Welcome Spring!

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:

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If this doesn’t get your spring juices flowing, nothing will!

ENJOY!

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“Painting” Chickens and Dragons with Oil Pastels

In March I had the excellent assignment of teaching about 500 students in Northern CA a new art technique.

The parameters were rather strict:

  1. It had to be FUN!
  2. Set-up and clean-up had to be reasonable.
  3. Each session would include up to 100 students and would be held in the echoing cafeteria.
  4. The project had to be started AND completed in one hour.
  5. Students would walk away with a piece of art that was basically dry and portable.
Kindergarten Chicken
She looks like she had fun!

The technique I chose to teach was Pastel blending with mineral oil.

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.

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Using a document camera I showed how to draw a hen and chicks.
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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.

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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.

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I love how this little guy attacks his coloring and painting with such purpose and enthusiasm.

Was it Fun? Check!

Set-Up and Clean-Up Reasonable? Check!

Possible with Crowding? Check!

Started and completed in an hour? Check!

Ready to go and Portable? Check!

The End of May…sigh

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…

especially on Author Day!

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“School” for me might be in Vermont, or California, in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio. I’ve been to schools in Utah, Texas, Alabama and far away in New Delhi, India.

I have been to rural schools and urban schools, big and small schools.

I am always excited to arrive

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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!

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When I explain how the words Passion, Practice, Patience and Perseverance became my 4 Ps, I’m hoping every child can think of their own passion; that activity or thing 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, a reader, and, most important– a child at heart.

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When we’ve talked about where 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.

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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.

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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 latte to recover for the ride home, but I always have a good day in school.

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Click here for information on inviting me to your Author Day.

Painting a special “Thank You” Card

I was artist-in-residence at my favorite Children’s Museum last week.

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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.

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To thank my friends at Treehouse, I always send a special card. I based this one on the Japanese girl we named Noriko.

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I begin with a light pencil drawing

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The rest is done in layers of gouache.

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I can’t wait to go back and have more fun in The Treehouse!

We are Making Bear Dens!

I get a charge of energy from working on art projects with young children. Their lack of self-consciousness and freedom with materials is inspiring. I often say 1st graders are art geniuses.

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They have a lot of small motor skills  and they are mostly free of the doubts and fears of not being good enough that seem to set in later, even by age 7!

I did the same Bear Cave project with three classes, a 1st, 2nd and 3rd, at a school in Pasadena.

I started by showing them my book Baby Bear Counts One and talking to them about what happens as autumn comes and how bears prepare to spend the winter in their dens.

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The materials were simple:

An 11 x 14 piece of pale blue paper, an 8.5 x 11 sheet of black paper and a half sheet of brown paper, a thin paper plate, glue stick, scissors, markers/crayons, and a pencil.

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The young artists created the forest first, drawing trees with autumn leaves and making a good, wild habitat for the bears.

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Then they cut the paper plate in half and cut a rough “den” out of the flat, cut side. Now it was time to camouflage the den so it didn’t stick out. A lot of effort went into this step.

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I love this one with two apple trees and apples all over the den.

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And this ‘Welcome’ sign.1stgrade:web_5 1stgrade:web_62ndgrade:web_1

There was a lot of glue being used and sticky fingers were everywhere.

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They glued the brown paper behind the paper plate den so it looked dark.

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Finally, it was time to make the bears out of the black paper.  We had lots of sizes of googley eyes to make the bears look alert.2013-10-22 09.34.32
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Michelle Forsyth Pin and Paper Project

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.

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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. 049_pics

lizardpixelatedI 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.pinning_1

 

 

 

 

 

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pinning_2Every single piece was different and they were all charming and as intriguing as the original inspiration.Sadie_web

 

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