12/1/22

Goodnight Moon Craft

Today's project is the third in my series based on crowd-sourced responses to ten questions. For this one, I asked my friends to name a popular children's book. Goodnight Moon (affiliate link here and below) was the top answer by far. 

In designing this craft, I wanted to make something that was interesting and recognizable from Goodnight Moon, yet not so challenging that the only children who could make it had already outgrown the book. There are a lot of ways to adapt this to make it easier or more challenging to match the abilities of the child(ren) making it. For example, adults can pre-punch the shapes if little hands aren't big or strong enough to punch. You can switch out the tape for paper (although kids LOVE playing with tape). You can skip the stripes on the yellow curtains, or draw them more as scribbles. 
 


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Goodnight Moon Craft


Materials:


Steps: 


Cut the blue cardstock to approximately 10" square. Punch out one white moon and as many white stars as you'd like. 


Glue the moon to the blue paper, slightly left of center. It should not be too close to the left edge where the curtain will go. Glue the stars randomly where you want. Again, anything too far to the left will be covered. 

Add four vertical strips of tape to the blue cardstock: one on the left side, one on the right side, and two evenly spaced between them. Tuck the edges of the tape behind the blue cardstock. 


Put glue on the back of the blue cardstock and center it on the green cardstock. Add a piece of tape across the top of the blue paper for the curtain rod. It should extend off the edges of the green cardstock. Tuck the edges of tape behind the paper. 


Cut a rectangle of yellow cardstock that is approximately 11" long. Cut a second piece of yellow that is shaped like a large wedge of pie. These two pieces will be the curtains. Place them on your craft to see if you like their size and adjust as necessary. Then draw narrow green lines on the curtains. It's easiest to use a fine-line pen and a ruler for the rectangle and to freehand the wedge. 


Glue the curtains in place. That's all there is to it!


Not only would this be a fun craft to do WITH kids, it would be great to do FOR kids. Pop this into a frame to hang in the nursery. Or create a smaller version to use as a card. There are lots of possibilities. 

11/30/22

Fun with Math Puns: Making Winter Symme-trees

My favorite puns are the really intellectual ones, where you have to have specific, often esoteric knowledge to get the joke. I'm sure that I miss many of them completely as they go over my head, but that only makes the ones I do get all the more satisfying. It's like a little reward knowing that you're educated enough (in at least one specific area) to understand an intellectual pun. 

The first time I remember really appreciating a pun was around 1st or 2nd grade, when I discovered The King Who Rained (affiliate link here and below). I laughed out loud in our silent school library, checked out the book, and laughed about it every time I thought about it. I checked that book out at least a dozen times over the rest of my elementary school career. I was also a huge fan of Amelia Bedelia. We had a Japanese exchange student and her teacher stay with us when I was 8 and they LOVED those books. Getting the joke in a language you're learning must be even more satisfying than in your native language. 

Back in my teaching days, my students loved discovering a punny book in our class library that they hadn't previously understood. Like when we would first encounter circumference in the math book... one year, a student yelled, "Hey!" and ran giggling to the class library to pull out these books, super pleased with himself to finally get the joke. That totally made my day. It's an amazing feeling to see kids not only learning, but making a strong enough connection with material to understand a pun. 

I was thinking of those kids when I made these Symme-trees. Naturally, they go perfectly with a math lesson about symmetry. Wouldn't a whole bulletin board of them look great?



Winter Symme-trees



Materials:


Steps:


Set aside one sheet of light blue cardstock. Cut the other sheet into six pieces, each approximately 4" x 6". Use the scoring board to make a fold line down the center of each. Add green paint to the right-hand side of each piece, vaguely forming the shape of half a tree. Start with a conversative amount of paint. You can add more, but can't remove it. 


Fold the paper along the scored line, pressing the paint onto the other side. Open up the paper; if you're happy with the tree, set it aside to dry and move on to the next one. If there wasn't enough paint, just add more on the right side and press again. 

Let all six trees dry completely. When they are dry, add horizontal swaths of white paint to mimic snow. Fold and press. Again, you can add more paint in it doesn't transfer well. 


When the white paint is dry, add brown for the trunk. Let all the paint dry completely, then fold the trees the opposite direction, so that the paint is facing out. Carefully cut around each tree. 

Cut the white cardstock into snowy hills. Ink the edges with pale grey ink, then glue them to the background paper. You can glue your trees directly to the background paper too, but I used foam tape to pop them up and add extra dimension. It's hard to tell in the scanned image, but it makes a big difference in person. Finally, decorate with snowflakes. Adding a "SYMME-TREES" title is optional. 


If I were making these in the classroom, I'd follow up with challenging the students to think of tree puns to work into a story or other piece of creative writing. I would love to cedar clever ideas... fir sure!

11/29/22

Coloring with Terrible Crayons

I almost never use crayons for artwork anymore, despite having a good-sized collection of them. Last year, I pared down my giant crayon stash and got rid of all of the terrible ones. For as rarely as I use crayons and for as many Crayolas as I own, I don't need what are essentially wickless candles pretending to be art supplies.

I am more of a crafter than an artist, but I'm increasingly realizing that a person will never improve much as an artist if they keep using low-quality art supplies. That said, there are times when you're stuck with using low-quality art supplies. I was recently at an event that had coloring pages and "crayons" (sticks of wax with very little pigment) for the kids. Since there was no rule that you had to be a kid to color, I took some. (My philosophy is that since there's no reason I can't be a Junior Ranger at age 50, there shouldn't be any age-related prohibition on coloring either.) 

My box of "crayons" had six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. No black, brown, or white, unfortunately. I did my best to use varying amounts of pressure to create shades and the illusion of shadows. When blending colors didn't work, I layered them after using my fingernail to scrape off the bits of wax the first layer left behind. 


It's no masterpiece. If I'd used Crayola crayons (or better yet, colored pencils) on higher quality paper, my resulting artwork would look a lot better. But it's not terrible, either. Of course, I know there are artists with a lot more skill than I have who could have made something much better with the same materials I did use. The best results come from the combination of practice and high-quality materials.

If you find your skills are not progressing despite practice, it might be time to invest in better quality stuff. You don't need to jump from all the way from restaurant freebies to professional-grade, but it might be worth getting something toward the higher end. My favorite place to get good quality art supplies is Blick. Everything they sell is decent, and you can find good options no matter what your price point is. 

11/28/22

Result = Skill + Tools

Owning every fancy cake decorating tool does not mean that someone who has never decorated a cake can make a masterpiece. Far from it. You can have all the best tools, but skill is crucial. Someone with skill can decorate a cake beautifully using nothing but a knife. Will that cake be as nice as if the expert had used high-quality, specialty equipment? Nope, but it will probably look better than the novice who uses the best supplies that exist.


Skill matters, and so do the tools. Without one or the other, the results are not going to be as good as if you had both. To continue the example of the cake decorator, not only do the tools matter, but the frosting does too. If it's too runny or too thick, grainy, or separated, the cake will suffer no matter what tools you have. 

So does this mean beginners should buy the all best tools and materials from the start? Yes and no. A cake decorating novice doesn't need 50 decorating tips, multiple shapes of cake combs, icing bag stands, an airbrushing kit, and special cutters for fondant and gum paste; you start with a few basics. But make sure that what you buy is a decent quality, or you'll be struggling unnecessarily and rebuying nicer ones later. (By the way, I've included affiliate links here, in case all this cake talk is motivating you to try decorating.)  

As you gain skill, you are better able to determine what supplies you need to get the results you want. That's the time to add more items to your collection. That said, there's nothing wrong with getting a particular tool or supply that interests you. If you can afford it and know that you'll use it (or can give it to someone who will), then go for it. 

I used cake decorating as an example for today's post, but it applies to all sorts of creative endeavors. Watercolor paint from a dollar store is not going to perform as well as artist-grade paint will, no matter who is using it. An expert painter can probably create a decent painting with it, but not nearly as nice as they could with the best watercolor paint. And a beginner using low-quality watercolors may be frustrated by their inability to do a certain technique that would be much easier to do with the pricier paint. 

Result = Skill + Tools. 

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11/25/22

Sketchbook Party: Angie Chua, Ohn Mar Win, Helen Colebrook, and Peggy Dean

This is the last of five posts about Sketchbook Party. If you haven't already, I recommend reading the first, second, third, and fourth posts before you read this one. 

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Travelers notebooks (abbreviated TN) are very popular in the scrapbook community. It turns out they're equally popular amongst artists who work in sketchbooks, although they call them travel sketchbooks. They're the same thing, and a fun topic for this class, titled "Travel Journaling for Everyone." 


I used to collect a lot of memorabilia when I traveled, then ended up using very little of it (if any) on my scrapbook pages. So now I collect as little as possible. I turn down brochures if I don't need them to navigate in a museum, I don't bring printed napkins home to do something with the logo, and I don't take the free stickers or business cards or other bits and pieces that are all over the place if you're looking for them. 

While this is good practice ecologically, it is poor practice for a class about travel sketchbooks. I gathered the four items I'd collected from our time in Milwaukee, as well as the hotel logo from our printed reservation, and put them together to make this page. The bottom left has my admission ticket from Harley-Davidson. The top right has part of the Recon Duty we did at SafeHouse (SO FUN!), the bottom right has a logo cut from the amazing Milwaukee Public Museum, and the center has a sticker from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame. I added letter stickers, striped washi, and used two colors of Flair markers to decorate. 


While my finished product is not particularly attractive or coordinated, I like the balance and had a lot of fun putting it together. There are a number of reasons why travelers notebooks / travel sketchbooks don't work for my style of memory keeping, but gosh are they fun!

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Next up was "Loose Autumn Watercolor Pattern." 


Ohn Mar Win led us through a relaxing and fun session painting watercolors with what I considered to be an enormous brush. She had us intentionally paint each shape quickly, touching at least one other shape in order to have the colors bleed together.  


My artwork tends to be clean and controlled. I like crisp edges and uniformity and details. This project was the exact opposite in every way... and I loved making it! It's completely different from what I normally do, which was fun. That said, I feel like the project isn't finished. I'd like to go back in with colored pencils and add shading and details. 

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The next class was "Relaxing and Beautiful Way to Fill a Blank Page." The supply list said watercolors, but I'd just done a watercolor class and decided to use Folk Art acrylic paints instead. 


It was a good decision. My paint dried in time to add the flair pen details, while others who used watercolors still had wet paint when Helen Colebrook was demonstrating the final step. 



I loved making this project; it's definitely something I'll do again. I played with a color palette I wouldn't normally pick and overall it was just a lot of fun to do. 


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The final class of Sketchbook Party was by the hostess, Peggy Dean. She titled it, "A Surprise!" 


We ended up making a patterned moth. She used gouache, which I don't own. It's on my Christmas wish list, so hopefully I can play with some soon! Instead, I used acrylic paint again. 


My heart wasn't really in this project. It was fine, but not something I would necessarily do again. Although I am interested to see how it would work in gouache. 

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So what did I think of Sketchbook Party overall? It was fantastic! It's unbelievable that I only paid $29 for 16 art classes. I liked some classes more than others, of course, but even the classes I liked less than others were interesting and informative. I am now following several artists that I hadn't heard of before the event, and I'm eager to dive deeper into some of the new techniques I learned. If Sketchbook Party happens again, I'll definitely be joining in!

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