Category Archives: drawing

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.

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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.

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!

Labeling the Studio

(Inspired by the project “Water-Slide Decal Jars” in Print Workshop by Christine Schmidt.)

Materials: Photocopy of your child’s art and a copy of the book. I can’t find instructions online (although she blogs here and might include it as a project sometime, who knows?!) and I want to encourage you to buy the book yourself, because it’s so inspiring! But I can tell you that all the materials we needed were right in our house, except for the photocopier–our printer will make copies, but ink jet won’t work.

So. I had no idea water-slide decal paper even existed, but it does, and it allows you to print your own decals and then, like the name says, soak them in water and slide the decal off the backing. According to Christine Schmidt, her way is easier and doesn’t involve sealers or special adhesives. When I read the directions, I wondered how on earth this could possibly work–how can I make a photocopy, then get the ink to stick to the decal while the paper rubs away? But it’s in a book and all, so I decided to have faith and try it out.

This was the result:

My double-pointed knitting needles sit in an old pickle jar by my knitting chair, and I decided to make the jar a snazzy label using a stamp I’d drawn and carved. Nice, huh? The boys thought so, too. Since we never recycle glass jars in this house unless the label is completely stubborn, we have lots of stuff in glass jars in the studio–markers, pencils, buttons, paintbrushes, pretty much anything that can fit in a glass jar is in one. The boys thought drawing labels was a smashing idea. (Click to embiggen pictures.)

At one point I heard one of them say, “Let’s label everything in the world!” Oh, I do love me some organization! I arranged the labels onto two sheets, and sixty cents at the library later (and that’s because I made two copies of each, just in case), we were in business.

It’s hard to see the labels very well with stuff in the jars, but they’re there. I learned some things along the way, and I realize that if you don’t have the book, this won’t make much sense, but I’ll share them in case you do buy or borrow the book and you decide to try this project.

One, I think the photocopier at my husband’s work is better than the one at the library. He photocopied the knitting label for me, and when I peeled the paper backing off, all the ink stayed where it was supposed to. Not so much with the library photocopies, so for subsequent labels, I burnished them much harder with the bone folder before soaking. That helped quite a bit. (Inconveniently, my husband is in Chile this week, far far from his work photocopier.)

Second, it’s hard to catch everything when doing this with kids.

On one of those decals up there, I didn’t get all the white paper off in one little spot, but I didn’t notice the straggler until we’d already Mod Podge’d the decal onto the jar. Oh, well.

But that’s about it! Really, this is ridiculously easy and the wow factor is huge. So huge that when we began peeling paper away, both boys said, “WOW!” It’s really cool to watch how the ink stays behind. It doesn’t seem possible, somehow. I felt like we should be muttering incantations or something.

Meanwhile, the boys were drawing, writing, and designing, and my oldest decided to practice his cursive while he was at it. They had free reign to design the labels any way they wanted, as long as they fit on the jars (or mostly fit, in one or two instances!). The buttons one might my favorite, although “brushes” runs a close second. I was having a hard time getting a good picture, even with the jar emptied (and whew, I had no idea the button jar still smelled so strongly of salsa!). This was the best I could do:

I think our studio now has the coolest organization system!

Art to Stamp: A Parent-Child Collaboration

Materials: Child’s original artwork; Speedball Speedy Carve block; linoleum cutting set (which I found at a craft store, so I could use a 55% off coupon!)

An alternate title to this post could be Mamas Need Inspiration, Too! I decided upon a focus for this blog–open-ended art experiences for kids–and because I try to stick to it, I really don’t share my own compulsion to make things. But I do make things, as often as I can. Often this is by knitting, since it’s easiest to fit around the edges of my mama gig; clearing out time and space to sew on the machine is much harder. I have a long list of projects and techniques I plan to tackle when I get a bit more time, and I fit what I can into the time I have. Recently, I ordered Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques and Truly Original Projects, and I love love love it. I want to print on paper and fabric and, quite possibly, my children, if they stay still long enough.

Meanwhile, V had an assignment to create a “project representation” for his report on the explorer La Salle, and he chose to make a game. I started asking him some questions to help him to think about what he wanted, and then we went “shopping” in the craft area for supplies. Having just gotten the book and itching to try carving a stamp, I asked him what he was thinking of putting on the back of his question cards. (I know, most parents would be more concerned with the questions themselves; I’m thinking design.) Because, I said, we could make a stamp.

Really? he said.

Yup.

He decided on a ship, so we found this picture of one of La Salle’s ships, I gave him a piece of paper roughly the size the finished stamp needed to be to fit on the cards, and he drew the ship. I told him it had to be relatively simple, with enough space between the lines for me to carve. (I found Speedy Carve blocks in the 4×6 size and just cut it down to size using a utility knife.)

Then, we darkened the lines of his drawing with pencil, flipped it face down onto the carving block, and I burnished the back with a bone folder, which transferred the pencil lines to the block. This ensures that the finished stamp will match the drawing and not be reversed.

His original drawing is at the top, the stamp in the middle, then the image produced by the stamp at the bottom. At first, carving the stamp was much harder than the book had led me to believe it would be, especially using linoleum tools on a soft block. Then I figured out how to use the tools properly, and it was a piece o’ cake–not that this stamp is particularly lovely to look at. It’s a bit hacked. But it is my first one.

Not only did he stamp all his question cards, he also decided to use the corner punch to round the edges. A boy after my own heart.

I don’t consider this helping with his project, really, since nobody expected him to carve a stamp anyway. If he didn’t have a mother who was a bit obsessed with making things, we’d have gone to the craft store and bought a generic stamp of a ship or a compass rose or something equally suitable. This way, though, he drew the ship himself–and it’s La Salle’s ship, even.

And I got to learn how to carve stamps!

Yarn Art

(Somewhat inspired by this activity from Family Fun magazine.)

Materials: Yarn scraps, cornstarch glue (recipe in link above), and some type of strong paper (we used vellum paper)

While flipping through the February issue of Family Fun, I saw this activity involving paste and yarn and I thought it had potential, if you take away the pre-determined end product and the confines of the cookie cutter. I thought, how fun would it be to run your hands along that sticky paste and put those yarn scraps any place you wanted? So that is what G and I did. (Click on pictures to embiggen.)

As a knitter, I have no shortage of yarn scraps. Whenever I weave in and cut those pesky ends, I save them. I can’t help it. They might come in useful some day. And so I have overflowing bags of yarn ends, in any color you can think of. I cut some down, but I left the bag on the table, and G let me know if she needed a color that wasn’t already in the pile.

I’d showed her how to do it: Put the yarn in the glue, run your fingers down the yarn, and put it on the paper. As she worked, she repeated these instructions out loud. She told me what color she wanted, and she let me know if it was too long and if so, where I should cut it for her.

Look at those wonderfully messy hands! (They belong to a girl who is in charge of her creation!) Speaking of color, it’s so much fun to watch a toddler learn color, and it’s been fairly gratifying to see how much of this is learned and expressed as we work with color in the studio. Hurrah for hands-on experiential learning.

Towards the end, G indicated she needed a particular small ball of yarn. At first I thought she was asking for the dark grey portion, which was in the middle of the bundle (it was a scrap ball from a self-patterning yarn). But no, she wanted the balls themselves, and she glued them on. Here’s her finished piece.

I  never would have thought of that, and I wasn’t sure it would stay, but who am I to place limits on ideas? They’re staying put just fine, and she took her yarn art into another dimension!

A few minutes into this activity, she said, “Mama too. Mama make shape too.” And so I did.

Alphabet Drawings

Materials: Drawing paper, markers

Are you familiar with the book Alphabeasties? It’s an alphabet book, with an animal for each letter, but with a twist–each animal is made up of its starting letter. Not only that, but the fonts are chosen to in some way go with the animal. So the hippopotamus is made with a heavy-set H, for example. Here’s O:

Some of the pages, like this one, are gatefold pages (a term we learned during story time at the Eric Carle Museum; while I’m talking about books, if you’re not familiar with their “whole book” method, go read about it).

Because I love all things woolly, I can’t resist showing you the S page.

The sheared portion is created with a different S than the woolly portion.

We’ve had it out from the library quite a few times, and we can all relate to it on different levels. I love types and fonts, and the book is not only clever, but it invites the reader to get to know the characteristics of types and fonts, too. The authors are also graphic designers. Even if you don’t have kids, if you like type and design, it’s a really fun book.

I do have kids, though, and as we were looking through it once again, one of us got the idea to try to make our own alphabet drawings. We decided they didn’t have to be animals, and somewhere along the way the boys decided they could use color. We all made more than one, but here’s just a sampling.

That’s V’s second draft of a volcano. He decided it was okay to use Vs to outline.

N also started with his own initial, but he decided to draw himself:

I began with a balloon, and then realized I’d made it small in comparison with the paper so I added some scenery:

As V began drawing this one, he said, “Some letters look like the words they start.”

That’s an Orange on a Table with a hand reaching for it.

I think we all realized this was harder than we expected, especially if we challenged ourselves not to sketch in an outline first but to just set to, drawing with the letter. It’s fun, though! I tried to make my Bs in the balloon look buoyant, and the basket Bs look a little more linear, and the Cs for the clouds look puffy. The more you look at the Alphabeasties book, the more nuances you can find. Fun stuff.

The boys and I are mulling over making some version of our own alphabet book (not necessarily using alphabet drawings). We do have a toddler right in-house to serve as our intended audience…