Art education, inspiration and encouragement for children and parents in Arlington, VA
While we might describe ourselves as "black, brown or white" the truth is much richer than these simple statements.
Our warm and cool skin tones require mixing a little blue or green along with an orange and yellow to produce the glow and depth of color that we find in our true skin coloration.
Students took the time and patience to blend, mix and smooth out at least four mixed colors. While we might not be able to exactly replicate the tone with a limited oil pastel set, students came up with skin colors that were much more interesting and truthful than the already mixed "peach" or "brown" found in the box.
The very early work of Piet Mondrian shows us his love of trees. The Woods with beech trees is a great example of how trees appear closer to us or farther away based on their size and placement on a flat surface. It's called diminishing perspective.
At the bottom of this article are two worksheets to help with practice of this lesson. One is for working on the computer and one for drawing on paper.
Our task was to understand and demonstrate how art can create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. In order to achieve this we need to understand:
The following worksheet is designed to do on the computer on Word. Just open the word document and click on a tree. Drag the corner handle to enlarge or decrease the size of a tree. Place the larger trees on the bottom lines. Make sure the trees get progressively smaller as they go up the lines on the page. This is a great way to get children to engage in visual thinking interactions on the computer.
The following worksheet is for printing out and drawing tree trunks to practice the principles of diminishing perspective. Simply print out the worksheet. look at the example, follow the directions and draw.
Work in Progress
I was so inspired by this lesson and my own walks in the woods during this beautiful fall of ours, that I decided to make a painting of my own. The children really inspire me with their choice of colors. I'm not yet finished with this painting but I'm having a lot of fun playing. Wolf Kahn used brightly imaginative colors to paint trees. If you haven't already seen his work, it's very uplifting and he is popular in the calendar world, in case you need to brighten up a wall in your home.
This is a really fun and invigorating lesson anyone can do no matter your age.
Radiating warmth, energy and vitality can't be wrong and so to honor the colors of fall we venture on a journey of discovery with color mixing.
We created either a sun or a marigold flower shape using the same simple steps:
Interesting color facts:
Download the three files at the bottom of this blog to help your child learn to draw.
I remember my father teaching me to draw. He made one line and I copied it, then he made another and I copied it. I didn't see how these lines were going to become anything until they came together and the face of Fred Flintstone appeared, it was magical.
Drawing remains with me one of the most rewarding things in my life so I love helping children learn this skill.
Sketchbooks are for making mistakes
The sketchbook is for thinking with our markers as we draw. We use markers so we don't spend our time erasing in class. A sketch is a quick practice drawing. It helps to see what to do by looking at what what isn't being done.
If we are trying to make a large circle, as big as our hand, and we draw a small one, we draw over the small shape to make the one we really want: the bigger circle. We use the mistake as a gauge to help us do it correctly. It's easier not to repeat the same mistake if we look at the mistake as a guide and helper. Mistakes are not "wrong" nor are we wrong for trying to learn a new skill.
This is not easy for children. We all want to do it right the first time and we feel we should be able to do it well right away. Everyone feels this way, even adults. These are our personal feelings getting in the way again of our abilities to stay open to learning. Learning to like ourselves for not being perfect and accepting our mistakes as opportunities is big work.
Ways to help your child learn to draw:
The files below are examples I have used in class and you can use at home with your children.
"Do you like my art?" asks a small child with wide dark round eyes. I look at the art, my face goes blank, eyebrows come together and I tilt my head trying to catch a thought, any thought other than what is in my head right now which is nothing. I wonder where in-the-world did this child come from and what-in-the-world were they thinking and how in-the-world did they ever get the idea to do what they have done based on the discussion and instruction?
"Is my art good?" This is a question children often ask and what they might mean by it is: "Am I a good person?" or "Do you love me?". The answer is not always yes, I mean, of course I love you, but....It's not a fair or accurate question. Can your art be bad? Is your art you? If I say yes and I don't like your art am I a liar? Children...why do they have to be do difficult?
I must confess, there are times in the classroom when I am in teacher mode and I have some idea in my head about what the student's art "should" look like. I'm all puffed up about how good a teacher I am and how wonderful all the art is going to look, all the awards and grant money that will be pouring in because of how wonderful I, art and the students are together.
Honestly, at this point, I'm also experiencing being so grateful that there is something so left field, that it leaves me breathless. Isn't that the crux of creativity? How did this child get it and where did I go with my ideas when we all had to make a particular type of art that looks like a particular artist? Isn't it much better to come with something so unique that it stops the teacher in her tracks and makes her think? This what art should do. Essentially this child bypassed all my learning and knowledge and achieved something beyond my expectations. "Do you like it?" Of course I like it. Now go back to your seat and make more art. Children...always breaking the rules, asking questions and disrupting the flow!
I have so much to learn...that is why I teach.
"I don't need a teacher to help me".
I don't want to draw it your way, my way is better for me".
This response is common in art with children. We resist challenge when we perceive it as a personal threat instead of an opportunity. Art is a skill we learn to develop in order to step into a new level of awareness.
Criticism can be good
Learning to know the difference between a personal put-down and healthy criticism for positive growth is an important for learning.
To help your your child or student be open to learning when they show resistance isn't always easy.
In class I don't take no as an answer to learning. I tell children they are in art class to learn art. If they don't like what they learn in art they can choose not to use it at home, but while in art they are expected to try.
The chill out table is where we go to reflect. When we are ready to try to learn we come back to the class on our own, without coercion.
Art may be personal but it isn't who you are
Learning a skill in art means you are not being corrected for an inner flaw in your personality. Your art is not you. We don't always know this. Adults feel shame about their art abilities too.
Art can affect positive feelings but it is not who we are. Learning to discern between learning skills and personal transformation through this learning are how art and character development go hand in hand.
Children may be helped to be more open to learning to draw when they are assured that the new skill will help them feel good about their drawings. When a criticism is made about their art, it is not about them as people.
Learning to take it
Art is a skill that can be learned and all artists are always learning, no matter how old they are. We are never finished growing and learning.
The important lesson is to is to stay open to learning. When we feel we are being put down we need to ask "am I being told that I am not a good person, or am I being told I am ready to learn a new skill in art? Our feet grow and we need new shoes. It doesn't mean our feet are wrong.
How can I help?
The best way to help a reluctant student is to require a short time of attention to learn a new skill. Watch to be sure the student demonstrates an understanding of how to draw it and then back off, move on, revisit later.
When given time to make their own decisions children will often look at the improvement and go with it, especially when complimented and encouraged about what they have learned from other students.
Parents and teachers can reinforce learning by looking at what children have accomplished in art. Asking questions like "how did you draw that" puts children in the position of teaching the new skill which reinforces their learning.
Drawing with children and being vulnerable helps children to see that drawing requires work and patience, perseverance and trust. Art is not just a product but a process requiring character development.
Lineguage is how an artist uses line. It creates a visual language which is recognized as belonging to an artist.
For our first class we explored Kandinsky Lineguage by looking at a work of his art from the 1920's. Young artists made their own art from the lines and shapes they discovered.
Kandinsky is credited with being the first abstract artist. He influenced the birth of German Abstract Expressionism. He wrote a book called Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
Explore Kandinsky on your own using the line and download the worksheet to find Lineguage of Kandinsky line.
I love to plan a new school year because I get to learn just as much about art as I teach.
The art of Kandinsky will kick off the fall with looking at how his active imagination with line and shape create a language. Using simple shapes that repeat in a work of art is often how we recognize one artist from another.
This fall's curriculum is filled with a variety of paint, drawing, and sculpture lessons all inspired to help young artists catch the creativity spark as they learn to identify the art language of several artists.
Register on-line at:
Below is a preview of a few lessons you can look forward to during the cool season of our fall.
Jean Frank Stark
I make art and have taught to children for over 20 years.