Category Archives: texture

Painting With Wool

Materials: Rectangles of wool felt (to act as the “canvas”), wool roving in various colors (such as this)

This past weekend was the third session of the parent/child class N and I are taking at a local art museum. We spent the entire time in the galleries, looking and drawing with various media, and our last stop was the Greek/Roman galleries, where we used colored wool roving to create our image. I don’t have any in-process photos of this, because it’s really hard to take photos while doing, but it’s pretty straightforward.

First, though, we were to pick a piece to focus on as our inspiration. N chose a piece utterly devoid of color…

This is one of the short sides of a marble sarcophagus. We had many colors of roving to choose from; N chose red, yellow, and green. Just as felt pieces will stick to one another (such as on a felt board), the wool roving will stick to the felt “canvas.” You gently rub the roving between your hands, moving them back and forth. You can tease it out a bit, and gently mush (not a technical term!) the wool into the felt. You’re just rubbing it enough to adhere some of the fibers together–a very gentle felting.

This is N with his piece in the museum. He thought he was done, but then he decided to add more. (Despite the look on his face, he really does enjoy these classes!)

He focused on the animal (which he called a saber tooth tiger), which is the yellow, with red legs; the person below it; and the tree above. The instructor had us hold our pieces of felt up to make sure nothing fell off; otherwise we needed to rub a bit more to make it stick.

This is probably the simplest entry to working with roving I can think of. It’s not wet felting, it’s not needle felting, it’s just…hands and wool. Simple. It doesn’t allow for much (any?) detail, so it’s a good choice for a loose project. I would think, given more time than we had in class, it would be very soothing, to simply work the wool into a design on the felt. (Can you tell I knit? I think wool is very soothing!)

Have you tried wool painting before? Or, do you have a favorite way to work with wool with children?

After the Color Mixing

Last week I posted about a color-mixing activity G, age 3, did. When she was done mixing the colors and exploring the corn starch, she began painting with the leftover colored water. “I’m painting a cave,” she said as she began. After she’d applied all three colors, she asked for some salt.

I poured some into that cup for her, and she sprinkled it on with her hands. And then she asked for more, and more, until she had piles of salt on her paper. Then she decided to see what would happen when she painted on top of the salt.

Kind of interesting, no? More salt and more paint…

“Mud in the cave!” she exclaimed.

Experimenting…always a good thing!

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?

Rolling Pin Prints

(Inspired by First Art by MaryAnn Kohl.)

Materials: Rolling pin; tempera paint; piece of Plexiglas or old plate (for the paint); paper; rubber bands

I finally got a new wooden rolling pin, which means my temporary one was available for the art room. (I got rid of my old wooden one when I was diagnosed with celiac, and it took me a while to replace it with a proper one. Not sure why it took so long!) This was exciting, because I’ve been wanting to try using it for printmaking with G.

She was excited about putting the rubber bands onto the rolling pin (with my help).

She chose the paint colors, and I squired them onto a piece of Plexiglas (it’s from a box frame).

I was going to use that foam brush to spread the paint out a bit on the Plexiglas, but G was having none of that. I tried to show her how to cover all the sides of the rolling pin with paint, but she “do self.” Then it was time to roll on the paper.

And then she got fed up with it all and asked for the foam paintbrush.

Painting is, after all, what G likes best. To be fair, she was really tired that morning and she took a really long nap that afternoon–and she usually doesn’t nap at all. When she was done painting, I used the extra paint to make some prints with the rolling pin myself.

I thought it looked kind of like seaweed.

A few days later, G asked to paint with the rolling pin again, so we gave it another try. This is the result from a less-tired G.

She didn’t quite get the hang of rolling the pin in one long motion, and instead was going back and forth. But you can still sort of see the marks from the rubber band. I’m sure we’ll revisit this and find other things to put on the rolling pin to get different effects. Meanwhile, I used up the extra paint again, so we have several sheets of printed paper for use in future projects.

So tell me, what have you used a rolling pin for, besides rolling out dough?

Vegetable Netting Painting

Well, that was an unplanned blog hiatus! G and I did this right before the flu took me under…

(Inspired by “Impressive Burlap” in MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art.)

Materials: Watercolor paper, tempera paint, vegetable netting (I used the top from a clementine box), tape

Sometimes we try things that are only semi-successful, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. I think the most successful art experiences are often the ones G choreographs (more on that in the next post!), but when I introduce something new, that helps to expand her vocabulary in the studio. She has more tools at her disposal, whether she chooses to use them or not. I also think of the advice often given to parents when their children begin eating food, that a new item has to be offered many times before a child will try it or like it. I figure it works the same way with experiences.

And it’s not that she didn’t like this; she just didn’t get to into it. She was content to “see what happened” and be done.

The idea is to paint through the netting and make a print that way (instead of painting on something and then pressing the paper onto it to make a print). In the book, burlap is used. I had a piece of burlap ready, but I thought we’d start with the netting because the holes are bigger.

G chose her colors, I taped down the netting, and she began.

She didn’t really have much of an interest in covering the entire piece of netting. She dabbed on some paint and then wanted to see what happened. I showed her, and she added a little more.

A little double-handed painting… and then she was done. She didn’t want to paint through the burlap on the other side of the paper. To extend just a wee bit, I suggested we make a print of the netting on the other side of the paper. G was agreeable but not terribly excited.

In this photo, the painting-through is on the bottom and the print is on the top. And then we were done.

I think it’s valuable to document the activities that maybe don’t work out so well, first because I use this blog to document what we do for my own purposes, and that doesn’t mean just the wildly successful stuff. Second, it may appeal to someone else who comes across it–your child might love this! And third, because you never know, a few months from now G may direct me to get her some vegetable netting for an idea she has, and if we hadn’t done this, she wouldn’t know to ask.

What are some activities that haven’t quite worked out the way you thought? And did the ideas presented resurface later on?

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.

Open Studio

Yet another partial school day, so I gave the kids some ideas for activities we could do in the studio. And this is what happens when three kids want to do three different things… in retrospect, I should have made myself coffee first, but overall, it went just fine.

A couple of days ago I sliced a large sheet of watercolor paper into small squares. Some are 4″x4″ and some are 2″x2″. V decided he’d like to start with liquid watercolors and the small squares. We brought out some salt, too, to texture it a bit. He thought his art teacher had said to put the salt first, then paint. (They didn’t actually do this in class; he just told them about it.) I thought it went the other way around. So we tried both ways. (In case you’re curious, it had a more sandpapery feel when the salt goes on first, and it was smoother when the salt went on second.)

Meanwhile, N really wanted to cut up some of that textured paper we made and make a design with it. I cut some up, too–that’s my fish in the background (click to embiggen). Notice the big sun?

I tried to get G to help with the collage I was making, but beyond treating the paintbrush we were using for glue really, really badly, she wasn’t too interested. She wanted to get back to the rubber stamps I’d brought out for her the other day.

As you can see, V thought that sounded like a good idea. I thought since he was right next to her, he could help her out a bit, but no. I ended up with a rather ink-stained toddler. This might have been the point at which I realized I should have made the coffee before we started.

When N was done cutting and pasting, he wanted to make some watercolors too. Sprinkling salt was lots of fun for all three of us. Isn’t this a nice assortment of bright colors?

(The flowers are mine. I have a six-foot wall of snow bordering my driveway. A girl needs to cope somehow.) We mostly ended up with backgrounds, although V painted a couple of pictures, too, which aren’t shown here. I plan on stamping “I love you” on those purple ones and slipping the ones for the boys into their lunches on Valentine’s Day–assuming that’s not another snow day, of course.

Materials needed for these activities: Textured paper, glue, scissors, mat board (a heavier surface on which to glue the papers), small squares of watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, rubber stamps and ink pads; the snow day is optional!

Wood + Glue + Paper + Wire

(Partially inspired by this post at Acorn Pies.)

Materials: Wooden shapes (found at the craft store), Tacky Glue (for the wood), paper scraps, wire, Mod Podge (for the paper scraps), acrylic paint (turns out we needed some of that, too!)

Presented with a variety of materials, what shall we do?

Make sure to tell the kids to hold the pieces together for a minute or two after applying glue. The tacky glue holds the wood together surprisingly well.

We can string shapes on wire. Some of them have holes that go all the way through.

G asked for her pink paper, black paint, and a “wheel” with which to move the paint around. She also built some sculptures with wood, glue, and paper, below.

V, age nine, built a few structures and then connected two of them with wire.

N’s structures:

He also wanted to make a necklace, and he wanted to paint the pieces first. I rigged up each “bead” on a piece of wire so he could easily paint all the sides:

Then I hung the beads, still on their wires, on the laundry room clothesline until they dried. The finished necklace:

Given a variety of materials–enough to be interesting, but not so much as to be overwhelming–what might you and your kids come up with?

Classic Childhood Play

My six-year-old is home from school today on what I call a “buffer” day–getting over being sick, but not lie-on-the-couch sick. So I decided to make some homemade play dough. But because I have celiac, our homemade play dough is gluten free. I used this recipe, but all the ones I found looked the same. I made two batches, using the beautiful natural food colorings from Dancing Deer. (Mine are several years old, and I don’t see them on their site anymore. That’s a shame.)

Warm play dough feels so lovely in your hands on a chilly morning, and this batch was smooth and silky.

I rummaged around in my odds and ends and found some tools for the kids to use–craft sticks, corks, tooth picks, and some table forks. My son created a dragon.

He then created a story, something he does nearly effortlessly. He has always narrated his play (his life, really) out loud. He used the corks as buildings, and covered them with the golden dough, which was fire, and as his hands worked, he told his ongoing story. This was a creative use of the play dough that I wouldn’t have predicted (although I should have, with him, as anything and everything becomes a prop–his imagination floors me). My caution with play dough is that it can become such a two-dimensional medium, with rolling out and cookie cutters and so on. But I haven’t replaced our gluteny dough toys, so he invented new ways to use the dough.

My daughter, when she was done smushing and exploring, created a sculpture with her tools.

Mamas get to play, too.

(That’s supposed to be a snowman next to a tree with a star on top.)

I’m so glad to have a gluten-free play dough option. The kids like to watch the dough come together–there’s something a little bit nicer about making it yourself, rather than popping open a plastic tub (plus, it smells much better!). And then to get to squish it around while it’s still warm, not to mention choose the colors you want… definitely a good use of a morning home from school!

Color and Texture

(Inspired by That Artist Woman and the vibrant paintings in the Great Hall at the Eric Carle Museum.)

We set out to make our own decorative paper, using only primary colors and textures. We’ll use these papers (we ended up with about 15 sheets) in a future collage activity.

Materials: Paper (I used drawing paper; it curled a bit while drying, but since this will be cut and glued, I think it’s okay, and plus, it’s what I had on hand); tempera paint in red, blue, and yellow; paintbrushes (one for each color); small container for the paint; various items to create texture

I gathered both large and small bubble wrap (the small is the inside of that mailing envelope), some plastic rings from six-packs of soda, a small comb, and small cardboard tubes. Be creative!

First, cover the paper with paint. We’re using one color per paper, no mixing. We want our primaries to stay primaries! Be generous with the paint, and not too slow. There needs to be enough paint so that you can make an impression in it, and it can’t dry before you get to that step. But be careful not to overload the paper with paint–this will depend on how heavy your paper is.

The toddler in the corner has a couple of colors of paint and a sheet of paper, so she could join in the painting.

Once the paint is on, have some fun making texture.

Here, N is using a comb. Below is the effect I created by stamping into the paint with the end of the cardboard tube.

Below, the boys are using bubble wrap. It works a little better if you allow the bubble wrap to stay on the paper until the paper is just about dry.

See that mailing envelope up above? Below is the effect V created with it.

V also used the six-pack rings to create texture. He lined three of them one below the other and then we placed another piece of paper over the rings so we could press down on them without getting fingerprints all over the paper. (Helpful! If you don’t like your effect the first time, just smooth on more paint and try again! Which is what we did with the six-pack rings.) When we peeled off the top paper and removed the rings, this is what we saw.

N left one of his with the brushstrokes as the texture, and we learned that it’s hard to see the texture in the yellow. But all in all we have a good supply of papers in primary colors for a future project.