Category Archives: color

Spin Art {A Review, of Sorts}

The kids received a spin art contraption for Christmas, so over break we played with it. I didn’t realize, when ordering, that it was the Melissa and Doug brand, which has gotten not-so-great reviews over on Amazon. But it was, and while I can see why it’s gotten not-so-great reviews, we played with it quite a bit and had success after all.

One of our favorite parts was watching it spin. The stopped card often looked very different from the card in motion, and really, we were all mesmerized by the way our eyes saw the paint as it spun. From a more experimental standpoint, it interested me that the card reversed with each crank. This set is powered by moving the hand crank–if you pull it toward you, the card spins one way; push it away, and it spins the other. So you’re alternating directions, and I kept trying to figure out if that changed the nature of the design a lot, a little, or not at all.

Some practical points–no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the suction cup to stick to our table surface (which is just melamine, nothing fancy), so I held it down while the kids cranked. The cards that came with the set were too small to fit into the slots without slipping out; things worked better when I cut our own, slightly larger than 4″x4″ on all sides. And the designs came out much better when we squirted the paint on while it was spinning, instead of before.

The very first one we tried is in the top left corner, and that’s the one we squirted the paint onto before spinning. Really, not at all impressive. The thin circles in the one next to it were made by drizzling paint on as it spun. N liked to squirt lots of paint, and he got big cool-looking splotches that took a while to dry.

V started wondering, What would happen if I poured the paint in the opposite direction of the spin? And How about if we draw on the cards before adding paint? So we definitely have some room for experimentation, once we figured out the best way to work with the set-up. I haven’t ruled out a salad spinner for the future, though!

What’s your favorite spin-art method? Do you have any tips to share?

Doodle Rocks

Materials: Rocks; liquid acrylic craft paint; brushes of various sizes; permanent markers, including metallic

We love to collect rocks. Not too long ago, after seeing beautifully painted rocks at Jen Muna, I decided I wanted to try it myself. And then I figured the kids could give it a try, too. This is an extremely open activity. I spread out the materials (having previously rinsed the rocks and let them dry) and we each took our designs in whatever direction we chose.

That is a busy table! Even dad participated in this activity. I think all of us used a combination of paint and markers, sometimes on the same rock. Here are the results.

G's rocks

Most of G’s are painted, in colors of her choosing, of course. The lighter orange one is permanent marker. On one of these (I’m not sure which) she colored with marker and then painted over it. (Warning: Acrylic paint will not wash out of clothing.)

N's rocks

On some rocks, N used marker and paint together. The bottom ones were drawn on with metallic marker (he decorated both sides of some of his rocks, so some images aren’t shown). The flower in the top middle was created using paint (and a thin script brush) over metallic silver marker, and the ones on either side were drawn after seeing his dad’s rocks, below.

V's rocks

V spent quite a bit of time experimenting with different brush sizes. He also likes to add his initials and his name (blurred out) on most everything!

My husband and I also played with the materials.

Parents' rocks

The top four are mine, and the bottom two (the ones that inspired N) are my husband’s. I experimented with stamping on the rocks (which worked so-so, since the rocks weren’t perfectly flat).

This is a relaxing, open-ended activity that is easily adjusted for all age levels. And if you and your kids are compulsive rock collectors (as we are!) it’s a fun way to turn your finds into creative canvases.

Rubber Cement as Masking Fluid

(Note: The rubber cement bottle is full of warnings. It contains chemicals and latex. It smells bad and the fumes can be hazardous. It’s flammable. It can cause allergic reactions because of the latex. I decided I was comfortable using it with my three-year-old for a short amount of carefully supervised time in a controlled environment. You may decide differently based on your child’s age and temperament. Please use common sense, okay?)

Materials: Rubber cement, watercolor paper, liquid watercolors

Rubber cement can act as a frisket (masking fluid), protecting part of the paper from paint to create a resist effect. G and I tried it out first, but we’ll be sharing with the boys, too.

The bottle comes with a paint brush, so G wanted to paint with it.

I experimented as well, both by trying to paint an image with the brush on one small square, and by drizzling it onto another. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a paintbrush to create fine, controlled lines, but I may do that with the older kids. When you’re done applying the rubber cement (and more on technique in a minute), you need to let it dry.

While we were waiting, G painted a picture with the watercolors on another sheet of paper.

When the rubber cement was dry, we painted over it with liquid watercolors. “Look!” exclaimed G.

You can see how it’s resisting the watercolor. G really spread her rubber cement thin and over a large area; this probably isn’t the way to go for a striking resist effect. I’d recommend drizzling or applying in a more blobby way (we’re so technical here!), because spreading it out makes the next part difficult.

When the paint is dry, you can rub off the rubber cement to reveal your resist. We had to work hard to get all of the rubber cement off of G’s painting!

G’s painting is the large one on the left. On the right are my two experiments–for the top one, I used the brush that came with the cement to try to paint a snowflake. It worked well enough, but the brush is big and smears the glue around. For the bottom one, I mostly drizzled (I used a wooden clay tool because it was handy). That’s my favorite–the glue drizzled thickly enough to get a strong contrast between white and color.

I’m thinking next time I might remove the brush entirely and offer something else, to encourage drizzling. Hmm, I wonder what would work best? Ideas?

Cut Paper Snowflakes

Materials: Scissors, various papers

Yesterday’s countdown calendar activity was to make snowflakes, so when the boys got home from school, this is what they found.

A basket full of pre-folded paper, ready for cutting into snowflakes. I used a variety of paper–coffee filters (which we’ve used in the past), vellum, and magazine pages, inspired by Pinterest. Earlier in the day, G chose pages from magazines and I cut them and the vellum into squares, then folded everything. (You can see how I fold here; I like six-pointed snowflakes because that’s how nature does it!)

When the boys came home, we cut.

And cut.

The vellum was hardest to cut, and the magazine pages, the easiest. (You might want to keep that in mind if you’re cutting snowflakes with young ones!) While I thought the coffee filters would be easiest, because they’re so thin, they are, of course, tough, as they’re meant to be, and it wasn’t easy for G to get her scissors through the fibers. She mainly cut the magazine pages, and because she was doing it herself (as if there could be any other way?!), she made lots of six-sided shapes by cutting the tips off at angles. We like these snowflakes just as much as the others.

V, being the oldest, did the most experimenting with different types of cuts to see what sort of patterns would emerge. The fun lies in the cutting and unfolding!

This morning, G and I took down our autumn leaves and hung up our snowflakes. (It is a grey, wet day outside that window.)

The magazine page snowflakes are very pretty in their randomness.

This window has some of each–both white and natural coffee filters, vellum, and magazine pages:

I’ve promised to refill the basket with snowflake blanks whenever I have a some spare minutes.

Do you have a favorite material with which to make snowflakes?

Painted Collages (TinkerLab Magazine Challenge)

Tinkerlab Creative ChallengeMaterials: Illustration board, old magazines, glue or paste, scissors (of course!), acrylic paint–the kind in tubes, not the liquid kind.

Once again, Rachelle at TinkerLab invited us to participate in a materials challenge, this time using magazines. So I brought it up with the kids, who are now 10, 7 1/2, and 3. Did they want to do something? Sure! So we brainstormed. Although there is a lot of making going on in our house, especially as Christmas approaches, my kids didn’t look at the magazines as raw material for some thing. I suspect this is because when we get together to do art projects, we are usually focusing on exploring and experimenting. It’s very much about the process.

So although my kids have used paper to make all sorts of items, from super hero rings to dice for homemade games (and since I always have to think really hard about making a cube out of something flat, this impresses me every time!), they viewed the magazine as canvas. The ideas they finally settled on, which we combined, were cutting and pasting the magazine, and painting right on the page.

We started, of course, by selecting and cutting. G’s cutting skills have really taken off lately, because she’s been happily working at cutting paper just about every day (her idea). As a result, she didn’t need my help at all while everyone was cutting. After gluing down the images and letting them dry, we moved onto painting.

Note the mug of coffee to the right; mama runs on caffeine!

V decided he wanted to paint his board first and then paste his images down, so he’s using tempera here.

The rest of us are using acrylic after having glued down the images and then brushing a layer of glue over the image, as well. We used Mod Podge paper with mixed results; I was hoping to get a good surface for applying paint, but I don’t know if we wouldn’t have been better off just using a glue stick.

N and I enjoyed mixing the acrylics (the basic set of primaries with black and white) to get new colors, and we used a variety of brush sizes. He’s getting detailed in that photo.

G decided to paste down one full magazine page, with one tiny image glued down on top of it. Then she began painting.

Eventually she covered the entire image. Then she lifted some off using a cotton swab.

Here are N and G’s finished pieces (whoops, I photographed G’s upside down):

And here is V’s, although the images and text aren’t pasted down yet. He also has plans to paint the other side and glue down even more images. I guess I should have left one piece of illustration board full size!

He really likes Legos!

Thanks again, Rachelle, for inviting us to play along. Here is the full list of participating bloggers; click on the links for some more projects featuring magazines!

Child Central Station , Teach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots

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Maps, Drawn + Painted

Materials: Watercolor paper, permanent markers, watercolor paint, painter’s tape (optional)

On a recent sick day, when my boys were too sick for school but they’d temporarily perked up enough for a project, we drew and painted some maps. I left this completely wide open, with the only guideline being that we’d draw the map first with permanent marker, then add color with watercolor paint. I’d had in mind using black Sharpies, but N and G wanted to use colored markers along with the colored paint. Sure! Why not?

I also left the subject wide open. I sketched out a map of favorite places, but I figured N would want to draw a map of a made-up place (he did). V chose to draw a map of New Rome (from The Son of Neptune) as he pictured it in his mind, which was, he told me, completely different from the map included in the book.

The boys also chose to use painter’s tape to create a tape resist effect on their maps. Once everything was in place, we painted.

Above, N adding paint. Below, a detail of his cacti.

G chose to draw with colored permanent markers (yes, I give my 3yo permanent markers! under supervision, though) and then cover her paper with red paint.

For quite an interesting effect! Below, V’s finished map of New Rome. He used the tape to mark off roads.

He’s quite pleased with the Fields of Mars in the lower right-hand corner. He applied yellow, green, and brown paint, some with the brush, some with the tip of a narrow piece of sponge, then lifted some off with a paper towel. It looks like a place of battle, doesn’t it? His map also includes quite a bit of detail, as he consulted the book and labeled places before adding color.

Below, N’s finished map. He used tape resist to represent snow (piled up on the side), and when his painting was dry, he added a 3-dimensional temple using colored tape.

This was a very open-ended project; I had nothing in mind besides introducing the kids to using permanent marker and watercolor together–and even in that, they took it in different directions by using colored markers. By simply saying “let’s draw a map,” the boys were free to draw the type of map they each like most–V, a detailed map of a real place (in this case, real in the sense that someone had already described it in detail), and N, a map wholly out of his imagination. And I just doodled.

One of my favorite places: my love-filled home!

Marble Painting, Traditional and Magnetic

Materials: Tempera paint, magnetic marbles, magnet wands, foil cake or pie pans (I used cake because the edges are slightly taller), paper cut to fit the pan, small cups and spoons for the paint

After our magnetic painting activity at the science store, G and I bought some magnetic marbles to take home so the boys could experiment too. Marble painting isn’t a new idea, but amazingly we hadn’t tried it yet. I can tell you that the big kids enjoy it as much as the younger kids.

We decided to use primary colors, so I set out three small cups–each with one color of paint, three magnetic marbles, and a spoon. We started with white paper and added paint-covered marbles.

N wanted to try his hand at controlling the marble with the wand from below. He experimented to see how far the wand could be from the pan and yet still cause the marble to move.

V mostly rolled.

N really got into the color mixing, working a bit on creating green.

That’s two marbles, zipping right along. Because they’re magnetic, they stick to each other, too. What would happen with three, he wondered?

They stuck in a line, so you could only roll them in two directions. Interesting!

G kept working on one sheet of paper, trying to cover the entire sheet with paint. As a result, she began getting a really interesting marbled effect when the marble rolled over thicker areas of paint.

On his second sheet, V tried to quite deliberately control the marble.

At the end, G just couldn’t resist touching all that paint.

And so she ended by making hand prints.

We did this on a day when the boys were home sick from school. Given some options, they both really wanted to experiment with the marble painting. The magnetic wands add another element of experimentation–there to use, or not. Before I cleaned everything up, I got a chance to play too. Fun!

(This project uses a chokable item–the marbles–so use your own judgment, yes?)

Painting With Wool

Materials: Rectangles of wool felt (to act as the “canvas”), wool roving in various colors (such as this)

This past weekend was the third session of the parent/child class N and I are taking at a local art museum. We spent the entire time in the galleries, looking and drawing with various media, and our last stop was the Greek/Roman galleries, where we used colored wool roving to create our image. I don’t have any in-process photos of this, because it’s really hard to take photos while doing, but it’s pretty straightforward.

First, though, we were to pick a piece to focus on as our inspiration. N chose a piece utterly devoid of color…

This is one of the short sides of a marble sarcophagus. We had many colors of roving to choose from; N chose red, yellow, and green. Just as felt pieces will stick to one another (such as on a felt board), the wool roving will stick to the felt “canvas.” You gently rub the roving between your hands, moving them back and forth. You can tease it out a bit, and gently mush (not a technical term!) the wool into the felt. You’re just rubbing it enough to adhere some of the fibers together–a very gentle felting.

This is N with his piece in the museum. He thought he was done, but then he decided to add more. (Despite the look on his face, he really does enjoy these classes!)

He focused on the animal (which he called a saber tooth tiger), which is the yellow, with red legs; the person below it; and the tree above. The instructor had us hold our pieces of felt up to make sure nothing fell off; otherwise we needed to rub a bit more to make it stick.

This is probably the simplest entry to working with roving I can think of. It’s not wet felting, it’s not needle felting, it’s just…hands and wool. Simple. It doesn’t allow for much (any?) detail, so it’s a good choice for a loose project. I would think, given more time than we had in class, it would be very soothing, to simply work the wool into a design on the felt. (Can you tell I knit? I think wool is very soothing!)

Have you tried wool painting before? Or, do you have a favorite way to work with wool with children?

Simple Chromotography and Magnet Painting

A local science-oriented toy store has a “kinderscience” program once per week for kids ages 2-5. I’ve taken G a few times. It’s a good way to get out of the house and, since it’s within walking distance of the car dealership, it was an excellent place to pass the time with a three-year-old last week while the car was being serviced. The activities in this session were art-via-science, so I decided to share them here. In general, I’d prefer it if the instructor spent less time talking (there is a lot of “this is what you’re going to do and this is what is going to happen”) and more time just setting out the activity and letting the kids explore. But of course, as soon as the materials were available, that is exactly what I encouraged G to do.

The first activity involved coffee filters–such a favorite! The kids were to color on the filters with markers, then drop water onto it with a dropper. G was excited to see the droppers, as we’d just used them the day before for an activity at home and she already knew how to use them herself. Because the trays were red, it was a little hard for her to tell where her color was going.

The instructor ripped some filters so they lay flat in a butterfly shape, too. On this one, she decided to see what would happen if you drew some more on the wet filter. I think we’ll try this activity again at home on the white table, to eliminate the background color confusion.

The second activity was a version of marble painting, but instead of rolling the marbles around in the pie tin, the kids were to use a magnet wand, from the bottom, to drag painty magnetic marbles over the paper.

After a bit of this, G decided to simply roll the marbles around the old-fashioned way, as it was easier.

We already have three of the magnet wands–we used them over the summer to collect iron filings from beach sand (which is super fun and, quite frankly, very cool to do)–so I bought a small bag of magnetic marbles so my older kids (who were in school) can try this as well.

All in all, much better than sitting in the car dealership’s waiting room for an hour!

After the Color Mixing

Last week I posted about a color-mixing activity G, age 3, did. When she was done mixing the colors and exploring the corn starch, she began painting with the leftover colored water. “I’m painting a cave,” she said as she began. After she’d applied all three colors, she asked for some salt.

I poured some into that cup for her, and she sprinkled it on with her hands. And then she asked for more, and more, until she had piles of salt on her paper. Then she decided to see what would happen when she painted on top of the salt.

Kind of interesting, no? More salt and more paint…

“Mud in the cave!” she exclaimed.

Experimenting…always a good thing!