Friday, March 16, 2012

My Big Fat Greek Vase - Part 2

A few weeks ago I showed you some of our Greek Vases from one of our classes. Check out the lesson and the first vases here.  A few friends asked me what paint I used and were these specialty vases.  So here's the low-down:

  • These were cheap vases from the art supply store, about $1 each.
  • We used craft acrylic which stays on well but is more liquidy than standard acrylic and is also very innexpensive. 
  • DO NOT use tempera. Parents of my younger students probably hoped I'd use something washable. It will work but it runs easily and if your vase gets wet you'll have a colorful puddle. 

Just a few more vases to display from a younger class. These students wanted to just be inspired by the traditional Greek vases but wanted to add more color. Just black and red paint didn't cut it for them. I still wanted them to understand working with a limited palette so I gave said they could add a little yellow and green to the mix. The boys wanted to add a little mythology and the girls went for color. Look how inspired!
Medusa #2!

One of my pre-school students also joined the bigger kids that day for a makeup craft and she wanted many colors on hers. It may not have been Greek but it is certainly fabulous!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Built This City On Rock and Roll...and we Recycled Too!

Mutant Schnauzer Attacks City!

OK. Not really. This is, of course a teaser about the latest Picasso's Basement project.

In all my time of teaching Picasso's Basement classes the most popular project ever was my Russian Byzantine Architecture  project when the artists created a Byzantine inspired cathedral out of recycled food boxes, cups, plastic and styrofoam. It has been the most requested project by all the artists here. They worked together to form one big building which now sits in my art studio. It taught them a little bit about Russia, architecture, recycling, and mostly teamwork. 

And so it begins....

I wanted them to learn more about all styles of architecture and since we are so close to New York City I knew the kids would really get excited about this. 

I started by saving all sorts of interesting boxes, cans, tubes and containers. I painted them white and tossed them in a giant crate. The students have to pick through to find what they think will work to help them best represent the buildings' architectural elelments. 

There will be more to come of this project in the next couple of weeks as I have two groups of artists working on this, each group working for 2 weeks. 

Taking a break. After all, the Empire State Building
wasn't built in a day!

Hard at work on the Guggenheim Museum

So far the students have learned about many kinds of architecture including:

  • Art Deco (Empire State and Chrysler Buildings)
  • Renaissance Revival (Flat Iron Building)
  • Beaux-Art (Washington Square Arch, Main Branch of the NYPublic Library)
  • Gothic (St. Patrick's Cathedral)
  • Post Modern (the Lipstick Building)

Plus they have mastered how be inspired without creating an exact replica and, most importantly how to make the most out of an empty fruit container!

So stay tuned please! There will be much more to come!

Oh, and don't forget to vote for Picasso's Basement at
2 days of voting to go!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Harold Shares his Purple Crayon

I think one of the most enduring classics of children's literature is Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Written in 1955 it is the story of a little boy named Harold who draws his way through the world. In fact, he draws everything in his world with his crayon: picnics, skyscrapers, even his own house and his bed.

 In the end he "draws" up his covers and goes to sleep. As a little girl it worried me that he came home to a house that he had to draw but now I find it comforting and sweet.

I love that he could completely orchestrate his own adventure!

The Preschool kids and I read the book. They particularly liked that Harold was able to get out of each jam with his own clever drawings.

I then presented them with xeroxes of photos I'd taken of them at the end of the previous class.

I asked them each to draw two pictures: one of themselves having an adventure 
and one of themselves returning home. I think they had a pretty good time! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Watercolor Oceans

Time for a new skill for my fabulous Middle School kids. They can draw and design. But can they feel comfortable with watercolor? Well, not at first but hopefully we changed all that last week.

One thing I've discovered is that until they play around with a new medium most kids use all kinds of paint the same way. Thick. Now here's the thing; once you master watercolors you can use them anyway you want. Go translucent, go opaque. Go to town. But the middle school kids needed to really understand what watercolor was about. Colors covering other colors or blending in or forming drips. Translucence. Cool unexpected things happening on your paper. And learning to control it as much or as little as you like.

Undersea Plant. Love the brushstrokes on the leaves!
I had them pick ocean scenes because I thought that would give them a limited palette to work with and's an ocean scene? What's not to love? They looked at many photographs for inspiration.  They picked sea creatures and closeups of a plants.

Horseshoe Crab
I had them do a drawing on the watercolor paper in pencil before they started to paint. I encouraged them to experiment on scraps of watercolor paper but they wanted to dive right in. Fine, so long as they played around a little on the painting.

It took a lot of convincing for them to realize they could leave areas unpainted, could lift color off once it was placed down. One student was really determined to paint over the pencil lines but I convinced her that the underpainting and the light coming through was what brought her piece to life.

Fabulous work, artists!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lame Post (or THIS is your child's valentine's box???)

That's right. It's time for the LAMEST posting.
I have a cold.
I am tired.
And so rather than showcase my wonderful students' artwork I will instead attempt to inspire you with just my own lame craft.

Every year at least one of my 2 children has been asked to decorate a box for valentines day so that at school the other children could fill it with tiny purchased cards. I've purchased those cards myself. You know the kind--the cheap ones that rip a little when you try to separate them and then get stuffed into teeny envelopes that don't stay properly closed. Well, that's the route I usually go as well.

But now I'm an art teacher. I have to raise the bar. I have  a standard to uphold.

This year I decided we'd do it all by hand. Inspired by our new schnauzer we made schnauzer cards. We printed out photos of the dog and pasted them on red paper and cut them to the shape of his head. When recipient of card opened them they found a dog tongue holding a cheapo piece of chocolate. (You know, the waxy kind you get in bags this time of year at the pharmacy.) I would love to show you one but I we gave them all away. Although we did keep some of the cheapo chocolate...

We also made an excellent box to resemble our schnauzer.

Real Schnauzer. Do not confuse with dog box. Do not feed valentines cards.
 It was made out of a shoe box, and two smaller boxes. (I think one was from a pot pie.) We cut a hole in the top boxes so that you could "feed" your valentines into the dog's mouth.

Valentine's Box that is virtually identical to real dog. Can you tell the difference? NO!
Open mouth, insert cards.

That's right. My son's Valentines Box actually eates valentine cards. Pretty cool, huh? Apparently the class loved it.

Am I going to wrap this up with a clever or wise comment?

Heck no.  I'm taking 2 NyQuil and going to bed. Wake me when it's St. Patty's Day.