Sunday, 16 April 2017

Preschool Self Portraits

These are very simple yet I love how they turned out..

What you need:
  • Black permanent markers
  • White paper
  • Streamers
  • Thick paint brushes
  • Water pots
How to:
  • Ask the children to draw themselves
  • Let them have several attempts so you can choose the best one.  Encourage them, telling them to draw eyebrows, hair, etc....
  • Next give them another piece of paper
  • Hand out pieces of streamer, water pot and paint brush
  • Demonstrate how to lay streamer on paper, apply water by dabbing on top of streamer and leave for a while before removing streamer to see bled colour underneath
  • Keep them going until most of their paper is covered by colour
  • Some children love this process so I just keep giving them more paper and let them do several if they wish
  • Cut out portrait and glue to bleeding streamer background when it is dry
The Results:



Sculpture Lesson

In this lesson we looked at 3D artworks and especially the work of Dale Chihuly.  There is no way we can do glass blowing in the studio (of course the kids were up for it) however you can replicate his style with melted plastic.  I have tried melting plastic cups in the oven before, however the results were a little disappointing.  Recently I saw a post on instagram by Sierra Madres with plastic bowls and thought I should try this.  I so happened to have a stack of donated overhead transparencies, a heat gun and lots of permanent markers.


In this lesson we also made stocking sculptures. I have seen these on a Pinterest and Instagram.  We cheated a bit and did them in one or two sessions.  Most instructions I found said to prime them several times before painting.  So ours were still soft like stockings and even see through yet I didn't mind this.

Chihuly Inspired Bowls

We watched several YouTube videos on Chihuly before starting the lesson.  The kids just love watching glass blowing...

What you need:
  • Overhead transparencies 
  • Permanent markers
  • Gun
  • Scissors
  • Bowl to trace around
  • Tin can covered in foil
How to:
  • Trace around bowl with permanent marker (any colour yet advise that you might see this so get them to choose colour carefully)
  • Cut out
  • Colour in circle.  It works best with blocks of colour rather than simple lines.
  • Place on upside down tin can covered with foil
  • Use heat gun to melt plastic moving around all sides (have the gun close yet not touching the plastic)
  • Let cool for a few minutes and remove from can.
Tips: older children can use the heat gun themselves.  Younger children can hold it with you or you can do it for them. These look great stuck to a window with blue tac.

The Results:



We also made some Chihuly inspired art with muffin pans and spray watercolours..


Stocking Sculptures

As with most of my projects I had children aged 5-12 yrs make these so they are not just for older children which is what I usually see doing these.

What you need:
  • Knee high stockings 
  • Blocks of wood (I just got a fence picket from the hardware store and cut into pieces)
  • Drill
  • Wire coat hangers (recycled or from supermarket)
  • Spray paint (we use sugar spray low toxic, outside with masks)
  • Acrylic paint, brushes, pots, glitter
How to:
  • Get the children to bend the coat hanger into a shape.  You can either cut off the hooked end and use that shape or unravel the twisted bit and use that shape.  Some younger children had difficulty bending the wire so I helped a bit.
  • Drill one or two holes into the wood and push the coat hanger into them
  • Cover wire with a stocking, pulling very tight and pull right over block of wood
  • Spray paint (I limited to one colour) and let dry
  • Add patterns with acrylic paint (option to add glitter too)
The Results:

They are very unusual and cool.....




David Hockney Inspired Lesson

Recently we were very lucky to have a David Hockney exhibition on at the National Gallery of Victoria.  It was a great exhibition and very appealing to children as the majority of the paintings were done on an IPad.  Hockney is amazing to still be creating great art at the age of 79, especially using technology.   

One of Hockneys iPad paintings..


I'm a big fan of getting really messy, experimenting with art materials and losing yourself in the process.  I'm always asking (or is it yelling??) at my children to get off their devices.  However I do see the need to embrace technology as it progresses and my children just love painting on the iPad.  It's certainly a non messy way of doing art in the car or on holiday.  

Hockney uses an app called Brushes Redux.  It's a free app.  Download it and give it a go, its fun..  It helps to use a stylus yet is not completely necessary.  The great thing about this app is it records the steps as you paint.  When you are finished you can play your painting and see your painting appear step by step on the screen, like watching a time lapse video.  


At the exhibition it was mesmerising watching the recorded steps of Hockney painting.  Watching him paint the children learnt technique, how to apply blocks of colour, how to layer, how to use different brush strokes and different sized brushes.   Not all the children in my classes made it to the exhibition yet there is a great YouTube video that walks you through it.

Many of Hockneys paintings are of still life, self portraits or landscape.


In this lesson we used both traditional art materials and iPads to produce a painting inspired by Hockney (think bright and colourful, layering, texture).  

iPad Paintings
I only have 2 iPads and 10 children in my classes so each child got about 10 minutes on an ipad.  I explained the basics of using the Brushes app and then left them to it to experiment.  Of course they all loved it.  I emailed their artwork to their parents so they could see it.


Hockney inspired artworks using traditional art materials
With only 2 iPads available the rest of the class had to be doing something so we looked at pictures of Hockneys iPad drawings and came up with our own versions using traditional art materials (paint, oil pastel, chalk pastel).  We discussed his use of vibrant colour and love of drawing flowers, cactus pots, landscapes and self portraits.  

Hockney sends his iPad drawings to several people at once.  It's as if he can give several people a bunch of flowers all at once.  I love this concept and I took photos and emailed photos of the artworks to the parents to brighten their day (and they can then forward to others).

We also used texture plates under the paper to add texture which looked a little similar to some of the ipad brush strokes.



Printing with Preschoolers

The look of wonderment on a preschoolers face when they first "pull a print" is joyous.  I wish I had a photo, I'm sure I've seen some on Instagram.


There are so many ways to do printing with the 3-5 year old group.  Three that we have done recently are bubble wrap prints, mirror prints and muffin tin prints.  The muffin tin prints are from the fabulous book "Art workshop for children" by Barbara Rucci (

Bubble Wrap Prints
For this project I bubble wrapped the entire table (idea from Julia Linsteadt).  I've also seen bubble wrapped trees (Art bar blog) which looks so awesome, if only I had a big tree in the garden to use.

I then used the book "Mix it Up" by Herve Tullet to get the children to apply finger paint to the bubble wrap and experiment with mixing colours.  I read it out as they applied each colour and mixed away.  

Here comes the printing part....then I handed out pieces of paper which the children pressed down onto the bubble wrap, pulled away, and viola they have a print!  Double sided prints really as they got hand prints from their messy hand on the other side.  Have a big stack of paper ready as they just keep printing and printing...

A great way to wrap up this activity (idea from Julia again) is to squirt shaving cream all over the bubble wrap and they can then mix it into the paint and get really messy..


Mirror Prints
It's always fun to paint on any surface that isn't paper.   Mirrors are a great surface to use.  If I had the space in my studio I would set up one huge mirror for painting just like Meri Cherry.

You can get the children to paint anything of course, and you don't need to take prints.  However I thought this was a good opportunity for the preschoolers to really look at their faces, where their nose is, where the mouth is, how big are their eyes etc.  They observed first, then painted their faces onto the mirrors.  Then I handed out paper, which was pressed onto the painting and pulled off to reveal their print.  We had some cloths available to wipe the mirror clean so they could start again with a new picture and the process is repeated.




Muffin Tin Prints
This is such an awesome idea with such great results.  If you don't have a muffin tin,  no worries, use an upside down paint palette or upside down containers.  We used a few different things.  Some children sat and did this for ages, others were a lot quicker.  I decided to display the prints on black paper, yet Bar has a couple of other suggestions in her book.


Happy printing!!


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kindness Elves

When I first read about Kindness Elves on the Imagination Tree website I loved the idea.  We don't have an elf on a shelf yet we probably would if my children were a little younger.  I think the kindness elves are a great alternative.  I'm a big fan of random acts of kindness and these elves are a great way to encourage positive behaviours.  


I couldn't order elves for all my students yet I did think I'm sure we can make these ourselves.  Obviously it was up to the parents how they were used.  I sent the parents an email explaining the concept and left it up to them if they moved them around or not.  For the children I told them that sometimes the elves can become magical and move around, yet regardless if they moved or not they should do some kindness acts leading up to Christmas.  Christmas is a time of giving and doing things for people you love.  We discusssed ideas...

What you need:
  • Wood peg dolls
  • Fabric scraps, felt scraps
  • Scissors
  • Wool
  • Black marker for faces
  • Hot glue gun
  • Ribbon, buttons, Pom poms etc
How to:
  • I just put out the supplies and let the children work it out themselves
  • I stood at the hot glue gun station and just glued whatever they asked
The Results:

The children really loved this project and some made quite a few elves.  We even had accessories for them too.




Camouflage hands

At the start of last year I came across the work of Emma Hack in an art gallery.  It totally blew me away... Then I saw her work in the Gotye video and I knew we had to do a lesson based on her work.  My students love painting on each other at the best of times so I knew this would be a hit.  It was also time to showcase the work of an Aussie female artist.


I must have seen lessons in the past of the camouflaged hands and filed them somewhere in my brain (as I now realise there are lesson plans on the internet on this) yet I really just followed Emma's method for these and made it up as I went.  Before the lesson we viewed a few videos of Emma at work and watched the Gotye music video.

A word on the paint, we just used washable tempera paint. You can then use the same paint on the paper and the hands and it washes off easily.

What you need:
  • White paper
  • Paint, brushes, water pots
  • Pattern samples
  • Camera
How to:
  • Get the children to paint a pattern on their piece of paper
  • Leave to dry (we did this part one week and the painting hands the next)
  • Get the children to place their hand on their patterned paper and then paint their hand in matching colours to camouflage it.
  • Take a photo BEFORE they move their hand.
  • Email photo to their parents 
Tips : Since they didn't want to move around much once they had their hand in place I helped pass paint, brushes etc. However I only have 10 students at a time so that was easy.  

Variations : I like the children to have fun in my classes so if they say can we paint our faces like Gotye I would say "sure why not?" Parents know what my classes are like and expect messy kids.  This part was optional. The children paired up and painted their faces into the pictures, then I photographed them. Some also did their feet....

The Results:

I love how this project worked out.  It was fun to do and the photos are great.



Clay Dragons

I do love the ceramic projects.  I sometimes stress a bit as to whether they will explode in the kiln or not, yet so far I've been pretty lucky.


I try and do one ceramic project a term, as many of the children just love working with clay.

I fire the pieces from my after school & Saturday classes yet I just use paper clay for the school and preschool classes.  We add beads, glitter etc and paint them straight away (far less breakages than painting when dry, I've never understood why people wait).  

Paper clay is just normal clay with paper pulp added for strength.  It acts exactly like normal clay and you can fire it.  I like using it as it gives me the choice to fire or not and it's the same price as normal clay.  I find some of the air dry clay is quite expensive.

What you need:
  • Paper Clay
  • Skewers
  • Water
  • Underglazes (ones to be fired)
  • Clear gloss (ones to be fired only)
  • Beads, glitter etc (only for pieces not getting fired)
How to:
  • Demonstrate how to make a dragon.  The simplest method is squeeze the clay into a sausage shape with one end thinner (think snake shape).  Then add legs.  Then form a head.  Then add details such as scales, spikes, teeth, horns etc.
  • Domonstrate how to scratch and attach all pieces so they don't fall off
  • If any parts are thicker than 1 inch either poke a hole in it or hollow out.
  • Ones to be fired, paint with underglaze, leave to dry
  • Ones not fired - add beads, matchsticks, glitter etc
  • Once fired, add layer of clear gloss. (You could also clear glaze here and fire again, I didn't as a few bits were broken and I wanted to glue them on and we were also about to start our big summer break).
The Results:

Love dragons!!!