Category Archives: painting

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.

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?

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.

**

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!

Cardboard Box Challenge

PhotobucketRachelle at TinkerLab invited us to join her one-year blog party by participating in her cardboard box challenge. What could my kids do with a cardboard box? I asked the boys if they’d like to participate, and I’m glad they said yes. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person actively pursuing open-ended, process-oriented art with elementary-aged kids, but I haven’t yet been able to find anyone else blogging about it. So I’m happy to be part of this project with older kids. (And because all three of my kids participated, this is a longish post.)

So. We had about a week to do this, which means I had to accomplish the bulk of it last weekend, because school takes up so darn much time. At first, V (age 9) wanted to put all the boxes together and make one great big box that we could walk into, but the boxes we had on hand–three lunchbox-sized boxes and one larger one that had held three bags of cereal (all of which, serendipitously, arrived in the mail last Friday)–weren’t large enough for that plan. We talked about whether we could use a cardboard box to make tall paintings, but figured even with gesso, the cardboard wouldn’t hold up. Plus, I didn’t have any gesso on hand.

Given that my husband was also away this past week and procurement of further supplies on short notice would be difficult, the challenge became this: Pick one of the boxes we have. Given the supplies we have on hand (which is still a generous amount!), what can you do with it? Three kids. Three boxes. Three very different ideas.

The boxes before they got started.

Everybody at work in the studio.

The Toddler

G wanted her box taped shut again, and then she wanted to paint it, over the course of several sessions. She hasn’t done much painting on a 3-D surface or, now that I think of it, on cardboard, so while simply painting the box seems, well, simple, it’s new to her. When all the paint was dry, she asked for the colored masking tape so she could add some. A few hours after I took this photo, she began peeling it off. G’s box is obviously a dynamic piece.

The Nine-Year-Old

V also painted his box, after (sadly, I think) abandoning his idea to make a Super Box. However, first we took his apart so that he could paint it flat. He painted two base coats of blue tempera, followed by designs with liquid acrylics, so this also took place over several sessions, to allow for drying.

When the box is glued back together, it looks completely different; also different than a box that was painted while still a box. It allows for some interesting developments, don’t you think? Plus we all think it looks really cool.

The Almost-Seven-Year-Old

N chose the largest box and began turning it onto a corner, trying to figure out how he could turn a box into a pyramid. He has a couple of the small Pharaoh’s Quest Lego sets, and apparently he wanted a pyramid to go with them. So we talked about the shapes we were working with. A box is made up of squares and rectangles, and a pyramid is made up of triangles. If he wanted to turn his box into a pyramid, we were going to have to do some cutting. (And Mama was going to have to do some algebra, which I’ve included at the very end for anyone who’s interested.) We realized the original box didn’t have enough cardboard for a pyramid as large as he wanted, so we used the original box for the square base and for inspiration, and we used another piece of cardboard–it’s been leaning against the studio wall for months just waiting for a purpose–for the triangles.

Once he had his four triangles and the base square for the floor, which I cut out using a utility knife and straight edge (not a 6yo’s job), he painted both sides brown, then added sponge prints of yellow on the side he’d chosen to face outside (the more corrugated side; we thought the lines might just mimic bricks of sand). So again, the painting took place over several sessions, with drying time in between. Then he described the kind of door he wanted, showed me where it should go, and I cut that out too, just scoring along the hinged side so it opens and shuts. We taped the triangles together on the inside, but left it so the pyramid comes off the base. That way he can set up a scene inside and put the pyramid over it. (Otherwise, you never know what the Lego guys will get up to in there.)

Thanks, Rachelle, for inviting us to participate!

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***

THE MATH

A pyramid is made up of equilateral triangles, that is, triangles in which all three angles are the same (60 degrees, to add up to 180) and all three sides are the same length. N wanted his pyramid about a foot tall. I didn’t do that–I didn’t figure out the full math until the next day, but we didn’t have enough cardboard for such large triangles anyway! His is about 9 1/2 inches tall which, he told me, is plenty big enough for Lego guys. However, I used the 12 inches as a starting point to figure out how big I should make the triangles. If the height of an equilateral triangle is 12 inches, the sides should each be about 14 inches long. Why?

Remember Pythagoras? In a right triangle, that is, one with a right angle (90 degrees), a2 + b2 = c2, with c being the hypotenuse, or side across from the right angle. So I realized if I cut my equilateral triangle in half by drawing a line from the middle of one angle to the center of the opposite side, I’d have a right triangle. The hypotenuse would be twice the length of the shorter side, and if I wanted a height of 12, then I know the value of the third side.

So the Pythagorean equation becomes
122 + x2 = (2x)2
or
144 = 4x2-x2
or
144 = 3x2
or
48 = x2
so x = 6.928, which is close enough to 7 for me. Remember x represents only half a side of the final triangle, so I wanted triangles with 14-inch sides.

(I suppose I could have just gotten a protractor and gone by angles. It probably would have been easier, but far less satisfying than conquering the math.)

The next day, I tried to think through how to start with the height of the finished pyramid and work back to the triangles that form it. The interior height at the apex can be seen as one side of a triangle, with the floor forming the second side and the third side formed by the height of one of the side triangles, leaning in towards the center. (And as you know from above, once you have that measurement, you know how big your triangles are.)

When I did all the math, I reduced it to this:

(desired interior height)2 + x2 = 3x2

So for an interior height of 12 inches, I would have wanted triangles with sides that were roughly 17 inches long and a height of about 14.5 inches. If anyone wants that broken down… let me know. :)

Messy Hands

Over the weekend, while the kids worked on their projects for the blog party of sorts that Tinkerlab is hosting on Friday, G asked for a sponge to use with her paint. Not long after that, I noticed she was making sponge prints on the art table, so I asked if she’d like a piece of paper.

My main job in the studio is Facilitator. What do the kids need from me to help them fulfill their vision, or explore their idea? G needed some paper.

What fun, making all those sponge prints! And such a difference from the first time I gave her a sponge to use with paint, when she used the sponge similarly to a paintbrush. Now, four months later, she’s clearly using it to make prints.

By the end of her painting/printing session, her hands looked like this.

I love seeing a kid get into her work. Hands are washable!

**

The big Tinkerlab reveal takes place Friday, when I get to show you how all of my kids fulfilled the challenge she set out. And my latest post is up at Kidoinfo, in which G’s hands get messy for the sake of product, not process, but all in the name of Mother’s Day. (She took control anyway; no worries!)

Painting the Driveway

Earlier in the week, I showed the two younger kids painting the driveway with some sidewalk chalk they’d soaked in a puddle of water. And I’ve mentioned how much G likes spraying the water bottle. So when I read about fizzy sidewalk chalk (link via Not Just Cute), well, it was a done deal. We had to try it!

I approximately halved the recipe in the original post, but then dumped in some more cornstarch (just because it looked a little off). I think G enjoyed making the paint as much as anything else. It was her job to  mix the dry ingredients together. While I was measuring out the cornstarch, she said she wanted to taste the baking soda. “I don’t think you’ll like it,” I said, “but go ahead.” So she dipped her finger in and licked it. Not surprisingly, she didn’t like it.

Once the dry ingredients were mixed, I gave her the measuring glass of water and she poured it in slowly, a bit at a time while I mixed, until we decided it looked like paint. Then I separated what we had into two clean glass jars and she added food coloring to make pink and purple.

Then we painted!

After she seemed about done with the painting, I told her it would fizz if she sprayed it with the vinegar–did she want to try it out?

Look at that satisfying fizz!

Just one part of a full and happy spring toddler day, which also included visiting the playground, playing in the sandbox, taking a walk to see the neighbor’s cows and even feeding them some grass. Yay, spring!

Painting Eggs

Materials: Wooden eggs (we used these); paint of your choice; box frame (if rolling the eggs)

Since we’re not sure if G has outgrown her egg allergy or not, dyeing traditional Easter eggs isn’t really an option for something we can all do together. So instead, I ordered some wooden eggs and decided we’d decorate those. We had so many options–we could paint them, or paint coffee filters and then collage, or try dipping them in liquid watercolors… we settled on using acrylic paint, for the most part.

The studio became a busy egg-painting factory!

I put a piece of paper into a 9×12″ box frame, squirted in some tempera paint, and began rolling an egg around. The boys liked the looks of that and both wanted to try, too. Definitely not something that can be done with a traditional hard-boiled egg!

G stuck to liquid acrylics (warning: acrylics won’t wash out of clothing). If we wanted to, later we could brush on a coat of Mod Podge to give the eggs a bit of shine.

Daddy always colors eggs with us, and this year was no exception. He taped a stripe onto his egg, and when the paint was dry, peeled the paint off and painted the middle. N decided to follow suit. Both boys also experimented with wrapping rubber bands around eggs before painting.

These are the prints we created by rolling the eggs around on the paper. They’re too interesting to discard; I’ll save them for future use in some project or other.

And this is where I’d normally put the photo of our finished eggs, but it was so pretty, it had to lead the post! A little egg allergy can’t stop us from creating beautiful eggs for Easter!

ETA: We gave the eggs a brushing with Mod Podge Gloss and they look fantastic! Just a little shine, and a seal for the paint.

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?

Rolling Pin Prints (II)

The materials and method are the same as before, but this time, the boys gave it a try. They were really wanting to do this since G and I told them about it.

They each chose to print one color at a time, and I only have one rolling pin (a deficit, clearly, but they were mostly patient). N printed his paper every which way, going for a Jackson Pollock effect. (“Who’s that guy with the splatter paints? That’s what this looks like!”)

V was very deliberate (which is no surprise by this point), changing the direction of his paper with each color so that the lines of the rubber bands criss-crossed.

They decided to wait until the blue, green, and red were fully dry before adding the yellow, which I think was smart–otherwise, I think the yellow would have gotten muddied up.

They’re not sure what they’ll do with these–keep them as is, or use them as patterned paper in another project? I think it could go either way; they stand alone just fine. I might need more rolling pins, though.

**

I came across this activity in a book geared towards toddlers, and yet it was easy to see how and why my older children would enjoy it, too–as did I! If you have older and younger children, do you have any tried and true art activities that are enjoyed by all?

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?