Tag: painting

Visual Journal Page 37: Foggy Mornings

Looking at this visual journal page immediately takes me back to my commute to my first job.

My first art position was at a high school outside of Atlanta. I drove 40 minutes straight east everyday until I hit the small town where I worked. It was a very boring drive, straight highway lined with trees. But many mornings in the fall and spring brought beautiful fog that rolled through the trees, making me forget that I was speeding along a highway.

I loved seeing it, and it brought a odd combination of comfort and eeriness watching the white, translucent fog moving through the silhouetted trees. It brought be a sense of calm before I started my crazy, jam-packed day.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Newspaper
  • Watercolor
  • Paint brush
  • India ink
  • Gesso
  • Water
  • Sharpie

HOW TO:

To create this visual journal page, I worked in sections. I first started in my book by gluing down ripped up strips of newspaper and book pages. I then painted the background using warm colors to mimic the look of a sunrise.

While waiting for the background to dry, I used India ink to paint treetop silhouettes on a separate sheet of white paper. I using heavier paper, because India ink can easily saturate printer paper and cause it to ripple and tear. I set that aside and waited for it to dry. TIP: Use a hair dryer to speed up the process!

Once the tree tops were dry, I used watered down gesso to loosely paint fog. I painted the gesso in spirals, circles, and waves to try to mimic the look.

Once the fog and trees dried, I cut them out using scissors. When collaging, I like the look of leaving an edge around objects I cut out. I think it emphasizes the fact that it’s a collage. Once the trees were cut out, I cut them down to fit in the book before gluing them in. TIP: Use a credit card to push pieces into the crease of the book.

When everything was finally put together I added the finishing touches using a thin Sharpie, text that said: “There is something eerie, yet comforting about a foggy morning.”

CHALLENGE:

Recreate a moment when you were in the car. It can be a commute, road trip, or similar! Have fun and good luck!

 

Interested in more visual journal stories, tips, and how tos? Check out my visual journal blog page here and my visual journal bundle on TPT here. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word and get involved with visual journaling by following, sharing, and commenting!

Visual journal page 36: The Wedding Ring Incident

A visual journal page about my husband accidentally being buried in the backyard.

This visual journal page is about the day my husband buried his wedding ring.

I have heard many ways people have lost their wedding rings. Leaving it on the bathroom sink and it slipping down the drain, pulling it off in a pair of gloves and accidentally throwing it away. But, until my own personal experience, I had never heard of someone losing their ring because they accidentally buried it.

Yes, my husband buried the physical representation of our eternal love in our backyard.

My husband is a fidgeter. He drums his fingers on any flat surface, wiggles his foot, he is in constant motion. One of his favorite fidgeting pastimes is taking off his ring and spinning it on table tops. So naturally, one afternoon when he suddenly couldn’t find his ring, my assumption was he took it off and left it somewhere without realizing it.

We walked through his day, where he had been, what he did, when he last remembered having his ring. We searched the house from top to bottom, under furniture, on tables tops, in every nook and cranny. We came up empty handed.

When I decided it was time to throw in the towel, it hit Nick. He spent all morning planting plants in the backyard, surely it fell off while he was doing yard work. I was skeptical it could simply fall off, but Nick was determined. He spent the remainder of the evening searching over our not small backyard.

The next day I assumed it was time to start thinking about a replacement, while Nick decided it was time to rent a metal detector. He spent the entire next day combing the yard with headphones on, detector to the ground, listening for beeps and digging to find what was detected.

Let me give you some context.

Our adorable Atlanta bungalow was built in 1940. In it’s hey-day East Lake was a happening Atlanta neighborhood. A beautiful lake attracted Atlantians as a vacation spot and break from city life in the late 1800’s. But, as the years passed civil rights swept the nation and white flight began happening in many cities. This caused East Lake’s previous wealthy inhabitants to leave, attracting lower income residents, and creating the racial divide that honestly still persists today. The beautiful lake that once was a public attraction was purchased, gated off, and reserved only for wealthy golfers to play the course that now surrounds it. Like most Atlanta neighborhoods, East Lake became crime ridden, home owners couldn’t afford to keep up their houses, and things took a turn for the worse. However, the last 15 years has brought new life to these Atlanta homes with people moving back into the city who are able to rehab formerly run down homes. This is wonderful for our area, but also puts our older homeowners at risk with rising property taxes. But, that is a whole separate tangent that you don’t want me to get started on.

All of this brings me to the fact that from the 1960’s until we purchased the house, our backyard was essentially a trash dump. At a glance you wouldn’t think this. But over the years the rain, wind, and other elements would slowly push the junk just under the top soil. The amount of glass we have found, and still find, over the 8 and a half years we have lived in our house is astonishing. So, as my hopeful hub was searching for his wedding ring every few inches he instead found a random piece of rusted metal, an old oil can, a random tin, an empty soda can.

Instead of spending the day searching for his ring, it turned into a day where he uncovered every piece of trash buried in the dirt for the past sixty years. In defeat he returned the metal detector and claimed his ring a lost cause.

At the end of the day he walked out back one last time. He admired a row of newly planted bushes and noticed one bush was just a few inches out of line. He reached down and pulled the plant up in order to replant it in line, and as he describes it, his ring popped out of the ground as the plant came out, as if it were a coin in a video game.

A day of searching and the use of a high tech device had failed him. What paid off in the end was his OCD.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal book
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Old book pages
  • Heavier white paper
  • Watercolors
  • Paint brushes
  • Water
  • Colored pencils

HOW TO:

When it came time to create this visual journal page I was excited because I already had a vision in mind. I knew I wanted to emphasize the bush that ate Nick’s ring, and planned all along to create it in watercolor. Once I had an idea for that, I began on the background.

I wanted an earthy look, so I pulled old book pages that had a variety of page colors. I ripped them in stripes to create a softer look, and glued them down in vertical lines. Once I had the background set I sketched out the bush shape with pencil before I started with the watercolor.

I wanted the leaves to be very bright so I used the wet on wet watercolor technique. I first filled the leaf shapes in with water, then loaded green on my brush before adding it to the water filled leaf shapes. When you add watercolor pigment to water, it will fill the water shape. As long as the area around the shape is dry, it typically won’t extend beyond the limits of the water. Once I had a green base layer I introduced a dark blue at the very edge of each leaf to create a shadow.

I repeated the wet on wet technique with the bark on the trunk and roots, although I used less water so the colors wouldn’t blend as much. To fill in the dirt I simply painted dots all around the bush roots, using different shades of brown.

I really wanted the ring to stand out, since it is the focus of the story, so I decided to draw it out with colored pencil, so the material would contrast against everything else. I drew it on a separate sheet of paper, filled it in with colored pencil, then cut it out and glued it to the page. I cut sections of the ring out to show the roots painted on the page to make it appear as though the ring was overlapped by the roots.

To add the words I wanted to create a space that made sense with the rest of the image, so I drew out and painted a scroll like bar. I painted the same texture at the end of the roll as the bark on the bush, to look like it was being pulled out of the trunk of the bush. I wrote the words using a thin paintbrush and watercolor.

Through the years this page has held it’s spot as one of my favorite visual journal pages I have created. I am very happy with the final image and the story behind it is one I will never forget.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a piece of jewelry. It can be a sentimental piece, the loss of a piece, or the desire for something. Have fun and good luck!

Interested in more visual journal stories, tips, and how tos? Check out my visual journal blog page here and my visual journal bundle on TPT here. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help spread the word and get involved with visual journaling by following, sharing, and commenting!

Teaching Abstract Art: When the Simplest Concepts are Actually the Most Complex

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Abstract art is one of my favorite types of art and it’s an art form that I always include in my high school art curriculum. It can be hit and miss, some years they get it and run with it, other years it’s like pulling teeth. Despite my mixed results I am committed to always including it in my lessons because it can be under-appreciated by those who don’t understand it. AKA, please don’t tell me “I could’ve done that.” Because guess what, you didn’t.

Abstract art may look simple, but it is in fact one of the most complex forms of art and reflects a much higher level of thinking (yes, there is a lot of thinking that goes on in art making). Because of this fact I was very wary of doing an abstract art project with my advanced class this year. They are a wonderful group of kids, but overall their technical ability and creativity level is lower than what I typically have in my advanced classes. My tried and true projects were very hit and miss this year, and I felt like a failure of a teacher. I just couldn’t figure out my “in” with them.

So of course, knowing all of this information I decided to develop a new abstract art project that was bigger than ever and more open ended than over. I was convinced it was going to fail miserably, but I continued down the path anyway.

I attribute the formation of this new lesson to watching cartoons with my two year old. We were deep into watching Inside Out for the 1000th time when the abstract thought scene came up. If you have never seen it, Google it, it’s an amazing explanation. The characters show the progression of abstract thought through verbal and visual explanations. The characters literally abstract before your eyes. The light bulb turned on.

I put together a PowerPoint including a link to the clip (plus a few other video clips) and three abstract artists to show examples of the three main elements in abstract art: Piet Mondrian for line, Wassily Kandinksy for shape, and Mark Rothko for color. The only guidelines I gave my students were it must emphasize either line, shape, or color (all three will be included, but one will be showcased) as well as balance, unity, and a focal point. The three elements are the building blocks and the three principles are what make it a successful work of art.

I was so worried. Typically with my abstract projects I have my students start with a concrete base, such as a photograph of a landscape or an object, and I help them simplify and abstract it before they start painting it. But this project took it to a new level, it was high level problem solving. I set them off to work and as always with a new project I worked on my example along with them.

Each student got a 36″x48″ canvas. This was the largest any of them had ever worked. I sent them off to sketch and I began to work on mine. I decided I wanted to focus on cool colors, with pops of warm, incorporate an acrylic pour somehow and emphasize line. In my head I wanted the organic shapes of the acrylic pour pattern juxtaposed with the geometric lines. First I painted the entire canvas using the cool colors I planned to incorporate into the stripes.

Next, I used a ruler to create a line pattern. I had a loose idea to focus on diagonal lines, but from there I started laying the lines out and made adjustments as I went.

Once I felt confident with my pattern I began filling it in.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the bright orange to help create a focal point.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Again, I had a loose idea of the colors I wanted and would scatter them around the canvas before starting another. I would periodically take a step back to make sure the colors looked balanced before adding more.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I wanted the background to make up some of the stripes and as I began filling in the lines I decided I wanted to have more of a variety of shapes, rather than the same width lines covering the entire piece. To create that look I didn’t fill in large chunks of the lines and instead left the background showing through.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I waited until closer to the end to add more orange stripes to make sure they remained the focal point. At this point I loved the piece. I began questioning whether or not to add the acrylic pour aspect. But, I decided to follow through with my plan. The organic look of the pour would either elevate it, or hurt it, but at least I had photographic evidence of this point in case I hated the final version. Plus, you can always paint over what you don’t like.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

I didn’t want the acrylic pour to look like a paint spill on top of my piece. I wanted it to look intentionally included. To achieve this I decided to let it fill in some of the strips, but have clean strips cutting through it. I carefully taped up specific sections and tried to visualize where the paint would fall.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

At this point I had never done an acrylic pour before. One of my students was familiar with the process, and she did some on her abstract acrylic. I read a few how tos, watched a few videos and carefully watched her technique before trying it on my own (once my class had dismissed just in case it was an epic fail). I put my acrylic paint colors in individual cups and mixed it with water, floetrol, and tested some rubbing alcohol on a few. I poured the smaller cups into a larger one, alternating the colors.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Full discloser, the first pour was a HUGE failure! I didn’t thin the paint enough and it ended up being a huge glob of paint that would not spread. I quickly wiped all the paint off and had a moment of silence for the wasted supplies. Attempt two went much better. I still sweated a bit as I tried to spread the paint while maintaining the beautiful cells, it’s way harder than it looks.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After layer one I decided I wanted a little more, so I did a final pour on the lower half.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

After letting it dry overnight the moment of truth came and I began peeling off the tape. I was slightly disappointed, the paint still seeped under the edges of the tape, which meant a lot of clean up, but I was excited about the potential. After a lot of cleaning up edges I decided I was very pleased with the end result.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

And the best part is the tape will make an amazing visual journal page in the near future.

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

In case you are wondering this project ended up being the most successful project of the year. All of my students excelled and these large scale abstract acrylics made beautiful and impressive additions to our annual art show. I don’t know if I can attribute the success to my enthusiasm for it, working along with them, breaking it down into basics, or my Inside Out clip, but whatever it was I will take a win at the end of the school year.

If you are interested in learning more about this project check out my Teachers Pay Teachers lesson plan here. It is designed for advanced or AP art level high school art students, but I believe the basics can be kept and it be sized down for earlier high school or middle school students.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Check out more visual journal pages here and more of my TPT products here. Help spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!

How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.
How to create an abstract work of plus how to teach it to high schoolers.

Homemade Valentines with a Toddler (and paint)

This year is the first year Cooper gets to celebrate Valentine’s day at school. Last year, as a one year old, he was a little too young to participate in the festivities. But this year, he gets to exchange valentines in the big kid room. We were asked to bring in 19 valentines to exchange with all the students at his daycare. I decided while he is still young enough to not have an opinion about what valentines to bring, we would make our own. Plus the art teacher/mom in me thought it would be fun to have a craft project over a very rainy weekend. 

We started by using the easel he got for Christmas. I limited his color choices to pink, white, and silver, gave him two brushes, and let him go to town. I did encourage him to cover the entire page, but other than that, this was 95% Cooper painted. I decided to use the paper that came with his easel since it was large and already attached to the easel, but if I could go back I would’ve used a thicker paper instead.

We painted two large sheets of paper using pink, white, and silver, then let them dry overnight. The next day we flipped them over and painted the back of the sheets with red and glitter red paint. I was much smarter first time around, having Cooper paint without a shirt on. I forgot to take his very white shirt off before painting with very red paint. Luckily, we were using washable paint, so the paint that inevitably ended up all over his shirt came out after just one wash.

After we finished painting and the paint had dried, we started adding some other decorations. One of Cooper’s favorite parts was stamping with the heart stamp.

Next, I began cutting up the sheets of paper into smaller valentine size pieces.

After cutting and folding them, we punched out heart and star shapes. I kept the pink and white on the outside and red on the inside so the heart cut outs would pop. The heart puncher was very hard to push down, so I handled those, while cooper added the stars.

After we punched, added a few more stamps, and some colored pencil scribbles, I had Cooper put a sparkly heart sticker on the inside of each one.

This year I handled the name signing. We will work on his alphabet so maybe he can sign a few next year.

To finish them off we stuffed them in envelopes with a handful of sparkly, foam, Valentine themed stickers.

I love the homemade look of these valentines. I know this will probably be one of the only times I get the chance to do this. I’m sure Cooper will be seduced by the action heroes, minions, and other fun characters that cover the not as fun and unique valentines in the stores. Until then, I will soak up every minute of craft time with my little.

I hope you enjoyed this Valentine post on Valentine’s day. Help me spread the word about crafting with littles, art, visual journals, and all things crafty by sharing it with others. Thanks for stopping by!

Adventures in making homemade valentines with a two year old, and paint, and stamps, and stickers, and so much more.

Teaching Watercolor to High Schoolers (when you don’t know how)

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.

A few years ago I began teaching a painting class, after taking a a three year break to focus on ceramics and sculpture. While I loved teaching 3D art, I was excited to move back to the two dimensional world. I always loved painting. and couldn’t wait to teach a course that focused on it. However, in order to teach a well rounded painting course I knew I would have to teach watercolor. And I hated watercolor.

My mom is an amazing watercolorist. Not only was she an amazing watercolorist, she was also an amazing portrait artist. Two skills that I am not naturally gifted at. Growing up I remember a number of times when my mom attempted to teach me watercolor techniques. Despite her many tips and suggestions, I was impatient and couldn’t wrap my head around the need to plan ahead and work in layers.

At the point when I took over the painting and advanced 2D courses, and realized I would have to teach an advanced level watercolor project, I had yet to create a successful watercolor painting. It was time. I was going to have to learn to properly paint with watercolors, because I was about to have to teach it.

How to paint a path using watercolor paints.

I started with the basics. I needed to plan ahead and pace myself. I knew from experience if you went too heavy too quick you could never get back to whites and lighter colors. Watercolor is about glazing, adding thin layers on top of each other, and letting the layers dry in between, to create detail, depth, and build in shadows.

I began doing watercolor testers. First, just blobs of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding other material such as salt. I watched YouTube videos and checked out a few watercolor books. Next, I began combining the techniques to create simple landscapes. The above path started with wet watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry, then adding in dark shades. I left lighter areas untouched, and tried not to go too heavy too quick. The final layers involved adding the detail such as the grass. I didn’t shy away from incorporating other colors, such as blue and purple, into the shadows.

How to paint a floral bush with watercolor paint.

I continued to work with combining techniques, planning ahead, and building my color in layers. I had my mom once again show me her techniques, and began thinking and applying them in a different way than I had before. I realized at heart, I am an oil painter. I like to throw down color, mix it together, and cover up mistakes as a I go. You don’t have the luxury of that with watercolor. You must plan ahead. You must work slow. You must think highlights vs. shadows before you lay them down. I had to change the way I thought about painting in order to successfully complete a watercolor.

For the example above I tested wet on wet by wetting my paper first, then adding green, yellow, and blue watercolor. I allowed the first layer to dry, then added brown and more blue to push my shadows and value. I then used a mostly dry brush and painted in a floral shape.

The first steps in watercolor painting, doing a base sketch and inking.

Once I felt confident in the watercolor techniques I was testing, I decided it was time to start my project example. The assignment was for my Advanced 2D art class, the last step before AP Art. They had to select a part of our school’s campus to turn into a watercolor painting. They could go inside, outside, it was up to them, but it had to have some sort of architectural feature in it. This assignment forced them to go out and take pictures to work from, making them consider angles, framing, and composition. It required them to focus on perspective and lines, with the architectural element. And it also focused on honing their watercolor techniques to create a realistic image.

Although they were focusing on a section of the school, I encouraged them to think about what part of the school was important to them. Where was their favorite class? Where did they spend the most time? What space best reflected their view of the school? While I focused on our school for this project, it’s also a great opportunity to have students think personally, and bring in a photograph of a place that is important to them.

For my example, I did not focus on a section of the school. Instead, I opted to kill two birds with one stone, complete an example and create a wedding present for my brother-in-law and his wife. I chose an image of their wedding venue, a beautiful southern house called Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

There are two ways I like to do my examples. The first, is complete them before my class starts the assignment to make sure I like it and it will be successful. The other way is to do it along with them. I chose option B for this project, which was scary since I was not confident in my watercolor ability. The benefit of working on my painting along with my students is I can tell them what issues I come across as I work through them. It also allows me to continue demonstrating techniques throughout the project. And although I wasn’t very confident in my watercolor painting abilities, it showed them that I could do it. I kept telling them if I could do it, they absolutely could as well.

Before I introduced the watercolor project, I completed my base drawing. I used pencil, then went ahead and traced over the lines using a waterproof pen. I kept the ink lines tight in sections I knew would be in full view, and loosened up in the areas that would have foliage overlapping it. I at least wanted to base drawing to be complete, so when I introduced the project I could go ahead and demonstrate some watercolor techniques.

A partially finished watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

Next, I began painting. First of all, I apologize for the huge jump from zero paint to 75% complete. I always intend to photograph throughout the process, but I often get caught up in what I am doing. I started with the sky, using wet on wet and blotting out the clouds. Next, I went into the roof and walls of the building using a combination of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding salt for texture. I then continued adding details and blocking out color for the background.

As I continued to add detail I slowly built up the shadows and was very careful not to go too dark too quick. I constantly told my students they could always go darker, but couldn’t go lighter. They were going to paint the painting at least four times through the layering technique.

A watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

The final touches came with the trees and bushes that overlapped the front of the building and were the darkest color. I then went back in with pen and added more lines as needed.

I was very pleased with the final product and with myself for pushing out of my comfort zone by tackling a medium I had never liked before. Since this painting was completed, I have done a number of other landscape and architecture watercolor paintings. I have a new found love for it, and although it will never be my first choice, it isn’t one I will shy away from anymore.

A framed watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.I matted and framed the painting for them as a Christmas gift. I hope they cherish is for years to come.

My students’ painting also turned out beautifully. I love putting the campus painting on display in the school. It gives the faculty, administrators, and student body a chance to see their school in a different light. It’s always interesting to see what part of the school they choose to focus on.

Megan and Vince were married in gardens right next to the plantation home. It was beautiful with the Spanish moss and pond as a backdrop to the beautiful wedding party, bride, and groom. The reception took place on the porch of the house. It was an amazing day from start to finish.

A photograph at the pier in Folley Beach, SC

This was a picture of my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and myself during the wedding weekend. It was so much fun celebrating with the Panetta family and witnessing Vince and Megan’s commitment to each other. Nick and I also announced the coming of our first baby the same weekend, who is now a two year old wild man Cooper.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! You can find the lesson plan and all the resources I use to teach this watercolor project at my TPT store here. I have also created watercolor how to posters here and here. Also check out different ways I use watercolor in my visual journal here and here. Help me spread the word by sharing this post on your social media site of choice. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.