Monday, March 30, 2009

Nature Journals

These 3 books are some of my favorites on teaching children how to begin their own realistic nature journal.

And the book below is just a special (fantasy) one... Just because it is hard to be in nature without thinking of fairies, sprites, boggarts, elves and all sorts of fantastic woodland life.  
We have been reading the Spiderwick Chronicles  by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black...
and here is Professor spiderwick's Field guide/journal, also by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Inside this gorgeous "field guide" are pages full of watercolor landscapes,  black-and-white and color sketches, and enough information to satisfy even the most demanding faerie enthusiast. Not only will readers learn all about the 14 fantastical creatures featured in the series, but they'll be delighted and astonished by an additional 15 creatures featured in this elaborate volume--including mermaids, gargoyles, and more!!!

Yesterday was a very windy and sunny day and we ventured outdoors for some nature sketching.  Now I do not have much of a green thumb myself... but i was told by honeypie that it seems the daffodil is the first to bloom in spring!  

Here is honeypie's field guide/ nature journal. I used one of those great black cover plain page books.... she decorated it with stickers.

She wanted it to say this inside...

Her first sketch... her daffodil.  They were in full bloom at the park.

The trees still have no leaves but this one had great moss creeping on its bark...

We found a feather and some corn stalk pieces... we are going to glue them to the journal and maybe make a nature box too... I'll post later ... I have some ideas...

And here are some of the supplies we took with us.  We have been loving these "true life" color pencils by crayola.   Each pencil has a mixture of colors in its same color scheme... great for blending...

I will post more as the season progresses!

Lets get outside!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drawing with children

When I used to teach art to children K-3, I remember how much fun they used to have. Their imaginations free and and their enthusiasm high and always eager. Occasionally there would be the one child that was reluctant to try a project, a different medium or did not know how to fear of getting something wrong. When I moved to teaching middle school... boy, was there a difference. The problem became what i like to call... the "I CAN'T DRAW!" syndrome. Its a shame the word " I can't... So many years of how to properly spell words, how to properly memorize this or that, and the loss of I think...belief. No santa, fairies, or mermaids...... and the kids got so caught up on what things should look like, what things should be... real life.

When I look at honeypie's drawings, there is such a sense of communication...wanting to show me what she saw the other day, wanting to remember something and drawing it. Like her own mental snapshots. Her wild imagination takes her all over the world and beyond... under the sea, in outer space...or right at home with family.
We began drawing when she was months old. I just gave her a crayon and soon after a brush. I just let her organically experiment with the feel of paint and introduced her to all kinds of paper. (I loooveeeee paper).
She never drew on on the walls strangely enough....
When she was stuck... I'd gently guide and encourage her but I never drew anything for her.

honeypie: I can't draw a square
me: do you want me to guide you?
honeypie: ok...
me: you start with a line. can you draw a line?
honeypie: yes
me : oh!! then you definelty will know how to draw a square... its 4 lines!!!
(her eyes widen and her mouth makes a giant "O")
me: its up, across, down and across ... like 2 letter "L's" (I like to use lots of visuals)
me:... you try
and I talk alot about patience and there are lots of "look at you's" and she is very excited and proud when she accomplishes it.
When bigger things come along... like drawing animals, trees or things that are not in front of you or things that require imagination... I go about it a bit differently.
Honeypie: I want to draw a tree.... but I don't know how...
me: ok... what kind of tree?
honeypie: an oak tree
me: old oak? big trunk?
honeypie: no... baby one
me:so how should the trunk be?
honeypie: small
me: ok.. show me the trunk.
(she draws the trunk ... 2 lines side by side)
me: great! now what else do we need?
honeypie: leaves
me: just leaves? or would you like branches too? like the oak we saw in the park the other day?
the one you said was kind of spooky?
honeypie: yes!!! with branches!
(she draws some lines out of the trunk )
me: and what kind of leaves does an oak tree have?
Honeypie: kind of in and out in and out spiky (she is stacing the air with her finger)
me: ok... lets see some. What color? is it in the fall or summer?
honeypie : fall... so red and brown
so our conversation continues like this until she has drawn her tree. I might touch her paper with my finger to touch an area, to talk about height or width... but i never take a pencil and my hand and show her how it is done. She has told me before " you do it". I respond..." no.. you can do it, its your drawing ... i draw mine, my way and you draw yours your way and this is your creation... you are the artist of this piece.

Art is such a personal thing. Such a personal expression... vision. Alot of times when you have art that is "a craft" ... like a project you might do at the library story hour for example or coloring in coloring books... everyones work can tend to look alike, its very defined and that is fine and good and fun but it is also good to mix it up with some imagination and free creative work too. (so you can get out of the "this is what it needs to look like" mode...gets your creative juices flowing... its individual.)

I like to keep a nature journal. (i'll post about it later since spring is approaching and it is a great thing to do daily or when ever you are outdoors). I would like to start another type of journal... a type of diary but with pictures in which honeypie and I record what we did during the day, favorite things we say or how we were feeling... (i'll post about that later too...)
The idea of a nature journal is that you can sit outdoors and stop... look...listen. Pay attention to something interesting... a worm on a leaf, a bird on a tree, moss, bark... etc. and sketch it. Use your own eyes to see, then draw. I myself keep a travel journal when ever i travel. I have sketched many beaches, scottish sheep, hills in morocco, castles and even food i have eaten. Its not only relaxing but it gets your hand used to movement and trains the eye. I would like to start one with Honeypie this spring.

Maybe we can all do it together...

Here are some great book ideas to get you and your child started in some drawing adventures...

Ish by Peter Reynolds
This book is about a boy that questions his ability to draw and how things are suppossed to be, and his sister opens his eyes to something more important than getting things "just right" and he begins to think... " ish" -ly.

"The Dot" by Peter Reynolds, is about a girl's art journey of surprise and self discovery in finding your own rules!

and "art" by Patrick Mcdonnell... about a boy named art, doing art! and his adventures in his pure joy of creation! (beautiful illustrations)

You do not have to be a so called "artist" to draw, or a teacher to teach.
Art just is .... anywhich way.... have fun!

Here are some of honeypie's more recent drawings... skippyjon jones and his family, mama, honeypie and the baby and dog she wishes we had... also chippy..our outdoor chipmunk/so-called "pet"... (just emerging out of hibernation)

Here are some drawings done about half a year ago... space inspired...

and some nature inspired...

Wishing you happy drawing adventures, together with your child!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For the birds...

Here are some great books we have been reading in preparation for spring.
"Wings" by Sneed B. Collard and "Beaks", by Sneed B. Collard too.
Both of these books are a wonderful introduction into the world of birds with colorful beautiful collaged cut-and-sculpted-paper illustrations. In the book "Beaks", the author gives us plenty of information about birds and how they use their beaks, allowing them to eat, build nests, or dig. And the book "Wings", takes us a little deeper with the fact that birds aren't the only creatures that have wings, that for exaample bats and insects have them, too. It explores the diversity of wings, the mechanics of flight, and wonderful qualities that flying animals possess.
The beautiful collaged images make a great inspiration to create your own bird cut paper and glue collage.
The book "Today at the blue bird cafe" by Deborah Rudell is a very cute poetry book about birds.
Its silly and sweet and children and adults alike will be drawn to the vivid whimsical watercolor illustrations.

"all you can eat at the bluebird cafe,
a grasshopper-katydid-cricket buffet
with berries and snails
and a blue bottle fly
a sip of the lake and a bite of the sky"

In anticipation of spring, Honeypie and I made some bird feeders to welcome the birds back.

If you and your little ones would like to make this project, here is what you'll need:

peanut butter, almond butter or vegetable shortening
bird seed
needle nose pliers
floral wire or rope
and some pine cones

1. I wrapped each cone with the floral wire (you can use rope or twine too). This is how the pine cone will hang from the tree. I used the pliers to help wrap the wire.

2. Have your little one help you dip the pine cone into the peanut butter or spoon it on.

3. When the pine cone is fully covered, dip it into the bird seed bowl. You can use a spoon to help you get all the seed on.

4.Place them on a tray.
They will be ready for hanging outdoors
and the birds will say.."tweet tweet"..... thank you.

Happy spring!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Skippyjon Jones by judy Schachner

SkippyJon Jones by Judy Schachner has somehow made its way to our daily reading.
It started in a store where honeypie saw a book and stuffed animal combo.
"mama, i want to buy that cat", her
"no, he is a bit ugly... you have plenty of stuffed animals", me
" oh, mama, please!!!!!", her
"I am sorry, no. If you would like it, you have to buy it yourself with your money." me
"ok... ". her
(actually it was a great lesson in the value of money and earning.)
And $9 of her dollars later, here we are...

Actually the story book is very fun. Imaginative. This kitty cat boy thinks he is a chihuahua dog and goes into his closet to play and imagine. His imagination takes him into Mexico where he has a band of friends, chihuahuas of course, called the chimichangos. Skippyjon jones has to help them with a series of problems. In this book, the bumblebeeto bandito (skippy's bumblebee birthday piñata) is a bandit that has stolen the chimichango's beans. So skippyjon jones has to get the beans back. There are lots of great silly rhymes and goofy songs they sing and honeypie finds it all very very funny...and actually so do I.
There are several books to the series, "Skippyjon jones in mummy trouble", "Skippyjon ones in the doghouse", "Skippyjon jones and the big bones" and I think another one is coming out this summer.
So if you have not read this book... I definitely recommend going to the library and borrowing it. The illustrations in the book are also so lovely, colorful and vibrant.

Honeypie wanted a Skippyjon jones birthday party. Obviously, there was nothing out there in internet world to support this birthday theme... but with a little imagination, i think we were able to pull it off and we had fun doing it too!

Below are some "dress up" pieces I made for honeypie (which she insisted on so she too could be Skippyjon jones of course!!) I know all kids love pretending and dressing up too.

I needle felted the peach color wool of the ears onto pieces of brown pre-felted sweater triangles. (I stuck an old 100% wool sweater into the washing machine with some soap then stuck it in the drier. The sweater shrinks and felts itself).

I sewed 2 triangles of the sweater together and stuffed them lightly. I sewed the triangles shut, leaving a 1/4 " room at the bottom. I then used a hot glue gun to glue the ears to a head band.

For the cape , I measured the back of one of her jackets and pretty much eye-balled and traced the outline for the cape onto a piece of fabric. (The jacket gave me the basic i must admit... i am just teaching myself to sew....)
I used velcro for the neckstrap, to keep it tied. Its easier for little hands.

For the mask I traced a pair of sunglasses honeypie had (to measure where the eye holes would be), I then cut the mask out and sewed an elastic in the back to keep it in place. I used the zig-zag option on my sewing machine to get the green details.

I melted chocolate into candy molds into paws and kitties for the goody bags.

And I made a Skippyjon jones birthday cake for her!

It was a great birthday!

Remember... birthdays will always come and go. If your little one is like mine, there is always an excuse for a party.
Making your own birthday details opens you to a world of many more creative opportunities. And your child can feel like he has more ownership of his or her special day. It personalizes it for your child, since both of you will be involved in the planning and crafting of it.
And believe do not have to be Martha Stewart!
Just Believe. (and pray for time!)

happy birdycake!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

El piñatero (the piñata maker) by George Ancona

Honeypie had her birthday just a little bit ago and though we had never ventured into piñata world ourselves, we had attended many a birthday party with one. I guess I was not ready for the shower of sugar one would introduce and I've yet to see one raining apples.
Don't get me wrong... I am not the type of parent that denies sweets but I do like making nutritious decisions, reading the labels on the food our family chooses to eat and I am very happy with the findings of healthy alternatives like fruitabu fruit roll-ups and yummy earth organic lollipops (organic, dye free, HFCS free), amongst other things. I am astounded at the amount of high fructose corn syrup inside the majority of food our children eat and not necessarily inside candy. It is inside bread, cereals, crackers, yogurt, lunch meats, cookies and even vegetable juice. Here's an article by Dr. Jay Gordon whose website i love, on nutrition for children, one on HFCS High Fructose Corn Syrup and another one on the new findings of mercury inside high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is horrible, linked to everything from ADHD to obesity.

But i digress... back to piñatas...
Honeypie's new love is a book by Judy Schachner called "Skippyjon Jones" and she wanted to have a Skippyjon Jones birthday party theme. So we decided to make all the party things ourselves amongst those things a "Bumblebeeto Bandito" piñata. We read a great book by George Ancona called "El piñatero (the piñata maker)", which was a great introduction into the world of piñata making. The book takes us through the day of Don Ricardo, a piñata maker in a small village in southern mexico. It documents this beautiful latin american art form, shows plenty of pictures of mexican daily village life, including how to make your own piñata. The book is bilingual, written in both Spanish and English, so it's a great way to introduce a new language into your child's vocabulary. Interested in raising a bilingual child? Read a great article by piñatamama at Piñata on "why raise bilingual children".

Below are some pictures of our piñata adventure, including our small disaster with the experimentation of a new art material... celluclay, (made to help make piñata making easier????). We made the bumblebeeto bandito from the skippyjon jones book and filled it with beans just like the book. Our "beans" were made of plastic filled with chocolate.

Honeypie uses the paper mache paste to cover 2 balloons which were placed side by side to resemble the body of the bumblebee (bandito).

Here's the finished bumblebee body...

3 days of trying to dry the piñata yields this... (oh, what a dissappointment!!)

Duck tape could not even salvage this mastodon.

We go back to basics with a flour, sugar and water paste. I found a great recipe for paper mache in the family fun website, which by the way, is a great site for arts and crafts ideas.
To make this paper mache paste, combine 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 2 cups cold water in a bowl. Add this mixture to a saucepan of 2 cups boiling water and bring it to a boil again. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Let it cool; it will thicken as it cools. Once it does, it's ready to use.

Try #2 ... I forget to line my form with plastic wrap or rub it with oil. The newspaper and paste concoction gets stuck to the form and i can't peel the paper mache off...

Here is try #3. We use 2 balloons again, cover them with newspaper saturated with the paste and this time we use poster board paper to hold the 2 paper mache ends of the bumblebee body together. We wait until the 2 ends are dry and we attach them to the cardboard with ducktape.

We cover the whole form with yellow and black tissue/crepe paper. (I use elmers glue diluted in water as an adhesive to put on the cardboard and tissue paper). We leave a hole at the bottom to fill with the goodies. The bottom opening gets covered with yellow construction paper of a lighter weight. That is where honeypie used a make-believe sword to "pop" the piñata... just like in the skippyjon jones book, releasing all the goodies.

We add the tissue paper stinger attached with black duck tape.

We use black pipe cleaners to make the antennas and construction paper for the eyes, wings and nose.

All done!!!
It was a great piñata adventure and a great party addition!

Hope that you can make one too.
I am going to have a piñata challenge in the month of May to celebrate"Cinco de Mayo", so stay tuned...


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