Tag Archives: kidblog

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

Adventuring

adventure talisman at amyhoodarts.com

When I thought about 2015 last December, in terms of choosing a word to encapsulate the year ahead, I immediately thought Adventure. So much of how we experience life depends upon how we frame it. I knew this year would involve selling a house, packing it up, and moving out of state. Was I going to treat that as a trial to be slogged through? No. It’s an adventure. I made myself a word charm necklace as a reminder, and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

So much is going on this month that I’m struggling to even write about it. To say the schedule is hectic right now doesn’t even begin to describe my days and nights, or my husband’s. In the past two days I’ve napped in a waiting room once and the car (while various kids were in activities) twice. (Moms do what we have to do, you know?) But my overall feeling, along with excitement, is gratitude. My husband and I are handling all the various things coming our way as a team, and it’s good. We’re also reminding each other to do the things that keep us balanced–bike rides for him, runs for me. I’m grateful for running and the way it takes me out of my head and into my body. More than once I’ve been stressed about something related to selling this house (by far the most stressful part of this entire enterprise), and I left it on the road, coming back with my perspective restored. I am moving through these hectic days, not always with quiet and calm, but fairly capably and with huge amounts of positive attitude. This is a great adventure, and I’m excited to get down there.

Yesterday my kids and I all had ophthalmology appointments. These were originally scheduled for later in the month, after our move date, and they were able to reschedule on short notice and still get us all on the same day, although with two appointments in the morning and two in the afternoon. Since the office is 45 minutes from home, we packed a lunch and had a picnic in between, as well as updating my son’s glasses and going to the library and post office. It was a long day. We left the house at 8:15 and had been in the car but ten minutes when my middle child told my youngest, “There’s a spider directly above your head.”

Oldest child: “Wow, it’s huge, too.”

Youngest child: *Hysterical screams and cries.*

Me: “Thanks a lot, boys.”

You just have to laugh. They tracked that spider until it disappeared somewhere under my seat, while I maneuvered through rush-hour highway traffic, determined not to be distracted when I was notified it was right above you, Mama! It’s on your seatbelt! It’s legs are so spindly! Middle child felt it was a poisonous spider in disguise, which led Eldest child and I to muse on a spider in a trench coat and hat (and four pairs of sunglasses, as he pointed out). Adventure. Seriously, it’s everywhere, if you care to frame it as such, and I do.

How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity. amyhoodarts.com

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam. amyhoodarts.com

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image. amyhoodarts.com

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate. amyhoodarts.com

pressing the image onto the flag. amyhoodarts.com

finished foam-printed hope flag. amyhoodarts.com

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.

Field Trip: Hokusai

Hokusai. amyhoodarts.com

Hokusai is the featured artist in the printmaking issue of Art Together, and the kids and I really enjoyed learning about him, his life, and the times he lived in. So when I saw that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was opening a Hokusai exhibit in April, of course I wanted to go. My husband wanted to come, too, and between his travel and weekend activities and trips to Maryland, it looked like Memorial Day Weekend would be our best chance to get there before we moved and Boston became out of easy reach. And when I got an email announcing that admission was free on Memorial Day itself, it was decided. We’d go to the MFA, and we’d say goodbye-for-now to Boston, a city we all love and will miss.

Our local commuter train doesn’t run on weekends or holidays, so we drove to the end of the red line, left the car, and took the T into the city. G loves taking the train, but the boys weren’t so thrilled once we switched to the green line and it was standing room only–they may have inherited a little bit of their mama’s claustrophobia. As we approached the MFA stop, we could see the line of people extending from the museum entrance, down the stairs, along the street, and around the corner. Whoa! But free admission is a bargain–it saved us $100.

line into the MFA. amyhoodarts.com

Our view from the back of the line.

We ate some of our lunch while we waited, and the line moved quickly. The MFA has open houses regularly and I figured they’d be prepared and organized, and they were. It was a nice day, not raining, not too warm, and the lilacs smelled lovely. I don’t think we were in line more than a half hour.

Hokusai created more than 30,000 artworks in his lifetime, and it seemed, by the end of our time in the exhibit, that the MFA included most of them. I learned it was the first museum in the US to exhibit any of Hokusai’s works, in the late 1800s, and its collection is impressive. Ideally, we’d visit several times, focusing on one or two rooms at a time, because by the end, it was hard to absorb it all. Even the adults were tired. N explained it well when he said, towards the end, that he liked the art and was interested in it, but he was losing energy.

Hokusai quote. amyhoodarts.com

One of my favorite quotes by Hokusai.

Despite all our reading on Hokusai, the exhibit contained areas of his art that were new to us. (30,000 artworks, after all!) One such area were depictions of demons and ghosts–some of which were fairly disturbing, such as the demon lady with the bloody severed head of a child in her hand. (N: “Gee, how do you think he felt the day he drew that?“) Another was surimono. I had to snap a picture of this exhibit text. It sounds like a zine to me, 18th century style.

Hokusai exhibit text. amyhoodarts.com

The original zine? Sounds like it to me.

And there were many artworks I’d love to still be staring at. I do wish we lived close enough to visit this exhibit several times, but I’m glad we made it. We took our energy-depleted selves to the museum courtyard and ate the rest of our packed lunch to perk us up, then decided to walk in the city for a bit. I know we’ll enjoy exploring Washington, DC, but Boston holds a special place in my heart. We wandered from the museum, through a park, watched some geese and bunnies, visited the war memorial (sobering to my children, the sheer number of names of dead Boston boys on the World War II memorial). We walked some more, past the back of Fenway Park, down Boylston. We had some dinner, got back on the T, got into our car, and drove home.

Good-bye for now, Boston. We’ll be back some day (I promised my 6yo, after all).

Juggling

I can only keep so many balls going at once, and lately the one I’ve been letting sit is posting here. See, there are so many things I like to do. That’s why when I decided to participate in The 100 Day Project on Instagram, I didn’t choose to make 100 of one thing alone. I decided to make time for drawing, painting, or carving every day. Because if I’m making a drawing a day, when would I have time to carve any of them? If I’m painting every day, will I still have time to run? How about sewing and knitting? (And of course any of those things have to be fit around mama duties.) Any time I’ve tried to do one thing every single day for any length of time, other things I like get squeezed out. I could look at it as a lack of focus, but I prefer to view it as the product of an interesting and interested mind instead.

At any rate, if you’re interested, I’m posting photos like these on Instagram.

linocut test print at amyhoodarts.com

Testing a tree linocut to see what still needs to be cleaned up.

Besides drawing and carving and sewing and knitting, I’ve been making sure we get outside. Oh, we are so happy for spring. We recently visited the local pond after dinner to watch the sun go down and listen to the spring peepers.

sunset at the pond at amyhoodarts.com

Photo by my husband.

We were hoping we’d see the beavers come out for a crepuscular swim, and we finally did! And then–then we realized the creatures wheeling and dipping over the pond as the sun fully set were most likely bats. How exciting! They moved too fast to get a good look at with binoculars. Their wings fairly vibrated. I’ve never seen bats outside of a zoo before.

We also have horses in our neighborhood, which is convenient, since my 10yo mentioned he wished he were better at drawing horses. Excellent–let’s go right to the source.

Drawing horses at amyhoodarts.com

After that, we crossed the street to walk the path through the meadow (not very meadowish yet) and the woods, on some open land property owned by the town. My youngest is delighted that it’s spring.

happy spring at amyhoodarts.com

She’s wearing a mama-made dress, natch.

My favorite bird, the towhee, has been singing his heart out. I heard a barred owl again last night. I feel so grateful for where I live during the spring and summer, for this patch of land we share with so many critters–birds and insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals too. For close access to farms, ponds, seashores, meadows, and woods.

Which is why it’s so ironic we still haven’t sold this house. I’ve been cleaning again lately too. It’s been six months since I deep cleaned and decluttered, and several areas need another pass, and yes I’m a little resentful I’m still cleaning this house. Also stressed out. So many houses are for sale. My advice is never to try to sell a house in an economically depressed state that is losing population. We’re going down to Maryland in a couple of weeks to look for a rental, and most likely my husband will be down there while I’m up here with the kids as the school year finishes. This is exactly what I didn’t want, but what can I do? That’s where we are. So I will open the windows when temperatures allow and listen to the birds I love and enjoy my deck while it’s still mine–while crossing my fingers every day that the house sells soon.

Art Together in Action

I really love getting a glimpse into how families use Art Together. Anytime I’m tagged in a kids-making-art photo on Twitter or Instagram, that pretty much makes my day. Periodically I want to share some of these pictures here, too.

Making something and releasing it into the world is just part of the process. Once it’s out there, you get to see what people do with it. Kirsten and her kids have done some great things, using the information and activities in Art Together as starting points and really going deeper. I can’t quite describe how happy that makes me, that I can offer something that acts as a spark in that way. Kirsten kindly agreed to having some of her Instagram photos featured today.

color mixing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Cloisonne painting from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Boogie Woogie music dancing from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

The photos here are related to the first two issues of Art Together, Color and Line.

Art gallery inspiration from Art Together at amyhoodarts.com

Kirsten told me exploring Art Together has resulted in her son’s love of art in general, and they now spend hours when they visit the art gallery. She went on to say, “R is not the kind of child who is happy to take suggestions or instructions about what to do or how to do things.  He prefers to come up with his own ideas and his own projects.  But I can read Art Together, get your ideas and suggestions and then use them in a subtle way – e.g. by just sitting down and doing some of your projects myself and seeing where that takes us.  It’s an amazing leaping off point!  Especially for someone like me who knows nothing about art. In fact, I’ve found that using Art Together has made *me* really want to learn much more about art too.  So it’s become a real family activity!”

Thank you so much for sharing, Kirsten!

If you would be willing to share a photo or story of how you’ve used Art Together, I’d love to hear from  you! amyhood @ amyhoodarts.com

Homeschooling Update

We still are. Here’s the thing: I usually just feel we’re not doing much of anything spectacular. It’s been (and still is) a long cold winter. We are not involved in any homeschool groups or classes, and while probably we should be taking field trips and such, it’s really hard to get my homeschooled kid out of the house. We spend every Wednesday in the city for two appointments, and that one long day usually feels like enough for the week. He takes rock climbing classes and karate and assisted with the after-school art program I facilitated; he’s beginning swim lessons this week along with his brother and sister. In other words, he’s socialized. But he’s also at home a lot. He’s not the type of kid who likes to leave the house just to say we did.

As for subjects, he’s continuing with math, with much bluster (he’s better at math than he thinks he is). We finished Story of the World Volume 3. My thought was to focus on American history for a while, but N isn’t as interested in US History. He requested Chinese history, so I’m waiting for a bunch of books from the library, and I’ll probably order Story of the World Volume 4, since he’s old enough for it now. We continue with his science text, but I don’t force things. We skipped over the anatomy section because it wasn’t grabbing his interest at all. He’s doing far more science than he’d be doing in school, and I don’t see the point in forcing something he’s not interested in. And of course he reads, voraciously, as we all do here.

And he draws.

drawing at amyhoodarts.com

Daily. Sometimes for hours, and always on that futon, no matter how many times I suggest the table. So far he hasn’t done anything with the drawings but create them. He doesn’t write down backstories for the characters he draws, or draw sequential scenes, or even store his drawings neatly. (“Can I get you a folder?” I ask. “A storage box? Something, so they don’t get ruined?” He prefers to leave them on the floor, and I tidy them into a pile on the bookshelf with the colored pencils so they don’t get stepped on.)

I remind myself to bite my tongue. I remind myself that he absolutely doesn’t need some adult’s idea of what he should be doing so I can say, See? He’s doing a drawing project. What else is homeschooling for if not to provide a child with time and space to do what makes him happiest? I have vivid memories of sitting in school at his age, bored, wishing I could be at home working on my latest drawing/writing/crochet project. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do to support this interest right now beyond supplying time, endless amounts of paper, and colored pencils (his preferred medium). When he shows interest in a drawing book, I buy it. He’s exposed to a variety of art, including graphic novels. There is a tendency for adults to want a THING to show as proof that the child was working towards something all along, but no, we need to back away from that impulse. He’ll get to the thing when he’s ready, or he won’t. Maybe he’s just working on 10,000 hours of drawing. He’s happy drawing. He draws daily. I know lots of adults who aspire to do that, including, at times, myself, and we don’t manage it. What he is doing is more than enough, and of his own choice, and I’m not going to do a darn thing to mess it up.

Printmaking Love: Printing With Kids

printmaking love at amyhoodarts.com

One of my gelatin prints.

The theme for Monday’s after school Art Together class was printmaking, so I decided to share gelatin plate printmaking. It was glorious chaos. Eighteen kids, eight gelatin plates, brayers and sponge brushes and palettes that needed to be shared. Bits of texture and stencils for playing with were strewn about, paint on tables and dripped on the floor and on hands. Thirty-six hands that had a really, really hard time resisting the tactile temptation of thick slabs of gelatin, even though they’d been told that touching it and, even worse, picking it up would degrade or even break it. With that many kids, it’s hard to get around to everybody who might need one-on-one help. I gave a demonstration and encouraged them to experiment and remember to share, because we had about two kids to a plate. Then I tried to check in on everybody.

It was great. Printmaking almost always is. It’s magical. Best to let them experiment and discover as much as possible on their own, with a little guidance if necessary. Some kids made collaboration prints all together and worked out who would take them home. Kids helped other kids. Some felt done after just one, and others made twenty.

Sampling of kids' gelatin plate prints at amyhoodarts.com

Just a small sample of the kids’ prints.

They layered prints and colors and textures with abandon, fearlessly, fabulously. I did not sit down for hours. One parent told me that she was grateful her son–one of the kids who printed right up until we were out of time–has taken to the activities in this program. He is put off by drawing, she said, but he has found inspiration here. Oh! Oh. When you find something you love to do that also brings a spark to others–how lucky is that? I need to figure out how to make this happen more often. Right now trying to do that is a casualty of being in limbo–I can’t lay the groundwork to broaden this work here, and I don’t know exactly where we’ll be next. But when the time comes, I’ll figure it out.

paint on my hands at amyhoodarts.com

Paint-y hands are happy hands.

I cleaned and wrapped the gelatin plates to bring home and store in my cold garage. Tuesday, I picked three of the better-looking ones and G, N, and I made some prints ourselves. N and I were too busy to make our own prints on Monday afternoon, and G was home sick with a fever both days.

One of N's gelatin prints at amyhoodarts.com

One of N’s gelatin prints.

Gelatin plate printmaking is so much fun, and the plates are easy to make, too. Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking has all the instructions on how to make a gelatin plate and get started printing with it.

Art Together Issue Six: Math + Art

{Click here to be taken directly to the sales page on Payhip. For UK/EU customers, VAT is added during the checkout process and isn’t reflected in the $4 USD price.}

I’ve been plugging along on the winter issue of Art Together and–thanks so much, polar vortex–even though it’s almost March, we’re still firmly in the midst of winter, so I don’t feel behind schedule at all even though I didn’t begin until I was sure I’d have a way to easily sell it no matter where you live (thanks so much, Payhip!). Introducing Issue Six: Math + Art:

Art Together Issue 6: Math + Art at amyhoodarts.com

From this issue’s Dear Reader:

Math and art are linked in so many ways. It’s not necessary to force a connection; it’s already there, and has been for centuries. This is a comforting idea for those of us who can feel intimidated or anxious by a wide-open, anything goes approach to art-making. I loved my photography classes (in the pre-digital days) precisely because of the mix of creativity and precision. Photography was part art, part science, and it provided a great balance for me. My photography notebook was, essentially, a lab notebook. What happens when you adjust the light? The ratio of chemicals? The exposure or development time? I enjoyed the experimentation and the structure. This mix satisfied both my creative and my logical sides. And while I have loosened up quite a bit over the years when it comes to art-making, I still am comforted by structure and limits at times.

I have a child who likes structure in his art-making as well, and this issue is created with kids and adults like him in mind. Here are some starting points, some guidelines, some ways in which the wonderful predictability of numbers and geometry and the science of how we see can be used to make art…

issue 6 collage copy

In this issue:

Dear Reader
Artist Spotlight: Bridget Riley
Featured Material: Colored Pencils by guest contributor Mo Awkati
Activity: Op Art—Weaving
Activity: Op Art—Distorted Shapes
Perspective
Activity: Drawing a Box in Perspective
The Fibonacci Sequence
Activity: Using Fibonacci Numbers
Activity: Mandalas
Resources
Try This: Op Art Backgrounds + Shapes

The 35-page PDF download is available for purchase through Payhip here for $4 USD. For UK/EU customers, VAT is added during the checkout process. Currently all issues of Art Together are listed for $4 USD; you can find them all right here.

Thanks for your continued support, emails, and comments when it comes to this little project of mine. I love seeing and hearing about what you and your kids are exploring and discovering together.

Teaching the Girl to Sew

Her first machine sewing project at amyhoodarts.com

Earlier this month, my 6yo daughter told me one of her goals for this year was to learn how to sew using the sewing machine. No problem! I told her when I taught myself how to sew I started with projects that involved straight lines, and we talked about some options. She, a girl after her mother’s heart, decided she wanted to start with a tote bag. We do love our things-to-put-other-things-in here. I showed her some options in Sew What! Bags, and she chose the Reversible Tote.

Now, I’d had some ideas of what to do with Saturday afternoon, involving baking banana bread and making some art with all the kids, but G was excited and raring to go, so I shifted gears so I could meet her enthusiasm with a great big YES. First thing we did was investigate mama’s fabric stash which, sadly, is stored in bins instead of on color-organized shelving, but we did the best we could. She selected several then decided which two to use. Her bag is as colorful as her typical outfits. (She used the same fabric for outer and lining, and the same heart fabric for both pockets because yep, she has an inside pocket too.)

Once she’d picked the fabrics, I pulled her Learning Tower over to the ironing board and I showed her how to iron. (Not too long after that, I knocked our iron off the board and it broke, but husband saved the day with his travel iron, which is JUST the right size for 6yo hands, too.) Then I cut out the pieces–I did that part, because it was all rectangles and I used the rotary cutter and plastic ruler and, well, that’s going to take some growing on her part, I think, before she can safely use it.

“NOW can we sew, Mama?” Not quite yet. Reading the directions, we saw it was time to iron some more to prepare the pockets. I held the fold, she pressed (and learned what it means to “press” rather than “iron”). Then I showed her the sewing machine and what the various dials mean and do. She sat on my lap and I operated the foot pedal while we practiced together. Then it was time to assemble the bag. (The rest of these pics were taken by my husband.)

sewing on the pocket at amyhoodarts.com

She raised and lowered the presser foot, kept the fabric aligned (with some guidance by me, less and less of it as we went on), raised and lowered the needle, rotated the fabric around corners, operated the reverse stitch switch for backstitching, removed pins, cut threads. She trimmed seam allowances and clipped corners. She pressed seams.

learning to machine sew at amyhoodarts.com

I included this photo because I love the look on her face! I think she’s concentrating there.

sewing with mama at amyhoodarts.com

When her bag was done she said, “I can’t believe I made this all by myself!” And I grinned because it wasn’t quite all by herself but it was, too–she didn’t just sit on my lap and have her hands there and sort of sew it. She was learning the steps of sewing, how the machine works, what needed to be done, what it means to clip corners and press seams and on and on. She rightly feels ownership of that bag, and what a good use of an afternoon, to begin to teach my girl how to sew. How wonderful to share something I like with someone who wants to learn.