Out to Pasture
Fall is in the Air
I love to give September and October studio projects a fall twist. This week, my elementary students completed their collaged loon-scapes, their Flapdoodles landscape rocks, and they learned how to artistically use chalk pastels to build layers as they created pumpkins on black paper. Striking!
I like to give students the opportunity to come up to the overhead camera and talk about what they liked about their work. Here, Mataya is sharing her pastel with the class on the TV screen.
The loon collages turned out so well that I decided to turn them into a "Cry of Loons" poster to sell, with proceeds going to scholarships for Riverwood Studio classes. Let me know if you'd like to place an order. They are 20x24 inches (standard frame size) and cost $18 plus tax.
My online elementary students did an elephant collage on their sketchbook covers instead of loons. Here are a few of their wonderful projects.
My intermediate students worked hard on drawing exercises, including individual still lifes. We are also discussing the major movements in art history, which explains the Egyptian photo on the computer screen. If you could hear this picture, you would hear ancient Egyptian music playing in the background. My online intermediate class began this week. I'll share pictures of their work in the future.
I'll be placing these adorable rocks in the landscape at Flapdoodles North today. My 17 year old daughter painted the large bench and boulders around the building this summer, and the owners of Flaps thought these little rocks would add even more fun! Thanks to the Tierneys for their ongoing partnership with my studio and generosity for always rewarding us with free ice cream!
Friday evening was a time for teaching watercolor over Zoom to my teen and adult class. We used a fall palette of colors to create ink & wash florals.
Completed work by my student, Amber (who is an elementary teacher).
Finally, here are a few fall photos I took on my walk around my neighborhood Friday morning. Everything was bathed in gold and fluttering. I had my curated "Fall Vibes" Spotify playlist, with everything from James Taylor to Maroon 5 filling my ears, and was definitely in my happy place...
As I sit on the couch next to my curled up cat this morning, I reflect on all that has transpired since last March when the globe seemed to tilt a little too far on its axis, throwing the world off-kilter. It's mind boggling to think a microscopic virus that is not even a living thing could steal lives, livelihoods, unity, and the sense of peace and security that normal routines bring.
I try to remember that we are not promised anything. If we're wise, we hold gifts and sorrows with open palms and gratitude, being careful what we cling tightly to. For me, that has meant holding loosely to my art studio plans, being flexible and creative in approach to problems, and most of all just being grateful for those who choose art alongside me as an antidote to the chaos.
This week I welcomed around 50 kids back to my studio, albeit masked and distanced. Depending on the class, we dabbled in printmaking, collage, rock painting, drawing exercises, and burning energy in my backyard. Everyone received a new sketchbook to fill this year with drawings, ideas, color swatches, value scales, and who knows what else! All my classes played a funny ice-breaker game of "Would You Rather" using famous pieces of art. I love when students point to a piece of art and say excitedly, "I've seen that one before!" I don't know why the act of recognizing masterpieces of art is so magical, but alas, it is.
Here are a few of slides from our game...
And here are some pictures from classes this week...
I enjoyed sharing this short video about collage artist "MarcPaperScissor" with my elementary students.
This coming week I will add three online classes consisting of over 60 students, from elementary to adult, and the following week I will be taking my supplies to Rosa Parks charter school to teach an art class to the high schoolers on Fridays as a volunteer. COVID could disrupt the whole shebang, of course! However...this:
Blue Dogs Everywhere!
I have long had an appreciation for Louisiana cajun artist George Rodrigue (1944-2013), famous for his colorful and graphic blue dog paintings. Here is a short video about him if you're interested.
My 7-12 year old students in homeschool elementary classes and Afterschool Art Club created their own giant blue dog paintings, complete with unique backgrounds. I walked them through the steps of drawing a blue dog, first in their sketchbooks, and then enlarged onto 12x18 thick paper. We taped off the edges so we would get a crisp white frame in the end. The kids used bingo daubers filled with India ink to create a bold outline around their dogs, then they used acrylic paints to add bright colors. We talked about color choice to create contrast and visual interest. What a fun project! Check out the slideshow of their work.
I love taking my elementary students on an exploration of different media, subjects, and ideas. These first 6 weeks have seen us blowing around blobs of paint with straws, drawing llamas, making yarn tassels, coloring foxes, embossing metal, and creating glowing night landscapes! I often share a personal story or read a story to whet their imaginations, and we often warm up with a guided drawing in our sketchbooks.
My favorite project so far has been these fabulous foxes. The kids used oil pastels to build up the layers of fur, then they smudged chalk pastels to make a magical background. Instead of guiding them step by step as I sometimes do, I gave them a photograph of a fox and let them translate that into their own art. I love each of their interpretations!
My classes always seem to enjoy foil embossing, and this year we explored a seasonal theme. My Tuesday class made 4 small squares representing each season and mounted on a long panel. My Wednesday classes did one large fall scene based on their idea of a perfect fall day. Students draw their designs on paper first, then tape the paper to the back side of the foil and press the design into the foil. I teach them several ways to create interesting texture.
For Halloween week, we enjoyed glow parties in all the classes. I dropped the blackout shades, turned on the black lights, and put on my glowiest costume...a "glow troll." We used black and fluorescent paints to create these beautiful, VanGogh inspired landscapes. Some of the kids wore costumes and we ended the class with a bowl of popcorn and candies. Enjoy our slideshow!
Skill Building in Intermediate Art
I LOVE working with my teen students in homeschool intermediate art! They run the gamut of lively to shy to serious to lighthearted, and their personalities come out in their art. We have started the year with skill building exercises, focusing on drawing from observation with the "right side of the brain," and improving our shading techniques using ink, graphite, charcoal, and pastel. Our first project was to decorate their sketchbook covers with "expressive hands" and then we moved into still life contour drawings and still life value (shading) pieces. Next up are graphite dragon eyes!
In addition to our creative endeavors, we spend 10 minutes of most classes discussing an artist or painting. So far we have discussed the work of Imanuel Leutz, Thomas Cole, and Otto Dix. All of the art we study this year will be on exhibit at the Marine Art Museum of MN in Winona, where we will visit in May.
I will soon let them loose to play with color, but for now, we're in the black and white phase, and next up are "Dragon Eyes!" Here is a slideshow of their work so far:
Here are their sketchbook covers, based on the lesson "Expressive Hands." The students were asked to create hands that somehow illustrated their interests and personalities. I found the final pieces fascinating, especially when they explained the symbolism to me. It helped me get to know them a bit more.
We did play around with some colors when we had our Halloween Week Glow Parties under black lights. We used black and fluorescent acrylics, and taped the edges down so we would have a nice, crisp frame when the tape was removed. So fun!
The students did a great job on their "finish the picture" homework assignment. I was delighted with their work! Some of them put hours of work in at home each week to create incredible work.
Llama Llove in Elementary Art
When I choose an art project for my students, I think about what new vocabulary and drawing skills they could learn, what new media they could try, and how they can connect to the subject. Sometimes I pull themes from literature or science. This "Llamas in Perspective" lesson, adapted from a Deep Space Sparkle lesson, had it all!
First we talked about the life and talents of the llama, particularly the Peruvian llama...how they are pack animals who help humans, how they spit when they are agitated and sit down stubbornly when they are overburdened. I told the kids I use llama poop on my plants because it's a great "unscented" fertilizer!
We practiced a llama drawing in their sketchbooks. I love that many of the students said they drew them all week long at home. We then talked about drawing and painting tricks that fool the eye into perceiving depth as we drew our scene together, step by step, and went over the lines with Sharpie. Students were free to add their own little details, decorations, and paint colors to individualize their work. We used tempera cakes, which are similar to watercolors, on heavy duty Bristol paper.
Finally, we "embellished" our mounted picture with handmade tassels. I told them that tassel-making is a "handicraft" that the Peruvians would do to decorate their llamas. The lesson took two 90-minute class periods. Check out the slideshows below.
Afterschool Art Club Agamagraphs
Afterschool Art Club is something new I've added to the schedule this year, and it's been a blast! Twelve lively students gather on Thursday afternoons to create wonderful art, and for our first project, we created optical illusion "agamagraphs." Pioneered by the artist Yaacov Agam, this kinetic style art changes as the viewer moves. Two of Agam's pieces can be found in the Mayo Clinic art collection. I'm a big fan!
This project took 3 weeks of 75 minute classes to complete. Each student created a starburst name picture on and an optical illusion "wormie" picture, which they colored with sharpie and watercolor on 140 lb. watercolor paper. Then we cut both into 1 inch slices and mounted them alternately to an accordion folded page. The final effect is so cool! If you stand to the left, you see one image and when you move to the right it morphs to the other image. Check out the slideshow below!
Homeschool Art Classes Commence
I feel so very fortunate to have over 70 homeschooled students come to my studio each week, in 5 different classes, to create art and build friendships. These kids are respectful, eager learners who are endlessly creative and thoughtful. And as a 20+ year homeschooling veteran of 3 kids who have blossomed into creative, high quality humans, I can say, "I GET homeschoolers."
In the first 2 weeks of art classes, we have played with paint, practiced drawing skills, analyzed Leutz's "Washington Crosses the Delaware," played games, and created sketchbook covers. Here are some slideshows of our time together so far. I'll post photos from the intermediate class when we complete our sketchbook covers.
Elementary Splatter Sketchbook Covers:
Elementary "Llamas in Perspective" project:
Wonderful Watercolor Camp 2019
Teaching watercolors to young, curious, enthusiastic minds is among my favorite things in the world! This week at camp, the kids learned all kinds of watercolor techniques as they explored their new supplies. New vocabulary like glazing, scumbling, masking, salting, lifting, and mopping were taught and tried out. The girls painted in the studio and outside in nature, and they completed many pieces by the end of the week, including transparent lotus flowers, a landscape & seascape, a bohemian owl, and more! Here is a slideshow of the week...
My campers were wonderfully enthusiastic and adventurous as we "traveled" around the world, learning about 5 countries, listening to the music of each culture, making a piece of art inspired by the country, and trying foreign foods. I loved every minute!
Day 1: Argentina
When campers arrived, they painted and beaded wooden name tags that my husband made on our Glowforge, then they colored in a giant welcome banner. We learned information about Argentina, made clay llama sculptures, and wove tiny blankets for them with a straw loom and yarn. Later in the week we painted the llamas. For food, we made homemade alfajores cookies by rolling out the dough and filling them with dulce la leche. Yum!
Day 2: Russia
We talked about the vast country of Russia and then read a story called Babushka's Doll by Patricia Polocco. The campers painted wooden matryoshka nesting dolls and then we made blini, a thin pancake, which we filled with strawberries and whip cream!
Day 3: Italy
After watching a video about Italy, one of the students dressed up like Leonardo da Vinci and "painted" the Mona Lisa. We read the story Strega Nona by Tommie de Paola. We spread wet plaster on burlap to make our own frescoes. When they dried, we drew fruit still lifes with chalk pastels. We also made margherita pizza with sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and basil. Yummy!
Recipe: https://www.thekitchn.com/easy-recipe-classic-margherita-pizza-recipes-from-the-kitchn-174103 (we used refrigerator bistro pizza dough and jarred pizza sauce instead of homemade)
Day 4: Egypt
After watching a video about a tourist in Egypt, we made funny Pharaoh selfies with our names written in hieroglyphs. We cooked up some Egyptian Basbousa Semolina cake that was very interesting, like sweet, dense cornbread with syrup on top.
Day 5: Thailand
We enjoyed a video about a family who traveled to Thailand, and got some special information from MaiLa, one of the campers whose grandparents are from Thailand. We read a book called The Umbrella Queen and painted with liquid watercolors on paper lanterns. We cooked up some veggie stir fry and rice noodles with the option of sweet/sour sauce or Thai peanut sauce. We topped it off with Pocky candy sticks and watermelon slushies. The kids enjoyed shopping at the studio store, too!
Recipe: https://damndelicious.net/2014/05/24/watermelon-slush/ (I skipped the sugar)
We'd been looking forward to this trip all year, having studied 16 pieces of art in the vast collection and having learned about the artists and interesting history of each piece throughout the year. One of the pieces was nearly destroyed during the attacks of 9-11 before it hung in the lobby of the Gonda Building. One of the artists lost an eye. One of the gigantic pieces was moved from outside the building to inside using 2 cranes. Such a treasure trove of beauty and story! Warhol, Chihuly, Michelangelo, Miro, Mestrovic, and on and on. Checkout the slideshow from the 4 groups I took on the tour.
Intermediate Acrylic Landscapes
Our final project of the year in my intermediate classes was painting 16x20 canvases with beautiful landscapes. The students chose their own reference photograph and synthesized much of what they had learned through the year to create the paintings, and they were lovely! They spent 5-6 hours on these.
End of the Year Glow Parties
The newest editions to my art room are black-out shades, blacklights, and fluorescent paints! This allowed us to have an awesome end of the year party, at which we painted ourselves, our papers, our plaster hands, the tables, and even the poor floor, which kids said looked like a galaxy (it came off easily!)
Why a glow party? I want kids to remember their unique art experiences when they're 80 years old with a great-grandkid on their lap. I want them to say, "I remember when I did ________ in my art class." I think this is one memory that will stick!
I have wanted to do this project with my elementary classes for a long time. It's one of my favorite art memories from childhood, except we did not cast our hands, we cast our FACES! The kids, who were initially skeptical and may have thought their teacher had lost her mind, warmed up to the idea of having their hands wrapped in gooey plaster gauze, allowing it to harden, and then sliding it off. The sliding off was the hard part! It would have helped if their hands were boneless! After they spent a week drying, the kids painted their sculptures and some added embellishments and fluorescent paint so they glowed during our Glow Parties.
Here are the winners of our 2nd Annual Flapdoodles Ice Cream Art Contest! Nearly all my students created 3-D clay relief sculptures mounted on painted canvas panels with an ice cream theme. The owners of Flapdoodles selected the winners from 3 categories: 7-9 yo, 10-12 yo, and Intermediate. The art is currently displayed at Flapdoodles South through July.
Ice Cream Art!
Our 2nd Annual Flapdoodles Ice Cream Art Contest is underway! The students planned and executed these adorable clay relief sculptures, mounted on painted canvas panels. Some are still life sculptures and others incorporate animals enjoying ice cream, inspired by the book "Gorilla Loves Vanilla." Here are all the entries. Winners announced in April!
Jill Pearson, owner & instructor at Riverwood Studio, Oronoco, Minnesota