Painting on Wood Panel

There’s something about how the layers of paint sit on top of the wood that I find so appealing.

I had to pick up two wood panels for a baby shower gift and my three year old asked if she could paint on some too. She chose three small panels, one as a housewarming gift for her uncle and the other two for herself.

She also asked if she could have some new acrylic paint, and of course the only color she wanted was a shocking bright green. But I’m here to foster her creative intelligence and bit my tongue in favor of enthusiasm for her independent ideas.

When we got home, I taped the panel’s edges off with blue painters tape. In my own painting process I begin by drawing, and then layer the paint on top of that. In a similar fashion, her initial marks were made with grease pencils, followed by shocking green paint.

This was all set up on top of a large piece of paper to keep our table cleanish.

Oh, and the pink shirt is a smock — in case acrylic paints are new to you, they will NOT wash out of clothes! But don’t let this deter you — acrylics are worth it! They have a totally different look and feel from school-grade paints like tempera, which would be too flaky and isn’t as archival for a project like this.

When the first painting was done, she moved on to the next two. We used a variety of brushes and she had a great time sorting through the bazillion colors of acrylic paint that I’ve collected over the years.

By the time she reached the third painting, I noticed that her confidence with the materials had risen, she made complex comments about her aesthetic choices, and her ability to control the paint and execute her ideas as she imagined was further developed.

 

The next day: Peeling off the blue tape — so fun!

This became a mixed media piece with the addition of glitter, which you can kind of see up there. It was added while the paint was still wet, and sticks quite nicely to the paint. One of my favorite things about acrylic paint is how fast it dries! It almost has the look of oil paint, but the results are immediate.

Materials

  • Wood panel
  • Acrylic paint
  • Synthetic fiber brushes (for acrylic paint)
  • Water container for washing brushes
  • Grease pencils
  • Blue painters tape
Note: Acrylic paint should be used in a well-ventilated area. Follow all instructions found on the back of your paint container/s for proper use.
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If you haven’t already seen this mesmerizing video of child artist, Aelita Andre, I thought this might be a good time to share it. This gives me studio envy and has my mind racing with thoughts about how deliberate and thoughtful Aelita is, and how we can adopt some of her studio habits in our own art making practice. The more exposure children have to media and materials (in whatever discipline), the closer they come to mastering the nuances of the materials and reaching the level of expert in their work.

I’d love to hear what you think.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Pop-up Paper Zoo

I love collaborating with my three-year old, so I was thrilled when she came up with this idea for me to draw animal shapes for her to color in. We don’t have coloring books in our house (aside from a mandala coloring book suggested by Jen at Paint Cut Paste), so maybe this fed some deep seated need to color in the lines? When I drew the outline of the first animal I wasn’t sure where this was going, but N started coloring away with a clear vision in mind. She’s a true director, putting me to work on the the details while she masterminded the big picture. When she came up with an idea to make the animals stand up, we cut them out, cut small slits in the bottom of the animals and a matching slit in the opposing “stand,” and we suddenly had the makings of a zoo!

Materials

  • Card stock
  • Favorite mark-making tools: Markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • Scissors
After working on the bee, N worked on which way she wanted it to stand.

And she even made her own animal shape. I tried to pin her down (in the most open-ended way possible) on a name or type of animal, but she kept me guessing. I think it was just a shape, but you never know!

She colored both sides of the animals, making them truly three-dimensional. She’s just started to draw with representational marks, and I love seeing how faces and other recognizable objects emerge through these marks.

Our zoo family!

Would you make a pop-up zoo?

After making these I thought some of you might like to have some animal templates to print out. If you do, let me know and I’ll make a PDF set that you can download.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime, World Animal Day Bloghop

Painting with Straws in Preschool

Blown straw painting kids

Make gorgeous drips and swirling designs by painting with straws. This is a wonderful preschool art activity, but fun for all ages.

straw blown painting preschool

painting with straws preschool

Materials: Straw Blown Painting

  • Watercolor paper or card stock — we used 8.5 x 11 card stock from the office supply store. A heavier weight paper will do a good job absorbing the paint and water.
  • Liquid watercolors. We like to use Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors from Amazon. They’re washable and non-toxic.
  • Eye droppers or pipettes. If you don’t have a pipette, you can forage your medicine cabinet for a medicine dropper.
  • Straws
  • Tray to hold the paper. This keeps the paint from blowing all over the table
  • Paper towels, sponge, or towels. Optional, but you won’t regret this insurance policy

squeeze paint onto paper

Blow Painting Steps

  1. Set up a tray with a heavy sheet of paper
  2. Place a few bowls filled with a bit of liquid watercolors nearby. Place a pipette in or next to the watercolors.
  3. Invite your child to draw watercolor paint into the dropper and then squeeze it on the paper.
  4. With a straw, blow the paint around the paper.

blow painting preschool

 

Experiments and Extensions

  • Once your child has had enough paint blowing, add a brush and invite him or her to paint
  • Test regular narrow straws against fat milkshake straws. Which works better? Our favorite was the fat straw.
  • After the paint blowings have dried, add another layer of paint blowings with different colors
  • Fold in half and turn your paintings into cards. See 40 Homemade Cards that Kids can Make for ideas.
  • Dip the end of a straw into tempera paint and then use it as a stamp. Watch Art Tips and Tricks: 5 Non-traditional Painting Tools to see this in action.

straw blown painting

Spiral Watercolor Streamer

I love it when we make things that make our house feel like a party, which might explain why buntings drip off the wall of my kids’ room, paper crowns peek out of our cabinets, we have four pink balloons in the bathroom, and we celebrate birthdays months before they actually happen just so we can blow out candles. My baby turns one next week, and we’ve been singing her Happy Birthday every night over tea lights with the hope that she’ll learn how to blow out her candle by Labor Day. Please tell me that we’re not the only ones!

I’ve never actually seen spirals like these at a party, but they remind me so much of streamers. Wouldn’t they be lovely, especially in large quantities?

To get started I set up watercolor paper cut into circle shapes, watercolor paint, brushes, and water.

I added some paper towels, which are useful for dabbing up excess water. I also like to offer a few different brushes so that my child can learn how brushes can make a variety of marks while building her materials confidence. And while the end product is all pre-planned, the art-making portion is open-ended. Any form of art 2-D art exploration is encouraged!

After the paintings dried I cut them into spiral shapes, pierced a small hole in the center of each one, and then tied a piece of string through the hole…knotted on the back of the paper.

They store flat until they’re ready to hang.

My neighbor came over this afternoon and noticed it right away, which either means that the spiral is rad or a total eyesore. What do you think?

 

Cork Sculpture

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a thing for repurposing found materials. Neither of my parents were mad upcyclers, but I think I can trace this passion to an after-school class that was led by a parent-artist. This mom was (still is) AWESOME! — she died her hair, plastered her house (walls, ceilings, etc) with sequin-studded art, and encouraged us to create imaginary worlds from whatever we had on hand. Obviously I had an affinity for this sort of thing because all of my friends didn’t turn into artists like me, but this exposure helped me see the world through a lens that made things a whole lot clearer. (So thank you, Ingrid!).

Fast forward way too many years…I’m still making art with random bits and bobs — it just comes naturally to me, but it’s also a way of living. Art materials don’t have to be purchased in the store — they’re all around us. And now I’m in a position to inspire my own children as Ingrid inspired me.

Exposure is everything.

I like to offer my 3-year old, N, materials as a provocation: I’ll put a few bowls of things out and see what she comes up with and on this occasion it was: CORKS! My daughter developed her idea for this sculpture from a box of corks, bag of buttons, a few small dowels, piece of laminate, and a hot glue gun, but it could have gone in a million directions.

She built the tower as high as she wanted, and then added the buttons and dowels. To assemble it, I manned the low heat glue gun while she directed me on where to put the glue. She was in control, but I got to keep everyone’s fingers burn-free.

Baby sister was right there with us, captivated by and grabbing for all the little pieces that were potentially hazardous to her health. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a busy upcycler one day too!

If you like to create, tinker, or make art, can you trace the root of your passion back to an inspiring person or event? And do you see yourself as the source of inspiration for someone else?

This project is shared with It’s Playtime

Sculpting with Claytoons

Most days I feel like I have the best job in the world (and this is especially true after my morning coffee). While I’ve chosen to be SAHM, there’s still a busy worker bee inside of me who has trouble not working, and I consequently have trouble saying no to exciting opportunities that coincide with my creative values. Squeezing work into the small cracks of free time isn’t always easy, but striking the right work/family balance is something that I’m always striving toward.

This is a long way of saying that I recently started working with a group of talented educators and designers to create an art curriculum for a DIY art zone at Zeum: San Francisco’s Children’s Museum. After one of our meetings I discovered Zeum’s gift shop (what a lot of fun!) where I found a box of Claytoons sculpting clay — the stuff that Zeum uses for all their stop motion animation projects — and it made for the perfect gift for my little sculptor.

The challenge for my 3 year old is that it’s much stiffer than play dough, but the flip side is that it holds its shape better and can therefore stand upright without wobbling over. You can also add armatures (wire threaded through the clay) to it for further support.

We practiced rolling ball and tubes, and worked on strategies for attaching pieces together. One of the best things about Claytoons is that it’s oil based and it won’t dry out! So go ahead and leave it out on the table for a few days and it’ll still be in tip-top shape (which is much more than you can say for play dough!).


My daughter’s representational drawings are far from recognizable as objects, but with the clay I could tell immediately that this was a person. Amazing! Not that it matters, really, if she makes something that I can recognize, but through this observation I could see how rewarding this experience must be for her — to articulate an idea with clay that couldn’t be articulated with pen and paper. If your child is in the same boat, sculpting may be for you too!

Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Permanent Markers on Cellophane

We received these amazing permanent markers (Project Popperz), courtesy of Elmer’s, and I’ve been dreaming up ways to use them. This is actually almost as simple as it gets, and N got a huge kick out of “drawing on the table.”

Materials

  • Permanent Markers
  • Cellophane (I used Cling Wrap)

I covered her art table with cellophane, being sure to overlap the edges by a few inches so the marker wouldn’t poke through the cracks and onto the table. I could have done a neater job laying the Cling Wrap flat on the table to avoid all those bumps that acted like little roadblocks toward the markers. But, it still worked.

Then we opened the markers and started drawing!
We used every color and scribbled away until we decided to switch seats.
N added more marks and then we were ready to hang it.
I simply peeled it off the table and placed it right on the window. No tape necessary! I bet you could also put the cellophane right on the window/s before drawing to give your child the opportunity to draw on the windows. That would be fun! But be sure those window are well-covered first!

I love projects that are easy, use household materials, and change the way we think about art-making. A+ in my book!