Still Life. Almost.

We did still life drawings of apples today in art class.

Or as still as it can be with several 5 through 8 year-olds around a table!


Still life drawings are a great idea for kids. They’re good practice in drawing from life… but the “life” stays put and doesn’t run off like your cat or your baby sister. And, still life subjects actually don’t have to be alive at all. You could just as easily draw a stack of books or a Barbie doll. As long as they’re still.

Today we worked on apples in a bowl… if you’re working with kids, get them to take a really good look at what they’re about to draw. In most of our minds, apples are round and red, and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you just set a bowlful of apples in front of kids and tell them to draw them! Ask them to look at the apple and describe its shape. One little person today thought her apple looked sort of like a heart with a flat bottom. Another thought his looked pretty round, except flattened in at the top and bottom. So we practiced drawing the shape of one apple.

And then we practiced drawing the bowl. We talked about how it would look like a circle if we looked at it from above, but if you look at it from an angle it looks more like an oval. With a little bit of the bottom showing underneath the oval. It really helps if you can talk through the shapes of things with kids every time you draw with them… they have preconceived ideas about how things look, but if they learn to notice the shapes of things their drawings will improve quickly!

Children tend to be heavy-handed with pencils, so you have to keep reinforcing the idea of sketching lightly so they won’t have dark lines to erase. You can also have them draw with either a yellow colored pencil or a pencil from the “H” side of hardness. Yellow pencils and “H” pencils (such as 2H, 3H, 4H etc.) make lighter lines, and even if they don’t erase all the way you won’t see the sketch lines in the finished drawing. On the sketch above, they’ll need to erase the line of the bowl behind the apples, as well as the “horizon line” of the table.

After sketching, we worked on coloring our apples… starting with a single apple. Again, have the kids look closely at their apple and tell you what colors they see. They’ll be surprised to see that there are several colors! We saw that yellow was underneath the red, so we did an underpainting of yellow with our colored pencils. Then we added the red striations of the Gala apple with lines of color that followed the contour of the apple. Or at least that was the general idea… contour lines are difficult for young folks. (Practice, practice, practice!) And we kept looking at our apple to see where the red was darkest and where the yellow showed through the most. Then we added green highlights around the stem area of the apple, and also shaded with green over the darker red areas. Green is the compliment of red… directly across the color wheel… which makes it a good choice for shading. Whenever possible shade with a complimentary color instead of black! We added final details with brown… little flecks of brown on the apple and brown for the stem. The stem even had a hint of green in it.

So we drew the apples. And the bowl. And we looked at how other artists drew apples and bowls. “Looking” is a big part of drawing… encourage your young artists to look closely for details, shapes, colors, or anything else they notice!

And then several artists decided to eat our still life props!


Fun Fall Painting Project…

I was cleaning up the art room a bit to prepare for art class this afternoon, and started to put away the results of last week’s class. Then I thought it might be a fun project to do with the kids or grandkids over Thanksgiving weekend! So here’s a couple of leafy painting activities if you have some spare time and random children milling about!

A note of precaution… this activity involves paint… which can be messy if it also involves kids! Put  newspaper or a plastic tablecloth on the table, or head outside to the picnic table. And, cover up good clothes with an apron, a big tee shirt, or if you’re feeling extra artsy, use one of Dad’s old button-down shirts, but put it on backward and button it up the back and roll up the sleeves. (This was required attire for kindergarten finger painting time back in the day.)

The first thing we did was leaf prints… Head outside and gather a variety of pretty leaves. The ones that are still on the trees are preferred, since they are still a bit supple. Make a thickish watercolor wash or thin down acrylic paints with water, and brush the paint on the back of the leaves (where the veins are). Press the leaf on watercolor paper pain-side-down, cover with a piece of plain paper, and rub the entire leaf area. Repeat with multiple leaves… they look pretty overlapped!

Now for the really fun project… Take clean leaves and trace them lightly on a piece of watercolor paper. Overlap the leaves if you’d like, but “hide” the overlapped sections so you’re not seeing through a leaf. (The leaf in the foreground should be a whole leaf, with the underneath leaf sticking out.) Make up washes of watercolor… we used a warm color scheme of Red, Yellow, and Orange, and threw in a Green from the other side of the color wheel to make things “Pop” a bit. Paint the leaves different colors and let it dry very well. You can actually be a bit loose and sloppy about this… try to stay in the lines of the leaves, but don’t stress over it!

When the leaves are completely dry, paint the background with clear water. It’s hard to see if you’ve covered the whole background, but do your best! Before it dries, dip your paintbrush into the watercolor washes and touch it to the wet areas and watch the color spread! If you see a spot where the watercolor is not spreading, add more water and then more paint. And… this is the really cool part… BEFORE IT DRIES… sprinkle some very coarse salt or Kosher salt on the wet paint. Let it dry completely, and brush off the salt. The little “sparkles” you see are the results of the salt! You can also add some veins with a fine point marker. (I used a brown Micron Pigma pen.)

Although this seems like a simple, crafty project, it looks really great framed! We used 140 lb. watercolor paper… not a weight usually used for kids’ painting projects… but it holds up under all the wetness and doesn’t crinkle all up. My girls did this project when they were young with another art teacher, and their grandparents took these to a professional framer and had them matted and framed. The results are awesome, and they still hang at Grammie & Grampie’s house!

Papercutting Classes coming up…

Hi folks! I spent most of the morning getting invitations in the mail for this winter’s papercutting classes! More will go out tomorrow, since I’ve not quite bonded with our new printer yet and the printing process is taking a little longer than I expected. But… just in case I don’t have you on my local mailing list, and you’re able to come for a class…

We’re going to be making a Haus Segen! (That’s Pennsylvania German for “house blessing!”) Class participants can choose from several designs, cut them out using scissors and craft knives, and paint them with watercolor. If you prefer, you can leave them with us to be framed in a handmade grain-painted frame, or take them home to put in your own standard-size frame. Sizes will range from 4″ x 6″ to 8″ x 10″… and you can make more than one if you work quickly!


We had such a great time with the classes last year, and are really looking forward to this year’s projects! See you soon!

Oh! And a proud daughter moment… my Mom & Dad’s house was chosen to be in Judy Condon’s latest book!

A wonderfully fun day…

Today we had our first “Cut & Paint Workshop”… and had a grand time! We got right down to business at 10 this morning, and cut two different papercutting designs…


Then we took a short break to eat lunch, and quickly got back to work at painting… most of the ladies had never tried their hands at watercolor before…


… but they were soon painting like pro’s…


… and don’t you agree they did a great job? I think so!


I. Am. Impressed.

Take a look at what our store ladies accomplished! These are only the papercuttings that ended up being framed here… there were quite a few more! I am so excited about how they turned out! Great Job Ladies!!!



And this wonderful surprise came in yesterday’s mail… I was expecting it, but didn’t know what to expect! The papercutter’s trade group decided to do a Valentine book, and a bunch of us cut a bunch of Valentines, and a very dear lady bound them into a book for us! It was so inspiring to see everyone’s contributions! Thank you ladies for sharing!


Schnip, schnip, schnip!

Yesterday we had twelve ladies (including Mom, Kate, and me!) playing with paper in the art room! It was our first ever, “store ladies” scherenschnitte classes, and I think they all did a great job! Everyone created a small coffee-stained papercutting to take home, and we all had a grand time! As usual, we forgot to take pictures in the thick of the creative process, but we’re having another back-to-back snipping session tomorrow, so if you’re coming, be sure to brush your hair! But, we do have pictures of some of the results…


We had such fun with the two groups yesterday… the first group was larger, very chatty, and funny! We snipped and glued, drank lots of tea and coffee, and I was very glad to have Mom & Kate to help. They took turns with the staining & ironing area and snacks, and also kept one table of ladies on track. And we only had one tiny wound, which was quickly treated with a band-aid and antibiotic ointment. (Note to self: give more instruction on the sharpness of X-Acto blades!) Our second group was much smaller, and very serious. These ladies got down to business and were very quiet papercutters! As soon as they finished their work, then they started chatting, and we all schemed our next project… flower pounding! After laboring intensively with a craft knife, I think the idea of whacking something with a hammer was quite appealing! (Joyce, I showed them your beautiful quilt!) There was quite a bit of interest in doing some more papercutting classes, though, so I guess it wasn’t too intense!

Now I’m off to add some new Valentine pictures to our Currently For Sale page! Check it out!