Category Archives: drawing

If You Build It, They Will Come

Tuesday was a quasi-sick day here, the sort of day where the kids are home because a full school day is a bit too much, but they’re not sick-in-bed sick. (That’s my favorite kind!) At some point in the morning, G asked to paint, so I set her up with the liquid watercolors. N decided to experiment with bleeding tissue paper. Based on some of the comments to my first post about it, I gave him pieces of tissue paper, watercolor paper, a paintbrush, and one cup of water and one of vinegar.

The colors were definitely more vibrant than when G used a spray bottle, but there were still some white spots left behind under the squares–it makes it look like a resist, almost. Do you see that blue blob up towards the top corner of his paper? He accidentally wrinkled up a square (“it looks like blue spinach,” he said) and wondered if it would be okay. Of course! It left an interesting splotch behind, and I’m thinking next time we experiment with the tissue paper, we’ll go for a scrunch-and-stick technique and see what happens.

While his younger siblings painted, V hit the writing center and began writing a story in a blank book. N and G joined him when they finished their paintings. N decided to draw a story, and G, after making some marks, dictated her story to me.

I love this picture! Three kids in jammies, working on stories. If you build it, they will come.

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.

**

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

T-Shirt Design: Freezer Paper Stencils

Materials: T-shirt; textile paint; sponge brush; freezer paper; x-acto knife, cutting mat, and straight edge (helpful but not necessary)

As I mentioned in the last post, when the boys began talking about what they wanted to print on t-shirts, I thought perhaps scratch-foam printing–which prints in reverse, with a block of color surrounding the scratched image in white (see our examples here)–wasn’t the best way to go. I suggested perhaps we think about using stencils. They agreed. Come along and follow their design process!

First, they made sketches.

V has been reading lots of comics/graphic novels lately, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted the Captain America symbol or that of Green Lantern. N wanted to go with his custom “Super N—” symbol, an N in a circle. V eventually decided to start with Green Lantern as it’s simpler, with only one color, and N decided upon a yellow N in a red circle, which was still only one color because he’d chosen a yellow t-shirt.

Next we turned their sketches into larger, neater versions, still on regular paper.

After figuring out how large of a logo he wanted, V made his circles using a compass, then added in the lines at the top and bottom with a ruler. He compared it to the actual logo, consulted with his dad, and adjusted the lines a bit so they overlapped the circle more. Then we darkened it up, traced it onto the freezer paper, and I cut it out with the x-acto knife.

I helped N a bit more. We lay a sheet of paper over his shirt so he could show me how large the circle should be, and then I drew the finished circle with the compass. Together we sketched out the N, then neatened it up with the ruler. When all looked well, I traced his image and cut it out.

There are many tutorials online for using freezer paper stencils, and it’s very simple. The shiny side irons right onto the shirt. I slid a piece inside the shirt, too, so no paint would run through to the back. Then it’s time to paint.

Here’s N’s shirt, drying. You leave the stencils on until the paint is dry.

When the paint was dry, the boys and I peeled off the stencils together. So exciting!

V was pleased.

So was N.

We used Speedball Textile Screen Printing Ink, so I set the image with the iron as instructed. I laundered them inside out with no problems. They haven’t worn them yet because they both have art camp this week, and they don’t want to get any paint on their new shirts. Typically up until this point, when the kids have had something specific in mind (like, oh, a reversible fireman-spaceman knit winter hat), I’ve figured out the design and made it. How satisfying for them to go from their own sketch to finished product, with just minimal assistance.

**

What have your kids been designing recently?

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!

Iris Study

Materials: Flowers in bloom (yay, spring!); clipboards; decent-weight drawing paper (I’ve been really happy with this in the 160gsm weight); media of your choice–we used, amongst us, sketching pencils, colored pencils, chalk pastels, and gouache

These beauties are in bloom right now.

We’ve been watching them get taller and taller, we watched the buds emerge, and yesterday when we went outside, there were a couple of blooms. Today, a riot.

So I cut some of our drawing paper in half so it would fit on a clipboard, and we brought a bunch of art supplies outside. V wanted some sort of paint that was thicker than liquid watercolors but not quite tempera. I’d been thinking the same thing, so I brought out the gouache. According to DickBlick, gouache is an opaque watercolor. I like it quite a bit. But, having never worked with watercolors in a tube before, V needed some instruction (not something he enjoys) and some practice. It’s hard to get the hang of a new material.

I love that picture! Kids outside, making art. G joined in, looking at the flowers and trying out all the materials. N decided to go up the hill to another patch of irises–less crowded if we spread out.

(The cape, by the way, is from his teacher. It’s a multi-age classroom. Last year she made all the kids crowns for their birthdays, and this year, capes. So by the time you’ve gone through both years with her, you have a set. N just received his cape on Friday since his birthday is this weekend, and he’s been wearing it constantly. He has a wonderful teacher!)

N liked the chalk pastels quite a bit.

V worked with the pencil and gouache. He was initially very frustrated with mixing the colors and getting the right amount of water, but he ended up with some beautiful purples.

This is what I managed in fits & starts–under some duress, I might add.

(I was using the back of my car to lay out the finished work so it wouldn’t blow away. Mine is resting on our traveling art box.) I haven’t used gouache in a while either, so I was reacquainting myself with its characteristics.

What’s in bloom where you live? What can you get outside to draw or paint?

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!

***

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.

DSC00043

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.

DSC00036

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

DSC00044

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

DSC00054

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.

DSC00073

(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.

DSC00076

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

DSC00078

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.)

DSC00080

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

DSC00081

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.

DSC00082

One of my prints:

DSC00079

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.

Watercolor Crayons + Spray Bottle

Materials: Watercolor paper, water soluble crayons, spray bottle with water

My daughter loves using a spray bottle. She’s washed the slider window using the water-filled spray bottle and paper towels (some cloth diapers absorbed the inevitable puddles on the carpet). She’s washed the kitchen floor the same way, until the ratio of spraying-to-wiping got out of whack and the floor became too slippery for her. We have a set of watercolor crayons that’s been knocking around since my oldest was a preschooler, so I thought G would love the idea of drawing with the crayons and then spraying it with water to “see what happens.”

Then she decided to see what happens when you use the watercolor crayon on paper that’s already wet.

Then she sprayed my hand…

and her hand…

…and the table.

This was all about process and experimentation. Fun! As the weather begins to warm up, I’m sure we’ll be bringing the spray bottle outside–spraying the deck, the driveway, chalk drawings… spraying liquid watercolors onto a big sheet of paper… any other ideas for spray bottle activities?

Poetry Painting

(The break between posts is because I took over the studio table to do some sewing. You can see what I’ve been up to over here.)

Materials: Imagery-filled poem; mark-making materials of choice

April is National Poetry Month, which makes me happy head to toe. I looked through some of our poetry books and decided to choose a William Carlos Williams poem for this activity, because he is so good with the small, image-filled detail. I settled upon Primrose. (Follow the link to read it, as I don’t want to violate copyright by reproducing it here.) Before reading it to the kids, I told them that after they heard it, they would be making a picture in response, and that could mean anything–how the poem felt, or what it talked about–whatever they decided. I love reading poetry aloud; it’s just better that way.

I waited a few minutes after reading it, and then I asked them what materials they wanted for their artwork. V began with oil pastels, and N and G (who of course wanted to be at the table painting, too) went right to watercolors. (Other possibilities: colored pencil; drawing chalk; tempera cakes.) V used watercolor along with the pastels. And here are the results:

V really keyed into the exuberant “Yellow!” that began the poem, along with, I think, a general mood of happiness.

N tried to include some details–the purple grass, for instance–that  he remembered from the descriptive language.

G was quite pleased as she painted a purplish line along the bottom, just like her older brother was doing. (She also added some oil pastels in between using the watercolors.)

This was such a wonderful, open-ended (my favorite kind!) activity. The boys listened closely to the poem, they thought about their artwork, and they produced such different pieces–as is appropriate, given they are different people.

Do you have a favorite poet or poem?

Toddler Mixed Media

Materials: Paper, chosen by G; paints, type and colors chosen by G; oil pastels, requested by G

You  may be getting the idea that this activity was completely toddler run… as I mentioned in the last post, I think our most successful activities are the ones G directs, but she has the vocabulary to so do because I’ve introduced her to the materials. So when I finally felt well enough to go downstairs with the kids, G asked to paint. Her brother and I were using liquid watercolors, but G wanted tempera, and not big watercolor paper, but smaller purplish paper.

She’d asked for white and purple paint, but since we don’t have purple tempera, I gave her blue and red. Instead of using a different brush for each color (like she does at the easel), she decided to just use more than one brush at a time. When her brother began using the yellow watercolors on his painting, she asked for yellow tempera, and she began enthusiastically mixing colors.

Then, G asked for the oil pastels. A couple times now, after painting with watercolors, she’s asked for pastels, and I’ve said we need to let the painting dry first. Once it was dry, she had no interest. My apologies to G for being a slow learner, but this time when she asked I realized why not? It’s a $4 box of pastels, so if one or two gets ruined, so what? And really, I realized, I could just wipe the crayon off if necessary (which I did). And coloring on wet paint with an oil pastel made for some really neat effects, including a scratch effect where she had layered paint and the topmost, still-wet layer rubbed off while the drier layer underneath stayed behind.

But I get ahead of myself.

You can’t tell in a photo, but G was dancing as she drew with the pastel. She’d seen me and her brother drawing and painting with big swirly motions, and I think she was trying to imitate that. She moved her whole body while she drew, and her artwork really reflects the energy coming out her fingertips and onto her paper.

I think her finished piece is fantastic. It’s my job to facilitate… and then get out of the way!