Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mom Incorporated

I'm now listed (at least temporarily) by a wonderful site called Circle of Moms on their Top 25 Creative Mom blogs. (See your opportunity to vote for me once a day on the circle at right.)

I started looking at some of the other creative blogs and began to wonder about what other mom-business owners find most challenging about working from home.
For me it's a no-brainer: shifting from Mom to Teacher and back again in my family's eyes. 

I teach a thriving little art program from home.
You can see all the students' work on my other posts and on our Artsonia Gallery.
But when the students arrive and I head to the art room I boldly face (insert dramatic music)


1. My 13 Year Old Secretary 
I've arranged to have my older son to answer the phones while I'm teaching. He tends to forget this when he is deep in the midst of some fantasy-oriented-computer-based-role-playing-game.

My secretary
It goes like this:

  • I hear the phone ringing ringing ringing. 
  • I begin to call my teenager's name over and over. 
  • The dog wakes up and begins to bark.
  • Paintbrushes fly. 
  • Chaos ensues.

SOLUTION: A reminder EACH and EVERY time before class starts. Apparently teens can only retain their instructions for a 1 hour period. Who knew? Now I remind my secretary regularly.
Problem solved.

2. My Tiny Juvenile Delinquent
My 8 year old is a joy to have in class, says his Second Grade teacher. 
In her class he's always studiously working, says his Second Grade teacher.
But at home the lines are blurred. Very very blurred.
Pint Sized Delinquent
It might look somewhat classroom-like but he knows better
  • He knows it's really Home. 
  • He knows where all the places are to get into trouble. 
  • He knows if he reads my ART ROOM RULES list and adds the word "NOT" in front of each rule to the amusement of the other students he will not be sent to the Principal's office. 
  • He knows where all the hidden items are that his Mom/Instructor says are not to be shared just yet. 
  • Chaos ensues. 
SOLUTION: The CRACK DOWN. After months of struggle I've discovered that 8 year olds are much like teens. They need reminding. And so each class I remind said 8 year old of how privileged he is to have a class in his house. How fabulous he is at being a role model for the other kids. And how if he doesn't knock it off he's getting booted out of the class. 
Problem solved.

3. My Dog

My dog also clearly sees me in the MOM role and he does NOT like to share MOM. 
  • Students arrive. Doorbell rings. Dog barks.
  • He barks at the beginning of each class until he eventually settles down on the rug and becomes the class mascot. 
  • For the younger groups I crate him in another room. He barks barks barks through class.
  • The phone rings and my Secretary doesn't answer. (See Problem No.1) and the dog barks more.
  • Paintbrushes fly.
  • Chaos ensues.
SOLUTION: TIME. Only time.  I've had him for 3 months. He now barks less and less, he's used to the kids in the basement. He likes curling up near the older kids. Only the crate time during the younger classes remains difficult. All suggestions will be considered seriously! 

So my questions to you Mom/Teachers/Business Owners/Bloggers: 

  • What are your biggest challenges? 
  • What solutions, if any, have you found? 
  • And would you like to walk my dog?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cigar Box Showstoppers

I can't believe I forgot to blog about this project with the 6-7th Grade Picasso's Basement Artists. This dates back to November I think.

I had toyed with doing a particular project based on the art of Joseph Cornell who created beautiful delicate assemblages within boxes. 
OK, I know I should have added a real Cornell photo here but this kept you reading, right?

Traditional Retablo

I also wanted to eventually do a project based on Mexican retablo art, devotional paintings often within a wooden box or frame to create a home alter. A recent trip to a wondrous cigar store left me only $25 poorer while I carted home 40+ stunning cigar boxes. I realized they would come in handy someday and I found the perfect project. I thought I'd wait on the Cornell and focus on the retablos.

But once I let the students loose in my art room, complete with old magazines, shells, vintage bottle caps, antique cards, little wooden findings and boxes of old door knobs, they let their imaginations take over.

I'm sorry to say I only have pictures of 2 of the boxes but they are pretty incredible!

Glad being a craft-material hoarder has finally paid off for someone!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Big Fat Greek Vase

How goofy is this horse? Goofy!
After years of being dragged through museums as a child and rolling my eyes in boredom at the Greek vases I have finally come to appreciate their beauty. You know what it took? A HORSE! The Greeks could make some darned nice horses. They were pretty and simply shaped and their teeny tiny hooves appealed to me. They were sort of comical. I can always appreciate something beautiful that is also a little bit silly.

So when I showed the Picasso's Basement artists the various black and red techniques used by the Greeks to adorn their showier vases I showed them many examples featuring horses. Like these:

I had considered having them make their own vases but I don't have a kiln and I already have a two-week project planned for the near future so instead I had made a run to the dollar store for a batch of terra cotta vases. Perfect. Cheap enough to buy extras.

The only paints they were given were black and red acrylic paints. We looked at typical Greek patterns. I encouraged them to paint horses on their vases. I made an example to show them. Here it is:

My Sample Vase
But as all great artists do, they followed their hearts. One of our artists is a well known (at least in his school) authority on Greek mythology. He painted Argo, the ship for which the Argonauts were named.

                        Our resident Greek Mythology expert

His original sketch for his vase

Here are some of the other gorgeous vases that were painted:

For more on Greek vase techniques please check out this excellent link at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Athenian Vase Painting

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hat Day with a nod to Ezra Jack Keats

You've heard me go on and on about my love for Ezra Jack Keats. As a little girl I loved his book Jennie's Hat. The story was charming but what interested me the most were the pictures. Keats used beautiful papers and collage and simple drawings and I was completely enthralled.

So when I started teaching a preschool class I was jumping at the chance to share my enthusiasm for the book. It helps to have the most wonderful students in the world: attentive and interested young artists. We started by reading Jennie's Hat. I pointed out the endpapers in the books. The artists looked at the many hats pieced together with flowered papers. We discussed the silly things we could put in our own hats if we drew them: pizza, pets, grapes.
A Picasso's Basement Artist hard at work

The artists started drawing faces on large paper. Then they glued large cut out hats made of manila paper which was heavy enough to support a collage. Using magazine clippings they filled their hats. Pictures of flowers, cats, dogs, candy, ribbons, cookies. One young artist suggested we add glitter. Thank heavens we're in a basement! It was a glitter fest like I've never seen. I've never been a huge glitter fan but it worked perfectly for this project!

I think the artists did an amazing job.

Check out the fantastic hats they made!

Hat festooned with dog and hot-air balloon.
Flowers and Glitter and a fairy

Doggy wearing a hat!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Dali Mustache makes the man. Or kid.

The Picasso's Basement kids have known me long enough to know that I love to express my artistic inclinations through my clothes and accessories whenever possible. From giant ridiculous earrings to goofy hats to my love of all things vintage. So I thought it was time to discuss the artists that REALLY made an artistic statement by the way they dressed or adorned themselves. We talked about the crazy things some artists did and looked at pictures of Basquiat, Warhol, Khalo, and of course a whole heck of a lot of pictures of Salvador Dali.

I thought it might be nice to feel the part so naturally we all sported some lovely mustaches.
I had originally planned to have them draw Dali but thought they'd have more fun drawing themselves. I used a version of this project that I saw on one of my favorite blogs There's A Dragon in my Art Room in which the students did simple drawings with only one oil pastel, without using a pencil first. 

Picasso Basement kids feeling their oats

Mustachioed artists

Then the students added mustaches and a few other touches with pipe cleaners. 
I think they did an amazing job! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Joys of Pinning!

I am not usually inclined to recommend websites unless they belong to wonderful artists, teachers or cooks. OK, I take that back. I can blather on endlessly about an awful lot and I probably DO end up recommending sites. But not on my blog.
A Group of Boards on Pintrest

I must now make an exception. Pintrest. My new obsession. I thought it was just a cute idea at first: a site that allows you to pin virtually any picture or link onto virtual bulletins. I started with a few of my favorite subjects: Making Stuff, Vintage Cereal boxes, Roadside America, etc. Then I noticed that Art Teachers were using it to collect lesson ideas. So I set up ONE and only ONE board called Art for Kids. It grew. I started finding wonderful ideas. Crazy imaginative people were out there pinning and I could repin their pins. They could repin mine. Some late night frenzied pinning was going on. I became a pinatic.

Now I find it downright inspiring. AND helpful. I have many many art lesson boards now: broken down by grade, subject matter, even material. I found myself sort of getting to know other artists and instructors by their pins. I see a wonderful lesson and think "Oh, that Abigail is so clever" or "Wow, Thadeus is really edgy". And I steal their ideas. Legally. Woo hoo!

It might only be my virtual reality but Pintrest makes me feel organized and inspired. Heck, how often can you say that about a website?

If you're a fellow pinatic please comment and let me know what you like the most about it.