It’s Not About Art: Skill-building in the studio

The other day I was going through photos of our art space over the years and it hit me how much my girls have learned from having a dedicated art space in our home.

I always say that having an art space is about so much more than just having a place to do art. But I realized that maybe I take this for granted and maybe other people don’t know what happens in an art space over time.

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Family Art Events On The Road

When we began planning this 3-month Airstream tour around the US, I knew right away that I wanted to host pop-up family art events along the way. I wanted to connect with families across the country and share creative activities that might inspire them to bring more art and creativity and into their lives. But how was I going to pull that off?

The best thing about being a blogger is the friendships that I have made with other art teachers and creative mamas around the world. So once we had our trip route down, I of course went straight to my community of art teacher friends along the route and asked them to collaborate on a family art event in their town.

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Art Workshop For Children: Self-Portraits

Let me introduce you to my favorite new book about process art and Reggio-inspired learning. Friends, meet Art Workshop For Children. Art Workshop For Children, please meet my friends. I’m sure you guys will get along really well.

Art Workshop for Children, by Barbara Rucci and Betsy McKenna, is a breathtaking book (the photos literally made me gasp when I first flipped through the pages) filled with unique process-based art activities for kids and tips on how to prepare your art space for creative exploration. I especially love the thoughtful reflections woven throughout the book by Reggio-inspired educator, Betsy McKenna, on how to raise creative thinkers and why this is important for all children.

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Drawing Games With Jeanette Nyberg

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Jeanette Nyberg and her hilarious blog, Craftwhack, go check it out and I promise you will not be disappointed. Not only does Jeanette’s humor shine through in everything she does, but she is incredibly creative and has an awesome eye for design. After years of drooling over her blog, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard she was coming out with an art book for kids! I received a copy of Jeanette’s book for review and am excited to share it with you today.

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Make-A-Wish Collaborative Art

Last Saturday The Art Pantry team was invited to create a playful family experience for the Walk For Wishes event held at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Ca. This was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area foundation to raise money in order to fulfill the wishes of kids with life-threatening medical conditions. If you haven’t heard of them, check out the Batkid wish they granted almost two years ago. Incredible.

I’m happy to say that the event raised enough money to grant 13 wishes!

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Secret Message Valentine Gift Experiment

Karuna recently discovered these cute mini paint sets in the toy store. I didn’t know if they would paint very well, but I thought they were the perfect size to give as gifts with a secret message Valentine (one of my many “Pinspirations“). We first cut out a heart from watercolor paper, then used a white crayon to draw a hidden Valentine message. The white crayon on white paper keeps it invisible until you paint over it with watercolor. The crayon will then resist the watercolor and you will see your message!

Karuna was so excited to find out what her secret message was, but sadly this little paint set was not up for the challenge. The small brush created scratches in the paper and the paint trays couldn’t hold enough water to lose their opacity.

So we started over and tried a real watercolor brush and some better quality paint and… voila! The secret message was revealed!

With the success of our new paints, Karuna couldn’t be stopped. If I hadn’t convinced her to take a lunch break, I think she could have gone all day making secret Valentines. I’ll remember this next time I need to do some work around the house :)
I’m still intrigued by the idea of giving a secret card with an attached watercolor set.  With a nice set, this little baggy would be an awesome goody bag, thank you card, or birthday present. Just write an invisible note and gift away!
 

Watercolor and Foam Exploration

For our watercolor week, the children explored liquid watercolor in a variety of ways. They started by drawing on the watercolor paper with oil pastels so they could investigate the “resist” effect between the oil and water. When they painted over their drawings, the oil pastel resists the water and shows through the paint. If you want to try this at home, our Make+Believe Wonderful Watercolor Resist! Supply Kit includes everything you need.

Using tools, such as the eye dropper or the spray bottle, help to build their little hand muscles and develop fine motor skills. Since the watercolor is much more fluid than tempera paint, working at the easel adds a whole new dimension to their paintings- lots of drips and downward movement!

This session we introduced some jumbo coffee filters to paint on. The dried results are really cool- keep your eye out for our upcoming group project using the painted coffee filters!

 A favorite activity… spraying white foam paint, then driving toy trucks through the foam.

For our older toddlers, we introduced the idea of drawing a self portrait with the oil pastels using a hand held mirror for reference.

I love to see how the older children interact with materials in different ways from the young toddlers. With the foam paint, they carefully dropped watercolor onto the foam and created a marbled effect by swirling a brush through the colors.

Watercolor Techniques and Valentines

We started off our watercolor week with a bleeding tissue experiment in the 1s/2s classes. The children placed pieces of “bleeding” tissue paper (the colors bleed when wet) onto their watercolor paper and used a variety of tools to moisten the tissue with water. When the watercolor dry, the children will use them as a base for making valentines.

Aside from the basic sponges, the children used droppers, sponge rollers, sponge stamps, and spray bottles to get their tissues to transfer color to their paper. All of these tools provide the kids with  different opportunities to develop their fine motor skills.

The spray bottles are not only a blast (pun intended!), but they also help to strengthen little hand muscles.

 Spray bottles and brushes were used at the easels with liquid watercolor to explore the dripping effect.

After some super wet exploration, the kids were introduced to foam paint (a non-toxic paint with a shaving creme texture). I like to provide white foam paint so the kids can add paint themselves and create their own colors. Adding glitter is fun too!

 Spraying foam paint on the acrylic wall panel offered a different kind of messy sensory experience!

In the older 3s/4s and 4s/5s classes, the children started off with a still life drawing of a pot of daffodils. For their drawings they used black sharpies and oil pastels, which are a great base for the watercolor resist technique. Each child was given a few different sized pieces of watercolor paper so they could eventually turn these works into Valentines.

After drawing, the children were given liquid watercolor and watercolor brushes to add more dimension to their work.

 A finished still life from the 4s/5s class:

If you’d like to try these techniques at home, check out our Make+Believe Wonderful Watercolor Resist! Supply Kit.
After working on the paintings, the kids made different Valentines by gluing small collage items onto bright tag board. The hearts and butterfly paper shapes were made by using a paper puncher on old paintings- a great way to re-use old artwork that you would otherwise throw away!

With our sporadic weather, we occasionally hit a warm day and get to have some fun outside in the garden after art class. It looks like a dance party going on on top of the hay stacks!

Watercolor Exploration

For the second week of art class, we focused on liquid watercolors. We began with an oil pastel/watercolor resist technique where the combination of an oil pastel drawing and watercolor painting creates a resist effect. The oil pastel resists the watercolor and shows through the painting!

The 2s classes practiced making marks and drawing shapes. Then painted over their drawing with liquid watercolors.

Of course glitter was involved and some children chose items from the shelf to incorporate into their paintings.

We also practiced more fine motor skills by using droppers to suck up the paint and drop it onto coffee filters. This type of paper soaks up the watercolor to make an interesting tie-die effect.

Finally, the 2s classes, had a super sensory exploration with white foam paint (which feels like shaving cream, but is non-toxic), watercolors, and fun tools!

For the drawing portion of the 3s/4s classes, we focused on self-portraits. Each child was given a hand mirror to study their faces before using oil pastels to try to draw themselves.

After a fun attempt at self-portraits, the kids began to explore the watercolors with droppers, toy cars, and glitter.

After class, the kids continued the fun outside- playing at the water table and spraying liquid watercolors onto a large drop cloth.

The evolving garden at GROW also proved to be a source of non-stop entertainment. The chickens and bunny were enticing the younger ones, while the older boys were engaged in some hard work… filling up a wheelbarrow with logs and straw!