Sunday, March 13, 2011

Your Rainy-Day Plan B: Art with the Kids!

It’s Youth Art Month so I want to get everyone creating art! Plus, it’s spring and there are rainy days ahead. If you had a fun outdoor activity planned and now you need a "Plan B", how about some art stuff instead?

You don’t have to have a big elaborate project planned. It’s a lot of fun to just experiment with some new art materials. Explore how the different materials feel and different ways the materials can work. You can end up creating a cool art work, or just have fun with your experiments. Adults and kids alike can enjoy trying something new. You don’t have to be an expert!

Here are some of my favorite materials that are both kid-friendly and wallet-friendly:

Oil Pastels- You can get a basic set for about $2.00 at most stores.
Try these on dark and light paper, on wood or even on rocks. The bright colors pop! Smudging and mixing the colors can be a great way to learn about color theory. Draw then wash over it with watercolor paint for a stunning resist effect.  

• Water Color Pencils-
  Color shapes or just make lots of funky lines, then use a paintbrush and water to transform this material to watercolor paint right on your paper. It’s so much fun!  A great way to learn about color mixing: layer pencil colors, swirl them together with your brush/water, see what happens! Some sets can be expensive, but Crayola makes a great 12-color watercolor pencil set for about $5.

• Model Magic- Just one small packet of this air dry clay by Crayola can have limitless possibilities. When dry it can be painted, colored with markers, or decorated with just about anything. The clay is super soft so its great for small hands or for people with limited hand strength. I like using it on paper to create 3-D effects, like raised outlines or textures like mountains or ocean waves. Just roll it into skinny ropes, stick it to the paper and let it dry. Short shelf life, so use it up when you open it. VERY easy clean up.

• Paper scraps- Go on a scavenger hunt around the house and gather up anything that can be glued down. Try everything: wrapping/ tissue paper, scrap-booking supplies, old greeting cards, magazines and newspaper, tin foil,... If you don’t have a large variety of paper, take white computer paper, use your pastels, watercolor pencils or anything, color it in random patterns.

Now, collage! Use a cardboard or poster board as a base if you really want to load it up, or regular paper is fine. Make it tiny or huge! Just cut shapes and attach with glue stick (easiest for little ones) or any cheap white glue that dries clear. If kids are too young for scissors, adults can cut a bunch of random shapes and allow kids to assemble. Random shapes can be formed into animals, houses, cars, faces or used in an abstract style. Collaging costs almost nothing and gives you hours of creative fun!

Tip: Glue sticks with colored dyes can bleach colored paper when it dries. And they’re ALL “washable”.  Don’t pay extra for those products. Resist buying bulk packs for home even if it’s a good deal- they’ll dry out before you get to use them.

Shopping Recommendations: Try your local retail stores including major discount stores to find art materials. Locally (Southeastern MA), I always check Ocean State Job Lot for really great prices on supplies. I do a lot of online shopping for both my studio and classroom, and for that I use Nasco Arts & Crafts: low prices, reasonable quick shipping, free lesson plan ideas and great specials. They carry EVERYTHING!

Now start creating!

Monday, March 7, 2011

YAM! Handout Activity: Say it with a CARTOON!

Here’s an easy activity to celebrate YAM (Youth Art Month):
Have your students/children create a cartoon of themselves saying something important about ART!

Kids can draw or fill in a cartoon person to represent themselves, then fill in the cartoon speech bubble.  (For younger groups, grown-ups can help with writing the kids’ ideas in their bubbles.)

Some writing prompts could be:
  • What is art?
  • What is your favorite thing about art?
  • What does art mean to you?
  • What do you learn about in art?
  • Research a famous quote about art and write it along with the person’s name who said it. (Try these sites:
  • Or just write a celebration statement, like “ART ROCKS!”, “I LOVE ART!” or whatever makes you happy!
Use crayon, colored pencil, or marker to color if you wish!

Just download and photocopy any of these handouts that will work for you. I have created 3 different ones to work for different ages or lessons:

YAM Cartoon Handout 1 &
YAM Cartoon Handout 2: Two handout options- with and without lines in the speech bubble. If you are writing one word or a short phrase, you may want to use the blank bubble. Handouts 1 & 2 include a cartoon person that kids can color and add hair/clothing ideas onto.

YAM Cartoon Handout 3: Here the person space is left blank so kids can draw their own cartoon self from scratch. I also left the cartoon bubble blank. When I use it with my kids (grades 5+), I will have them write with a lined paper under the bubble so they can see the lines through and write neatly, or they can measure and draw the lines themselves using pencil and ruler. 

This is a great activity to use on a YAM bulletin board. You can hang the papers as is, or cut out the cartoon and bubble to display in any creative way you want. Have fun!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Celebrate YAM! (Youth Art Month!)

It’s March and that means it’s YAM!

No, not those yams...Yams are delicious, but we are talking about Youth Art Month!

As many of you know, I am an art teacher by day so I want to get everyone on board with YAM! Throughout this month, I’ll be blogging about some ways you can celebrate art with your children in March and all year long!

YAM is sponsored by the Council for Art Education, Inc. The aim is to increase awareness about the value of arts learning and to encourage support of art in our schools. Youth Art Month is a time for us to think about why art is an important part of our children’s lives, education and development.

What’s the big deal? Art is just supposed to be fun, right?

I sure do hope my students have fun and share the joy of creating art with me! But there are some seriously important reasons why art education has a huge impact on kids. As a matter of fact, there are 10 really good reasons we need to teach about the arts according to art education expert Elliot Eisner! Read this list below, and remember that arts programs in every community need our support so children can have a complete education.

from Elliot Eisner’s book The Arts and the Creation of Mind (2002, Yale University Press)

1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
 Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it 
is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution
 and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.
 One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving 
purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects.
 The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
 All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said.
 When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source 
and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young 
what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!” Part 9: A Book is Born!

This is Part 9 and the LAST post in my blog series on publishing a children's book.  If you missed the first articles, read
“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!”: Part 1!
Part 2: Know your Publishers!
Part 3: Two Ways to Self-Publish
Part 4: Self-publishing Author’s First Step

Part 5: Choosing Your Self-publishing Company
Part 6: Meet Your Illustrator!
Part 7: Hiring Your Illustrator
Part 8: The Illustrator’s Contract

Now your illustrations have been finished, your manuscript is edited, you have contacted a local book printer or on-line self-publishing company to finalize your book project order, and you are almost done!

At this point in the book process, you will submit all materials to your designer/printer or self-publisher. This will include your manuscript, the illustration scans or originals, a bio, and synopsis. You will leave all of these in another's hands now.

Except for a few follow-up questions from the publishing company or designer/printer (text style/size, spine wording, end page info...), you will have what will seem like a long wait before seeing proofs. A proof is the sample you use to do a final check for errors. It typically takes the online publishers 3 to 4 months to produce your proofs, minimum 2 months if you want to pay more to speed that up. Local printers/book designers may be able turn that work out more quickly depending on the number of clients they have.  It will take another 3-4 weeks for a self-publishing company to set up all of the on-line sales, web sites, etc. If you have ordered promo materials, expect that to take even longer. So start working on something else and don’t drive yourself crazy!

When your proofs are sent to you for approval, CHECK THEM and if you can, have someone else look them over, too. Often if there are any changes that need to be made (not publisher/printer error) you will have to pay extra for those changes and edits. Once the proofs are approved by you, the book printing will be ready to begin.

Finally, in a couple of weeks, your actual shiny new book will arrive, which will hopefully meet all of your expectations. Now, you must market and sell it, but that is a whole other blog topic for another time...

So here’s what that long-awaited day is like:
The mail carrier leaves the parcel at your door. You run to pick it up. It has the post mark from the publisher! It’s here! You tear open the edge of the padded envelope, and inside you see... your book! With your title, your name, your cover! It smells like new paper and ink. It’s shiny and colorful and just what you’d hoped. You hug it and then flip through the pages. Yes, yes, they are all there! No more nightmares that you forgot something. You hug your book again. The book you imagined has become a reality. Enjoy the moment!

I hope this blog series has been helpful to those of you who have thought, “Hey, I have a great idea for a children’s book!...”  Whether you go through a traditional publisher or self-publish, do it because you love it. Believe in yourself and your project. Good luck, future authors!

By the way, YES, I do accept project inquiries from authors who are looking for an illustrator! I offer quotes depending on the scope and content of the project. Check out my web page, Kristine Daniels Studio, for a look at my portfolio and contact me if you are ready for the adventure!