I only went out for a walk,
and finally concluded,
to stay out until sundown,
for going out,
was really going in.
- John Muir
If you follow this blog, you already know we are BIG fans of "hunting for nature treasure" also known as foraging (grownup version). If you say "nature walk" in close proximity to my girls they will be out of the door, baskets in hand, before you can finish the thought (you can check out our foraged wreaths, nature walk fairies, and leaf and branch wall hangings below). Well, this time we decided to combine our love of nature treasures + our love of cardboard + our love of collage to create the ultimate mixed media nature scroll. What do you think?
- natural elements: rocks, twigs, seed pods, berries, flowers, leaves, pine cones
- cardboard cut into long rectangular shape
- acrylic paint
- paint brushes, paint palette, and water cup
- hot glue gun
- coated bendy wire
- braided straw
1. Go forage for nature treasure! Take a walk in the woods, your neighborhood, or your back yard. There are beautiful bits everywhere if you look for them. Don't forget to bring your basket!
2. When you get home, start to sort your treasure. My girls also decided to forage around the studio for some textured elements like the braided straw and skinny wooden sticks shown below. Laying all of the elements against a white background really highlights the natural color and form of your materials. We do this before we decide what comes next.
3. After the girls looked at their materials they decided that adding a little paint might be fun. I asked them to pick 3 or 4 colors that would enhance their natural elements. They chose white, pale green, indigo blue, and a blush pink because they were all colors they "saw in their basket".
4. After a little discussion we decided to cut the cardboard background into long cardboard strips like a scroll shape. The girls played around with placement for a good 10-15 minutes before they made final decisions and added glue.
5. Wrapping sticks with bendy wire and/or yarn adds another layer of texture and color to your natural collage materials.
6. Create a hanging loop. You can use thin gauge wire, bendy wire, yarn, or twine. The girls picked a cream color bendy wire. They attached their loop to the back of their cardboard with a thick piece of duct tape. You could also attach with hot glue but the risk of getting glue on little fingers is pretty high with this step. If you have independent artists who want to add their own loop, I would recommend using the duct tape.
H decided that her pine cones had "wiggly teeth" that needed to come out (she's 5). Once she made the necessary extractions she noticed that the pine cone sections had peaks and valleys and natural stripes and designs that she could enhance with a little paint. She left 1 row of pine cone 'teeth', au natural, and 1 row got a Super H paint job. Those pink rocks are actually "unicorn rocks", FYI.
R's painted fern truly set the direction of her collage. She repeated the pop of white with a torn piece of white corrugated cardboard. She decided to put a wire wrapped stick on the top and a yarn wrapped stick on the bottom of her collage "for balance".
"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Okay, so a few years ago I was driving down Wilshire Blvd at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday. They say the city never sleeps and I want to amend that to say 'except early on Sunday mornings' because this is when I drive... while the city sleeps. It has become a ritual for me. One that I have mostly stuck to for the past 5 years. It's my quiet thinking time and on this particular Sunday morning I had a major stop light epiphany.
There I was, paused at a 4 way intersection when it hit me (not in the literal sense, it was just me and my thoughts at this red light): a mobile art studio built inside of a vintage camper! You guys, I have been a traveling visual art teacher for most of my 20+ years of teaching. I have jokingly referred to every car that I have ever owned as my "mobile art studio". I have been running camps, and parties, and workshops, teacher trainings and art shows out of the trunk of my car for eva' but it wasn't until that moment that it occurred to me... maybe I wasn't working toward a brick and mortar location. Maybe the natural evolution of this form of teaching that I had unintentionally fallen into wasn't to graduate to the next thing but to own my thing: The mobile studio.
I am pretty sure I called P right then and I am pretty sure that he was still asleep so he might not have shared my level of enthusiasm at six something on a Sunday morning, but trust that it was only a matter of time. For the next two days I was like Leonardo Da Vinci with his notebooks, drafting plans and downloading ideas onto paper as fast as they were coming to me. I started out going in an obvious direction with the name: Art-2-Go, Art-Van-Go... and by day two the name Art Camp had solidified its place as THE name. There was no second-guessing it.
An actual drawing from Leonardo da Vinci's notebook because A) it looks cooler than my notebook and B) when you are building a business out of your home things tend to go MIA.
The next thing that came to me was a deep sense that this wasn't just going to be an art studio on wheels or simply art classes for kids. ART CAMP was going to fill a void. I kept coming back to this idea that creation and connection are fundamental human needs. That the further we get away from each other, from creating, from making with our own two hands, the more isolated and disconnected we become. The more isolated and disconnected we become, the less fulfilled. The less fulfilled we become... you know what happens next.
This is such an interesting time to be alive. On one hand, our connection to each other is coming through screens and text messages. We can buy everything we need without ever leaving the house. With the touch of a button it will arrive at our door in two days or less. On the other hand, there is this maker renaissance happening. It isn't just the hipsters, it's not just the latest trend. I truly believe that this is our essence calling us back to ourselves. So many times have I heard the grownups in my life say, "Man, I wish I could take your art class." "You should do an Art Camp for adults." "I wish I could sit down and draw." "I have always wanted to get crafty... I just wouldn't even know where to start." "Oh to be a kid again!" When and why did we stop?
How many stories have we read... you know the ones: the Wall Street banker who gives up life in the fast lane, moves into a tiny house, and starts baking bread. The corporate lawyer who is now living on an island in the Pacific NW where she hand dyes garments with vegetable dye made from the crops from her sustainable garden. As fast as we are sprinting into the future, we are also witnessing the people around us opt out at very high rates. The thing is, I don't think it has to be this black and white. You can keep all of your gadgets, you can keep your job, you don't need to go off the grid. You just need to make time to create and connect.
It sounded good in theory... but if I built it, would they come? So The Art Camp "test kitchen" was born. Our formal dining room became the studio. The largest room in our house became our living room/Art Camp room. Our first session was a Valentine's Day Camp. I had seven year olds and adults creating side by side and it totally worked. The next 18 months of experimenting would reveal to me that my creation and connection theory was spot on and I would also learn that the most valuable lessons really suck while you are going through them. The camp sessions that worked the best were the ones where I followed my intuition and stuck close to my teaching approach. The sessions that didn't work as well were the ones where I was trying to guess what would be popular. Word to the wise: follow your gut... it will not lead you astray.
The recipe was ready... but was I?
"It's a great idea. What are you waiting for?", she asked. I took a sip of my iced tea and rattled off 5 things. All totally valid things. Very logical, sensible things and yet she didn't flinch. "You HAVE to do it!", she said. THIS was the message I desperately needed to hear, carried to me by someone I had just met. She was right. What was I waiting for? You guys kind of know the rest...
...Being willing is not enough; we must do.
So I did. November of last year I popped my head up over on my sleepy little Instagram feed and I introduced myself to you. I told you I was going to start this blog in spite of what the "wait until it's just right" committee said. I asked you if you would join me on this new venture and you said "heck yes" and boy have you been with me. I want to do a roll call shout out and list every single name who has cheered me on and tagged me in photos and sent me heart felt messages. You know who you are. Know that you are the wind beneath my wings.
The urgency of doing the next thing followed by the next thing followed by the next thing is the thing that has brought me to today. It turns out that I am really good at keeping secrets, especially the really big ones that I want to scream from the rooftops. You know what else has brought me to today? The unwavering support of my family. They have been by my side every step of the way giving me everything they've got from childcare, to financial support, to manual labor. This was a team effort all of the way. I am so grateful for my tribe. I am also hoping that the friends that have barely heard a peep from me in the last seven months will forgive me for my absence because I have not been able to do all the things very well. I have been so focused on doing this new thing. I love you.
So here she is, my "Holly Gobravely", creative renegade, ART CAMP mobile!
"Imagination is the eye of the soul."
- Joseph Joubert
So I am lying in bed the other night.. have I mentioned that many of my light bulb moments happen just when I am about to drift off to sleep? It's a little strange. So one minute I am lying there, eyes closed drifting off to sleep, and the next thing you know I am staring at a bug smack dab in the eye of my soul. Not just any bug but a beautiful, brightly colored, gilded, ink blot beetle bug. I totally wanted to jump out of bed and bring her to life right then but I showed some restraint and managed to wait until the light of day.
I think most of us have heard of the Rorschach test, a.k.a. "The Ink Blot test". The test was created by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach during the 1920's. The test uses psychological interpretation and scientific algorithms to examine how an individual perceives a series of ink blots. You will see the ink blot test pop up in period pieces and commercials as a common reference for psychological analysis. So how did we get from that to the ink blot butterflies we all made and loved in preschool? I am not entirely sure but I think we may have Andy Warhol to thank.
In 1984 Warhol created a series of large scale Rorschach's by painting one side of a canvas and then folding it vertically to imprint the other half. Ironically, Andy originally misinterpreted the ink blot test, believing that patients created the ink blots and doctors analyzed them: “I thought that when you went to places like hospitals, they tell you to draw and make the Rorschach Tests. I wish I’d known there was a set.”
Sometimes the best ideas happen by accident and sometimes they wake you up at night.
High five, Andy!
Step 1: Blend your paint colors in the condiment squeeze bottles. If you don't have condiment bottles you can substitute with a paint palette and brush, but squeezing the paint splats straight from the bottle is pretty fun! You could also you paint dabbers or droppers to apply color.
Step 2: Take a colored paper square and fold it in half, forming a crease down the middle.
Step 3: Open your fold and start to add your paint drops. We tried to loosely create one side of an insect shape with our painty drips and drabs. A little paint goes a long way. Remember to leave some negative space so that your background color can peek through.
Step 4: Fold your paper in half again. Apply even pressure across the back of the paper for 20 seconds and then carefully peel back your paper. Voila! You should have a beautiful painty abstract bug shape. Set your bug out to dry for 30 minutes.
If you want to take your blot prints to the next level, add some metallic or opalescent paint! Look at how pretty the gold looks:
Step 5: When your bugs are dry you can leave them as is or you can cut your bug shapes out. To do this we used our ink blot shape as our guide. Where do we see antennae? Where are the legs? Then we used some of the negative space surrounding our beetles to extend these features. We cut one side and then folded our paper in half again and replicated our buggy outline.
"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."
- Albert Einstein
I had an interesting experience yesterday. One that I am now 100% certain was divinely designed so that we could talk about something in this space. I was chosen to co-host a weekly theme challenge for a popular early childhood education account. Please note that this is something I am really looking forward to doing. I had thrown my hat in the ring along with some suggested themes that I was jazzed about (at the top of my list: FELT... guys, you can make anything with felt). Only the theme that I was paired with on this co-host selection announcement was PROCESS ART. HUH? I was confused because it wasn't one of the themes that I threw out. Then I realized that I had # a post that was promoting a Process Art Webinar that a friend was leading. So it totally looked like an official entry for the theme search. What came after I put 2 & 2 together is what I want to talk about.
Here is what followed: I am not allowed to host a process art theme because some of my projects end in a "product". Some of my projects are crafts, or DIYs, I almost always provide tutorials therefore, this isn't a good fit. Because it's Process or Product and I don't want to ruffle any feathers. There are teachers and studios who identify as Process Based and I am not one of them so I gotta tell them that this probably isn't a good theme fit for me.
Gratefully, at the age of 39 there is a pause that generally comes after this kind of fear-fueled reaction. So I did not send a rash, "there's been a mix-up" email. I took a breath and then I remembered MY TRUTH: I hate labels and I hate rules. Hate is a strong word. Let's say that I am highly allergic to things which define and segregate. It extends far past my teaching approach.
Q: What do you do? My husband can answer: accountant. We all know that that is 1/100th of what he does, but that is a short, acceptable answer. A small, tidy, easily digestible box. What do I do? I am a mother, an educator, a painter, an interior designer, an illustrator, a business owner, a blogger, a collage artist, a mixed media artist, a cook, a photographer, a graphic designer, a writer, a print maker, a crafter, a DIYer, a stylist, a poet, an event planner...I seriously do all of these things but we live in a society where we are supposed to dilute ourselves down to a sound bite. We have to choose a title. Only I'm not willing to play that game. Seriously, I was designing my business card the other day and I was struggling to fit what it is that "I do" into that sweet little space under my name and after 2 days of going back and forth I thought: this struggle is telling me something. This resistance is speaking to me. Why don't I listen? I am a creative being at my core and I have been breaking the rules and veering off "the delineated path" to make my own way since the day I was born. Why don't I just own it? So I did.
This could easily turn into the beginning of my memoir so I am going to try to wrap it up. If you are still reading, thank you. After 20+ years of teaching here is what I know: there is not one approach that is right or better. There is value in open-ended art exploration and there is value in learning technique, method, color theory, and steps. In my "camp" there is room for all of it. I have seen students shine when exploring materials with very little framework and I have seen students soar while learning how to build a project step by step. Both add value and there is process, creativity, and room for individualism in both approaches. Just when I think I have "got it" my students show up and teach me something new. I think the art of a healthy educator, a good parent, is to stay flexible and present to the beings in front of you. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone in with a a plan and ditched it because it wasn't what my students needed on that particular day. All inclusive art making with varied approaches and techniques is where I want to be. Color me that.
We had an art session that turned into a really fun exploration with "loose parts". I gave my little friends a tray and let them hunt through our found objects and supplies for any little bits and pieces that sparked their interest. H really wanted to add some colored pasta into the tray but we were out so this desire for painted pasta took the art experience in a magical direction. Check it out:
Here are some examples of loose parts:
- flower petals
- bits and pieces
- nuts and bolts
- recycled containers
- fabric pieces
Painting the pasta in a new way. We happened to have some pre cut black card stock out from another project. I just grabbed a stack, the girls picked some pretty paint colors, we added a blob to the center of the paper and they started rolling the dried penne noodles through the paint. This created two cool effects: brightly colored painted pasta and the unexpected bonus of abstract shape against the black background that looked really stunning. The ridges of the penne also added some great texture. Lots of messy fun!
We placed the penne on wax paper and let the background and the penne dry for 15 minutes. You could speed up drying time with a hair dryer. We just played mermaids while we waited.
Once our penne was dry we added it into the loose parts tray and started playing with our materials.
We used clear school glue and craft bond sticks to attach the loose parts with the exception of the felt dots which came with sticky backs.
Stacking parts and color was popular with this group
This is a really fun one. I hope you give it a try!
"The artist's vocation is to send light into the human heart"
- George Sand
To bunny ear or to bonnet... THAT is the question. The girls said bunny ears... wait, no, flower crowns! Then my creative mash up brain said: BUNNY EAR FLOWER CROWNS. I thought I was a genius for a day and then my Pinterest feed was flooded with bunny ear flower crowns. But have you seen a recycled egg carton flower version? I think not! (If you have, don't tell me.)
I had big plans to make the girls oversized wire bunny ears this year like this ^ but then the Art Gods threw me a bone and I scored these pre made wrapped wire bunny ears at Target a few weeks back. So my fully handmade idea turned into a quick and easy up-cycle. Love when that happens!
We are big fans of the egg carton flower. So it was our first choice material for our bunny ear blooms.
Speaking of egg carton florals...remember our V-day flower wreaths? Well they work beautifully as Easter wreaths too! The girls have had their heart wreath hanging on their bedroom door since the end of January and I don't see it coming down anytime soon.
When we started making our blooms we all agreed that the petite flowers looked the best on our ears. The big ones were fun but they just didn't fit the band as nicely. Be sure to make plenty of leaves because they really make the flower crown come alive.
1. Cut your egg carton flower shapes and leaves. 2. Paint your blooms and leaves with a bright spring-y palette. 3. Tempera and acrylic paint dry really fast especially on egg cartons. We painted some of our centers and then my brilliant R suggested we use some dot stickers for the centers and they really made them pop!
Pretty spring time flowers made with just egg cartons, paint, and flower stickers!
4. We started in the center gluing down a single bloom. 5. Then added leaves and blooms, more leaves, more blooms... 6. A little dab of hot glue easily secured the flowers and leaves to our bands.
"I have always thought of accessories as an exclamation point of an outfit."
- Michael Kors
If you are reading this will you do me a quick favor? See that little subscribe box in the upper right corner? If you are reading this on your phone it will be at the bottom of this post. Yeah, the really cute one with the mint green subscribe button? If you enter your name and email and hit SUBSCRIBE we will be "official" and you will get sneak peeks, VIP content, unicorn kisses, and golden tickets. It will be 100% worth it and never annoying. Seriously, I hate annoying. Look: I didn't even use a pop-up just an old fashioned plea. Thank you, my official Art Camp friend!
The girls are on Spring Break this week and Easter is just 6 days away, so you probably know what time it is. IT'S TIME for a....
Seasonal, wearable, artsy, accessory... or 2... or 3. We have so many we want to do and so little time (I hate when that happens).
H is 5 years old going on 25. She is really into purses, and wallets, and carrying her "coin money and dollars" everywhere she goes. She generally leaves the house like a blinking, neon exclamation point, if you catch my drift. So it got me thinking that she would probably really love a little bunny purse to go with her Easter dress and her flower necklace and her flower power ring(s). May I present (carrot stick drum roll please) the fuzzy, no sew, pom pom bunny purse and her sidekicks: sleepy lamb purse and flower crown bunny purse.
1. Take your felt square and fold the bottom half way up. This fold will be your purse section. 2. Draw a bunny head on your fold and ears on the top section above your fold. 3. Cut out your bunny shape. 4. Cut out two little eyes out of a darker felt color. 5. Add a little oval nose. 6. Add two skinny, straight lines for your little bunny mouth. 7. Two round, pink circles for the cheeks. 8. Whiskers! 9. Add a finishing touch... a felt flower, a little faux flower crown (scroll down) or a button bloom (pictured on sleepy lamb).
"Believe there is a great power silently working all things for the good, behave yourself, and never mind the rest."
- Beatrix Potter
This post is dedicated to my art teacher friend Shannon from Hatch Art Studio in Pittsburgh. Shannon is a Goddess who changed my life with two simple words: Scroll Saw. If you, like me, have been cutting mountains of paper and cardboard by hand for the past 20 years, you know what a literal pain in the... ahem... wrist it is. If you are just doing small batch cardboard projects, get yourself a ceramic blade. If you run an art studio or lead a class of 30, invest in a saw, friends. Art teachers with power tools = absolute bad *$$ery.
Here are three Easter crafts that will take your celebration to the next level without breaking the bank. They are easy enough for the very littles but cool enough for big kids too.
Craft 1: Swipe Paint Easter Eggs
Start with a few dabs of paint. Start with 2-3 colors. It is easy to add more paint, harder (and messier) to take paint away. Swipe, pull, push your paint until you are satisfied with your egg shell texture. Ideally, you will let your paint dry before adding the stickers and tape. If you are short on time you can add the stickers and tape to the wet paint and they should set as the paint dries.
Craft 2: Cardboard Collage Bunny
Trace and cut a simple bunny shape out of cardboard. Color your bunny base with paint sticks, dot markers, or paint. Then start layering on your collage pieces. You can add a cotton ball for a fluffy tail or felt pieces for fuzzy ears. SO many possibilities!
Craft 3: Straw and Button Necklace
These materials are perfect for little hands and great for strengthening fine motor skills!
"Adopt the pace of nature,
her secret is patience."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Facebook reminded me that this time last year the girls and I were farm sitting for friends in Helvetia, Oregon. Oh, take me back to wide open spaces, big blue sky, and green as far as the eye can see. Take me back to air so lush and fresh (unless you are standing in the chicken coop) that you get a little heady when you breath it in. Take me back to the place where the green grows green and lichen and moss hang from every tree.
If I can't click my heels and land in the Emerald Forest I am going to "go there" in an art lesson. This week's mixed media project is an homage to the art of primitive pastoral landscapes and a study in color. Are you ready? These little artists made some big, bold art.
Sort your materials in color families. We had 4 tables: blue table, green table, purple table, and red table.
blue table - tempera cakes, oil pastels, craft paper