Monday, January 29, 2018

Whimsical Mixed-Media Animals inspired by Clarissa Hagenmeyer

My 7-13 year olds and my adult class created whimsical animals inspired by contemporary German illustrator Clarissa Hagenmeyer. See her YouTube tutorial here (in German). You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Lisa, Adult Class
We drew our animal in light pencil, and colored it using a wet watercolor technique, allowing colors to blend ever so slightly at the edges. We were careful to use analogous colors together, or warms with warms and cools with cools, because we know that anything else would result in browns. We used our brushes lightly and openly, mindful of using our color transparently and leaving some white areas for that light, airy quality. This gives our animals a brighter, lighter and more textured look.

Eyes were important. To make our animal whimsical and playful, we created large, sparkly eyes with lots of character. Colored pencil was used over top of our watercolor in similar colors in some areas to add emphasis and boldness (particularly in the eye area), to darken areas where there are shadows (for example along the bottom edges and the wings), to give added vibrancy, depth and interest, and to give the fur more texture. We were being playful and experimental in our use of colors and designs. 

Our final and most implant step was using thin black permanent markers and white gel pens to add whimsy squiggles, fur fuzz, symbols and other elements on and around our animals. Even our signature was made in a whimsical fashion. 

These are adorable and so full of character!

Adult Class

Kids 7-13
Kids 7-9

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Ton Schulten Dutch Landscapes

We looked at the work of contemporary Dutch painter Ton Schulten (1938). He is loved for his colorful, vibrant landscapes depicting his native countryside, his use of horizontal and vertical lines which create a mosaic-like landscape made up of blocks of color, and his bright central light. His unique style of painting has been coined 'Concensism'.

After discussing his use of line and color we began to draw our own landscape. Utilizing the 'rule of thirds' (foreground, middle ground, background) we made our horizontal lines, added a few houses, and then made our vertical lines to create many squares. Like Schulten, we left the center of our landscape open, bright and airy and got increasingly dark as we moved out to the edges of our painting. We used warm colors to give our landscapes that central, bright light typical of Schulten's paintings. We thought carefully about how to make our houses and trees stand out against the background. 
My 6-12 year old classes and adult class used acrylics and mixed their own colors and tints to expand their palette and made sure to repeat colors in order to create balance. 

My younger class used oil pastels on colored construction paper, and first colored in the warm colors and then cool colors. A quick outline in black made their shapes and colors pop.

These are so beautiful and really entice the viewer to enter the painting!

9-11 year olds. Acrylic

6-9 year olds. Acrylic
Little class (4-5 year olds)
Oil pastel on colored construction paper

Adult class. Acrylic

Collage Mixed Media Journaling Houses



My little class (4-5 year olds) made some fabulous mixed-media collage journals. We used at least 7 different mediums for this project and were introduced to many new materials and techniques, including stenciling, stamping with found objects and bubble wrap and using foam rollers. 

We began with laying down an acrylic backgrounds with foam rollers, and then overlaying our background using a different color and a stencil (brick or animal print stencil). 
Then we drew houses of our own design on book paper and painted these with watercolor using only warm colors (we all know what warm-cool colors are!) To give our houses more interest we added colorful shading to doors and windows with chalk in warm colors. 
Next, we created a ground for our house to stand on using strips of paper (music paper, deco paper and painted paper). 
Then we began stamping using bubble wrap, cups, corrugated cardboard, bottle caps etc. 
After gluing down our house and added shading to our house using charcoal (to make our house stand out against the background) we glued down layered trees (circles which I had pre-cut our of patterned deco paper) and added stems and details with black marker. 
Lastly, we stamped our names with letter stamps and stamped the date. 

Voila! These are lovely and really seem to tell a story.

Jane Davies Inspired Abstract Mixed Media Collage - Adults class

My adult class got messy with mixed-media collage paintings inspired by contemporary painter and collage artist Jane Davies. See her fun and inspiring tutorials on Youtube. 
We used paper (book paper, sheet music, maps, and mathematical graphs) to build up our collaged background, then began building on layers of paint in neutrals and warm colors. Using rollers, sponges, stamps and textures of all kinds we lifted, printed, stamped and layered paint, pushing some painted areas into the background while emphasizing other areas. Delicate squiggles, bold circles, poetic stencils, and a pop of turquoise were added to bring our collage into focus, and giving it an interest point. This was all about striking a balance of line and color, and directing the eye to our focal point. Balance, harmony and emphasis were our goals. Tough lesson but such fun!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Watercolor Dinosaurs

We drew dinosaurs by 'deconstructing the animal into basic shapes'. Watercolor techniques came next. 
First we chose the dinosaur drawing print-out of our choice (there were 4 to choose from). Next, we drew with pencil over top this print-out, deconstructing the dino into VERY basic shapes (basic circles, ovals and spheres). Breaking a picture down into basic shapes helps us with proportion and form. Then we created a grid on the print-out dinosaur paper by folding the paper crosswise and lengthwise, and we created the same grid using a pencil on our good watercolor paper. With the aid of this grid, we were able to copy the basic shapes to our watercolor paper (grid method). Using a grid helps us identify which lines and marks go where on the paper (correct placement). Next, while carefully observing our original print-out drawing, we connected our basic shapes, refining them, tweaking them, and 'draping them with skin' to create a realistic looking dino (not one made up of circles and ovals). After outlining in permanent black marker, we erased all our pencil lines (we are learning how to drawing LIGHTLY with pencil for this reason). Then we painted with watercolor using a 'wet-on-wet' technique, which allowed our colors to run and bleed into each other. We regularly blotted our colors to keep that transparent, stain-glassed look. We applied color throughout our dino in this way, also layering colors, creating more and more depth. Lastly, after our colors had dried, we applied a light wash of yellow to our whole dino (this is called glazing), which gives a more unified, brilliant and 3-D appearance. Everyone was so proud. Me too, these turned out so well. Kudos to those who took the more difficult "T-Rex challenge"!

Abby 8

Vita 9

Sif 7

6-9 years

6-11 years

Catherine Rayner-Inspired Watercolor Rabbit Illustrations

This is one of my favorite all-time lessons and resulted in stunning finished artwork. All my classes and age levels, from four years old to adult, make these with success.

Catherine Rayner's illustration
Our inspiration came from the children's book illustrator, Catherine Rayner, who creates magical watercolor illustrations of animals. We looked at the rabbit in her book Bernard's Ears. 
We only used dirty, neutral colors, which were already on the 'dirty' side our palette, or which we mixed ourselves in our pallets by combining many colors, adding a smidgen of black to our colors, or just experimenting with color mixing. The goal was to have neutrals and earthy tones. We used plenty of dirty water too as a light value option! We got some lovely browns, grays, and all the neutral VALUES in between. 
To begin we had a quick lesson in watercolor techniques. We tried wet on wet, creating sharp lines, softening edges, pulling paint and blending color, keeping paint translucent, leaving white spaces, starting light and going darker, using dirty water as a light value. 
Then we began our rabbit drawing by looking closely at Rayner's illustration and breaking down her lines and shapes, and mapping our the location of all the rabbit's features (drawing from observation skill-builder!). We used pencils and students were encouraged to draw VERY lightly with their pencils so we don't see the pencil marks at the end (important with watercolor). Next, mouth and nose were defined with a black permanent pen, and e
yes were drawn and pupils filled in. 
The 'dirty' side of our palette
has the BEST colors
Next we started painting by using the watercolor techniques we had learned. We started with our lightest values first (white, or barely there grays which we achieved by using no color, only dirty water). Then we painted the next lightest color, and the next, and so on until we got to our darkest value. We used the most beautiful earthy tones.
We were especially mindful of keeping white areas paint-free, since we know you can't get these back with watercolor. Keeping the rabbit open and airy, with plenty of space and light areas, gives them more character, texture and interest.
For our background we mixed a very light grey with black and tons of water. Using the wet on wet technique, we worked section by section and painted our background grey, leaving a bit of space between our rabbit and our background, so as not bleed colors.
Lastly, once dry, we used a fine-point black permanent pen to add a subtle outline to our rabbit's ears, face and body, being careful not to trace the whole bunny, but instead, we used a broken line to keep the look open and airy. 
These turned out amazingly!
Watercolor is tricky, but well worth the effort. I am SO proud of these bunnies!

Kids 6-9
Kids 7-13
Little class (4-6)
Adult class

Anastazia, 6

Sif, 7

Marko, 11

Teacher sample

Karel Appel Abstract Avant-Garde Figures

We took a look at Dutch COBRA painter Karel Appel (1922-2006). Some of our students referred to him as "Caramel Apple". Appel's abstract animals and figures are bright, childish, expressive and most importantly, happy. Appel painted during the dark and depressing war and post-war era in Holland, and was therefore determined to bring joy and color to the world through his art. His colors are bold and fine-tuned with the careful placement of black and white. His subjects are animated and delightful. We discussed Appel's use of color, form and shape. 

Karel Appel

Karel Appel

Karel Appel

Day 1: 
We began by taping our paper edges with artist tape, to give us that clean border when done, just like Appel. Then we drew our own imaginative, creative, fun, abstract figures. Using tempera paints and gauche we are using pure, bright colors to create strong contrasts. 
Work in progress

Day 2:
Backgrounds were added (we were careful not to let our backgrounds compete with our foreground subject), and strong black accents were added to bring our subject into focus. Following Karel Appel's approach, we were careful not to overdo the black accents, but instead used black to bring into focus our subject and draw attention to centers of focus (eyes and facial features). Tempera paint can be finicky (chalky, streaky, translucent.... to name a few bad characteristics) so to ensure a smooth, thick cover of bright paint we gave our shapes an EXTRA coat of paint. That means we worked EXTRA hard on these. 
These figures are bright, happy, energetic and fun - abstract and avant-garde goes without saying...

Karel Appel-inspired figures in progress

Marko, 11

Abby, 8

Karel Apple Abstract Figures - Little Kids

Our 4-6 year olds discovered the bold colors and free drawing style of Dutch COBRA artist Karel (1922-2006). Appel was friends with Jean Dubuffet, our inspiration from previous weeks, and was equally inspired by the artwork of children and spontaneous, unfettered drawing styles. 

We taped the edges of our multi-purpose artist paper with artist tape, to reveal a clean border when done. I find this makes a huge difference to the overall look and quality of our final work, particularly with little kids art, which can be quite messy. It's an instant upgrade.

After discussing Appel's use of color, his shapes and his subject matter (mainly portraits and people) we drew our own free-style figure and broke it up into parts, or sections. Following Appel's style, we filled our entire paper with our subject using oil pastel and colored it in pure, flat color blocks with liquid tempera paints. 

Liquid tempera is NOT my favorite medium. While it's very easy for young kids to use due to its high flow nature, I find it's too chalky, streaky, and does't provide the kind of coverage I want from my paints. We ended up having to paint our figure with two coats of paint, which, for young kids, can be annoying.

To add extra boldness and 'pop', we outlined our figures in black paint using a small brush.

So playful and cute.

Jean Dubuffet Textured 'Brut' Cows - Adult Class

We had SO MUCH FUN doing this project in the kids classes, that I decided I just had to do with my adult class too, and boy, did they love it! Our inspiration: this wonky, friendly textured cow by the French 'Outsider', 'Brut' artist Jean Dubuffet (1902-1985).

Jean Dubuffet Cow

We used sand mixed with modeling paste and acrylic paint and applied this mixture with a palette knife to our cow drawings on canvas. We then added some subtle dabs of paint to our cows for interest and emphasis. Backgrounds were done with a bit of modeling paste as well, and were then scratched into with a toothpick for texture. 
We had a blast with this!
This student decided on a buffalo instead of a cow!