked like Memorial Day Weekend would be our best chance to get there before we moved and Boston became out of easy reach. And when I got an email announcing that admission was free on Memorial Day itself, it was decided. We’d go to the MFA, and we’d say goodbye-for-now to Boston, a city we all love and will miss.

Our local commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays, so we drove to the end of the red line, left the car, and took the T into the city. G loves taking the train, but the boys weren’t so thrilled once we switched to the green line and it was standing room only–they may have inherited a little bit of their mama’s claustrophobia. As we approached the MFA stop, we could see the line of people extending from the museum entrance, down the stairs, along the street, and around the corner. Whoa! But free admission is a bargain–it saved us $100.

line into the MFA. amyhoodarts.com

Our view from the back of the line.

We ate some of our lunch while we waited, and the line moved quickly. The MFA has open houses regularly and I figured they’d be prepared and organized, and they were. It was a nice day, not raining, not too warm, and the lilacs smelled lovely. I don’t think we were in line more than a half hour.

Hokusai created more than 30,000 artworks in his lifetime, and it seemed, by the end of our time in the exhibit, that the MFA included most of them. I learned it was the first museum in the US to exhibit any of Hokusai’s works, in the late 1800s, and its collection is impressive. Ideally, we’d visit several times, focusing on one or two rooms at a time, because by the end, it was hard to absorb it all. Even the adults were tired. N explained it well when he said, towards the end, that he liked the art and was interested in it, but he was losing energy.

Hokusai quote. amyhoodarts.com

One of my favorite quotes by Hokusai.

Despite all our reading on Hokusai, the exhibit contained areas of his art that were new to us. (30,000 artworks, after all!) One such area were depictions of demons and ghosts–some of which were fairly disturbing, such as the demon lady with the bloody severed head of a child in her hand. (N: “Gee, how do you think he felt the day he drew that?“) Another was surimono. I had to snap a picture of this exhibit text. It sounds like a zine to me, 18th century style.

Hokusai exhibit text. amyhoodarts.com

The original zine? Sounds like it to me.

And there were many artworks I’d love to still be staring at. I do wish we lived close enough to visit this exhibit several times, but I’m glad we made it. We took our energy-depleted selves to the museum courtyard and ate the rest of our packed lunch to perk us up, then decided to walk in the city for a bit. I know we’ll enjoy exploring Washington, DC, but Boston holds a special place in my heart. We wandered from the museum, through a park, watched some geese and bunnies, visited the war memorial (sobering to my children, the sheer number of names of dead Boston boys on the World War II memorial). We walked some more, past the back of Fenway Park, down Boylston. We had some dinner, got back on the T, got into our car, and drove home.

Good-bye for now, Boston. We’ll be back some day (I promised my 6yo, after all).

Art Together Samples Available

art together color logo_cropped

Just a quick post to say I’ve added some samples from previous issues of Art Together, available as PDF downloads. They’re all listed on the main Art Together page as well as in the individual pages’ contents listings. If you’ve been wondering what the zine has to offer in terms of tone, content, and information, hopefully this will help! And as always, email me at amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com with any questions.

The available PDFs are:

The Color Wheel from Issue One: Color
Drawing With Tape from Issue Two: Line
Artist Spotlight: Hokusai from Issue Three: Printmaking
Scratch Foam Prints from Issue Three: Printmaking

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.

{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.

Painting Like Monet

(Inspired by Monet, of course, and Linnea in Monet’s Garden.)

Materials: Watercolor paper, tempera cakes and/or liquid watercolors, brushes of various sizes

What with all our looking and reading and visiting, N was keen to try to paint with dabs, like the Impressionists. So we opened the Art Book for Children (Book One) to the picture of Monet’s Waterlily Pond to inspire us, set ourselves up with tempera cakes and paper, and got started.

There are various lesson plans online for teaching children how to paint like the Impressionists, but my admittedly quick look only found lessons that had a specific end point, and you may have figured out by now that that’s not often how we approach things in the studio! N wanted to experiment, and so he did, producing a picture with various elements, where he’d tried different things.

Later in the week, N decided to make another picture using dabs and splotches, this time using liquid watercolors.

Although we have a full set, I don’t put all the colors out at once; I ask the kids what colors they want to use. N almost always asks for red, blue, and yellow because, he says, “I like primary colors because I can make any color I want with them.” And so he did.

While he was working, he asked me why Monet’s bridge is so famous, anyway. “Because he painted it,” I said. I watched him turn that over in his mind and realize that an artist has the ability to make his subject famous simply through his own interest. Powerful, isn’t it?

N wanted to know if we could visit Giverny, and I explained that it’s in Europe, but if we ever get to France as a family, we’ll make sure to visit Monet’s Gardens, too. “But remember you want to go,” I told him, “because if you get to Europe someday on your own when you’re older, you should have a list of things you want to see while you’re there.”

When I visited Europe over 15 years ago, I didn’t have Giverny on my list. Hopefully I’ll get back with N, but if not, I bet he’ll send me postcards. Are there any art-related items on your list of places you hope to visit?

Looking and Reading

On one of the many snow days in the past month, I brought out some of my art books for the kids–at first, mainly my six-year-old–to look at. (Click pictures to embiggen and see titles.)

(Appropriately, my art history book from college is anchoring this pile!) We started by flipping through The Art Book for Children. I was curious what would interest my son. Right away he wanted to know what was going on in this picture:

How exciting it must be to see that for the first time–an adult, flinging paint around like that. (That, of course, is Jackson Pollock.)

He was also struck by the Op Art pieces by Bridget Riley. The other kids were drawn in, and we spent some time flipping through the books, talking about what we saw. My six-year-old also gravitated right to a small black-and-white reproduction of Van Gogh’s Cypresses, which was in the Georgia O’Keeffe book.

The next time I was at the library, I picked out some more books to bring home

and requested a few more through inter-library loan.

(The Op Art book that is open in the picture above is Optic Nerve by Joe Houston and Dave Hickey, and the large Pollock book is Jackson Pollock by Ellen Landau.)

A few days after I read Linnea in Monet’s Garden to my six-year-old, he gave a succinct and correct explanation of Impressionism to his brother. Meanwhile, we’ve learned that Cypresses is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and we are making Someday Plans to see it in person.

As with anything else, when you start looking at one thing–an artist, a movement, a picture–you begin to pull on threads that lead to other things. We are meandering through some art history right now, seeing what we like and finding connections. And it is so exciting to me both to share artists I like, and why, and to hear what my children like and are responding to. I’m thinking we’ll be trying some different styles in our own studio, too.

The other night, N asked, “What do you think it would look like if the Impressionists tried to do a close-up flower like Georgia O’Keeffe?” I don’t know! How exciting to wonder about it, though.