Featured Students & Lesson Notes

Mardi Gras Inspires Fantastic Headgear

I had just returned from a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I had a lot of beads to give away and thought it was a perfect time to offer one of my favorite lessons, headgear inspired by folk art traditions. In this lesson, students explore techniques use worldwide in textiles, woodwork, painting and paper crafts. They layer cut papers using both negative space (holes in the paper) and positive shapes.  Often we use hand painted paper using colors the students mix themselves. Symmetry is also an important design consideration as the headband is decorated on both sides with the scrap from the layered center piece. As resourceful artisans ourselves, we use up almost every scrap.

6th grader's print series began with a shell drawing

In the studio I have a Richeson hand crank press that students (including 5 year olds) love to use. We use non-toxic Akua soy based inks and simple techniques. A typical printing class will include rubbings, rubber stamping, mono-print painting and  the creation and use of plexiglas printing 'plates' on which we arrange materials. In the example below, our student began with a simplified drawing of a shell. Then I asked her to cut it in black paper and play with the negative space and positive shapes. First she cut the image in plastic and ran an embossing without color.  (Continued below photos)

Her final pieces, called ghosts, are printed on wet paper but no more ink is used. Her moveable image pieces are turned over and repositioned, creating the delicate, layers work she is holding. She and a friend her age prepared their work by signing and matting it for an exhibit and demonstration they did for a local non-profit fundraising banquet.
Shell observation drawing--Black line drawing painted with 'chips'


One of the lessons I like most you can also find in my videos on the website or You Tube.  In this lesson, even for children as young as kindergarten, we 'size up' the plant, shell, shoe or other object we see, trying to make it bigger than it is. We use fat black crayons and place dots on the paper where we see important points that can later be connected by bold crayon lines. While we do not ever expect or desire some perfect reproduction, we all learn to really look carefully at something, even counting the petals on the plant or the lines on a shell.

Then, in our own, creative ways we record our own impressions of what is seen. We do not add imagined ideas in these drawings EXCEPT when it comes to color. Then the artist is free to use any color family,  mixing as many hues as possible. All painting is done from hand made paint 'chips.' These are pieces of paper on which we have painted very thick tempera paint in magenta, yellow and cyan (turquoise). With these three primary colors and a brush moistened with water, students enjoy their own 'water colors' for a few pennies each. Making paint chips is also demonstrated on my videos. 


Youngest print makers do it all!


With the help of mom volunteers and two experienced older print makers, our summer class of mostly 5 and 6 year olds used the Richeson hand crank press (taller than most of them) and produced embossings, original (first run through the press) and ghost prints (on wet paper, no more ink). 

They used  Akua soy based inks with plexiglass plates of various materials. They also did rubbings, rubber stamp and marker drawings, and mono-prints with tempera paint, all in three, two hour days.   


Portland State University graduate student Sarah, a teacher in Hood River, is working with Annie on designing lessons that use themes from environmental science to inspire artistic thinking and creating. In her work in progress she and Annie have symbolized parts of her new rural property. She is drawing with a hand made branch pens and black tempera paint. Included in the twelve foot long panel are roots, summer dust, winter clumps of dirt, a tree line, a road, ferns, a trench, an ephemeral creek and poetic text describing her land--written all the way around the panel. Part of her work will involve writing criteria in the arts linked to specific goals in her science program. Her students will use both artistic and scientific thinking and methods. 


Sarah’s Portland State University graduate practicum also included the creation of hand painted, tooled papers which were later used to create modular accordion folios. Students use these folios for drawings, botanical  journals and general writing.