Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Perfect Pet

I came across a Family Fun craft book in the reference section of the library the other day that was full of really clever ideas. This little fish bowl is the first one we have tried. To make your own you will need:
 fish bowl or jar
styrofoam (clean meat tray or egg carton)
permanent markers (be careful!)
fishing line or thread
stones or beads (make sure they will sink)
heavy washers, bolts or beads 

I started by cutting a few fish shapes out of a styrofoam egg carton. After cutting out a few I wondered why I was doing it when my 4-year-old was sitting right next to me. So she drew and cut a few herself. Then she colored them front and back with permanent markers. Next we used a pin to poke a hole in the bottom of each fish. Hollin counted the fish to determine how many pieces of thread she should cut (I would suggest fishing line if you have it). She was able to string the thread through the holes but needed help tying it on. We then tied the other end to a button to act as a weight to hold the fish in place. She filled the bottom with a layer of stones and beads, carefully set the fish on the bottom and poured in the water. The plan was to watch as our fish floated to the top, held in place by the button on the bottom, but silly Mommy never thought about the fact that the button may not be heavy enough to sink and hold the buoyant foam fish in place, so all of ours floated to the top.
This little problem was easily the 4-year-old who carefully pulled each fish out, cut off the buttons and explained to me that we needed something heavier to hold them down (I did get it, but was speechless over her complete understanding and ability to solve the problem). We found some heavy bolts and washers in the tool box and retied the strings. She dropped them in and sure enough, we now have a lovely little bowl of fish who do not poop and do need to be fed.
Another thing I like about this activity is that we were able to talk about the different lenghs of string and how they will affect the look of the fish bowl--not to mention the cool science lesson in buoyancy.
I think it would be cute to fill a mason jar with stones and a foam fish, tied to a washer and ready to float. Then send it to a friend with instructions to add water. Or leave the fish white and let the recipient color them themselves. Might just make a nice little birthday present.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I am taking a graduate level drawing class at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) this semester. So far, the class is amazing. Not only do I get to go out and draw two nights a week, but I have been completely inspired and exposed to new subcultures and genres. I am not going to go into too much detail here, but I wanted to share a few images. This is the first time in quite some time that I have been able to focus on my own art. Even in grad school I was more focused on teaching art. When I was teaching full-time I had little time for my own art...throw a kid or two into the mix...need I say more?
OK, here is the quickie explanation. For this assignment we were to research tribal art and then create an image with some elements of tribal art. I found an African sculpture here of a mother and child. I was also influenced by western images of the same subject matter then created my own interpretation using ink and charcoal and bubbles....yes, I said bubbles. I treated the paper with black ink bubble prints before getting started. If you look closely at the whitest parts you can see some faint bubble prints.
I like the idea of adding a twist to an age old theme. Images of a mother and child have been created by artists from many cultures throughout history. I wanted to blend cultures under a universal theme. I always visualize a very European Mother and Child portrait when I think of this theme so I started with that and added patterns for a more tribal feel. I made the mother and baby a mixed race pair to strenthen the concept that motherhood exists everywhere.

My house is covered in charcoal dust, but it has been worth it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Clay Day

I pulled out the clay the other day. I had nothing particular in mind, just some good mushing and molding.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Frozen Tempera Paint

We had so much fun painting with paintsicles the other day so I decided to make some more frozen paint. This time we squeezed tempera paint into mini muffin tins. Ice cube trays would also work well for this. I covered the tray with foil and Hollin inserted a toothpick into the center of each "muffin".
We left these on the deck overnight. When we did bring them in they were frozen solid but after a few minutes on the table they came right out and were really nice to paint with. Very thick and buttery.
Without even intending it, this project turned into a great color mixing experience.
A few of the toothpicks came out as the paint warmed up and were great for adding lines.
The texture of the frozen tempera was so inviting. There was just no way to keep hands out. We did manage a few prints by folding the paper before the inevitable finger painting began....
I love the serious expression on Waylon's face. He is in the zone!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Hollin made about 3 of these before getting bored (I am not sure if there are any 4-year-olds out there that will sit and make 20 identical cards...). Good thing her Mama likes glitter and glue!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010


Despite the bright sunshine that suddenly has started to flood our windows this week, we still have quite a bit of winter weather ahead of us. Fighting the cold will not make it go away, so why not use the giant outdoor freezer for a creative purpose? We experimented with frozen paint this week and I think it is fair to say that this is a keeper. We froze tempera mixed with water in popsicle molds and then painted with our "paintsicles" on watercolor paper. A dish of salt and a small bowl of water with a dropper helped create beautiful textures. Wetting the paper first with a brush or droppers full of water help the frozen paint slide across the paper. Dipping the end in salt for a minute helped speed up the melting process creating thicker paint, more vibrant colors and a grainy texture.

Stamping the ends resulted in rings while sliding on dry paper made scratchy lines.

Yes, I know the next picture is sideways, it keeps uploading that way despite not being sideways in my file--just tilt your head, it is worth it! Maybe I have been sunlight deprived for too long, but that natural light and shadow makes me giddy...

When we finished we just stuck the paintsicles back outside so that we can use them again and again. The only downside to this is that the frozen paint looks very yummy. Hollin could not resist licking each one. She is almost 5 and not at all the type to eat paint. But even she could not resist--even after saying "yuck" to the first one. I think she was holding out hope that one of them really was a popsicle...just thought I would warn you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Just Plain Painting

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all hearts and lace...sometimes just a little red, white and pink paint are all you need... And maybe a sponge or a dinosaur.. some Q-tips, toothpicks and a race car...

Pure joy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Valentine's Day Decorations

Many of my fondest memories are linked to preparing for holidays, and I know I am not alone. There is simply something special about the decorations and activities that only come out once a year. A few little touches are all it takes. As you might have guessed, I prefer handmade to store bought--or better yet, kid made. I do believe they thrive on such things.

Hollin and I made these flowers. They are the classic pipe cleaner and tissue paper flowers we all made in elementary school. Both kids have played with these, arranged them and moved them all around the house. I made these felt cookies as a Valentine's Day gift last year. Much more fun when they only come out once a year. (They would probably have even more dog hair on them if I left them out all year....)

Our seasonal tree always changes to reflect what is happening every month. In the past we used some pretty little hearts I had made. Hollin would decorate the tree with my ornaments. Just they other day she asked for paper. She made all the pipe cleaner heart ornaments and put them on the tree. Waylon made the heart shaped sun catcher on the bottom right.

Nothing fancy, just a few simple additions to our home to remind us that this is the month we get to hug and kiss a bit more, write love poems and make yummy things to eat.

Lace Prints

This is without a doubt, my new favorite technique. It is so fun and the results are lovely. This is something that can be done any time of year, with any color or colors--but it is especially perfect for Valentine's Day. We made several (too fun to only make one) so we may cut a few to make cards or hearts or for collage. For now, I just need to share the joy! First, go to your local thrift store and buy a lace curtain. I got mine for $2.99. If you can't find any, you can get a piece of lacy fabric at a craft or fabric store. You really do not need much--1/2 a yard will be fine. You will also need an empty clean spray bottle, liquid watercolors, watercolor paper and something to cover a large work area. I will warn you, this can get pretty ugly if your little artist is not careful. I would not dream of letting my 2-year-old do this indoors (and I am pretty relaxed about art messes). My 4-year-old is probably more careful than me, so we did not have any problems.

Cover the work space and set your watercolor paper in the center. Spread the lace over the paper and try to avoid wrinkles. Put your liquid watercolor paint in the spray bottle. I diluted it with some water which is totally optional.

Start spraying. For best results, aim for a quick misty spray. Encourage your child to keep the lace in one place.

Lift the lace off the paper to reveal your lace print.

Oooh la la! We LOVED this. I so enjoyed Hollin's enthusiasm. She just could not get enough of it. I hope this becomes a favorite for you too!