Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kandinsky Mixed Media Study

This past week was the beginning of semester 2 of Modern Art with my homeschool kiddos. I began with a great little get-to-know-you project I've posted before where the students move about to four different stations experimenting with different media and making color study pictures like Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky. The students were required to make four squares (one in colored pencil, one in marker, one in collage and one with watercolor resist), but a few had time to complete 6 squares.

Here's the original post on the how-to of doing this projects with the four stations.


Monday, January 28, 2013

American Masters Shrink Art Bracelet

I am SO thrilled with this project! I have been trying to think of some ways to create a project where children could create a series of mini masterpieces after famous artists and then put them all together as one project at the end. My take on this: the Mini Masters Shrink Art Bracelet! A great project for a survey of art history! You could focus on whatever type of art history you'd like, or create a series of panels focusing on one artist.

In this project, I took 1 1/2" x 1 3/4" pieces of shrink art film (plastic) and created a series of mini masterpieces patterned after famous American artists. I had originally created WAY too many, but the final bracelet has 8 panels to fit my wrist. This is a lovely way to introduce students to basic jewelry making skills as well.

These are the tiles after shrinking, but before I linked them with the jump rings.
Can you name all of the artists? The first one is tricky since it is so dark,
it's a heart like Jim Dine...
The finished bracelet, all linked together. Some of the panels (above)
didn't make it since I only needed 8 for my wrist.
I'll be making a version of these with my Middle School students after school on February 8th. I'll post detailed instructions and their versions after that.


I won! YIPEE!

So, it's no great secret that I LOVE MaryAnn Kohl's books, as a few of my lessons have been inspired by those in her books. Her book, "Discovering Great Artists" is one I constantly reference in my lesson plans. You can check out her website to see more of her books at Her website also has a section with free art activities. These are samples from her various books and are worth a look.

She also has a monthly newsletter she sends out with timely art projects and activities to do with children. I've been subscribing to her newsletter for a while and this month's Valentine's crafts are great!  One activity she suggests is having a Valentine tea time ready for when the children get home from school. I've done this before with my first son, but I had totally forgotten about it--it's on the agenda for Valentine's Day this year--I think my boys are going to love that!

So, on to my *bragging*...

Every month, MaryAnn has a contest where one newsletter subscriber is chosen at random to receive one of her books, and, TA-DA! This month I won! I won "Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiments." The book is 140+ pages, organized in the same way as her other books, with great indexes and icons that allow you to cross-reference the different types of art and science components used throughout the book.

The chapters are:
  • Water & Air
  • Light & Sight
  • Motion & Energy
  • Reaction & Matter, and
  • Nature & Earth
Each activity has a material list and clear directions as well as a list of variations. There is also a blurb with a brief explanation of the science that is going on in the activity. The activities really straddle the line between art and science, and some of them seem like they'd take minutes to do, but are open-ended enough to provide hours of experimenting...

Even if you have MaryAnn's other books, you will be pleasantly surprised with all of these great projects. And this book is not only good for the art classroom, core classrooms can use use this too. I envision grabbing this book frequently during those long winter (and school vacation) days when I'm hearing choruses of "I'm bored!"

**Disclaimer: Yeah, I received this book for free, since I won it as part of a randomly generated contest. I wrote this post not because I received a free book, but because I think it is a book worth reviewing. Please check out my other posts and you'll see I do this from time to time with other books I've borrowed from the library and/or bought myself from various booksellers.**

Friday, January 25, 2013

Optical Color Mixing With a Dollar Store Top

I love teaching art, but if I *had* to choose something else to teach, it would be science. Science and nature are just unlimited stimulation for a curious mind! Don't worry, I'm not changing my blog's focus! But the science of color kind of creeps in now and then in art and this time I decided to embrace it and surprise my students with a color theory lesson that was a bit, ahem, over the top (groan!)

When doing research on optical color mixing, I found a couple of neat mechanical devices used by scientists to test optical color mixing and immediately thought: TOPS! Could the simple tops I had on hand from the dollar store be used to make a version of Newton's Color Wheel (or Color Top) and teach the children about color mixing in art? Yep!

Pointillists such as George Seurat are frequently thought of when discussing optical color mixing, but many other artists use it too such as the Impressionists and modern artists such as Chuck Close and modern printing (such as in newspapers and magazines also use optical color mixing).

Here are some sites to get you started on your journey:

"Mixing in the Eye," From Drawing From Life by Fred Hatt
"Newton's Color Wheel," From The Department of Physics at Kenyon College
"Color Mixing Wheel-Sick Science," From Steve Spangler Science

I abolutely LOVE the article by Fred Hatt about color mixing in art! Talk about one-stop shopping in terms of info and images!

So, let's get started!

Optical Color Mixing With a Dollar Store Top

Supplies Needed:
  • Top (ours are from the dollar store and were packed two tops per package--what a deal!)
  • White card stock
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Tape, optionnal
  • Sharpies in Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and black
Directions to prepare the tops:

1. Measure the diameter of the top. Ours were about 2 1/2." Create a series of circles that are the diameter of your top on the white card stock. 

2. Use the pencil and the ruler to divide up the circles into quarters, sixths, rings, etc. using the images below or from the links I've provided. It's good to do a few serious experiments first and then leave a few of the circles blank to create some wild tops using your imagination.

3. Color in the circles with various color combos, experimenting with the colors of the rainbow, or a the primaries, or just black and white. Use nice, bold colored markers and do a nice job coloring the sections in (no streaky coloring).

4. Cut out the colored circles and use the hole punch to make a circle in the center to fit over the "handle" of the top. You can secure the paper piece to your top with a rolled bit of tape, if desired.

5. Spin your top and observe what happens.

Some variations to try:

Use the primaries (Red/Yellow/Blue) to make
Secondary colors (Orange/Green/Purple) from the Color Wheel
Now try this one: divide the circle in sixths, color and spin.
What happens? How is this different than if you mixed
all of these colors of paint together?
(Spoiler alert: Pure White Light is created--
see below in the "How does this work?" section).
This experiment also works with value--try different combos
of white and black and see of you can get different tints and shades.
And now have some fun! Try your own color combinations
and see how they turn out! Which of your creations are your
favorites? Which creations surprised you?
How does this work?

When the wheel spins, your eye cannot keep up with the individual colors on the top, so the colors appear to blend. That is how you can create different shades of gray or secondary colors from the primaries. However, when you use the colors of the rainbow something interesting occurs (spoiler alert!). Instead of mixing together and forming black (that's what would happen if you mixed all those colors of paint together on your palette), a pale gray occurs (it is supposed to be white). Pure white light will be created if all of the colors in a rainbow are visually mixed together in perfect balance. Pure white light is a hard thing to create but your color wheel top with six colors will come very close.

Have fun with your experiments!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Valentine's Day Projects (Repost)

Looking for a couple easy projects for St. Valentine's Day? Well, here ya go! These previous posts have been popular and deserve a second go. Some are good for making and giving en masse, and some are for your special sweetie. Either way, enjoy making something for someone you care about!
Positively Cute "I Love You"

This is a nice project to teach positive and negative space and symmetry and makes a cute last-minute Valentine for the wall or as a bookmark. It is super-inexpensive and pretty darn easy. Make one of these for your Valentine today!

Positive/Negative "I Love U" Valentine

Supplies Needed For The Wall Art:

  • Piece of black construction paper (9" x 12") in black
  • Pieces of red and pink construction paper (the red sections are 3" tall and the pink sections are 2 1/4" tall)
  • Pencil
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
Supplies Needed For The Bookmark: 
  • Piece of white posterboard (2" x 5") in white
  • Pieces of red and pink construction paper (1" square)
  • Pencil
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Clear packing tape (2" wide)
  • Hole punch
  • 8" of ribbon

1. Decide on the order of your colored paper pieces.

2. For the first section, the heart, draw a half a heart shape onto the first piece of colored paper. Cut it out. Glue the outside of the heart shape onto the backing of your piece (either the posterboard if you are making a bookmark or the black construction paper if you are making a larger piece). Line up the cut edge the square with the center of your backing paper.

3. Glue the corresponding half heart shape along the center line, "flipped out" from the square it came from. Hmmm....sounds confusing, but look at the picture for a guide.

4. Continue down the column, cutting out half an uppercase "I" another half heart and half an uppercase "U." Finish with another heart, if desired.

5. If you are making the wall art, you are done! If you are making a bookmark, put a strip of clear of packing tape over your design to protect it. Punch a hole in the top edge of the bookmark and add a ribbon, if desired.

Sealed with a kiss! ENJOY!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's a DRAG! Abstract Painting

Here's a quick abstract painting that your middle-schooler can do in minutes. It's pretty addicting, so make sure you have a couple canvases on hand and do one yourself!

It's a DRAG! Abstract Painting

Supplies Needed:

  • Canvas board (canvas stretched over cardboard--you can get multi-packs at the craft store), we used 9" x 12"
  • Acrylic paints in tubes
  • Corrugated cardboard scraps

1. Squeeze some of the acrylic paint onto one edge of the canvas. you'll need a good blob of a couple of colors.

2. Use the flat edge of a cardboard scrap as a squeegie to drag the paint across the canvas. Once you've dragged the paint one way, add more acrylic paint to another edge of the canvas and repeat, dragging toward the opposite edge. It helps if you don't press too hard while you are dragging the cardboard across the canvas--you'll just scrape all the paint off! Use the squeegie lightly to move the paint like you are frosting a cake. Add more blobs of paint and squeegie away, until you get a composition you like.

3. Let the piece dry. At this point, you can be done OR, once the first layers have dried, you can repeat the process again to make the painting more multi-layered. Ta-da! Modern Art!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Secret Code Monogram Calder Mobiles

There are so many great lessons on the mobiles of Alexander Calder, but in case you need another--here's mine! I tried this lesson with my homeschool students and they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. It's a simple intro to mobile-making which can pose some issues to children regarding balance and construction, if they aren't used to working in 3D. We used the code found in the book "The Calder Game" by Blue Balliett in which the children in the book realize that the shapes Calder used in his mobiles are actually symbols for letters and make up a secret code. 

I first saw the idea of using the code from the blog Salamander Art, and have used it in another Calder mobile project. This project works nicely for monograms since most people have three initials so the children could use three shapes from the chart to create their pieces. It was a fun project and many of the children finished early enough that we were able to have a mini critique and I was able to pass back all of their work for the semester. A great last day project.

Secret Code Monogram Calder Mobiles

Supplies Needed:

  • Code diagram and/or pictures of Calder's work for inspiration (see Salamander Art's blog for code chart)
  • Pens/pencils
  • Foam craft sheets
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Copper wire (I'm not sure of the gauge I used, but it was easy enough to bend by hand but study enough to hold its shape)
  • Wire cutters
  • Coat hanger
  • Cork from wine bottle
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Piece of mat board or cardboard


1. Write the first letter (initial) of your first name, your middle name, and your last name. Now, look on the Calder Code Chart for the shape that corresponds to those letters. Draw the shapes near the letters they go with.

2. Draw or trace the shapes onto the foam sheets. I magnified the shapes something like 500% and then printed them on card stock and then put a few on each table. The students moved around from table to table tracing the letters they needed. Cut out your shapes and punch a hole in the top of each using the hole punch. If your shape has internal shapes, take a bit of leftover craft foam, cut the little shapes out and glue onto the larger shape.

3. Cut two lengths of copper wire: one that is about 14" long and the other that is about 8-9" long. Curl the wire at both ends of each of the pieces to make a loop. Don't close it all the way just yet--you'll need to add some shapes. On the short length of wire, add a foam shape to each end. Then twist and form a loop in the center of this short length of wire. Slip the center loop of the short wire onto one of the end loops of the larger wire. Add your third shape to the opposite end of the large wire.

4. Check the piece for balance and make a loop in the middle section of the large wire to hang the piece. We found that our hanging loop needed to be slightly off-center toward one side in order for the piece to be balanced.

5. Glue the cork to the mat board or cardboard. Cut a length of clothes hanger wire and bend it gently and create a loop at the end from which to hang the mobile. Hang the finished mobile on the wire stand and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Peek-a-boo! Who's In The Shelter? Science and Drawing

This is a fun project for kids of many ages, especially if they are learning about shelters and habitats and hibernation. This sample was done by my Kindergartener and he had a fun time drawing from photographs (it's too difficult to get a chipmunk to sit still!) and he was able to use the pictures I had on hand to create his own version of the chipmunk, complete with bushy tail (most of the tail is inside the tree).
Peek-a-boo! It's a chipmunk!

Critter In The Hole of a Tree

Supplies Needed:

• One 9" x 6" piece of brown construction paper• Scraps of brown paper• One 9" x 6" piece of black construction paper• One 9" x 6" piece of white card stock• Pictures of the critter you choose• A piece of wood to use for rubbing (make sure it has a nice, raised grain), optional, you could draw the wood grain• Dark brown and/or black crayon• Colored Pencils• Scissors• Stapler with staples


1. Choose the critter you'd like to draw. I talked to my son about the types of animals that would live in holes in trees and under the trees among the roots. He chose to draw a chipmunk. I gathered a couple of photos of chipmunks for him to reference.

2. Draw the critter on the piece of white paper. I drew a line on the bottom edge of the white paper about an inch and a half up from the bottom, so that my son wouldn't draw the animal too low (you want to be able to see the critter when the piece is all together). I told him to draw the chipmunk about 4-5" tall (about THIS big, I showed him with my fingers). You don't want to make the critter too small--we need to be able to see it!

3. Color the critter with colored pencils. Use the pictures as a guide to make the colors just like in nature. Cut around the critter, but leave the 1 1/2" border along the bottom edge of the critter. This bottom border is how you'll secure the critter in your project and it boosts him up so he's peeking out of the hole you'll make later. Set aside your critter drawing for now.

4. Place the brown paper on top of the wood surface and secure with tape. Use the edge of the crayon to rub and create the wood grain on the paper. We used our old wooden steps--the texture was just right. My son drew in one of the knots he saw since that didn't transfer well.

5. Cut a U-shaped section out of the wood-grained brown paper from the top edge. This is the flap for your shelter. Set aside for now.

6. Cut some 1/4" wide strips of the brown paper and crumple a few of them in your hands to use for nesting material inside the tree.

7. Assemble the project: Lay the U-shaped piece of construction paper (not the flap piece, the rest of the tree piece) on top of the black rectangle of construction paper. Staple along one side. Place the critter between these two pieces of paper, with the bottom edges of all the pieces of paper lined up an your critter looking out the hole. Staple along the bottom edge of your piece and up the remaining side. This will secure the critter in the hole. Stuff some of the nesting material inside around the opening of the tree. Replace the flap of the brown construction paper back in place and staple across the top edge to secure it to the piece.

Check out who's living in that old tree! What critter do YOU see?

The project with the flap closed--see the woodgrain?

This is a close-up in case you need it for assembly
or want to check out that cute critter even closer!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Igloo Landscape With Northern Lights

I'm really excited about this project! I did this project as part of a special winter-themed afternoon with the Kindergardeners at Clark School this week. Previous visits have used cut paper and printmaking and they've learned all sorts of great skills and art techniques. This little lesson uses something every teacher on hand: bulletin board borders to give that wavy look in the sky. I bought mine at the dollar store (a package of 14 for $1).

The art concepts that the children learn with this project are the parts of a landscape (foreground, background, ground, sky), as well as collage, cutting with scissors & working on a multi-step, multi-layered project. The children can rip the paper for the ground and use geometric shapes (squares and rectangles) to create the semicircular igloo. They create their own shape for the moon--that can vary quite a bit and they are all darling. Pastels can be messy, and this project uses that to its advantage! The pastels are perfect for the bright colors and streakiness of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

There are also great literature, music, science and cultural links to this project as well: the Northern Lights are part of the rich spiritual culture of the Inuit people (indigenous people of the arctic), as are igloos. The Inuit people live in stick framed houses now, but there are still times when igloos are used as shelter today. Igloos are temporary shelters that can be erected in as little as two hours! WOW!

There are many tales associated with the Northern Lights. I found a great book called The Fiddler of The Northern Lights by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock about the Northern Lights, that is a bit of a different tale. In the book, there is a man from Cape Breton who plays the fiddle and his music makes the Northern Lights dance. I was fortunate to find that my library had two CDs of fiddle music from Cape Breton--so I could share this great music with my students!

I hope you enjoy this lovely little lesson!

Igloo Landscape With Northern Lights

Supplies Needed:
  • 12" x 18" piece of black construction paper
  • 1 bulletin board border from the dollar store (or you can cut a wavy template from poster board)
  • Masking tape and clear cello tape
  • Chalk pastels
  • Tissues
  • Elmer's glue (or other white PVC glue)
  • White construction paper (some ripped into strips, some cut into 1" squares)
  • Semi-circle to trace for igloo shape
  • Pencil
  • Scrap of yellow construction paper (for moon and window)
  • Scissors

1. Tape the border to the table: tape it on either end with a piece of clear tape so that it is nice and secure, but your sheet of black paper can slide under it.

2. Slide the black paper under the border. Use the pastels to color on the paper along the top edge of the border. It's OK if you get the pastels on the border and on the black paper at the same time. Just keep the black paper still while you are doing it. Once you've traced along the entire edge of the border piece, take a tissue and gently rub upward (away from the border), along the entire edge of the border. This will give you the lovely, streaky look of the Northern Lights. Don't scrub with the tissue--that won't give you the same effect. Repeat this 2 or 3 more times on the page.

3. When you are done your sky, move over to the collage table. Apply a thin line of glue along the bottom edge of the black paper. Attach strips of white paper along the bottom to make the snowy ground. Ripping the strips of paper gives a nice effect.

4. Trace a semicircle onto the background with the pencil--make sure you are having the igloo rest ON the ground--not float in the air! We used paper plates cut in half as our templates. Apply some glue to the inside of the semicircle area you've traced on the paper. Use the white 1" squares of paper to fill in the semicircle for the igloo.

5. When your igloo is done, cut a 1" square of yellow for the window of the igloo and attach.

6. Cut a moon shape from the yellow construction paper and glue in the sky area.

What a serene landscape! Enjoy the view!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top 10 Posts of 2012: Create Art With Me!

When I look back on the projects I've done with my students in 2012, I'm very happy. I don't post every project I do with my students, I just can't right now. But I do try to post enough to strengthen the link between home and school for my students. We've all been there, as parents, when we ask our child what  s/he did in school today, only to receive a one syllable reply. My blog tries to keep the lines of communication open between me, my students, the parents, and the administrators with which I work.

Upon looking back at my posts from 2012, here are the Top 10 Viewed Posts from my blog. Some of them surprised me (Love Bird in Oil Pastels) and some just beg to be done (Modern Day Adinkra Cloth). I hope you'll take a minute to view these projects and try out something new in 2013!

10. Modern Day Adinkra Cloth (231 Page Views)

9.  Love Bird in Oil Pastels (242 Page Views)

8. Only One You (264 Page Views)

7. One Point Perspective Landscape (273 Page Views)

6. Zaire (Congo) Masks (315 Page Views)

5. Claus Oldenburg Food Sculptures (399 Page Views)

3. Paper Plate Dream Catchers (697 Page Views)

2. Andy Warhol Hands (953 Page Views)

And tied for first place, each with 1778 Page Views:

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my humble blog in 2012 and checked out what I've been up to with my Art Explorers. Thank you to the families who allow me to spend time with their precious little ones making a mess and having fun. And thank you to my students for their creativeness and energy--I have the best group of kids who are always up for anything. You make me want to be the best teacher possible.

Have a wonderful New Year!!
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