Sunday, April 29, 2012


The winner of the very first Picasso's Basement book review and giveaway contest for the wonderful book Art Lab for Kids is .....


Felicia, please respond here. I've attempted to contact you via Google Friend to ask for your mailing address and it won't go through. 

Thanks to everyone who responded, signed up for emails, and joined as a Google Follower!

Keep a lookout here. The new classes start up this week including some Roller Coaster art, a new Comic Book class, and some fun going on with the PreK kids!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


That's right! It's time to start planning for the summer. Due to anticipated family reunion to celebrate my amazing Mother's 90th birthday I'm only planning one week summer camp for Picasso's Basement. The rest of the summer will be spent in the company of family from all over the globe! Yay!
So here is the big announcement:

Picasso's Basement ROYAL Camp
Girls and Boys Ages 5-11
10AM-12:30 PM

  • Design your own Coat of Arms
  • Build mini catapults to use in the dreaded MARSHMALLOW WARS!
  • Fight off the Invisible Knight!
  • Create incredible castle Drawings
  • Make and eat medieval snacks
    Well, not quite but they'll have fun trying!
  • Much much more!



I will also be having some SUMMER ART DAYS throughout the summer for Middle School and PreK kids but unfortunately right now I'm still determining what to do when!

Please also remember that I STILL HAVE A GIVEAWAY CONTEST underway until Friday. You can read the details here GIVEAWAY INFO!! but all you have to do is leave a comment and sign up as a Google "follower" on my blog. I'm telling you, this is an amazing book that I will send to you for FREE! I'm astonished that something can be given away for FREE! in this world and only 2 people have responded. 

Look forward to hearing from you all! And now I must go walk my schnauzer....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

I thought it might be time to finally do both a book review and a giveaway.

As a parent, artist and art instructor I'm constantly trolling around book sales and online sites to find great inspirational art books and potential projects for myself, my kids and my students. In the last few months I've purchased books about gargoyles, animal paintings of Leonard Baskin, the history of Coney Island, and the work of designer/illustrator Jim Flora.

Here I'd like to REVIEW and GIVEAWAY a copy of Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper and Mixed Media by Susan Schwake.  I chose this book to review and give away because it is a book that is equally appropriate for Art Instructors, Homeschoolers and for the parent that just wants to encourage their children's creativity.

Let me start this review by making two things clear:
  • I'm no reviewer. I'm just a teacher and parent who wants a decent book with great art projects.
  • There are a lot of similar books out there that I've picked up: ones that show rainy day crafts or free time projects. 
This book surprised me. It's FABULOUS. It will definitely be a go-to book for me when coming up with lesson plans.

A nice clean layout means even I can figure it out! 
It's broken down into Units: Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper and Mixed Media. Each unit has a solid number of projects that the book explains in detail with easy-to-follow instructions, material lists, photos, and suggestions to take the projects further. The books is laid out simply and cleanly which made all the projects come across as quite achievable.

Many of the lessons have a MEET THE ARTIST section which features the artwork that inspired the project. Most were current artists whose work I was not familiar with. Very refreshing considering my children paint enough copies of Van Gogh's Sunflowers in school. It's important to teach the work of the Masters but it's great for the kids to see what is currently being created.
The exception was a project called Painting in The Style Of... which spoke about how to generally work in the style of a famous artist. Ms. Schwake makes it clear that the lesson plan will work in the style of any artist of your chosing.

Ms. Schwake's projects are well-thought-out and original. There are so many books and blogs and sites online that it is rare to find a book that has projects that I have not seen over and over again. Watercolor-and-Salt paintings, Creating Your own Stencils, Gelatin Printing and Text As Texture were some of my favorites.

The lessons are great starting points for other projects: the Larger Than Life Portraits inspired me to create a lesson on full body portraits. Leaf Prints made me wonder what else I could collect to make prints. (Cleaned chicken bones? Eh. The gumballs collected on my lawn? Heck, yeah. ) Painting Like a Fauvist is not only a well crafted project on it's own, it got me thinking about what other art movements I'd overlooked when planning out my seasons.

OK, time for the GIVEAWAY portion of our program! I'm of course going to now have to order myself a new copy because this one is a keeper.
If you would like to be entered in the giveaway please do the following;

  1. Leave a COMMENT here.
  2. Sign up as a GOOGLE FOLLOWER on the right (Click JOIN THIS SITE) if you haven't already
  3. Subscribe up by Email if you haven't already. 
You have until 6PM EST on Friday April 27th.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The new Spring Classes at Picasso's Basement are starting at the beginning of May!

There will be 4 classes running and all of them currently have room. As you know, space is limited so
please let me know ASAP if your kids are planning to attend!

  • PRE-K CLASS (ages 4-5)- Tuesdays 1-2pm: Projects to include Fish Printing and Canvas Painting!
  • 1-5th GRADE CLASS- Mondays 4-5pm: Trapese Artist Sculptures, Roller Coaster artwork, and much more!
  • COMIC BOOK CLASS- Tuesdays 4-5pm: Learn to create comic books, including character drawing instruction, layout, and a guest artist!
  • MIDDLE SCHOOL CLASS -Saturdays 11:30am-1pm: A range of work from traditional to conceptual, including Classic Figure Drawing and Found Object Sculptures!
For more information including a complete schedule, class descriptions, contact information and Registration Forms please go to my PICASSO'S BASEMENT CLASS SCHEDULES AND REGISTRATION PAGES.

If you have any questions or comments shoot me a comment or contact me via the contact information on the registration page!

Hope to see your kids in May!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fabulous Cities

May I gush about another wonderful children's book writer and illustrator? Oh heck, you can't stop me.

The late Simms Taback wrote and illustrated books full of humor and charm complete with quirky colorful folky and funny illustrations. All of them are incredibly clever and, though silly, are amazingly beautiful and contain details that make me want to look at them again and again.

My favorite is his Caldecott winner, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, a retelling of a classic Jewish story of a poor man who has an old ripped coat and continually cuts it down so he still can use it. First it becomes a jacket and then gets cropped into a vest. By the end it's only a button and soon even that is lost. But the story leaves you with a moral about creativity and resourcefulness and seeing the glass half full.

OK, OK, you say. Get on with it, Paula! What did YOU make from this book? Me? Nothing. But the kids in my Pre-K group made some lovely crazy buildings and cities. What might be difficult to see in the scan of this wonderful spread from the book is the quirky details. Simms added crazy photos of people making all sorts of faces in the windows of the city. He also put in pieces of material and newspaper clippings made to look like old Yiddish (Jewish) papers.

A trip to the city for our hero!'

Together we read the book and looked at the pictures. 

The Picasso's Basement PreK artists used cut and torn paper to make their wacky buildings. They clipped pictures out of magazines to fill  the windows with faces. I told them to feel free to add any kind of details with markers and scissors. One resourceful artist even added a button she found on the floor which was very much in the spirit of the book! 

Well done, artists!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hamsa Hangings

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful craft project but I can't. It's straight from this fantastic eclectic site called Kid World Citizen. I have always loved hamsas, hand shaped "amulets" that are made in the Middle East and elsewhere. I have several hung in my house, all made in Israel where some of my family lives.

I knew hamsas were Islamic in origin but at this site I learned that Jews consider it the hand of Miriam, Moses's sister who protected and saved him, that the five fingers can be representative of the five books of the Torah, or Old Testament. And that some Christians call it the Hand of Mary.

The Picasso's Basement artists used old cereal box cardboard as the base and cut the shape, covered it with heavy aluminum foil, and painted the eyes on with acrylic paint.  They started designing into the foil with blunt pens and pencils but in the end all made the decision to use thin sharpies to really get the designs to pop! They also punched holes in them and strung them with a strand and a bead or two. The link I mentioned has a series of photos that show the process so I'll get to the punch.

Here's what our artists created!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Terra Cotta Warrior Disaster (or DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!)

The famous Terra Cotta Warriors of China

Each sculpture is unique
Do you know about the wonderful Terra Cotta Army? These incredible life-size sculptures were built in China during the 3rd Century BC and were discovered in the 1970's by a group of farmers who were digging a well. They had been buried with the first Emperor of China to protect him in the afterlife. THOUSANDS of statues of soldiers, each unique with it's own details, clothing, ranks and facial features.

At Barnes & Noble I found a wonderful kit on sale that not only contained a small book with wonderful photos of the Army but also had a small reproduced figure. I showed them to my 3rd-5th Grade art group. They were completely taken by the figure. Everyone wanted to hold it. All of them asked to keep it.

Rest assured, I told them, you will be making your own! We will use this wonderful new air-dry terra  cotta colored clay, I told them! You will amaze your friends!

Warriors under construction
And so the artists worked hard to create their own figures. They were detailed. Some were crouching like warriors at battle, some stood proudly holding weapons. One looked comical but charming. Use a little slip (wet clay) to smooth out the rough patches and allow the appendages and facial features to stick better, I told them.

 Leave them to dry, I told them, and you will take your masterpieces home next week!


When the students came back the following week this is what they found: 

Terra Cotta apocalypse. Bases had fallen off. Weaponry had broken off and cracked. 
Arms, noses and hair buns all fell off with the slightest touch. Sadly I sent my artists home empty handed and I refrained from repeating the project with my younger group. 

So if you artists and art teachers and parents can recommend a good sturdy easy to use air-dry clay I'd appreciate a recommendation! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This one's for you, Nicci!

Thank you for all your suggestions on my next blog post, both here and on Facebook. I will honor all by posting about the evil clay disaster, the Crazy Cities and the Hamsas.
Thanks for being the first response here Nicci! I'm getting to work on the post...let me feed my dog first...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ahhh,,,what to post? what to post? It's up to YOU!

Since being voted in as one of the Top 25 Creative Mom Blogs (thanks to YOU, and hurray for ME) so much has happened! It's been a whirlwind! I've been on Letterman, the Daily Show, and Judd Apatow is asking me to play a role in his next buddy movie!

Just kidding.

What has happened?
My digital camera broke, leaving me with my poor 13 year old's somewhat inferior camera.
I taught several more classes, some successfully, some less so.
My teenager won the New Jersey GreenFest Environmental Award for students K-8.
My dog ate a squirrel foot. I know. I had to yank it from his mouth. Shudder.

So what to post?

The most frequent request will be granted!

Here are your choices:

1. The quite lovely Hamsa project produced by my wonderful Middle School group.
2. The disastrous Terra Cotta Warriors my very gifted Elementary School group created. Clay. It was all about the bad clay. Sigh.
3. Fabulous cities my PreK group worked on today.
4. Squirrel Feet

Again, make a comment with your number requested and I will produce a wonderful blog post in your honor.