Got bored kids?
I've been helping an art teacher friend create digital art lessons inspired by books and thought I'd make a few of my own.
Below a few so far. Enjoy!
After printing several pieces of digital art on metal, I really liked the effects and clean lines of floating frames. But I also want to keep my art affordable and along with the cost of metal printing, floating frames seemed an expensive way to go.
And then there’s the 4 Rs and 2 Us: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Rethink, Upcycle and YOU.
Which means ME.
While looking at the back view of an online image of a floating frame, an idea surfaced. Already I often purchase used frames from thrift stores for my art. The float seemed pretty much a simple frame attached to the back of the art instead of fitted around the edges.
You got it! First step, cruise a few thrift stores for used wooden frames! Remember, they must have smaller dimensions than the art to be floated!
Check out the slideshow below for my ABC instructions for your very own DIY float!
It's a huge part of us, all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. And if puberty starts the engines, then being a teen is the foot on the pedal. But which pedal? Gas or brakes? I say both.
Zali is a book in which the characters discuss sex. It may be shocking to some, but I suspect many will see themselves somewhere in the pages. It's not only about sex - it's also about friendship and being true to yourself, but sex is one of the main topics. Which, if you think about it, is quite realistic as sexuality is such a huge part of who and what we are.
Ready or not, teens think about sex. How could they not? Hormones are kicking in. Physical sensations, secretions, and desires are running rampant. Crushes are fogging the brains of 13-year-olds all over the globe and sexual urges are causing all sorts of problems, especially for those who are blindly following them.
Ignorance is not bliss.
Not really. I was one of those ignorant girls who really, really needed some authentic guidance. Not words from a poorly written textbook with labeled diagrams of unrecognizable body parts. Not silence from parents who were too embarrassed or too exhausted or too whatever to speak candidly to their children about what the heck was going on with their bodies...
And it starts early. Last year, I caught a 5th grade boy using his fingers and tongue to mimic cunninlingus to another. He swore he didn't know what it meant. I wasn't so sure. Either way, I suspect he knew it was of a sexual nature and his curiosity was aroused. (And I'm guessing other body parts as well...)
A book for teens
Zali is a book for teens who are wondering about fitting in, making friends, and yes, sex. But no worries, parents! Early sexual experiences are not encouraged in this book! In fact, they are discouraged. Zali's curiosity is such that she wants information, not necessarily "hands-on" experience.
Zail's BFFs are a girl her age (Noj) and boy a year older (Ricky). Ricky is more worldly and knowledgeable about the topic. He also happens to be gay, with parents who wish he were not. Ricky's parents are in denial and although Ricky doesn't flaunt his homosexuality, he doesn't hide it either.
After a first date goes terribly wrong, Zali has more questions than ever and Ricky willingly answers all her (and Noj's) questions with humor and honesty. Ricky is the quirky, witty and candid friend I wish I had at Zali's age.
Inspired by my own experiences
This is true. When I found out I was pregnant, I promised myself that I would speak candidly and truthfully to my child about any topic. Nothing would be off limits. I did not want him to experience the shame I felt around my body and about sexuality. It felt awkward, even bizarre at first, but eventually I got more comfortable with topics around his changing body.
When I started writing Zali I didn't know it would be about sexuality. (One day I'll blog about that... how the story evolves as I write, often even taking me by surprise with details I did not see coming!) I didn't know Zail would start her period. But then I got the idea that her mother and aunt would share their early menstrual experiences and once I got started, the words just flowed - and yes, Ani's story is directly from my own life.
In one of Zali's classes, fellow students talk of a boy who was proud of the erection he got during class (beneath his clothes). One day in one of my 6th grade classes, a boy sitting in the row next to mine "pssst" at me. I looked over and to my shock, he had a huge erection clearly outlined through his pants. I sincerely did not understand what I was seeing and was confused as well as somewhat traumatized. I came from a family of eight and had seen my baby brothers running around bare-naked, but I could not reconcile their little dangling penises with the bulging thickness along this boy's thigh (we called them "weiners" back then - I never heard the word penis until many years later) .
And then Zali's date disaster - me too. Summer before high school. Different details, but similar. My best friend back then and I went to the local beach. Two boys approached us. Eventually, we split up - one boy went with my friend one way while I went another way with the other. We started making out near some bushes, but then he wanted more. I just wanted to continue kissing. He kept grabbing my hand and putting it on his crotch. I kept pulling it away. Then, while still kissing, when he took my hand to his crotch this time, instead of the cloth of his swimsuit, there was his penis. In the flesh. Yikes! I pulled away and said goodbye. Btw, I couldn't find my friend and ended up waiting at our blanket for quite a while (this was before cell phones). We never spoke about our experiences. Not a word.
But I wanted to speak about it. I wanted to talk about sex. I wanted to talk about what I was feeling, thinking, wondering. And I wanted details! But it just wasn't done. It was alluded to. It was joked about. It was given crude names and references - but it just was never openly discussed.
And so Zali is a book I wrote for the 13-year old me. Read it or not. Love it or hate it. Doesn't matter. I mean, I do hope you enjoy reading it. But I definitely enjoyed writing it and that's what really matters to me.
Well, today is the day before New Year's Eve. Here's a Zali-inspired wish for your new year: May this year bring you clarity about all the topics that pique your curiosity, in ways both wonderful and satisfying!
Best to you all.
I’ve loved metalpoint ever since learning that my favorite drawings from Albrecht Durer were drawn with this medium. Still, pre-google, the details eluded me. I imagined pens forged of pure silver in the hands of da Vinci, Durer and others - how fine a tool for their art!
Years ago, a workshop on the topic gave me hands-on experience with silver, copper and bronze. Instead of wielding a pen of precious metal, I was given a common pencil with a bit of silver wire attached to it with duct tape. Same with both the copper and bronze - perhaps 3/4ths an inch of wire taped firmly to a new number 2 yellow pencil.
We drew first on prepared white gessoed panels. The workshop provided two models, both high school students from the school where the class was held by the art teacher. During our first break, we each tinted a portion of gesso and painted a rectangle of matt board for our second model. Gesso dries quickly and our boards were ready by the end of lunch.
Notice the variations in color in the drawings above and below. I drew the young woman's hair above and most of the youth below with silver. The rest was drawn primarily with copper.
Drawing with metalpoint is a delightful experience, perhaps primarily for those who love drawing - working with line, shading, and composition. There are a few challenges, however.
One challenge is that you can only draw on a "ground". This means you must prepare your drawing surfaces before setting metal to paper. Although gesso is a fantastic option, it can be expensive and the process of grounding paper requires space and time. However, it only takes a little for two coats of gesso on a square of paper and the space needed is really just a table top or a bit of floor.
Another challenge is that there is no erasing once a mark has been made. As the wire is pulled along the surface, tiny bits of the metal leave a mark. An artist working with metalpoint must have the confidence that their marks will be where and how they were envisioned, and if not - know that any misplaced line can usually be made into something interesting.
The good thing about unerasable lines is that they do not smear or smudge - although sweat or soil from your hands can still dirty the surface.
You can repaint any unwanted marks with gesso; however I have not tried this yet. Good to know it's a possible option!
Another cool thing about metalpoint is that because of oxidation, the lines age beautifully. As the metal in your drawing is exposed to air, the colors, tones shift. Silver becomes a warm brown. Copper becomes more greenish. Lead shifts into tones of blue.
Now that I’ve explored more with metalpoint, I’ve discovered a few things.
Tint gesso with gouache rather than other types of paint. Both gouache and gesso offer a good “ground” for drawing with metalpoint. A certain roughness is required for the metal to leave the microscopic bits that create the marks made by the artist. Back when metalpoint was first used by artists, surfaces were prepared with such things as rabbit glue, powdered bones and white titanium. Nowadays we can simply use gesso on paper, board or panel. I read that the paper should be thick, however I’ve gessoed pages in a regular sketchbook with great results. The paper may curl, but once dry, flattening paper with a stout book works fine.
When preparing surfaces, paint several pages, panels and boards at the same time. Put on some music (or your fav streaming shows) and go for it. In preparation of a metalpoint workshop I taught recently, I had newspapers spread out on every available flat surface ready to hold freshly gessoed paper, one right after another. Then I did a second coat for each. The next day I weighed those that dried with a curve beneath some books. It took me a few days, but after gessoing an assortment of papers and boards of different sizes, I had enough prepared surfaces not only for the workshop but also for myself to draw upon for the next several months.
While researching this topic, I saw a sketch which was drawn with a gold ring. Check it out here (I'm waiting for permission to post a photo of Jane's drawing): janeewardmetalpointart.wordpress.com/.
That really got me excited about the possibilities. I didn’t have any gold jewelry but did have a silver pendant, which worked beautifully. Didn’t have bronze wire, but did have a handful of bronze screws. The ridges indented my fingers but the sharp pointed bronze worked perfectly, making fine, clear lines. What else could I use?
I found some soldering wire, containing lead. It’s softness made holding the wire awkward, but the lines were smooth and thick. Belatedly, I noticed my fingers turned grey from holding the wire, but wrapping the base with duct tape easily solved that.
Then I wondered what could I use instead of my lovely silver Ohm pendant. What about silverware? There was a 50% off sale at a local thrift shop. Once there I searched through a small box of silver spoons, knives and forks until I found the perfect one - an old tarnished fork that seemed the most likely to be actual silver and not merely plated.
A note here - I read that silver plated tools do work, however at some point the silver layer will be worn off… something to watch for!
Once at home, I took some pliers and broke off each fork tine, leaving just one. After taping the broken edges, this became a wonderful silverpoint tool. The single tine drew thin lines and the wide, curved handle was perfect for thick lines and shading.
Next I found some old, dried up ballpoint pens. After removing the plastic tubes that hold the ink from the inside of the pens, I shoved one of the silver tines down into the opening. I noticed that after drawing with them for more than a moment, the tine would be pushed back into the pen so I cut the ink chamber so that it fit on top of the tine and held it in place. Perfect! Now I had four silver drawing tools for less than a dollar and a little bit of work.
*Note: Make sure the ink is used up before cutting the ink chamber or reservoir, which by the way, are the actual names for that tube-thing that holds the ink! (What did we do before Google? Guess that's why some old folks refer to so many items as "thing-a-ma-jigs"...)
I also experimented with using a piece of chopstick (too wide) and am thinking as I write this that a skewer stick cut to size would likely work wonderfully.
I used tape to wrap around the fork where the tines had been broken off to protect my hand from sharp edges.
I also purchased a "lead holder" (Look for these in the drafting section of most art supply stores). Much nicer than drawing with a wire taped to a pencil!
Of course, you can buy premade metalpoint drawing tools online and otherwise but for the artist who wishes to save a few bucks or just enjoys tinkering, homemade drawing utensils work great!
A friend showed me an alloy silver pen he had purchased online. My fork tine pen works and handles just as well plus using ingenuity and inspiration to create something useful from old ballpoint pens and forks satisfies my desire to honor our planet by recycling, reusing and rethinking instead of automatically searching Amazon for something to be packaged, boxed and driven to my door.
I drew this drawing below with my silver fork after transforming it into my very own silverpoint stylus. OH! And I discovered something!
White conte can cover a metalpoint error - and you can draw over it! Can't recover the tinted background (unless you have matching pastels perhaps) but it worked well for the few changes I made while sketching.
Another tip - not to promote one store over any other - but Michaels offers 40% off coupons which are great for purchasing gesso which can be expensive. Can’t find everything you need there, but coupons and sales sure can be a blessing for buying basic artist supplies.
Drawing with metalpoint on white gesso definitely is enough to create some beautiful pieces, especially if you enjoy working with line quality, detail and texture - however, I discovered I really appreciate drawing on tinted paper. Tints allow highlights to be accented with white conte or pastel resulting with some striking effects. I also experimented with white color pencil, which works, but I really like the blending potential of something softer.
Leonardo Da Vinci was said to also use white oil paint to highlight some of his drawings. Haven’t tried that yet, but definitely is on one of my lists of things to do!
Of course, you can add shading or anything - any color or medium to metalpoint on white or tinted ground. Something I may explore eventually. Meanwhile, I've just been into the daVinci thing - metal on tinted ground with white highlights.
At my metalpoint workshop I told the artists - and as many of you already know -
the best way to get started is to dive in.
Start with light strokes.
Strengthen lines that align with your intention.
Let the rest be.
When I taught kindergarten (oh so long ago) ,
I knew that before instructing the kinders about using any new math manipulative (Unifix Cubes, counting bears, geo shapes… even Base 10 Blocks) I had to give them time to simply play with them.
Hands-on exploration with a new material is so valuable!
Run throughout your home searching for what else might be used to create a line - a mark, shading, texture or whatever...
A paperclip? Nails? Coins? Jewelry? Knitting needles?
The zipper on your hoodie?
I'd love to see your creations, your discoveries. I'm new-ish at this blog-thing and not even sure if folks can respond. (May have to upgrade!) But whether I hear from you or not, my closing for today is:
Go forth and create - joyfully.
I've got mixed feelings about painting murals. Love them; hate them. Can't paint them in the privacy of my home. Anyone walking by has an opinion, shared or not. The presence of any pausing to look over your shoulder can be... well, unnerving.
I usually stop mid-stroke when someone enters my space. Don't want to hear their opinions. Okay, if they have something positive to say, then maybe. And anything negative? Well, I usually beat them to it in some nervous babble about this or that to touch up/repaint/rethink/redo and sometimes they agree.
Which I hate. Or love (After all they are agreeing with my assessment).
But then there's the love... The excitement of filling a blank canvas with
color. The high of painting, feeling whatever cosmic thing it is that animates the mind/soul/heart/body connection, the thrill of seeing form, color, texture take shape, emerge, come to life!
But really, mostly love.
The big blue sky Mural
The largest mural I ever painted was on the top third of my kindergarten classroom wall. I painted a turquoise-blue sky featuring a parade of animal-shaped clouds. Somewhere there's a photo of me up on a ladder in paint-splattered overalls working on that wall. I was fearless then. Well, why not? It was summer & I had practically the entire school to myself, blasting music as I climbed up & down a ladder with paint & brushes in hand. (No photo. Yet. Determined to find that photo though... eventually.)
Artist note: Wall paint on wall paint. Didn't even wash the walls first.
The door mural
Before the Big Sky, sometime around 1999, I painted a windowless door leading to the playground for another teacher. She wanted a painting of a window looking out to a landscape. Never was great with landscapes so no surprise my favorite parts were two details at the bottom (dog & cow).
Painting with an audience, even one made up of 6, 7 or 8 year olds, can be intimidating. But really - and I know this - it was all just in my head.
I was in a somewhat defensive mode back then... Recently licensed to teach, but working a low-pay position as a "Para" while looking for a real teaching position had gotten to me although I strived to stay positive.
I loved being recognized as an artist & being paid to paint, but didn't want to be the proverbial starving artist bringing in minimum wages.
Artist note: Acrylics on plain previously painted door. Door prep: Cleaned years of smudges, dust and dirt before painting.
The ABC mural
For a while, I worked in the childcare room at one of the city's recreation centers. After our supervisor found out I was an artist, he asked me to paint an ABC themed mural up along the top walls.
The best thing about this mural was coming in when the childcare was closed and just hanging out for hours painting, listening to music. I painted this one in complete privacy. It was my very first paid mural ever. I had such fun coming up with the images, even made coloring pages to go with it.
Artist note: Researched animals the old-fashioned way (Google search didn't exist yet) - with books! Did pencil studies on paper, then pencil sketches on previously painted white wall. Drew letters using rulers & yardsticks. (Notice the pencil marks? Didn't want to try to erase them until paint was fully dry, then forgot. Got no complaints though!) Acrylic paint with rag handy to wipe up any drips asap.
The Tree Mural
Long story short... 20-plus years after painting the door, the very same teacher hired me to paint a tree mural for her backyard fence. She had seen some of my art on Facebook & messaged me her request.
(And yeah, offering a much better pay rate!)
Love/hate re-emerged before the first stroke. It had been years since painting any kind of mural.
WTF was I thinking? Why did I agree to do this?
What if she hates it?
What if I mess up?
What if __________? (Fill in the blank.)
At first she said to paint whatever I want.
Me: You know I've been doing a lot of nudes lately...
We settled on a tree. She showed me some images found online. I started to feel better. Okay. I guess I can do that...
Things always work out. The day temps were in the high 90s - painting out in the sun would be challenging. Then her husband reminded her they'd need to replace the fence in a few years.
I actually felt relief. Okay. No worries. Won't be painting any mural afterall.
But she brilliantly recalled they had removed a section of fencing previously and hadn't tossed it yet. Maybe that could be set up in the garage... Funny how nervous I felt. But still, having something to work from made me feel safe. I knew I could duplicate the image if nothing else. I could use the money, so heck, I'd just do it.
I asked her to have it prepped with primer. She had her son do a coat. It probably would've been better with two or more coats, as the wood was quite weathered and rough, but I liked the rusticness of it and dived in.
At first, I felt like I wasn't doing much art - it was more like copying another artist's work. But then, I started adding my own colors and details. My confidence grew along with feelings of excitement, joy, confidence... Love.
Artist note: Rough surface ruined a few of my finer brushes. As mentioned above, one coat of primer worked, but 2 or more coats would be better. Painted with a mix of wall paint and regular acrylics. Once these three sections are put up (on top of the remaining fence), I'll come by for any touch ups, then they will cover it with a protective coat of something. Haven't gotten that far yet! (Will update this post once I know.)
Recently I was inspired to sign up to receive notices from a local arts alliance. One day I saw a call for artists that caught my interest. “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” is a juried show that asked artist to look into another culture and create a piece of artwork. Then I read that recycled materials were strongly encouraged.
Do you know how often I look at trash and think about how it could be used in a piece of art? (Let’s just say more often than not.)
Then a couple of things happened almost simultaneously.
First, my son was throwing out some Styrofoam packaging from something he had ordered online. I held it in my hands and knew, just knew I wanted it - although I wasn’t exactly sure for what as yet.
Later, I reread the call. The theme was, “The World Within”. I looked at the list of countries shared on the website.
Afghanistan caught my eye.
Or maybe it's more accurate to say Afghanistan called to me.
I decided to do some online research. Two images grabbed my attention.
One was of a group of women wearing sky-blue burqas.
The other was of a dove sitting in the window of a tiled wall of a mosque in Kabul. I felt almost giddy when I opened the images for a larger view.
That piece of Styrofoam was the window.
But the window wasn’t just a window. No. It was also what is beneath the burqa. The world within.
The dove, the tile, was beautiful. Is beautiful.
I’ve known few Muslim women. All of whom I’ve met here, in Colorado. None wear a burqa, however two wear hijabs. The two who wear hijabs are more recent friends. Both are gentle, loving souls.
I’ve only seen beauty in my Muslim friends and the vibrancy of the color tiles seemed to reflect their beauty as well as speak to the history of the people of this land.
And the dove?
The dove represents what I see behind the burqas; what I see in my Muslim friends. Women who not only desire peace, but live peace. Women who speak with kindness and compassion. Women whose beauty may be kept behind the fabric of a burqa, but radiates outward nonetheless.
A little about my friends...
Amal is in her late sixties. We met at a Nia dance class and discovered we live right down the street from each other. We often encounter each other during sunset walks and so walk together, enjoying each other’s company.
The other, a younger woman named Rabia, worked in my kindergarten classroom for a practicum while in college. We kept in touch throughout the years – went out to eat, chatted on the phone… Once I came to her home for dinner. It was the first and only time I’ve ever eaten goat (delicious, btw). She married (an arranged marriage), then moved to out of state.
We call occasionally, but life goes on…
Just in case anybody's curious... Here are photos & notes about the recycled materials I used for this piece.
I'm sending my finished piece out this week as my contribution to this wonderful exhibit. All sales benefit the organization, 100%. I hope my work brings in a few bucks although I must say either way, the process of creating it was great fun!
Trump: The stable genius of this era. Or so we’ve been told, by none other that the big guy himself.
And maybe he is.
After all, everything is relative; perception is everything and if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then why not genius? Or not just genius - but stable genius.
So a friend asked me to write a poem mocking a political figure - like, for example, our current prez. Inwardly, I groaned. Not my thing. Not politics, not satire, and definitely not getting into negative tirades. She explained it’s a Day of the Dead tradition. Imagine him dead, and write his legacy or something like that, but with humor. She wanted poems to hand out at an art event, knew I love to write, thought she’d ask.
I agreed to give it a go as long as I could be playful. Yes, yes, she agreed. At first I doubted I’d come up with anything, but then, always appreciating a reason to write, thought I’d jot a few things if something comes up.
No worries. No upstream drama to write a masterpiece, just downstream flow and ease and inspiration.
Later that day some phrases came to me. Then some more. I ended up writing most the poem that evening before bed then waking with ideas to finish it. The one line, “Too late” actually came to me a full day later.
So here it is. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
It's a simple story, illustrated by Eric Carle, whose tissue paper collage illustrations have enchanted children & adults for decades.
Years ago, I wrote a play based on this book for my kindergarten class. Recently, a colleague asked if she could use my play, which included what I call ditties - playful rewrites of song segments as well as Carle inspired costumes. I said yes.
But then, we couldn't locate a copy of the book to read to the kids - not at the school nor the library, and when we looked online, used copies were exorbitantly priced. Surely there was a read-aloud on Youtube for the kids to watch!
So I made my own read-aloud video of the book... then for fun, added an art activity inspired by two of the moving pages.
Did I mention I love making pop-ups? This is a 'moving picture book'. Pull the tag and a bee zips across the page. Open a cell in the hive and a baby bee pops out!
My take on these two pages is below. My bee zips across the page just like Carle's does! Plus I teach you how to make a cell that opens and closes.
Want to learn how? Or better yet, got a kiddo who might enjoy a read-aloud about a hive of bees? Well, here you go! Enjoy!
A friend and I had been wanting to get together to do art for a while. Kara has the perfect space for an art gathering and the idea of painting shoes had come up previously. The time had finally come for a shoe decorating event for women only. Female bonding with shoes, music, food & wine - what could be better?
I arrived with shoes in hand not really sure what I was going to do. Kara & friends provided acrylic paints, Sharpies, metallic markers, buttons, trim, baubles... I knew inspiration would come if I just would get started, so with green tea at hand (No wine for me! Even one glass can do me in!), I dived in. I squeezed out several colors that called to me and started painting.
We all had so much fun, we met again the following Sunday. This time I brought a pair of newer shoes that I had bought on clearance. They were an odd grey color so I had covered them with black shoe polish a few weeks ago. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I've always loved Zentangle type drawing and decided to use one of the metallic paint pens to Zentangle my shoes.
So, looking for something fun creative and fun to do with a friend or two? I highly recommend organizing a shoe decorating party!
What's next? Not sure.
However, I have noticed our local Good Will occasionally has .99 sales on jeans...
Just before our Sisters' Reunion (Four sisters and one sister-in-law meeting for a week of laughter and connection...), I discovered our youngest sis is an amazing artist. Once learning this, I wanted to create art with her more than anything else during our visit.
At first, it didn't seem as though it would actually happen, but then, while admiring the art on her walls (her art, 'natch!), we found one piece that especially caught the attention of us all. It was a canvas that had been "Pour Painted".
I suggested that, perhaps, if she happened to have the materials laying about, maybe she could teach us this technique...
She did. And she did!
Pour-Painting is a messy, fun process. Not going into details here (there are several instructional videos on YouTube), just recommending it as a fabulous bonding experience requiring zero art or painting skills to result with something strikingly beautiful. We had such fun!
One wonderful thing was that each of our paintings came out as lovely pieces of art worthy of hanging. The other wonderful thing was that we truly connected in a way never before experienced - at least not that I can recall. We live in different parts of the country (Colorado, Tennessee, Michigan...). We have different beliefs around spirituality, life and death. One has different political beliefs than the rest of us. I'm the only single, never-married mother in our family and possibly the most woo-woo of us all (I listen to... what? A woman who channels a group of non-physical beings called 'Abraham'? How bizarre can anyone get?).
I've heard it asked, "Can we just get along?" regarding those of differing beliefs and practices. The answer is yes! Especially when art is part of the equation...
Deep into my career as an elementary school teacher, I started asking myself if I was still an artist. Can you be an artist if you're not doing any art? Am I a writer if I'm not writing? For me, ARTIST is a verb. Writer too. Do what you love and JOY will come. Maybe money too, but I've discovered without joy, everything else is meaningless.