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.


  1. I like the watercolor and plastic example that you have posted. That's enough to get me interested in this book. It looks/sounds awesome!

  2. Looks like it will be a lot of fun and excitment for the kids. There's so many projects :)

  3. I thought I commented but it's not showing up! Anyway, I had said that I am sure you'll get to your 100 followers shortly! Hopefully I win this contest!

  4. Felicia! Congrats! You are the winner of this wonderful book. I did try to send you a message via Google but it didn't work so please email me and send me a mailing address! Thanks so much for participating!

    My email is!