Category Archives: elementary & up

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Sculpey or air-dry clay; paint; yarn/other scrap materials for decorations; fabric for body; glue

Not long ago, we read quite a bit about artist Paul Klee. I considered him for the featured artist for Art Together: Printmaking (I went with Hokusai), but in the meantime, we really enjoyed learning more about him. Of course, as we read about some of his techniques, my kids said, “Can we try that?” This is one of the can-we-try-that projects, completed by me and my 5yo daughter.

In Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry, we learned that Klee created puppets for his young son, and we saw a picture of them. This set on Flickr has images of them, and there is a book about them as well. (We didn’t read that book, but the cover shot is a photo of the puppets.) The Vry book contains Klee-related activities at the back–the sort that leave the product wide open. (That is the sort I like!) It suggested using clay for the puppet heads. We have both air-dry clay and Sculpey, but the latter was much easier for 5yo hands to mold, so we used that.

Child's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

G’s puppet.

Mold the heads so that your finger fits inside the neck–this is how you’ll control your puppet. After molding the heads, we cooked them according to directions (I burned my puppet’s nose and chin!), then painted on their features using liquid acrylic paint. We attached yarn hair using craft glue–G wanted beads in her puppet’s hair–and then sewed their clothes. The shirt/dress is a simple template–make sure the top opening is big enough to fit over your puppet’s neck, and keep the neck hole and the bottom open. Finally, we used craft glue to attach the neck opening of the shirt/dress to the neck of the puppet.

Adult's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

My puppet.

The ribbons are there to cover up the join between the cloth and the head and because, as G says, “They’re so pretty.” We are rather chuffed with our puppets.

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

Color Round-Up

(I’ve announced the winner on the giveaway post and emailed her. Thanks to all who entered, and if you still want a chance to win a copy, head over to Jen’s…her giveaway is open through Thursday!)

Issue One of the Art Together e-zine is all about color, and I love color. Playing with color makes me very happy! As you might guess, we have plenty of activities on the blog exploring color as well; I wanted to gather some of the best in one place as an extra resource.

Make A Simple Color Wheel from the Art Together series: We do this two ways, using circles of watercolor and using acrylics (shown to the left).

Preschool Color Mixing Using Colored Water: There’s nothing quite like watching colors mix yourself at this age. It’s magical, and the best way to learn about color mixing is doing it.

Preschool Color Mixing Using Tempera Paint: This activity incorporates squeeze bottles, experimentation, and stirring. It’s a winner for preschoolers.

Tints and Shades from the Art Together series: This activity uses one shade of color plus white and black to make monochromatic paintings.

O’Keeffe Leaves: Using Autumn leaves for inspiration, we drew really big leaves and filled them in with color.

colored eggExperiments with Natural Dyes: One Easter we did just that to color our Easter eggs (left), getting some really interesting colors.

Experimenting with Bleeding Tissue Paper: This type of tissue paper “bleeds” out its color when it touches water, which can be an interesting way to play with color blending, make prints, and investigate.

Tissue Paper Painting: Using Eric Carle’s method, we painted tissue paper with brightly colored designs.

Color and Texture: Using primary colored paint and a variety of textured objects, we created our own bright decorative papers.

You don’t need to buy the zine in order to join the Flickr group and share work by you and your kids–New Flickr makes my eyes hurt but I promise to be over there more often; I’d love to see what everybody is working on!

Announcing Art Together E-Zine and a Giveaway

I’m really excited to announce and share with you the first issue of the Art Together E-Zine. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now and working on this issue over the summer. My plan is to offer a quarterly magazine, each with a focus; Autumn’s issue investigates color. Each issue will include a Featured Material and an Artist Spotlight, as well as plenty of resources, activities, and ideas. The two book lists–one on color and the other on van Gogh, the subject of this issue’s Artist Spotlight–are annotated, which means I give some information on each book to help you decide if it sounds right for you and your children. You’ll also find plenty of encouragement and, hopefully, inspiration within these pages.

You will not, however, find craft projects. The activities within firmly support my belief in the importance of open-ended, process-oriented art. Because there is no right or wrong way to do these activities, you and the children you’re working with can approach them from wherever you are right now. The only necessary quality is a willingness to explore and experiment. My hope is that artists of all ages will find something within these pages.

My 9yo working on an activity from Issue One.

I wrote this for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters–anyone looking to explore art with children they care about. The idea of art together–parents and children side by side–is so important to me because, for a long time, that was the only way I could find time in my day for my own creative outlets. If you’ve always thought you couldn’t “do art;” if someone along the way made you feel shamed or less-than when it came to art or creativity; if you’ve always kind of wanted to try something artsy but thought it wasn’t for you; if your child loves art and you’re just not confident in your ability to sit down with him or her–I especially wrote this for you. Playing and experimenting with art is for everybody (yes, you too). Whether or not you buy the zine, I hope you hear me whispering encouragement to you, because I am really passionate about helping people gain confidence in their creativity. (Encouragement is always free of charge. Email me anytime!)

Drawn and painted still life, acrylics, 11-year-old.

You can find all the details about this first issue, including the “buy now” button, here. This issue is 27 pages and $5, but because it’s my birthday on Saturday, you can use the code BIRTHDAY for 20% through the end of September. And because the best way to celebrate is by giving, I’m offering a free copy to a reader. Just leave a comment on this post letting me know you’re interested (make sure to include your email address in that field in the comment form). This giveaway is open to anyone, worldwide–aren’t digital giveaways so easy that way?! Comments will be open until midnight EST on my 40th birthday, Saturday, September 21. And stay tuned–a few other bloggers will be hosting giveaways over the next couple of weeks as well.

I had a great time creating this magazine, and I hope you enjoy it too.

**Drawing results: Random number generator brought up Jen as the winner. Congratulations, Jen!

Homeschooling Plans

This photo has nothing to do with this post. It’s just nice to look at.

As we ended our first year of homeschooling my middle child, much was up in the air (my least favorite place to locate things). So I put off planning too much and took a wait-and-see stance for a while. But we’re now definitely homeschooling this year, too, and a few things have fallen into place.

We’ll be continuing with Story of the World as our spine for history, and when our world history gets up to the Age of Exploration, I expect we will start with the first book in A History of US, by Joy Hakim. We’ll also continue with her science text, The Story of Science, supplemented with hands-on science as we go along, primarily based on interest.

Last year for math I used Life of Fred; I talk more in depth about my gentle approach to math here. This year I feel he’s ready to move into something more rigorous, and I’m going back to Singapore Math, which I used for my eldest. It gave him a great foundation in math. We’ll take it as slowly as necessary, and of course real-life math is a part of our days. I’ve noticed my middle child likes to explain his thinking process in his own way. I’ve learned to be quiet and let him have the time he needs to explain what he’s figured out on his own about whatever math concept he’s been thinking about. He doesn’t want to hear me say it; he wants to get there on his own. His train of thought is not necessarily the school/textbook train of thought, but if he gets to the same station in the end, I don’t really care.

My 9yo also came out of school really not enjoying writing at all. I gave him space on that last year and didn’t push it, hoping he’d come around. He had fits and starts but no regular interest. This is something I don’t want him to abandon entirely, so this year we’ll be using the Brave Writer curriculum. He is in the Partnership Writing age group, and I assured him I’d be doing the same writing exercises as he. Actually, I was surprised by his response when I told him we’d be using a writing program this year. A year ago, I’m sure he would have protested immediately. This year, he said okay, as long as it wasn’t like the writing he had to do in school. We each bought three new notebooks: one for copy work (from the Arrow portion of the program), one for lists (because lists are fun), and one for Friday freewriting.

We’ll continue to start our mornings reading aloud together, whether it’s the book for that month’s Arrow or other books. And we will get more focused about project work, which kind of fell by the wayside this spring and summer. I’m enrolled in Lori’s Project-Based Homeschooling Master Class, which begins this week. I expect it will get me more focused and on track to get even better about mentoring my kids’ interests. I’ve already gotten a head start by beginning to tackle our studio space to get rid of some accumulated stuff and improve ease of use. I have my eye on the office/play room too, which has never been used well. (It tends towards entropy.) My hope is that by signing up for the first session of the class, I can take advantage of the natural beginning-of-school-year momentum and keep that ball rolling all the year through.

A big change from last year is that I’m taking a break from our homeschooling co-op, at least for the fall session. This was a hard decision, but several families with older kids left, leaving no offerings for my 9yo’s age and interests except a class I was teaching. I looked at the two classes I was to teach and the effort and time required (which is considerable, because I don’t use a prepackaged curriculum but instead plan as I go based on the students I have), versus what my son would be gaining, and decided it wasn’t the best use of my energy right now. I’ll miss the other moms, but given some challenges at home this winter and spring, I am wary of overextending this fall. My energies need to go to my own kids and family first, my own self-care (running, exercise class, and hopefully art classes), and my work (both shop and classes).

And those are our homeschooling plans, which look quite comprehensive when I write them all out. My biggest challenge, I think, will continue to be that my 9yo and 4yo bicker. They love to play together, but they experience quite a bit of friction, too. My second biggest challenge is that my oldest is in school, so I have to juggle a homeschool rhythm AND a school schedule, and those often work at cross-purposes. Also, I realize I haven’t mentioned plans for my 4yo at all. She’ll do what her older brother does, because she won’t have it any other way. She is practically teaching herself…she is writing more and more, copying down words and reading them back to me, making up her own math games….homeschooling a preschooler is easy as pie, in my opinion. She is also a pro at project work; she just needs her mama to get back to being a good mentor.

We all have our work this school year! I think it’ll be a good one, though. The second year of anything is always a little easier than the first.

Setting Up An Outdoors Painting Area

My kids and I are trying out activities from the first Art Together e-zine issue, which I plan to have available for you next month. Today was not too hot or humid, so I decided to set us up to paint outside, and I wanted to share with you how easy this can be.

We have some basic plastic deck furniture–nothing too fancy or precious. The brown boards are masonite boards from Home Depot, cut to size–the same thing drawing boards are made from, but much cheaper. I’ve brought out our paints, brushes, glass rinsing jars, and a pitcher of water–this way, it’s easy to refill the rinsing jars without running back and forth into the house. My kitchen is on the opposite side of that wall, so it’s not that hard to refill the pitcher, either, when necessary.

That’s it! It’s that easy. Fresh air on a not-too-hot day and painting. Two good things together.

Summer T-Shirt Round-Up

Decorating our own t-shirts is a summer staple here. These range from simple (printing with leaves) to more complicated. I’ve gathered up the ones I’ve posted about here, in case you’re looking for ideas.

glue batik

Several years ago we each designed and decorated our own t-shirts using a glue batik process. I posted about it at Kidoinfo here.

sun print shirts

We experimented with sun printing right on t-shirts, with variable success. We learned cheap watered down liquid acrylics worked best for this. The full post is here.

freezer paper stencil

A favorite technique that we’ve used over and over–freezer paper stencils. The shirt above still gets worn regularly and complimented. The full post is here.

scratch foam shirt

Because my daughter was a bit too young at the time to design her own freezer paper stencil shirt, I helped her print a shirt using scratch foam. Our full process is described here.

The kids and I haven’t yet discussed what this summer’s shirts might entail. We’ll keep you posted!

{Art Together} Summertime Art Ideas

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

It’s getting on towards summer, at least where I live. Here in Southern New England, summer is my favorite time, and I try to make the most of warm and sunny days. That means art activities can shift outdoors as well. For this last regular Art Together post before summertime, I want to share some of the outdoor art activities we’ve done in the past—just follow the links for full details on each activity. And of course, don’t forget you can just set up a table or easel out-of-doors and paint en plein air—which also makes clean-up much easier!

Bright, strong summertime sun means making sun prints is a breeze (photo above). It requires specialty paper. I ordered ours online, but it seems to be much more commonly available now; I’ve even seen it in local toy stores.

We really enjoyed making hot rocks by drawing on hot rocks with crayons, and the rocks we decorated are still used in building play indoors. And if, like us, you compulsively collect smooth rocks from your local body of water (ours happens to be the Atlantic Ocean), you may want to try painting them, too.

Sidewalk chalk is a big hit in our house. We tend to be old-fashioned and just draw with it, until the driveway is covered with doodles and designs, but we’ve tried fizzy sidewalk paint, too.

If you happen to have a child at the spray bottle/squeeze bottle stage, try arming him with spray bottles of colored water and letting him loose, like I did with my daughter. Along these lines, toddlers and preschoolers will usually enjoy painting outdoor surfaces with water; yes, their paintings will disappear as they dry, but the process is the main thing! They will probably also enjoy “painting” you, themselves, and each other.

And, of course, summer is a great time to bring sketchbooks and supplies outdoors and draw and paint in nature. (Here, we drew irises.) Try to remember to bring the sketchbooks on your excursions. In case you forget, though, keep a traveling art box in the car.

More-organized art activities and challenges are available online this summer, too. Tammy is once again hosting the index-card-a-day challenge, and kids are welcome to participate. Michelle recently acquired Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists and is looking for company as she and her girls work their way through the book: a draw-along! And Coursera, which offers free online classes, is currently enrolling for Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques, which is a beginner-level course exploring the concepts of line, shape, value, texture, and color through readings and art projects (hat tip to Karen at Mail Me Some Art).

Whatever your summertime plans, I hope you enjoy the season and I hope it includes some art! I’ll still be posting about our activities, just not as a regular series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these first three months of weekly posts. I’d love to hear what you found helpful and what you’d like to see more of, either in the comments or via email (amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com).

{Art Together} Doodling

{This post is part of the art together series. You can see all the posts in the series here.}

“A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” –Paul Klee

Recently I treated myself to the Learning to See series of drawing primers. The first exercise I tried was the fourth one in the second book (yes, I pick and choose!), called, simply, “Doodle.” I challenged myself to fill an entire sketchbook page with pencil doodles, and this is what resulted.

My daughter saw what I was doing. Later on, she got her own paper and filled it with pencil doodles.

We decided to spend the next morning sitting on the floor with paper and a selection of colored pencils and markers, doodling. This is as simple as it gets: fill the page with doodles. You can make it more complicated, if you like. I chose a bigger piece of paper and challenged myself to fill it, and tried to pay attention to balancing the shapes, sizes, line, and white vs black.

I decided to keep it black and white, but I could have chosen to go into it with watercolors. I’m also interested in isolating parts of it that seem interesting to me. There are rhythms and patterns that might find their way into a future design. Doodling can bring forth all sorts of ideas to return to later.

My eight-year-old focused on colors for some of his doodles, preselecting markers to use.

In this next doodle, he focused on pattern, thinking of the zebras we saw at the zoo last weekend and the sign which informed him that zebras are camouflaged by their stripes; it’s hard to identify an individual zebra when they’re all together in a group.

He also completed a pencil doodle, which is in the Flickr group.

My four-year-old was a bit overjoyed with the choices of mark-making materials. She wanted to try them all!

The entire drawing session was a relaxing way to spend an hour–which is part of the goal of doing art together, to simply enjoy the time spent.

Further Resources

Books on doodling abound! I have Creative Doodling and Beyond, but truthfully it didn’t click for me on my first try with it. The exercises felt too focused on producing a complete finished work; I became completely inhibited. The Learning to See exercise, however, was wide open. Just get a pen and doodle. I didn’t feel any pressure, so it was easier. If the wide-open “doodle something on a blank page” approach leaves you wondering what to do, try a book that provides specific exercises. Maybe that will speak to you better. I’ve no doubt I’ll go back to the Creative Doodling book at some point.

If you want some visual inspiration, Flickr has many doodling groups. Oodles of Doodles is one that promises to be safe for all ages, so your kids can look, too.

Take it Further

Try doodling in black Sharpie and then choosing areas to wash over with watercolors or fill in with colored markers.

Choose a color palette (as my 8yo did) and limit yourself to it. That adds another design element to balance: not just shape, line, pattern, and size, but color, too.

Cut a 2-inch (or 3-inch, or 1-inch; experiment) square out of a piece of cardboard and use it as a frame to isolate different parts of your doodle. Are there any sections you’d like to try “blowing up” into a larger piece? Would any sections translate well to another medium, such as paint or stamp-carving?

Share Your Work

I’d love to see your work in the Flickr group; or if you have a link to posts describing art-making together, please share in the comments!

Craft Foam Printmaking

Craft Foam Printmaking at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Craft foam; scissors; glue (Elmer’s or tacky); sturdy cardboard cut to size slightly smaller than paper; brightly colored construction paper*; block printing ink or tempera paint; brayer; glass or Plexiglas for rolling out ink. *I really like the Tru-Ray paper; it’s smooth and sturdy feeling.

I love printmaking, and I wanted to make sure to incorporate it into the preschool art explorers class I’m leading at our homeschool co-op this session. This activity was inspired by “Playful Prints” in What’s the Big Idea? by Joyce Raimondo, and it’s perfect for this age group, because it also involves cutting, something my preschoolers love to do. (Although I think it would work well for all ages. I enjoyed making a sample!) The steps are simple.

1. Cut out shapes from craft foam. Make sure they’re large enough that they won’t be too difficult to either glue down or ink. That was the only parameter I gave the kids; they cut out whatever shapes they wanted.

2. Glue the shapes down onto the cardboard, making sure to leave some negative space. Don’t overlap the shapes. Again, the kids glued them down whichever way they wanted.

gluing down foam

3. When the glue has dried (at least enough so the shapes won’t wiggle on the cardboard during inking), ink up the brayer and apply ink to the foam. Try not to get it on the cardboard.

inking the plate

4. Lay the paper on top and smooth over the back of it to make the print.

print with plate

That’s it! Depending on the age group, this technique could be used to make patterns, designs, or to depict a simple image or scene…or it could be kept abstract. Choosing brightly colored paper and black ink made for a really vibrant and striking print. This is deceptively simple, with fantastic results.