Inspired by Books

The Snowy Day

When I began offering arts & crafts to the kids in one of the local daycares in Banff National Park, I wanted to pick a fun and relevant book — what better book than The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats?! It snows in Banff… a lot!

For this little activity we gathered and read the book aloud together, and then made a glue-and-stick craft taking inspiration from the book. We used construction paper and cotton balls, and had a lot of fun ripping up the cotton balls to glue as our snow for a 3D effect.

I had cut out and made several of the snowsuit-clad little boys in advance, using construction paper and markers. I had also pre-cut the snow mountain shape considering the kids are ages 18months to 2 years and most have not yet used scissors. They glued those down first.

To practice using our glue sticks we covered the sky in a twirly swirly glue scribble, and stuck the ripped up cotton balls to the sky. It was great practice for these little artists to learn where it was sticky and where it wasn’t.

For the last step we glued down the little boy in his snow suit, and the kids got to choose where they wanted him to slid down the mountain!

Books that inspire are the best books!

DIY, Mindful Art Making

Printmaking in Haida Gwaii

I had the great pleasure and privilege to facilitate a printmaking class at the Haida Gwaii Cultural Heritage Centre in March. As part of the duties of the Adjudicator of the All Island Art Show, I gave a personal presentation about my work, and facilitated a lino-block printmaking class. It was amazing!

I transported 2 giant suitcases full of art supplies to use in the workshop with me to Haida Gwaii. There is no art store on the island, everything had to be brought in, which I was happy to do! Fortunately all my clothes fit into my carry-on, so my suitcases were packed to the brim of papers, pencils, brayers, paint, barrens, bench hoods, blades, and more art supplies. Despite the heavy luggage it was an experience I won’t soon forget!

The workshop is an annual tradition put on by the Haida Gwaii Art Council. Each year they select an artist to adjudicate the show and provide feedback to the artists, as well as facilitate a workshop and give a public presentation about their work. It was so joyful to meet all the participants, see their artwork, and create with them in the workshop. Such a beautiful community of people. What an honour to have been selected!!

We used basic Speedycarve blocks and tools, and I taught participants a tissue-paper and graphite transfer techniques to get their patterns/drawings onto their blocks. Students had all sorts of wonderful outcomes! From bull kelp to bees and everything in between. Here are a few of their outcomes:

We had ample time in the workshop to discuss how we bring art-making into our lives, or how it can sometimes get left out. We took the time to print on both paper and fabric, and we did a quick “show-and-share” at the end.

Thank you for having me Haida Gwaii Arts Council!

Invitation to Create

Imaginary Towns

If you’re an art teacher or facilitator I’d like to invite you to try a philosophy that has been working really well in my classes: invite them to create something together, where the purpose of creating is less about the finished outcome and more about the process and problem solving. What I love about this philosophy is that it’s an open/anything-goes way of introducing kids to techniques and tools, and so far in my 10+ years of teaching kids, so good!

These imaginary towns are a response to the invitation and directive I gave at the beginning of a Mixed Media class for ages 9-12:

Pick an imaginary creature, if that creature were to live in their dream town, what would that town look like? Let’s build those towns!

Once the invitation and the intention is set, I show them the available materials for the activity, which I’ve laid out in advance on a separate table. I encourage the group to explore, touch, try, and take a close look at each of the materials before they begin. Then they are encouraged to plan and start construction when they feel ready. I walk and circulate around to their tables once the creativity has begun, but rarely do I intervene. I’m often asked questions which I try and respond to with questions and not solve any problems for them.

I take great inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching, and apply it to art classes for all ages (Reggio Emilia approach is primarily focussed on preschool and primary-age children, but I have been introducing and working with similar concepts in my adult and all-ages classes too!)

The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on the following set of principles:

I truly believe that this “invitation to create” will bring out and develop creative problem solving skills in every kid. To watch them conceptualize, create, animate, and then share their visions for their work is amazing. The work you see here had a long and winding narrative when we did a “share-back” at the end of the class, but I’ll summarize this one piece to give you a general idea:

When Pigs Fly:

“When Pigs Fly” by Quin

Imaginary creature: Flying Pigs
If that creature were to live in their dream town, what would that town look like?: “If pigs fly’d they would be high in the sky, and they would live in the clouds. They would never get tired. They would have rainbows and clouds and blue sky. There would be glitter.
Created by: Quin in Mixed Media for Ages 9-12 at artsPlace,
Materials used: cardboard, paper, popsicle sticks, air-dry clay, a stick/skewer, a cork, hot glue, paint, glitter
Time Period: About 1 hr

*note that using the adynaton “when pigs fly” was entirely Quin’s idea! Other kids chose dragons, minecraft/anime characters, the Lochness monster, etc.

My favourite part about watching Quin create this work was their ability to answer their own question “how am I going to get the pig to look like it’s flying?!” First, Quin tried to glue the pig to the stick and the stick to the paper, realized it wouldn’t work after some trial and error (and a LOT of hot glue), and then went back over to the materials table, sourced a cork and experimented with putting the stick into the cork and gluing the cork down – I didn’t intervene during this problem-solving, it was amazing to watch it unfold. This took Quin the most amount of time during the class, and during the share-back they also noted: “if I had of had more time, I would have painted the stick and cork blue to make it look invisible, like the pig was really flying.”

Way to go Quin!!!!