Thursday, April 26, 2018

South Dakota Badlands Painting

This post contains affiliate links. 

After completing the South Dakota Little Passports kit with Trevor, I was inspired to create this:


South Dakota Badlands Painting



You can make your painting any size, but I chose to cut down my paper to about 6" x 9". That's the size I'd do in a classroom setting so that the paper is small enough to focus on detail.

Begin by brushing water onto the paper with horizontal strokes to lightly moisten the paper (the goal is moist, not wet). I LOVE using the water brush - nothing to spill and perfect water flow every time. Add swipes of blue across the top, browns across the center, and golden tans and hints of greens across the bottom.

The paint should dry very quickly if you haven't used too much water. If the paper is still wet, wait. When it is dry, add horizontal lines of color along the center section, then build up the mountains. Use light browns, golds, rusts, creams, and related shades. You're trying to mimic the sedimentary rock of the Badlands

Lightly sketch the shape of a buffalo in the bottom section of the paper. 

Fill it in with brown paint, dark for the body and lighter for the horns. 

Now add a streak of yellow to the sky and shadows to the left sides of the mountains. Create brush in the foreground using golds and greens. When everything is dry, use colored pencils to fix any gaps (I smoothed my mountains a bit) and then add eyes and a nose to the buffalo.

It looks like a beautiful place to visit. Someday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Construction Paper Lighthouse Painting (and Fun with Optical Illusions!)

Art can be wonderfully relaxing and fulfilling, but it can also be incredibly frustrating. If you've ever tried to draw a friend's portrait or paint nature's beauty with any degree of accuracy or realism, you know that it is very, very difficult. The challenge is to replicate what you see, as opposed to what your brain tells you that you are seeing. 

Sometimes our brains are too smart for our own good. For example, what colors of paint would you reach for in order to paint the lighthouse in this image? 

Lighthouse Image

My brain is telling me that the lighthouse is actually white (with red accents), correcting for the fact that it is nighttime in the photograph. But if you want to paint the lighthouse as it appears at night, you need to reach for Paint B, the lavender. I sampled that shade directly from the right-hand side of the photograph. The lighthouse doesn't look lavender, but it is. 

Experiment with this by painting your own version of a lighthouse. While watercolor paper or a canvas might be your preferred surfaces for painting, this project works well on inexpensive black construction paper. That means this is an affordable project for the classroom or another group where canvases would be prohibitively expensive.


Construction Paper Lighthouse Painting


  • black construction paper
  • empty box
  • construction paper scraps
  • white mist
  • pencil
  • acrylic paint
  • flat brush
  • paint palette (frisbee!)


Place a piece of black construction paper in the empty box. Arrange scraps of construction paper over it so that only a narrow 'beam' of black is exposed. Spray this area lightly with the white mist. (I used Mr. Huey. This link and and the other in this post are affiliate links.)

Remove the scraps and you're left with the beam of light shining from what will be the lighthouse. I wasn't careful enough covering the black and ended up with a thin white horizon line that I hadn't intended. No problem - that just determined where my water line would be. 

Use a pencil to draw the outline of the lighthouse. Add a water line if you didn't accidentally end up with one!

Add paint to your palette. Remember, no white! No red either. The challenge is to paint what you see without the corrections your brain is trying to make. I used one color by Testors (Hazey) and four by Folk Art (Lavender, Licorice, Berry Wine, and Thunder Blue). 

Now, the MOST important thing about painting on construction paper: No water. None. Do not start with a moist brush, do not rinse your brush, do not use any water at any point. If you just use acrylic paint, the cheap construction paper will hold up just fine through dozens of layers of paint. But use a moist brush and it will disintegrate. 

With a DRY brush, use the lavender to shape the lighthouse you sketched. Add bits of blue and grey to add highlights and shadows horizontally. Do not rinse your brush between colors! Just keep adding layers of paint. You want the colors to blend. If you're not happy with how it looks, add another layer. Then another and another until you are.

Use the Berry Wine to paint the red portions of the lighthouse. Details aren't important - just add the shapes. Add a little Licorice to the brush, turn it vertically, and dab in the windows at the top of the lighthouse. The add shadows below each of the 'red' areas.

Now add the land the lighthouse is sitting on. Just keep layering colors. 

Do not be tempted to rinse the brush! Part of what makes the painting more realistic is the depth that comes from using multiple colors. 

Make short horizontal strokes to create the ocean. This will take a lot of layers to look realistic. Highlight the area of the water where the lighthouse's beam is shining. 

This is how mine turned out. Not a masterpiece by any means, but a decent representation of a lighthouse at night. And a lot of fun to create.

I found a great resource for fun facts about lighthouses. I was researching which US state has the most lighthouses (Michigan is #1, Maine is #2) and learned so much more. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Camporee 2017

I've mentioned many times that the idea of being behind with my scrapbooking doesn't bother me that much, but I absolutely hate when I allow myself to get lapped with an annual event. Three years' worth of Christmas celebrations blur in my mind if I don't scrap each one before the next happens. For that reason, I wanted to get Trevor's 2017 Camporee trip with the Scouts into the album before the 2018 trip. 

Camporee 2017 (affiliate link)

I'm just in time, because Trevor heads to Camporee this weekend! 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Exploring South Dakota Through Little Passports

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend things I love and think others will enjoy. 

Trevor and I continue to have a great time together learning about the 50 states using the Little Passports USA Edition! Our next virtual trip took us to South Dakota, home of (among other things) the world's largest collection of mammoth fossils. Here's Trevor building the model of a mammoth. 

Trevor thought it would be funny to pose the mammoth as though he were studying the Little Passports state journal. He was right. It was funny. 

We read about Mt. Rushmore and learned that each face is 60 feet tall. It took 14 years to carve them! After a matching activity about the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore, we solved a rebus about Badlands National Park. (I just had a flashback to when I was in 5th grade. Our class put on a play called 'Badlands Ballyhoo.' I remember literally nothing about it except the title and that we had a lot of fun. Any elementary school friends reading who can help spark some memories?) 

We learned that the Badlands are famous for their multicolored rock formations, shaped by water and wind millions of years ago. And, of course, erosion continues to shape the landscape. To learn how, Trevor did an experiment. He put four colored candies at opposite ends of a plate. He used an eyedropper to put 10 drops of 'rain' on the blue candy, 20 drops of 'rain' on the green candy, 30 drops of 'rain' on the yellow, and 40 drops on the red.  

We left the plate untouched for 15 minutes. When we returned, it was evident that the 'rain' had caused erosion. The candies (representing rocks) that got the most rainfall dissolved more than those with less rainfall.

Trevor solved a dot-to-dot activity about the Lakota and Cheyenne natives of the Black Hills. Then we solved a logic problem about Belle Fourche, a small town with the nickname of "Center of the Nation" because it is near the geographic center of the US. We did a fill-in puzzle about L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz while living in Aberdeen, SD. I'd always assumed he'd written it in Kansas, but apparently I was wrong! We read about the famous events in South Dakota history and marveled at the Corn Palace, first built in 1892. It's on our must-visit list when we eventually make it to South Dakota. I love quirky stuff like that.

We did another logic activity, this time inspired by Custer State Park. It is home to bison, pronghorn, mountain goats, deer, elk, and burros. The burros are famous for standing in the road to stop traffic and beg for treats. Pretty smart, those burros! 

Speaking of treats, the South Dakota recipe was for kuchen. Yum!

We had such a good time on our virtual journey through the Mount Rushmore State and look forward to eventually traveling there in person. Thanks again, Little Passports!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Coloring Page Gift Box

This post contains affiliate links.

It's amazing how many ways you can use completed coloring pages when you stop and think about it. I came across this empty box with a clear window...

... and realized that I could add a completed coloring page and use it to hold a gift. No wrapping paper required! I cut a completed coloring page from The Art of Coloring Kaleidoscopes to fit the opening. It looked OK, but the colors weren't quite right. 

I painted the box white and it looked so much better.

You could do this with literally any coloring book and any box, tin, or pouch with a clear window. Get those completed coloring pages out of the book and out where they can be admired!

Coloring Books 725