Saturday, December 31, 2011

Easy Silhouettes

I love the look of silhouettes! They can go with just about any decor: traditional, modern, eclectic--you name it! They are a great way of preserving your child's image at a certain point in time, and they are also a great example of positive and negative space. 

A silhouette of my oldest guy--so handsome!

Positive space is the space an object occupies (in this case, the head of the person whose silhouette is being done). Negative space is the area around the object. I chose white paper to highlight the negative space around my silhouettes. Although this craft is simple, it may be best for older children or a grownup to do the actual cutting of the silhouette so that facial features stay intact. This is an inexpensive craft that would be perfect for a gift (think grandparents).

Supplies Needed:

  • Camera
  • Ultra fine point marker
  • Small, sharp scissors (I used embroidery scissors)
  • Black acrylic paint (I used flat paint in "lamp black")
  • Paint brush
  • 3 1/2" x 5" rectangle white paper (I used scrap booking card stock)
  • 5" x 7" rectangle colored paper, your choice of color (I used scrap booking card stock)
  • Black 5" x 7" frame (I bought mine at the dollar store)
  • Glue stick


1. Take a profile picture of the person whose silhouette you will be creating. Make sure they are looking straight ahead and that their hair is neat (girls with long hair can pull it to the side or have it fall down their backs).

2. Print out the picture onto plain white paper. Use the fine point marker to outline the features of the subject. Add a gradually sloping neckline. You may need to draw in the bottom edge of their hair if it went beyond the picture. I try to keep the bottom edge of the silhouette simple and neat, but I do have a little fun when I'm drawing in the ends of the hair. Just don't go too crazy--remember, you'll have to cut it all out!

3. Use a small, sharp pair of scissors to cut out the image.

4. Paint the cutout with a coat of black acrylic paint and let it dry for several hours or overnight. 

5. Glue the cutout to the white paper. Glue the white paper to the larger, colored, piece of card stock. Insert into the frame and you are done! These are so fast you may find that you'll want to do a whole series of silhouettes! ENJOY!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gifts From the "Art" Class

Last week I finished a mini course with students in 2nd through 4th grade where they create eight art-inspired gifts for giving. The course was fun to prepare for--I had to choose projects the children would love to make that resulted in gifts they would be proud to give! I think the class was very successful. 

The projects we created were:

Stained Glass Plate: based on rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, this project is pretty much a black snowflake-like shape decoupaged onto a clear glass plate with tissue paper squares added for color. These are striking displayed on a plate rack where light can shine from behind. We used Mod Podge to attach both the "snowflakes" and the tissue paper squares to the back of clear glass plates.
Faux stained glass plate

Watercolor coasters: The children used crayons and watercolors to create four pieces of art (Christmas images and the four seasons were popular). These paintings were then cropped and inserted into a glass coaster set.
One student's set of coasters with a holiday theme.

Mexican Folk Art-Inspired Ornaments: The original post for this can be found here.

Pillow Pals: The children drew an animal, doll or critter onto white cotton using permanent marker and crayon. The image was heat set and stuffed with fiberfil. The result was a unique stuffed animal for a younger sibling.
Coloring in a turtle Pillow Pal. We used black Sharpies to outline and regular Crayola crayons to color in the images. When done, heat set using a warm, dry iron and a pressing cloth.

Framed Silhouette: I took the children's profile pictures in the first class, printed them out, cut them out with scissors and then painted the shapes. The children mounted these on white paper for contrast and then on a larger piece of colored card stock and framed the piece. Mom is sure to love those! I'll have a more detailed post about this in the future.

Mosaic candles: We used the technique from the snowglobe mosaics post to create little mosaics (7x7 squares). The children could do a holiday image such as a tree or snowflake, or the initial of the gift recipient. The resulting mosaic was decoupaged onto a ready-made glass candle using Mod Podge.

Peg game: We used the process from an earlier post for a Valentine's Day peg game, but I changed the image to a tree. Dad will love that game!

Hand woven fleece scarf: We used a technique similar to one that I saw in Family Fun magazine, but substituted different types of yarn for a more artistic look and feel. The resulting scarf is sophisticated, and a great intro to weaving. Plus it used up some of the yarn I had in my stash!

Lots of great projects! I have had wonderful feedback from the parents and students! I think this course increased the students' confidence in being able to create a quality finished art piece as well as showing them that the best gifts really do come from the heart. Have a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mexican Folk Art Ornaments

Ooooh, I have a special treat for you today! Tooled metal ornaments inspired by Mexican folk art! They are so bright and shiny, the children just loved making them!
Mexican Folk Art Ornament

When I am looking for inspiration for art projects, I look pretty much everywhere: my Art History books, gift catalogs, and magazines to name a few of my sources. My grandmother loves to bring me magazines that she's done with. No matter how old the magazine is, I love to look through them for techniques and inspiration. This craft was originally published in "Crafts" magazine in 1984. I loved the look of these ornaments and thought my art kids would love to make them. I was right! They LOVED making these. I had them make little cards to put them in so they could give them to a loved one as a gift.

The tooling aluminum needed to be ordered online from, but it was so worth it! I ordered a roll for just under $6 and combined with a couple of other things, shipping was only $7. I know that seems like a bit much, but I did have a few things in my order and the tooling aluminum is a roll of 15' or so, enough for plenty of ornaments! Plus, it is a medium that is unusual for the children to work in. I highly recommend it! So, let's get started!

Supplies Needed:

  • Tooling aluminum, available from
  • Newspaper
  • Dull pencil or blunt stick for tooling the design
  • Sharpie markers or other permanent felt tipped markers in a variety of colors (I had an eight color assortment available, but so many beautiful colors are available!)
  • Hole punch
  • 8" piece of ribbon for hanging
If you would like to make this as part of a card, see the end of this post.


1. Choose a design for your ornament, we used the full size ornament patterns that were published in "Crafts" magazine, but I also had a few blank ornament shapes available for children to design their own. I encouraged the children to design bold designs with clear, large shapes. I also told them to fill up the entire ornament shape and add some details to their design (tons of little details may get lost, but I didn't want them to just draw one little shape in the middle of the ornament and say they were done). Just to be sure they created designs that would work, I had them show me their drawings "for approval" before they started tooling.

2. Using scissors, cut a piece of the aluminum roughly the size of your ornament. We used 4 1/2" x 6" rectangles. Tape the paper with your ornament design to the aluminum to hold it in place while you work.

3. Place the aluminum onto a pad of newspaper. This will create a soft surface for the metal. Using a dull pencil and firm pressure, trace over all of the lines of your design.

4. Once your design is done, use scissors to cut out the shape of the ornament. I found that younger children had trouble with this part and sometimes the ornament would get all bent up or the outer shape would become distorted. So if you are working with younger children, you may want to cut the ornaments out yourself.

5. Flip the ornament over and gently color the raised surfaces with permanent markers. The children can create large areas of color and then add details with a darker color on top. Encourage doing one's best work, taking one's time and adding details and pattern.

6. Once done, have the child add his/her name and date to the back.

7. Use a hole punch to create a hole for hanging and add ribbon to hang the ornament.

8. Attach to a card if desired. See my card directions, below. Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas)!

Some of the ornaments done my my students


To make this project into a card:

Additional Supplies Needed: you'll need construction paper for the card, an envelope, tape to adhere the ornament to the card and the optional information for inside the card (see the info later on in the post).

Cut a piece of construction paper so that it fits inside the envelope you have. Inside the card, glue the greeting and the information about the project. Have the child sign the card.

The greeting I used was:

Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad!

(Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness)

 May the Spirit of the season bring you joy and peace.

I also included this information on the card: 

Tooled Metal Ornaments

Congratulations! You are the proud recipient of a hand-tooled and hand-colored metal ornament. These ornaments are done in the style of Mexican folk art with markers standing in for the traditional paint. The children used tooling aluminum from, pressing their designs into the metal with a dull pencil, then added color with permanent Sharpie markers.

Care of your ornament: the tin is bendable, so care should be taken to keep it from being crushed. It should also be hung up away from little ones since the marker could come off if the ornament is chewed on and the edges are a bit sharp for delicate fingers.

Use tape to attach the ornament to the front of the card and draw a "frame" around the ornament with a felt tip marker to fancy up the front of the card. Done!

Note: if you are going to write a name on the front of the envelope, do so before you put the ornament in the envelope or you will ruin the ornament. Also, take care not to fold or bend the ornament--the metal is pretty thin and will crush and/or bend easily. If you want to mail this card, you'll have to put it in a crush- and bend- proof package.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inuit Soap Carvings

I have been wanting to try this project for a long time! In my "Art Around the World" class we have a little extra time, so I thought it would be the perfect class to try an introduction to carving using soap and simple tools. I originally saw this project in the book "A Survival Kit for the Elementary/Middle School Art Teacher, " by Helen Hume. This is a wonderful book that has a number of great projects. I like how her projects have a "Teacher Page" with background info and alternative lesson plans as well as a "Student Page" that you could photocopy and hand to students to refer to as they work their way through the project.
Polar Bear, looking up.

I started class by flipping through the book "The Inuit: Ivory Carvers of the Far North," by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack. This book is full of great information and images that aided in my giving a brief background on the Inuit people and their beautiful carvings.

I then gave each student a copy of the Inuit Bear Carving Lesson plan from Dick Blick Art Supplies. That lesson is intended to be done by carving a foam block, but the diagrams easily translate to a bar of soap. The handout shows, step-by-step, how the child should carve the block to create a lovely 3D representation of a bear.

I really do encourage you to try this project with your child. It's wonderful to see them working and planning as they carve the soap away! Enjoy!

Supplies Needed:

  • Bar of soap (I used plain Ivory)
  • Newspaper (for working on and collecting soap chips)
  • Skewer or toothpick
  • Potato peeler, plastic knife and spoon
  • Plastic kitchen scrubber
  • Handout from (optional, but helpful)

If you are creating a polar bear, you can follow the handout from Dick Blick. Some of my students decided to create turtles since I had brought in a carving of a turtle. I had them work from the figure and I walked them through carving the piece. 

I think older students could design their own carvings, but younger students or first-timers may have more success if they work from a plan. Or, if your student is comfortable "winging it," let them go for it and see what animal emerges from their carving!

Carving the rough shape of the turtle with a vegetable peeler.

Adding the final details with the point of a skewer.

Another Polar Bear!

And a cute little turtle!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Story Totem Poles

The last time I taught an art class about totem poles I had the children create family totem poles. They could bring in pictures of their family members or draw them. They came out great and the children were very happy with them. While looking online for totem pole images, I came across an idea that got me thinking a bit: Story Totem Poles from Art Smarts 4 Kids. She used a simple story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and had the children illustrate the characters and plot on a totem pole.

In this piece, the student shows the Old Man with his cloak, and then attached the Old Man and Rock with the same fastener so that he could show 1. the rock on top of the fallen Old Man and 2. the rock cracking in two. The Night Hawk is on a tab so that it moves down the Totem pole and can touch the rock (and crack it in two) as in the story.
So clever!

I decided to have the children illustrate a Native American tale and I found a few great ones at Apples 4 The Teacher. I chose "Why The Night Hawk Has Beautiful Wings." Besides having a couple of moral lessons, it is also a funny story and has great visuals for the children to explore. Here's the tale.

Supplies Needed:

  • Paper towel roll
  • Construction paper (I used green, brown and white)
  • Markers/Colored Pencils/Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Clear tape
  • Wing template, optional
  • Brass fasteners, optional
  • Images of totem pole figures and a picture of a Night Hawk for reference, optional

1. Read the story to the students. Once I was finished, we discussed characters and plot. I then gave a brief discussion on totem pole art, highlighting some of the features they may want to include in their totem pole designs (3D wings, etc).

2. I gave each student a 6 1/2" x 12" piece of construction paper (green) to use as a base for their artwork. The children then divided it into about 5 horizontal sections (change this based on how many characters and plot points you want to show). I instructed the students to work directly on or attach their work on this piece of paper--flat on the table--and then when it was done, they could glue it to the tube.

The children could draw right on the background paper, or could illustrate their characters on a half sheet of white construction paper, cut them out and glue them to the background paper. I also gave them a half sheet of brown to use for the Night Hawk and/or the stone from the story, if they wanted. 

I also showed them how they could add motion to their totem poles (not really traditional, but fun!), by attaching characters to the background paper with brass fasteners (you know, the ones that allow things to spin. See the pictures for reference). I showed them how they could attach a picture of a stone with a brass fastener to make it roll, a key point in the "Night Hawk" story. They loved that idea and many of them took the mechanical aspect of the project even further (see photos).

3. Once the characters and images of plot points are completely colored in, cut them out and attach them to the background paper with glue. Work the story from the bottom of the totem pole up (that is more traditional). Attach any pieces that require the brass fasteners to the background NOW (before you glue the paper to the background). Wings and other 3D elements are added later, in step 5.

4. Once all of the pieces are on the background, turn the entire thing over and spread glue on the back (we used a glue stick, but white school glue would work). Roll it around the paper towel roll and secure with a couple pieces of clear tape, if needed.

5. Add any 3D elements such as wings or a beak using the glue stick.

Done! Enjoy watching your child retell the story using his or her Story Totem Pole!

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