Monday, January 16, 2017

GET SCHOOLED. Remember how we started this series talking about seeing the world? I want to build on that concept this week. I know that sometimes we don’t know where to start when creating, or helping our children create. Our minds are blank, and we have zero ideas. I’ve been there, and something that really helps is studying the art of others. Visit a museum or check out a book from the library on art or history. Find something that fits your child’s interests. Heck, just google Michelangelo and see your kids’ reactions when you tell them that he was paid to paint on the walls and ceiling. Exposing yourself and your children to lasting art will simply add more knowledge and richness to your own art. You might discuss the short, broken line quality of Van Gogh, or Monet's interest in the changing light, or the surrealism of Magritte. Your child might love the minimal colorblocking of Mondrian, and you might be totally moved, as I am, by the rich layering of Rothko’s color fields, through which he expressed fundamental human emotions. You might come home and let your research give direction to your next project. Note, too, that anything can inform an art project, and that historical references can be especially inspiring. If your child is fascinated by knights and castles, look at ornate tapestries, coats of arms, and medieval clothing. A really great way to start a project is by having a reference in subject, technique, materials, or format; for example, my girls were enamored with a beautiful gilded egg we found at a yard sale. So we looked at pictures of Faberge’s famous jeweled eggs and decided to make our own.


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Her favorite thing to do these days is read. Sometimes it gets quiet around the house, and I love that I just know this is what she's doing. #hellohelen


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Monday, January 9, 2017

Make itt: Cutout Collage. Key concepts: abstraction, shape, color, composition. Materials: construction or origami paper, patterned or painted paper (optional), scissors, large sheet of white paper, glue stick. 1. Spend some time studying the large-scale cut paper works that Henri Matisse created late in life. We read two great children’s books: Henri’s Scissors by J. Winter is colorful and beautifully done--it’s wonderful for learning about his life and later artistic process. Blue & Other Colors with Henri Matisse (pub. Phaidon) is a very simple book showing his use of shape and color. We spent a while looking at the abstract shapes and discussing what they reminded us of--mermaids, alligators, leaves, men with funny chins! It’s a great book to use to start training a young mind to see abstractly. 2. Start cutting that paper! I brought in some fern leaves and jackson vine for some shape inspiration. // My girls were pretty self-motivated during this part; Farris was cutting all kinds of shapes and naming them different representational things. Charlotte was not too fond of this project at first, as she is more drawn to realism (she says, although her art says otherwise), but after a while of discussing the freedom that comes with a project based on discovery instead of having to perfectly produce something fixed in her brain, she came around and started enjoying layering the shapes to create compositions. I also told her that using scissors instead of “line” tools like pen and pencil is a great exercise to help us to think about shapes. At a few points along the way, we discussed how certain objects in the room could be cut out of paper if we simplified them into shapes (for example, a desk = one big rectangle and four thin rectangles). You can also discuss organic lines vs. geometric lines (edges of your shapes). // 3. Once you have plenty of shapes cut, begin moving them around on the paper to create compositions. Don’t forget that you can use the “leftover paper” (negative space) from where a shape has been cut out! 4. Once you’re satisfied with the composition, glue them down!


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THINK FREELY (part 2). So let’s see abstraction in use: 1. USE ABSTRACTION TO DEPICT FIGURATIVE SUBJECTS. Thinking abstractly and stylistically about a subject means you can break it down into its more elemental parts. Notice the defining characteristics. Are you painting a still life? Really look at your subject, and then determine what elements and principles best fit to convey your message. Maybe those flower petals are a series of quick dots with the paintbrush. Perhaps the edge of a leaf is a beautiful nuanced, organic line of varying width. Maybe you want to convey a sense of airiness or lightness, so you set the flowers to one edge in the frame and paint in a lot of negative space (area around the subject). The shadow on the edge of the vase might be a purple triangle. You could use some very quick marks to show life and movement, and restrained marks for contrast. 2. GIVE ABSTRACT IDEAS A VISUAL CONTEXT. We’re doing the same thing here as before, simply thinking about which elements and principles of design might best express an abstract feeling or thought. Do you want a landscape that feels subdued and moody? You might stick to a very cool color palette, with undertones of blue, green, and grey throughout. Your marks might be more repetitive and horizontal to suggest calmness. Do you want a purely abstract painting that expresses vitality and joy? Think about your visual tools that might express this: Color! Movement! Variety! Check out the next post for a project idea to strengthen this mode of crossover thinking, and visit the link in profile for a great article I found on Our Everyday Life. It contains some good ideas to help children think abstractly in everyday goings-on. // Image: stained glass windows by Farris.


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THINK FREELY (part 1). Hi everyone! Welcome back to Mixed Media Musings! I'm excited to seek out beauty and goodness in this new year. Bear with me for a long-ish post--this week is about the incredible importance of abstraction! Let’s look at a couple definitions of the word: 1. the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events. 2. freedom from representational qualities in art. Remember those elements and principles of design? Well, guess what? Those are your tools to express abstract ideas AND to depict figurative (AKA representational) subjects in art! I think one of the most crucial things an artist or designer can know is how to crossover from thinking figuratively--as well as concretely--to abstractly and back again. What does this mean? It means that you can look at a spindly wooden chair, and one minute you see it as a functional object used for sitting, and the next you see a holder for all the clothes on the floor, a foundational wall for a fort, or even a giraffe body if your little girl is going on a safari in the kitchen. The minute after that, you see a group of wooden lines interacting in space to make a subject that looks like a chair. Those stars in the sky? They aren’t stars; they’re just dots of light. That group of mountains is a series of overlapping purple triangles, and the cotton fields a repetition of lines. The shoebox in your closet is really just a group of rectangles that converge in space to make a box, and it can be a doll bed, dog body (right, @silver_spork?), or charging station as well as a container for shoes. See how I’m freeing these figurative things from their conventional roles as well as translating them into the elements and principles of design? It also means that you can have a idea or feeling and use these same elements and principles to give it a visual expression. Abstraction in art gives IMPACT to visual expression and VISUAL LIFE to ideas.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

#mixedmediamonday is taking a break for the holidays! See y'all in a few weeks!


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Make it: Animals in a jungle. “The following rhymed stanza provides clues young children can use to add interest to their compositions: Something big, something small, Something short, something tall, Something dark, something light, Helps to make your drawing right.” --Emphasis Art, Frank Wachowiak Key concepts: line, color, pattern, shape. Materials: colored construction paper, chalk or pencil, black felt-tipped marker (Sharpie or other) or black tempera paint and brush, oil pastels. 1. Start with observing animals--this could be a trip to the zoo, visit to the aquarium, watching a pet, or even a web search of wild animals. We started this project looking at jungle animals, and Farris decided to draw a sheep instead. You could even draw an imaginary animal! Notice characteristics, including textured skin, spots, the curve of a horn or the pattern of scales. 2. Using school chalk or pencil, draw the contour of the animals. Encourage your child to draw big and fill up the page! Fill in with foliage, flowers, small animals, etc. Go over the line with the sharpie or black tempera. 3. Fill in shapes--including the negative space of the background--with oil pastel. This would be a great time to add pattern or texture, as well. Continue looking at pictures of animals and foliage as you’re working, for extra inspiration. // Project idea adapted from Emphasis Art, Wachowiak.


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SPEAK THE LANGUAGE. One of the most helpful things we were told in school was by Professor Kelly Bryant. She told us that if we were ever stuck in the concept stage of design, unable to move on to process and aesthetic, we should reference our elements and principles of design and name the things that best communicated our idea. Wanting to communicate high energy, vibrancy, movement? Maybe you use warm colors and short, spontaneous lines all across the composition. [line + color ]. Want to express stability? Perhaps you use a rectangle that is repeated several times. [shape + rhythm]. Tranquility? How about subtle layers of washes, similar sizes, calm colors? [balance, unity, color, shape]. This exercise has been invaluable to me as I have used it time and again in my art and design process over the years. // Quick note: I mean for these posts to build on one another, but also to be individual "101" type lessons that can be further explored as desired. For further study, do some reading on the elements and principles of design, and reference articles and art history books with art examples that show them in use. The library would be a great place to start, and many universities have accessible course materials online, as well. In so doing, you'll start to learn this new language and how to use it. Later today I'll post a "wild" project idea to try with kids! Don't forget to tag me and #mixedmediamonday so I can see what you're doing!


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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gold Angel | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Three Angels in White 3 | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Three Angels in White 2 | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Three Angels in White 1 | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Three Angels in Green | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10. $125.


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Mary in Garden | watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10. $125.


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Mary and Saints | watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10. $125.


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Four Angels in White and Star | Gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Angels Swirling | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $155.


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Angels in Garden | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $55.


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Angel and Child 3 | Watercolor, gouache and pastel on brown paper. 8x10". $125.


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Three Angels in Blue | Gouache and pastel on brown paper. 5x7". $55.


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Four Angels in Blue and Star | Gouache and pastel on brown paper. 5x7". $55.


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Angel on Green 2 | Gouache and pastel on brown paper. 5x7". $55.


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Angel on green | Gouache and pastel on brown paper. 5x7". $55.


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Art sale! I'll be posting about a dozen original paintings available for purchase later today. Comment "sold" and direct message me your email address to schedule payment. Priority follows order of comments. Stay tuned!


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Monday, December 12, 2016

Make it: Patterned Salamander Wax Resist. Key concepts: Pattern, texture, symmetry. Materials: roughly 8x10 sheet of heavy paper (watercolor or other), watercolors, oil pastels or crayons, table salt. 1. Look at images of salamanders and chameleons for color and pattern inspiration. Better yet, catch a lizard in your backyard! 2. Fold paper in half lengthwise and draw one side of a salamander along the fold. Cut out, to make one complete salamander when unfolded. 3. Using pastels or crayons, create different patterns along the body. 4. Watercolor different colors on top and watch the wax of the pattern resist the water! 5. Sprinkle salt on top of the watercolor and let dry. Shake it off and notice the beautiful visual texture it created!


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LEARN THE PRINCIPLES. We’ve talked about elements of design; now let’s talk about how these are used in art. We make these elements do what we want them to by harnessing them with the principles of design: balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, and unity. What happens when you repeat a line? You get repetition and pattern. What happens when you turn it diagonally and give it a curve? You get movement. What happens when you put a big line on one side and a tiny line on the other? You don’t get balance--and you might not want balance. Maybe you’re trying to communicate tension or pain; well, imbalance would be a great tool for you to use. The point here is to see the rules of how these elements can be used. This will make your art--or your child’s--stronger than not knowing the rules at all. So for today, explore some of these principles with your child. Notice the variety of flowers in a garden or the repetition of string lights over the streets downtown. Try putting one big shape in the lower left of a composition and two small shapes in the upper right; you’ve got asymmetrical balance! See how the drawing feels when one person is much bigger than the others--you’ve got emphasis, which signifies importance, and this might be exactly what your child intended. Next week we’ll learn about using these principles for our purposes. Stay tuned for a very reptilian project idea!


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Monday, December 5, 2016

Make it: Paper Marbling. Key concepts: color, line, shape. Materials: Large sheet of heavy white paper, shaving cream, food coloring, baking sheet, spatula or credit card for scraping and tools for marbling (such as a butter knife or toothpick). 1. Spread shaving cream into baking sheet. 2. Put drops of food coloring all over the shaving cream, and start marbling! Use your toothpick or knife to make lots of swirls and lines in the shaving cream. 3. Lay the paper gently on the shaving cream and press. Leave for about 30 seconds and pull off. 4. Lay paper flat, with shaving cream side facing up, and scrape off excess shaving cream with spatula. Use a paper towel to get remaining spots if needed. 5. Voila! Use your marbled paper to make a bookmark, book cover, or to cut shapes for another project! // Project idea from happyhooligans.ca.


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LEARN THE ELEMENTS. I’ve posted on seeing our world and the importance of process; this week let’s talk about some fundamentals by which all art and design is made--things you can look for when you look around you. I’m talking about the elements of design: line, color, shape, form, space, value, and texture. Start looking for these things when you observe the world, and observe the world with your children: notice the arch of your baby’s mouth (that’s line); the purple of the mountains as the sun sets (color); quilt squares (shape); the rounded curve of an egg (form); birds flying (positive space) against the sky (negative space); the white of the sun on a tin roof or the darkness of a shadow (value); or the smoothness of silk (texture). Everything we see can be deconstructed into these elements, and they are your tools for communication and expression--the language of art and design. Talk about these things when your child is creating. Explore different line quality: organic, geometric, thick, thin, broken, continuous, sharp, broken. See what you can find that is a line--a stick is a good example--and see what you can “draw” by putting many of them together. Practice exploring shape by making compositions with cut paper. When you start viewing the world as the elements of design, you are on your way to expressing what you see--and think and feel--through art.


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Monday, November 28, 2016

Make it: Paper Weaving. // Key concepts: Media discovery and exploration, shape, symmetry, pattern. // Materials: Watercolor set, 2-3 brushes in varying sizes; 2 large sheets of watercolor paper or white drawing paper (around 9x12; you can tear a big sheet of paper into smaller pieces if you need); glue stick; oil pastels or crayons. Remember: Break up this project into two or three sessions if you need to! Allow time for art appreciation, discussion, thought, and discovery. // 1. Spend some time looking at textiles, discussing different lines, shapes, motifs (such as diamonds, triangles, squares, stars, flowers, houses, etc.) and symmetry. An easy place to start would be a quick web search of “folk quilts,” “quilts of Gee’s bend” or “Native American textiles.” If you’re doing this project with your child, remember you can tailor it to his/her interests. 2. Using 2 or 3 different brushes, paint both sheets of paper, experimenting with washes, linear marks, and splatters, and let dry. 3. Take one sheet and cut it into strips width-wise. Take the other and cut it nearly into strips length-wise, stopping the cuts a couple of inches before you reach the end of the paper. 4. Use your pastels to draw some of the shapes and motifs you found in your quilt study onto the shorter loose strips. [Note: You might decide to do this after step 5 if it bothers your child that some of the drawing will be covered up by the weaving.] 5. Weave the short strips into the long ones and use a dab of glue on the ends to keep in place. Notice how the watercolor and pastel sections now interact with each other in different ways. Hang your paper “textile” on the wall and admire it!


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