Category Archives: color

Rainy Day Open Studio

We’ve had very few rainy days this summer. We’ve spent our time at the beach and exploring tidepools; riding bikes and scooters; finding critters in the yard and digging holes. We’ve been picnicking at the playground and visiting local museums. In other words, we are enjoying the outside while we can. Sunday, though, it poured. It was so unfamiliar and even welcome, and I pulled some rainy-day ideas out of my virtual hat. I gave the kids some choices, and as per usual, they all chose different things, so I’ll actually be splitting this into two posts.

V decided to start with artist trading cards, and that’s where he ended–he never moved on. ATCs can be intricate and involved, but I decided not to show V examples. I told him they were the same size as baseball cards and he could draw whatever he wanted on them. (He was using the Bristol board, so dry media only.) He chose to make a collection of super-hero symbols. He’s not done yet.

Here’s a close-up of a few of them.

He started with the ones he knows best, but eventually books, posters, and even the Internet were consulted.

N decided to start with the sheet I offered on how to draw a pirate ship, from Zenobia Southcombe‘s site. Here is his drawing, complete with “Blow the man down!”

When G finished her first project (the subject of the next post), she wanted to draw a pirate ship too. So I handed her the instruction sheet and some drawing paper, and she got to work.

Do you see that yellow circle in the top left-hand corner? She carefully drew a circle and colored it yellow, to be the moon. (Her brother’s drawing has a moon, too.) I didn’t even know she could draw a circle that well. She’s not even three. I can’t help it; I’m impressed.

When N finished his drawing, he asked to do the third item I’d mentioned, creating a color wheel using these instructions at That Artist Woman. I thought this would make a good tool to have around the studio, and in the future I think we’ll each make analogous and complementary paintings. Our color wheel–we did it together–is not as neat and tidy as Gail’s, and it’s also not in a sketchbook but just floating loose.

Still, it will come in handy, and we enjoyed mixing the colors. (We always enjoy mixing colors around here!)

The rain stopped in time for the kids to have a damp water fight in the yard with their dad. I have more rainy-day ideas, should we need them, but we’re happy to be outside as much as we can.

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How has your weather been? (If you’re in the northern hemisphere) are you making the most of the outdoors while you can?

Summer Sunflowers

My husband brought home this beautiful bouquet of sunflowers, and my kids immediately wanted to know when they could paint them. So we did. We had a new package of Liquetex Basic Acrylic paints, so we decided to try them out. I recently bought them for V, because he’s always asking to use the liquid acrylics, and I wanted to get him something better and designed more for painting larger surfaces. But of course, you can set up a flower study with any materials–we drew sunflowers in the fall using dry media.

I wouldn’t recommend these paints for toddlers, but we let G try them out because she’s the third child and she insists upon it. (She’d already painted earlier that morning with liquid watercolors.) She didn’t stay the whole time, though; I sent her upstairs for some one-on-one daddy time after all her paint was gone.

Because our acrylic set came with red, yellow, blue, black, and white, this turned into a great experiential lesson on mixing colors and tints and shades.

I really enjoy mixing paint colors, myself. I think V is moving along the continuum from feeling limited by only having primaries, to feeling completely open. N already loves mixing colors and tells me with just the primaries, he can make whatever he wants. (True!) It helps to have good quality paint, too, that mixes well. We all enjoyed mixing to get the right green for the stems and the orangey gold for the petals.

I really enjoy the energy in both boys’ paintings–instead of trying for each petal individually, they made swirls of color for the flowers. The overall effect is quite close to the vase of sunflowers.

So we are learning the language of a new paint as well as exploring color mixing and practicing translating what we see onto the paper–all because my husband brought me flowers. (I kept the chocolate to myself, though!)

Hot Rocks

Our tray of cooling hot rocks

(I’ve seen this on the web here and there, but I first saw it in the fabulous book Summer Crafts by Marjorie Galen, which I bought in a used bookstore two years ago. The book was published in 2005, and Galen says as far as she knows, her friend Elizabeth’s family invented hot rocks.)

Materials: Rocks–larger and flatter are easier; peeled crayons; oven; nearby bucket of cold water (my plan-ahead self decided this was necessary, in case anyone accidentally touched the rocks)

Following the directions in the book, I preheated the oven to 350, lined a cookie sheet with tin foil, and set up my rocks (I did 8 this first time, two for each of us). Meanwhile, the kids began to peel some of our older crayons–I gather this is so as they melt against the rock, you’re not running up against the paper. Once the oven was hot, I baked the rocks for 15 minutes while we continued to peel crayons. When the rocks were almost done, I sent the kids outside with the crayons–I’d already brought a bucket of water to the patch of shaded driveway–and I met them with the tray of hot rocks. (Obviously, you want to place the rocks on a surface that won’t get burned.)

The rocks are hot. I made sure all my kids understood that they’d get burned if they touched them. G is two, and she did fine, but really, use your judgment with your own children.

I had the kids sit down, with the crayons in the middle, and using my oven mitt, I placed a rock in front of each of them. Then the magic begins.

“It’s melting!”

“This is so cool!”

“This is so cool!!!”

I agree. I colored two rocks too, and it is so cool. And you can just keep adding wax and layering. Our rocks didn’t lose their heat before the kids were done experimenting.

The bucket of water did get a few uses, when fingers accidentally (or not so accidentally) bumped (do you see that inquisitive finger in the photo above?), but nobody got seriously hurt. It was definitely handy having the water there, though.

Look at those gorgeous rocks!

Peek-a-boo Paintings

Materials: Drawing and/or painting materials of your choice; drawing or watercolor paper, depending; acetate the same size as your paper (we used this); tape; paint for the acetate–this can’t be too watery–we found liquid acrylic and gouache worked well, tempera not so much

The first day of summer vacation dawned grey and misty, giving us the perfect opportunity to get into the studio after breakfast and add one more activity to the Eric Carle birthday celebration. Several folks have created beautiful painted tissue paper collages. We painted tissue paper many months ago, but my boys really didn’t want to cut their creations. We are acquiring a nice pile of textured, painted, and printed papers for collaging with some day, but meanwhile, I knew our Eric Carle-inspired activities would go in another direction. Earlier this week we were inspired by Dragons, Dragons, and today we looked to Mr. Seahorse.

Mr. Seahorse is another of our favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it follows a seahorse as he interacts with other underwater species in which the males help care for the offspring. But what we really like about it is that some of the pages are transparent, so you’ll have a fish that’s hiding, and then you turn the clear page and see him in full.

From Eric Carle's Mr. Seahorse

I was reading it to N earlier this week and I thought, Hey, we could do that! As I explained the idea to the boys, though, I realized it’s a rather complex idea. You need to think about your artwork in layers–what will be underneath? what will be on top? It’s a different way of looking at it, to separate the full idea into parts. But the boys were ready to try.

We knew the top picture, on the acetate, would be painted, but we had to think about how to do the underneath. V wanted to do watercolor resist, but I thought oil pastels would smear against the acetate, so we used good old-fashioned crayons.

V decided to draw fish, and N wanted to draw a monkey–he used some of our story books as a reference.

After we worked with crayons, it was time to add liquid watercolors.

Then we let the bottom layer dry. Next, I placed a sheet of acetate on top of the first picture and used a couple pieces of clear tape to hinge it on whatever side the kids chose. This way, we could paint our covering picture while it was lined up with the bottom image–much easier that way.

Here, V is checking on his work in progress. He chose to use gouache paints on the acetate.

G joined us too, of course. She loves to paint. N, G, and I used liquid acrylic.

So as not to completely overload the post with photos, I put all our finished-piece photos together–click to embiggen. (And even though I didn’t use flash, the ceiling lights are bouncing off the acetate–so sorry, but it was wet outside!) From left to right, we have V’s ocean scene (seaweed for the top layer), N’s forest scene (that’s a big leaf), G’s, um, lots-of-paint, and my big flower.

And now the peek-a-boo: V’s fish, N’s monkey, my bumblebee, and G’s fish.

I completely loved this project, and I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it sooner, except maybe because we haven’t had the acetate in the house all that long. It was so much fun to do, and the results are pretty fun, too.

Check out more Eric Carle-inspired activities at the link below!

(Also included in the Read, Explore, Learn link up.)

Process to Product: Bookmarks for Teacher Gifts

We’re not all about process around here. Sometimes, we need a handmade gift. I do try, though, to include as much chance for open-ended creativity as I can, and I like for the boys to give their teachers something a little personal to go along with the gift card. Many, many people contribute to my children’s day, so we also need an item that we can make many of. For the holidays, we made ornaments, and for the end-of-year gift, I had the idea of making bookmarks.

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, hole punch, stamp (optional), ribbon

I explained my idea to the boys first–they could paint a background on the watercolor paper, sprinkle salt for that neat textured salt effect, and when it was dry, I’d cut the paper into bookmark-sized strips. Then, they could stamp the bookmark with the school logo (I detail how I carved the stamp here), we’d punch the ribbon holes, I’d get them all laminated at Staples, we’d add the ribbon and tra-la, handmade and school-oriented bookmarks.

They both said this was fine. If you’ve read my manifesto, you know I don’t believe in altering someone’s artwork in any way, so I was very clear–we’d have to cut the painting, were they okay with that? It’s meant to be a background sort of painting, not a specific image, but still, it will be cut. Okay? Okay, they both said.

G, of course, joins in on all the projects, so she’s painting with liquid watercolors too. I gave each of the kids a 12×18″ piece of watercolor paper, which is a good thing. (A bit of foreshadowing there!) When the paper is fully painted and still wet, sprinkle some salt. As little or as much as you’d like–anything that doesn’t dissolve will brush off when the painting is dry. G made sure we had no salt leftover from what I’d poured into the dish.

Once the paintings were dry, N became adamantly opposed to cutting his up.

V’s salted painting

Tears were shed. Right away I said we didn’t have to cut his up, but then he decided he didn’t want his brother’s cut up, either. V, on the other hand, was laid-back about the whole thing. I kind of enjoy cutting up things like this, because then each piece becomes its own smaller, unexpected, found composition. Luckily, cutting a 12×18″ piece of paper into 2×6″ bookmarks leaves several left over.

N’s salted painting

Once they were cut, V inked up the stamp I’d carved and stamped each one, and after they were laminated, I gathered all my ribbons and he selected which color would go on which bookmark.

Who can’t use a bookmark? Well done, V. N has decided to draw a picture for his teachers (they’re getting bookmarks too; we have enough), and I respect his refusal to cut up his artwork, even if it was originally made with that purpose in mind. Becoming comfortable with giving your art away is a process in itself.

Sponge Roller Painting

Materials: Small sponge roller, large heavy-weight paper, tempera paint

When we printed with scratch foam and then with hot glue plates, G seemed to most enjoy rolling out the ink. So the next time I was at the craft store, I picked up a sponge paint roller just for her. Meanwhile, when she and I went to the art store so I could get some papers for bookbinding, she asked for a sheet of charcoal grey paper. The paper and the roller seemed perfect for each other!

I suggested red, blue, and yellow paint on purpose but without making too big a deal of it. “Let’s use primaries today,” I said, and G replied, “Yay! Primaries!” She likes to dab the roller in each color before rolling it onto the paper. The colors mixed along the edges.

Before too long G began to experiment with the roller, scraping the circular edge into the paint (although she never dabbed it onto the paper to make prints) and touching it–first with a finger, then delightedly squeezing it with her whole hand.

“Paint on my hand,” she observed. I suggested if she wanted to, she could make handprints on the paper.

After each handprint she made the most satisfied sound of approval, so pleased with her work. She stretched out to reach the empty bits of paper.

I think G was satisfied with how she decided to fill her big piece of paper!

***

As the season turns towards summer, we’ve been getting outside as much as we can to explore, search for yard critters, go on special excursions, and enjoy the weather. It seems like it’s been quite a while since just G and I were downstairs to paint–all part of the rhythm of our year, though.

Squeeze Bottle Paint

Materials: Squeeze bottles, salt, water, flour (we used rice flour because I have celiac; it worked fine), food coloring, card stock

Not too long ago, G fingerpainted with some Crayola fingerpaint in tubes, but what she seemed to like most about the whole process was squeezing more (and more and more) paint out of the tube. So I figured we needed to do some more squeezing activities. First, I needed some squeeze bottles–I picked up these small travel-sized ones at Joann’s because that’s where I saw some–and then I needed something to put in the bottles. I saw this over at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning, and we were good to go!

We started by mixing 1/2 cup each rice flour, salt, and water in a bowl.

I separated the mixture into two separate bowls so G could add food coloring. Here she decided to mix yellow and red. “Orange!”

We needed to make some more to fill our third bottle, so we mixed our ingredients again, using only half as much. Here are our three bottles of green, orange, and blue paint.

(The green is in a green bottle, which may have affected G’s color choice. But she really wanted a green bottle in the store!)

These bottles don’t have a flat bottom, so I had to put them in something so they were right-side up, so she could go from color to color without having to close them in between. If I were to do this with a group of kids, I’d make an effort to get condiment-style squeeze bottles, but these worked fine for just us. Once the paint was in the bottles (this required a funnel), she began squeezing.

The colors blended really beautifully. G began putting one color onto another color quite deliberately, and this fuzzy mixture thing began to happen.

After a while, she said, “Me mix up with my hand,” sort of checking in if that would be okay. “Absolutely,” I said.

“Handprint.”

Since this is basically a more watery version of salt play dough, I put the leftovers in the fridge for another day. It washed right off her hands, too. This activity was about process, exploration, and being a part of the preparation. Plus, G loves those squeeze bottles.

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Earlier in the day, G was able to help finish making a set of beanbags for us to play with. Although it was a dismal, rainy day, we had lots to keep us occupied!

If You Give a Girl a Spray Bottle

Materials: Spray bottle filled with colored water (I used watered-down liquid watercolor); sense of humor

If you give a girl a spray bottle…

…she’s going to have a hard time staying on the paper.

It’s just so irresistible.

So you go outside, of course!

She’ll realize the blue doesn’t show up so well on concrete…

…but the white garage makes a fine canvas.

It’s hard to see the blue water on the blue chair…

…but when she sprays the red chair, she’ll shout, “Purple!!”

You can’t see the blue on the grass, but the painted step shows it nicely.

If you give a girl a spray bottle, you’re in for an adventure!

Printmaking With Hot Glue

Materials: Hot glue gun, acetate (we used this), paper, blockprinting ink, brayer, some sort of palette

Last week, we used Scratch-foam to make prints. The lines we carved into the foam stayed white, while everything else was inked. This week, we were adding to our plate by using hot glue. When the lines of hot glue dried, they were hard and raised, so theoretically the lines would get inked more than the surface.

The first step is to draw on the acetate with the hot glue. The boys and I made a pencil sketch on a piece of paper first, and then placed our sketch under the clear acetate so we could trace.

(The washing machine became our gluing station, so we could keep it separate from the inking and printing area!) It takes a bit of practice to get the feel for how the glue flows from the glue gun. It’s not easy. I suggested we all use simple designs, without a lot of detail, and not expect perfection.

With G, I pressed the trigger and she directed the gun. Here’s her plate.

Once the glue is dry, ink it with the brayer like any other printing plate. We used paper the same size as the acetate sheets, so we lined them up, pressed with our hands, and peeled. Here’s one of N’s. (Click to embiggen; these prints are much lighter than last week’s.)

And one of V’s.

You can see that a lot of the background comes through as well. This isn’t the best technique to use if you want a super clean line print, and V, especially, did not like this aspect. N was quite pleased with his prints. Both boys prefer the scratch-foam, but they agree we should try all the printmaking techniques we can so we know what’s at our disposal.

Here’s one of mine (top) and one of G’s (bottom).

G’s favorite part of printmaking, hands down, is rolling the ink-filled brayer on the plate. Perhaps I need to get her a mini paint roller…

We wondered later if it would have been possible to rub away some of the background ink with a paper towel before making a print, but it might be hard to “clean” the plate that way before the ink dried (water-soluble ink dries faster). When I used this technique with an actual press, the same thing happened with the background, so I don’t think we did anything wrong. It’s simply a different effect–and it’s good to know how to get various effects. The more tools and techniques we explore, the greater the chance that we’ll know just how to realize specific ideas.

One more picture–of the paper that was under the plate N was inking. I like how it looks!

We’re not done with printmaking yet. Stay tuned!

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Do you have any favorite printmaking techniques?

Printmaking With Scratch-foam

Materials: Scratch-foam, water-soluble block printing inks, brayers, paper, palette of some sort (we used wax paper because I couldn’t find freezer paper, and the acrylic portion of a box frame); items to scratch into the board with

I recently took a two-day printmaking/boookbinding class (blogged about here and here), and while I took it for my own benefit, I of course emerged with all sorts of ideas for things to do with the kids. But I’ve had Scratch-foam on my wish list for quite a while, just waiting for enough other items to jump in the cart to make shipping worthwhile! So this is what we began with–a very simple entryway into printmaking, completely accessible (you could try other paints besides block printing inks), and, like all forms of printmaking I’ve tried, wholly magical and fun.

The Scratch-foam sheets are 9×12, and I cut them in half so we were working with 9×6 plates. This not only doubles the number of scratch-foam sheets we have, it also enabled us to use regular printer/copy paper. I wanted the focus to be on experimenting, not worrying about using up special paper. (And as you’ll see at the end, we used lots of paper!)

I also told the boys they’d get one piece of foam each for today. Why? Because I wanted them to focus on what they could do with printmaking, not draw a picture, make a print, and then repeat the process. One plate = lots of experimentation. So the first thing you do with these, obviously, is draw into the plate.

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V is getting quite involved with his drawing here! We looked around the studio for things to use and found the end of paintbrushes, pencils, the bone folder, a wooden tool that was blunt on one end and sharp on the other (it came in a set of clay tools), even fingernails.

After scratching, ink with the brayer. The ink should be a thin, even coat. Even a toddler can do this once you show her how.

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At one point, N got a bit painterly with his ink application.

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And G, as per usual, requested to use all the colors in turn (which made for some pretty wild and amazing prints!).

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Here, V will show you how simple the process is. Ink your plate, smoothly press your paper over the inked side of your plate using your hands, and then peel the paper away to reveal the print. (As with all photos, click to embiggen.)

steps

Even I got a chance to make some prints.

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(My husband served as photographer for this art-making session, which is why I had so many photos from which to choose!)

By the time we were done, we’d made lots and lots of prints.

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G didn’t always cover her entire plate, but her color combinations were fantastic.

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V also mixed colors to get a series of really nice prints. (I got the starter set of block printing ink, so we had blue, yellow, red, black, white, and gold.)

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N was having some trouble with inking, pressing, and fingerprints–and perhaps a busy plate.

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I think that one is probably a ghost print (when you make a second print off the plate without re-inking). He was happy with the process, though, and with many of his prints. I like his painterly ones, too.

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One of my prints:

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That’s one of the ones I made using up some leftover ink on somebody’s palette. (Moms do that.)

The water-soluble block printing inks clean up super easily, although I don’t know if they wash out of clothing. (Amazingly, I won’t find out, either, because none of the kids got any on their clothes.) It rinsed off the brayers, acrylic palette, and plates with just water, and it wiped right off the table and hands (and forehead, in G’s case), too.

About halfway through, V said, “This is the best project! Usually I’m done by now.” There is just something about printmaking–the way you can use the plate over and over yet get different results, the freedom to experiment without worrying you’ll mess something up (you’ll still have the plate), the immediate gratification of peeling off that paper–it’s so exciting and engaging. And, as you can see, it can be as simple as scratching into some foam.