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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sketchbooks and Drawing From Life

In today's lesson, I discussed with one of my students how important it is for an artist to have a sketchbook. While this may cause many to say, "Well, duh!" Often sketchbooks aren't used to their fullest potential!
Bumblebee with observations

All of my children from age 2 to age 10 have sketchbooks. Many are on their fourth sketchbook! I buy inexpensive ones from the craft store that are wire bound so they can lay flat and I keep them handy so that my children can grab them when inspiration strikes. Get the heaviest-weight paper possible so you can use a variety of media on the pages.

For today's lesson, I discussed how a sketchbook doesn't have to be a pristine, finished book of lovely, complete, drawings. I prefer to use a sketchbook as a journal. My sketchbook is a place where I can practice techniques and get my ideas out. This morning, my student and I were able to draw from nature: I had found a bumblebee and a butterfly that had died, but were still intact and we went outside (in the shade) to observe and sketch them. It was a wonderful way to really check out the details of insects that we would never have been able to observe "in the wild."

Drawing the bumblebee--we really needed to pick up the subject
and look closely at it to see all of that detail!

After drawing the bee and butterfly, we wrote down details we observed while drawing, such as:
  • Bees have two sets of wings
  • Bumblebees are fuzzy (the yellow fuzzy part has black undertones)
  • We couldn't see any pointy stinger, but the abdomen did come to a point
  • The abdomen of the bee was striped, but not yellow and black like a honeybee or the usual depiction of a bee, this bee's stripes were grey and black
  • The bees eyes were hard to see at first, but then we looked really hard and we saw them
These observations were written directly onto the paper near the drawing, or you could use the backside of the drawing or another page to write your observations in your journal.

Drawing the Monarch Butterfly--It was great to see all of the detail in the markings--
I never knew they had all of those little spots on their wings!
Other things that go well in a journal-type sketchbook:
  • Postcards or clipping of art or photos you enjoy for future inspiration
  • Swatches of colors used in drawings and paintings (I do a little blob or scribble of color and label the color name so I know which one to choose the next time I go to work on a piece).
  • Sketches of different views of the same subject
  • Websites and books I want to check out (and my notes once I do)
  • Inspiring quotes and interesting thoughts
Keeping a visual journal is an important part of your development as an artist. Looking back on the pages will inspire you and show your artistic growth. Keep it fun and keep adding to it as you like, an art journal is also very portable--bring it with you on vacation or leave it in the car for those moments when you are waiting to pick the kids up from camp. Have fun, there is no "wrong way" to create an art journal!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Giant Dreamcatcher!

Take a look at this super-giant dreamcatcher the librarians at the Amherst Town Library in Amherst, NH, made to celebrate their Summer Reading Program. The theme of the Reading Program is "Dream Big" and this extra-large dreamcatcher is spot-on!

The diameter of this dreamcatcher is about 5 feet! WOW!

The hoop looks like an over-size hoola hoop (plastic tubing from the hardware store) and the "web" is made from twine. The "beads" are sections of pool noodles and the feathers are about 8" long. So creative and striking! There are two of them hanging outside the library and they are so unexpected and beautiful--it is nice to see them gently swinging in the breeze.

Awesome!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Super Simple Dream Catcher From a Paper Plate

Third son had a terrible dream last night. It didn't help that he fell out of bed (which I hadn't heard but was described by my first son as "something crashed into the house--it made the whole house shake!" A few minutes later I heard the little guy crying and went in & located him (still on the floor). He was shaking and crying and still dreaming away. Man, that's tough!

$1 for the pony beads at the Dollar Store and $2 for feathers-
the rest of the supplies I had on hand. What a nice and easy craft!
So today, we made a super simple dream catcher to hang above his bed to catch all of his bad dreams. This is a lovely craft to do as part of a summer camp, Native American craft session or part of the library's summer reading program (our local library's theme this summer is "Dream Big!").

Well here's the super simple dream catcher and may all of your dreams be pleasant!

Paper Plate Dream Catcher

Supplies Needed:

  • One paper plate
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn (four 12" sections and one 48" section)
  • Clear tape
  • Pony beads
  • Feathers (ours were about 3 1/2-4" long)
  • Markers
Directions:

1. Cut a 5" (or so) circle from the center of the paper plate, leaving the outer rim of the plate intact.

2. Use the hole punch to make a series of holes every inch or so around the inner edge of the ring.

3. Use markers to decorate the ring with patterns and images as desired.

4. Weave the 48" piece of yarn through the holes in the inner edge of the ring going across the ring to create a web for the bad dreams to get caught in. This is the fun part--even young children can relax and weave this inner section. The funkier, the better! We secured the beginning and ends of our yarn to the back of the ring with clear tape.

5. Use the hole punch to create a single hole at the top of the ring to hang the dream catcher. Make a loop from one of the 12" long strands of yarn, run it through the hole and knot it to secure. If you like, you can string a couple of pony beads onto the hanging loop to add some color.

6. Use the hole punch to create three holes about an inch apart along the bottom edge of the dream catcher. Feed the remaining 12" strands of yarn through the holes and double knot to secure. Feed pony beads onto the yarn coming from each hole. Knot and then use clear tape to attach a feather to the bottom of each strand. Trim excess yarn with scissors. Repeat to make three strands of beads with feathers coming off the bottom of the dream catcher. I made the center stand slightly longer than the other two.

7. Hang above your bed to catch all of those bad dreams! Nighty-night!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Peach-Faced Lovebird in Oil Pastels

About four years ago, my husband was hanging out in his garage with the doors open and in flew this little guy...a peach-faced lovebird! My hubby nabbed him and brought him in to me (no, I didn't believe the bird just FLEW into his shop...). Originally from Africa, this lovebird was far from home showing up in New Hampshire! We put ads in the papers, but never found his owners. "Bird," yep, that's his name, became a part of our family. The children love him and he seems to not mind the noise and activity that four children seem to create.

This isn't my Bird, but he looks just like this!

One of my younger art students loves animals, so I thought drawing Bird would be a great idea! My student had enjoyed working with craypas and baby oil on watercolor paper, so we used that technique. I had downloaded some images of peach-faced lovebirds to have on hand just in case Bird was being tempermental and we set up camp in front of his cage to observe and draw.

Here's my student with our model.
Bird must have loved the attention because he sat there on his perch and looked very handsome! When we looked away too long, he started performing and perching on the side of the cage so he could look upside down at us while we worked. What a great reminder to look at the subject you are drawing more than your paper!

Her drawings came out lovely--here's the final one where she used oil pastels for the bird and then watercolor pencils with a bit of water to soften the edges to create a nice, outdoorsy atmosphere for Bird.
Who would believe a bird could come in such colors!
It's nice to see Bird outdoors instead of behind the bars of the cage.

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