After a long Vermont winter we all get a little blue.
We all need to get outside! We need to leave our coats and hats and boots behind. We need to wear sneakers, ride bikes, see some green, roll in the grass, play ball, ride a pony and dig in the garden. Spring fever is a real thing!
I recently visited the kindergartners at Orwell Village School and talked about writing and art, filling your page and adding detail. They must have soaked it all in–like spring sunshine. Today I received this video, made with the help of their wonderful teacher Josh Martin:
I designed two projects to appeal to my range of ages. My 1st group was 1st graders and we started with a direct draw of a hen and chicks with the help of a document camera.
They all drew with pencil, traced with Sharpie and then started coloring with oil pastels.
We passed out regular oil pastels and told them to color roughly-leaving areas of white paper would work to their advantage. Some followed this advice…
Once the chickens were colored it was time to use secret sauce (mineral oil)and magic wands (cotton swabs) to make these drawings into oil paintings.
I counseled using a different cotton swab tip for each color, but just like any other painting technique, if you want to, you can make all the colors blend together and end up with a lovely muddy result! With 2nd grade and older I taught them how to draw a flying, fire breathing dragon. We followed the same process of direct draw, Sharpie outline, pastel drawing, and oil painting.
These are great before and after examples showing how the rough coloring results in the smooth final painting.
I also tried teaching the dragon to a T-Kindergarten class and saw some amazing results.
I love how this little guy attacks his coloring and painting with such purpose and enthusiasm.
Another school year is skipping, ambling, screeching, and wildly cheering to a close. Everyone is restless and eager for release. Erasers are worn to nubs, and so is patience, but, as much as I look forward to summer, I love being in school…
“School” for me might be in Vermont, or California, in Alabama, Texas, Michigan or New Mexico. I’ve been to schools in Utah, Maine, New York and as far away as Tokyo, Japan and New Delhi, India.
I have been to rural schools and urban schools, big and small schools.
I am always excited to arrive
Because now I get to share how I struggled to read, to understand math and to achieve what my 5 year old self really wanted to be–an artist!
When I explain how the words Passion, Practice, Patience, Perseverance and Possession became my 5 Ps, I’m hoping every child can think of their own passion; that activity or special skill that makes work into fun.
More than talking about books, I talk about where stories come from.
My books grow directly out of who I am: a daughter, a sister, a mother, an animal lover, an amateur naturalist, a reader, and, most important– a child at heart.
When we’ve talked about where my stories come from, we make up our own. As I draw animal characters based on their names and ideas, I explain how an illustrator works.
We discuss ideas such as forward momentum, attention to detail, setting, mood, time of day and point of view. They learn to merge text and illustration and how to use the whole page to tell their story.
I arrive early and I leave after all the students have gone. I sign books and pass out bookmarks. I marvel at how the work in school happens every day, even if I just get a one day glimpse. How do teachers muster the energy to come back every day? I need a huge coffee to recover before the ride home, but I always have a good day in your school.
While there, I’m able to do at least one art workshop for children and their families.
Treehouse Museum, in Ogden, Utah, serves children and families by providing interactive, hands-on exhibits and programs focusing on family literacy, children’s literature, the arts, and the humanities. Treehouse seeks to be the magical place where children “Step into a Story.”
One way they do this is with a village of houses from the different countries in which the stories are set. I have been lucky enough to paint some of the children who “live” in the houses.
To thank my friends at Treehouse, I always send a special card. I based this one on the Japanese girl we named Noriko.
In conjunction with the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum of Art at Hollins University, I did an art workshop for 7-12 year olds. The museum show is called Papercuts and there is a piece by Michelle Forsyth called February 4, 1999 that really appealed to me. She made it out of paper, watercolor, gouache, screenprint, felt, beads, pins.
To help my students get the idea of pixelating images into abstract patterns, I reduced the size of this chameleon to see if its essential shape and colors could still be discerned.
I thought it might be fun to try something in her style and medium with children, so we decided to use paper disks and flowers punched from multi colored paint chips, sequins, and pins, pressed into foam core.
Every single piece was different and they were all charming and as intriguing as the original inspiration.