Friday, August 31, 2007

Book Recommendation: Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman

Museum Trip is a perfect introduction to art. No words are used in this richly illustrated picture book by Barbara Lehman, and no words are needed. This is fitting since art is better seen than read about.

Lehman’s story follows a boy on a school field trip to the museum. The boy becomes trapped inside an exhibit and must discover the heart of the subject before coming out the other side to rejoin his class. During this journey, he discovers a love of art, something he has in common with the museum curator.

This Caldecott Honor Book and ALA Notable Book (to name only a pair of its many awards) would make a fine addition to any home library. It is a book to be enjoyed over and over again; each read will bring new discoveries and pleasures.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Easter Island Moai

Today I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. When I saw what was in the lobby I was excited because I don’t remember ever having seen one in real life before. It was one of the statues that once guarded Easter Island. I decided that for something I’ve seen so often on TV and in pictures, I didn’t know nearly enough about these statues. So the moai of Easter Island are the topic of today’s post.

Easter Island is a small island near Chile in South America (see the map to the right). It was formed by a volcanic eruption and the packed volcanic ash, called tuff, became the main material used by the island’s people to sculpt moai. The sculptures, built with extra-large (and long) heads and short bodies with no legs, represent ancestors of the islanders. The moai may have been built by professional sculptors or members of the various tribes of people on the island may have created sculptures of their own ancestors. Either way, the moai look very much alike.

Hundreds of moai were sculpted during the 700 years between the year 1000 and 1700. At one point there were nearly 300 lining the edge of the island and about 600 more in the process of being carved or displayed throughout the island.

The statues were created at sites toward the center of the island and then moved to the coastline where they were hoisted onto stone platforms. Moai completely ringed the outer edge of the island so they could be seen by anyone approaching Easter Island from any direction.

The moai varied in size, the largest standing 33 feet tall. The statue at the National Museum of Natural History was only slightly taller than I am: about 6 feet. Some archaeologists believe that the statues were taken down periodically as larger statues were built to replace them. The people of Easter Island may have thought that spiritual or magical power entered the statues; building the moai may have been a religious practice.

At some point between 1722 and 1825 nearly all the moai were knocked over. Scientists don’t know why, but they believe the moai were toppled by the people of Easter Island. Today, only about 50 of the statues still stand. Some are in museums and some remain on the island, though they are no longer believed to hold spiritual power.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Art Supplies: Charcoal

Charcoal is the substance left over when wood is burned. It is used in the same way as pastels to create artwork in shades of black, white, and grey.

It can be bought in sticks, charcoal pencils, or loose powder.

Charcoal can also be used to make parsemage. A parsemage is a piece of artwork made by floating charcoal powder on water, sliding a piece of paper into the water underneath the charcoal, and then lifting the paper so the charcoal sticks to it.


You can create a parsemage, too.

Materials Needed:

Wide Bowl
Thick Art Paper
Eraser (optional)

Next time you go camping take a plastic container with you. Once the campfire has completely cooled (overnight), take a few small pieces of burned wood and bring them home in your plastic container. If your family cooks on a charcoal grill, ask for a charcoal briquette instead.

Fill a wide bowl with warm water. Crumble your charcoal into the water. The powder will float on the top. Try to grind the charcoal into fine powder because if it's too heavy it will sink to the bottom and won't attach to your paper. Slide a piece of thick art paper into the water just below the floating charcoal. Lift the paper out of the water, allowing the charcoal powder to stick to your paper. Lay the paper flat to dry.

You can now create a drawing on top of the parsemage or you can erase patterns in the charcoal on your paper.

Note: You can do this project using chalk instead of charcoal. Just use a pencil sharpener to grind chalk into powder and sprinkle the powder on the surface of the water. Try using different colors in the water to create some cool effects.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Create Your Own Sand Painting

To make your own sand painting, you will first need to make some colored sand.

Materials Needed:

Food Coloring
Plastic Containers
Paper Towels

Pour some sand into each plastic container. Use a different container for each color. Pour just enough water into each container to cover the sand. Then add food coloring and stir each mixture until you have all the colors you want. Let the sand sit for at least an hour to absorb the color. The longer it sits the brighter the colors will be.

When you’re happy with the colors of the sand, spoon it onto paper towels to dry. Remember to keep the colors separate. Clean and dry your containers so that when the sand has dried you can return each color to its own container.


Follow the instructions to make your own colored sand or buy sand that has already been colored. It is available at most craft stores. Now you’re ready to make a sand painting.

Materials Needed:

Colored Sand
Thick Paper like Construction Paper
Elmer’s Glue
Plastic Container

Gather your materials. Decide what you’d like to paint and use a pencil to draw it onto your paper. You can use any color paper because the sand will cover it.

Pour some glue into an empty plastic container. Mix in a little water to make the glue easier to paint with.

Choose your first color. Paint glue into the sections of your masterpiece that you would like to be that color. Try to paint only a thin layer of glue. Before the glue dries, sprinkle colored sand onto it. Tap off any sand that doesn’t stick and pour it back into its container.

Continue to fill in your painting with sections of color until it is completed. Let the painting dry for a few hours.

Cover the colored sand and save it for another project or create another sand painting right away.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Native American Sand Painting

Some Native American tribes in the northwest, particularly the Navajos, use sand painting in healing ceremonies. Because the Navajos believe that sickness is caused by offending a god, the ceremony is meant to restore the patient to that god’s good will. The tribe’s medicine man uses colored sand to make pictures on the ground of the hogan (the ceremonial home), or on animal skins. He uses his hands to scatter the sand into special shapes and patterns that are believed to have healing powers.

The paintings are not made to last and are not stuck in place in any way. In fact, we have very few photographs of sand paintings that were actually made during ceremonies. Paintings have been made for the public to see and take pictures of but they are not exactly the same as those made during healing ceremonies.

The ceremony can last for nine days and nine nights if the patient needs it but is can also be performed in two nights or five nights. First, the sickness must be taken from the patient’s body by herbs or sweat baths. Then the gods must be summoned, through sand paintings, so that the patient can make up for his offense.

The medicine man usually chants while his assistants create the sand painting. The painting can range from only a few feet square to twenty feet square and its main colors are blue, white, black, and yellow. When the sand painting is finished, the ill person sits on it so the gods can enter his body and restore harmony. You can see how the sand painting wouldn’t last very long. After the sand painting absorbs the illness from the patient it is swept out of the ceremonial home.

You can look at some sand paintings by clicking here. Just click on any of the artists’ names in the list. Notice that all the sand paintings on the website are for sale which means that they were not created for healing ceremonies. They were also stuck down, not laid loose on the ground to be swept away later.

Check back tomorrow for a sand painting project!

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Create Your Own Stained-Glass Painting

Stained glass can be made in a variety of ways. For more information, please read Stained Glass. For another stained-glass craft project, please see Melted-Crayon Stained-Glass Masterpiece. Below, you will find a second stained-glass project. Be sure to ask an adult for help with this project.

Materials Needed:

Glass Picture Frame, Any Shape and Size
Surface Conditioner
Transparent Glass Paint in Several Colors
Paper and Pencil or a Printed Picture
Clear Tape
Plastic Container and Lid

Gather your materials. Lay newspaper over your work space.

Remove the glass from the picture frame. Clean and dry the glass. Make sure you have permission to paint on the picture frame! Paint the surface conditioner over the area you’re going to paint. You can find a surface conditioner in any craft store in the same place you find glass paint. Try Delta PermEnamel. Let the surface dry completely. This may take up to 24 hours.

Choose the picture you want to paint on your glass. You can either use a picture from a magazine, print something from the internet, or draw your own on a piece of paper. Tape the picture to the underside of the glass so the image shows through. Now you can use it as a guideline when you paint your glass. Feel free to skip this step and just paint your picture straight on to the glass.

Fill your plastic container with water for washing your brush between colors. Use the lid as a palette but when you squeeze paint from your bottles, remember that glass paint dries quickly. You can also buy glass paint in small pots that can be closed when you’re not using them.

Paint your picture onto the glass. If you want light to shine through the picture, paint in thin layers. You can also paint your image thickly but light will not show through the way it does through a stained-glass window.

When you are happy with your stained-glass, read the directions on your glass paint package. You may need to place your glass in the oven so the paint won’t peel off. If this is the case, make sure an adult helps you. Don’t forget to remove your drawing or printed image from the back before heating your plate in the oven.

Glue the glass back into the picture frame. Regular white glue will not hold. Try Tacky Glue instead. You will not need the back of the picture frame anymore. Now you can place your stained glass in the window and the light will shin through.

You can paint anything that is made of glass (as long as your parent says it’s okay). Below is a picture of two wine glasses I painted for my mom for Christmas one year.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Melted-Crayon Stained-Glass Masterpiece

You can make your own stained-glass masterpieces! Following is the first of two stained-glass projects. Check back tomorrow for the second.

Materials Needed:

Crayons in Many Colors
Heavy Black Paper
Wax Paper
Elmer’s Glue
Crayon Sharpener
Hole Punch
Thin Dishtowel

Gather your materials and ask a grown-up to help you with your project.

Start by cutting designs out of your black construction paper. You can cut out a shape, like a cat or a leaf, or just make patterns. You will use the outline of the shape or pattern for your stained glass. Make sure to leave enough black paper for a line of glue.

When you are happy with your outline, take a second piece of black paper, the same size as the first, and trace your shape or pattern onto the second piece. Then cut out the shapes. You will be left with two matching outlines.

Note: If you have a grown-up to help you, you can use an exacto-knife to cut the pieces out of your black paper. If not, try folding the paper to cut your shapes out of the middle. This will keep the paper in one piece.

Next, take a sheet of wax paper and glue it to the back of one of the pieces of black paper so that it shows through the openings. Trim the wax paper until it is the same shape and size as the black paper. Take a second sheet of wax paper and glue it to your other piece of black paper. Make sure that when you place the wax paper sides together the black outlines match up.

Choose which colors you’d like for your stained glass and take the wrappers off those colored crayons. Place one of your pages wax paper side up and use your crayon shavings to shave bits of crayons onto it. These colors with show through the black lines and form your stained-glass. Make sure to completely cover the wax paper with crayon shavings or there will be white spaces in your stained-glass.

When your stained-glass is exactly the way you want it, put a line of glue along the outer edge of your page and attach your second sheet. Make sure to line up the patterns you cut out of your paper. The stained glass will look the same on both sides.

Cover your stained-glass with a thin dishtowel. Ask your grown-up helper to iron over the dishtowel. This will melt the crayon shavings, blending the colors and keeping them in place.

Punch a hole near the top of your stained-glass masterpiece and thread a piece of ribbon through the hole. Make the ribbon into a loop and tie a bow at the top. Use this to hang your stained-glass in a window so the light will shine through it.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stained Glass

Glass is made by melting silica, which is found in sand, and small amounts of other chemicals. When the silica melts it becomes a thick liquid, close to the texture of molasses. When the glass is in the hot, liquid form, color can be added to create stained glass before flattening it and letting it harden as it cools.

There are many ways to make stained-glass, however, and each creates a different effect.

One way that glass makers create stained glass is by attaching a blob of colored glass to a tube and then blowing until the glass takes the shape of a cylinder, like a bottle. Then the glass cylinder is cut open and flattened to form a sheet of stained glass.

Another way is to place the ball of hot, colored glass into a spinner to flatten it. This causes the sheet of glass to have rings in it. It will never be completely flat but the unevenness lets the light flow through differently than if the glass were flat.

The hot glass, once colored, can also be laid out and rolled flat. This creates texture in the glass which makes it difficult to see through. The glass in the picture to the left was made by rolling the glass until it was flat.

To make a stained-glass window, an artist first designs the picture he wants to create, then uses small pieces of colored glass to make pictures or designs. He cuts the glass to the right size and shape and then uses special glass to paint the details of faces or animals. The artist then solders the pieces of glass together by using a tool to heat and melt strips of metal to hold the glass together.

An artist can also make an entire stained-glass window by painting on clear glass with special paint.

Stained glass is used mostly in the windows of churches and cathedrals so many of the windows show religious scenes. The window shown here, from Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Florence, Italy, depicts the twelve apostles. If you have never been inside a church or cathedral, the light shines through the stained-glass windows and bathes the walls in color. As you can see, the inside of the building remains somewhat dark so lamps are sometimes used even during the day.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett, is an exciting mystery about the quest of two sixth graders, Petra and Calder, to save a work of art from a thief. Through a series of coincidences too related to be accidental, the two collect clues and learn about Vermeer’s art along the way. Even Brett Helquist’s chapter illustrations contain a mystery. This book never fails to involve the audience. It even includes a secret coded language that the reader must use to understand parts of the book.

You don’t need to know anything about the seventeenth-century Dutch painter, Vermeer to understand and enjoy this thrilling story. Blue Balliett tells you all you need to know in this novel meant for readers 9 years and older. If you’d like to learn anyway, please read yesterday’s article, Artist Profile: Johannes Vermeer.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Artist Profile: Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter, born in Delft in 1632. He began his career in the arts when his father died and Vermeer inherited the family art dealing business. He continued to work as an art dealer even after he had become a respected painter because he needed the money.

Vermeer married a Catholic woman named Catharina Bolnes, even though he was a Protestant, and went to live with her and her mother in the “Papist corner.” Catholics in Delft lived in a separate neighborhood than the Protestants and the members of the two religions did not usually spend much time together.

Vermeer and his wife had fourteen children but not nearly enough money to support them all. Catharina’s mother gave them some money and let the family live with her but Vermeer still had to borrow money to feed his children.

In 1653, Vermeer joined the painters’ trade association, the Guild of Saint Luke. This allowed him to be taken seriously as an artist.

Later, Pieter van Ruijven, one of the richest men in town, became Vermeer’s patron. As patrons do, Ruijven bought many of Vermeer’s paintings and made sure he had canvas, paints, and brushes so he could work. Having a patron meant that Vermeer could use the color blue in his paintings, a very expensive color in the 1600s because it was made out of the semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli. And use blue he did. Look at the headband on this famous painting, Girl with the Pearl Earring.

Today, we have given Vermeer credit for 66 paintings, though experts are only sure that 35 of them were actually painted by Vermeer. Another Dutch painter, Han van Mergeren, wanted to prove that he was a good artist so he painted in the style of Vermeer, making an unknown number of fakes.

Nearly all of Vermeer’s paintings show indoor scenes. One exception is View of Delft, shown below. Most have a single window on the left side of the painting which provides the light. (For example, The Milkmaid, picture to the left.) Vermeer created a smooth but thick painting by applying a thin layer of paint, letting it dry, then adding another thin layer of paint, and continuing until he was happy with the artwork. His subjects ranged from very poor workers to rich nobles.

EDITED TO ADD: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, book review

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Art Supplies: Pastels

There are several types of pastels, soft pastels, hard pastels, and pastel pencils. Soft pastels look like crayons, though they are not waxy. They are so soft that the artist can blend different pastel colors right on his paper using his fingers. Soft pastels produce very bright colors.

Hard pastels are not as bright or as soft as soft pastels. They do not blend or smudge as easily and are usually used for drawing outlines and details.

Pastel pencils are used for drawing fine details. They are like colored pencils with a softer lead. The colors are brighter than colored pencil colors but not as bright as soft pastels.

Edgar Degas, a French painter in the nineteenth century, used pastels a lot. They were perfect for creating the tutus of his many ballerinas like the ones shown here in Ballet Rehearsal.

You can buy soft pastels, hard pastels, and pastel pencils at most art supply store. If you can, try each type for yourself. Then draw a picture using all three types of pastels.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds’ Ish is the story of Ramon who loves to draw. Like many of us though, he lets the opinions of others discourage him.

This picture book for the youngest of art fans is illustrated by Reynolds in black and white with a touch of watercolor in the background of each picture. Reynolds text and illustrations work together to create a boy who comes alive before your eyes. You will root for this loveable character as he learns what making art is really about.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Create Your Own Cave Painting

Want to try your own cave painting?

Materials Needed:

4 Plastic Containers
Sidewalk Chalk
Large Paintbrushes

Use a rock to crush the chalk into powder inside the plastic containers. Use a different container for each color. Add, about 1/3 cup for each stick of chalk and use a stick to stir in the chalk until the water becomes the right color. Use your paintbrushes to create your masterpiece on the sidewalk or in your driveway. Try painting animals like the cave painters did. Don’t forget to leave your handprint next to your painting.

The cave painters used red, yellow, brown, and black but sidewalk chalk doesn’t usually come in brown or black. To make brown, mix blue and orange. If you want light brown, use more orange. If you want dark brown, use more blue. To make black, mix purple, blue, and orange.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cave Painting

The earliest artists that we know of painted inside caves about 32,000 years ago. Scientists have found paintings in caves on nearly every continent.

Cave painters only had a small number of colors to work with because they made their paint by grinding up certain stones and adding water to the powder to make a type of paint. They could make brown, black, yellow, and red and these colors suited their needs because they painted mostly animals. Early humans could not sign their names on their paintings like artists do today because they hadn’t invented writing yet. Instead, handprints are common in the caves.

Just like today, cave painters used paintbrushes to create their artwork. They made the brushes out of animal hair or small twigs. They also used their fingers to paint and sometimes they created small tubes out of sticks or bone that they filled with paint and then blew through one end to spread the paint across the rock.

The paintings have lasted for so long because many of them have been closed off in caves for thousands of years where the temperature stays cool and the rain and snow can not reach the paint to wash it from the rock.

Click here for more information on prehistoric cave painting.

Click here for cave painting illustrations.

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Monday, August 13, 2007


I love looking at art. I love going to museums, reading books about artists, and creating my own masterpieces. I’m so glad there were people in my life when I was growing up to teach me about art and how to enjoy it. I hope I can be one of those people for you. Here, you will find arts and crafts activities that you can do with your friends and family, plus art-outings, artist biographies, articles about different artistic periods and styles, interpretations of paintings and sculpture, and art-related book and movie recommendations.

Every article will be archived in the order of posting as well as organized into categories for easy location which you will find listed along the right side of your screen. Still can't find it? Just type your keyword into the search bar at the upper left cover of your screen and hit search blog.

I hope you find this blog fun and easy-to-use. Maybe you’ll even learn something. Please feel free to comment on anything, give your advice, or ask questions.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Arts and Craft Projects

Arts and Crafts Projects!
**Scroll down for projects in the following
fun categories: Paintings, Drawings,
Sculpture, Collages and Mosaics,
Other Crafts, and Holiday Crafts!**


Watercolor Sunset

Cave Painting

Arshile Gorky Painting

Jackson Pollock Drip Painting

Piet Mondrian Masterpiece

Edible Painting
Pointillist Painting
Sand Painting
Stained-Glass Painting



Illumination 2
Sun Myth Illustration
Perspective and Gustave Caillebotte


Alexander Calder Mobile
Clay Sculpture

Clay Monster

Recycled Art, Dada Style

Jen Stark Paper Sculpture

Paper Mache Sculpture

Collages and Mosaics:

Henri Matisse Collage

Pablo Picasso Collage

Henri Rousseau Jungle

Piet Mondrian Masterpiece 2

Other Crafts:

Masterpiece Magnets
Ancient Egyptian Jewelry

Ancient Egyptian Mask

Mask 2

Art Nouveau Doll House
Ojo de Dios


Pressed Leaves
What to do with all Those Pressed Leaves

Crayon Stained-Glass Masterpiece

Woodcut Print

Holiday Crafts:

Advent Calendar
Candy Cane Rudolph and Santa

Colored Christmas Ornament

Painted Christmas Ornament

Christmas Candle Holder

Paper Christmas Ornament
Pine Cone Turkey Place Cards

Thanksgiving Placemat

Pop-Up Pumpkin Card

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Artists and Artistic Styles

Alexander Calder

Arshile Gorky

Aubrey Beardsley

Abstract Art

African Masks

All Saints

Andre Derain

Ancient Egyptian Art, Part 1- Painting

Ancient Egyptian Art, Part 2- Carving

Ancient Egyptian Art, Part 3- Sculpture

Ancient Egyptian Art, Part 4- Amarna Art

Ancient Egyptian Art, Part 5- Fayum Portraits

Aquatint Printing

Art Brut

Art Supplies: Charcoal

Art Supplies: Oil Paints

Art Supplies: Pastels

Art Supplies: Tempera

Art Supplies: Watercolors

Art Nouveau Introduction

Art Nouveau in Paris (Siegfried Bing)

Art Nouveau: Henry van de Velde


Cave Painting

Claude Monet


Complementary Colors

How We See Color


David Alvarez's Post-It Mosaic

Degenerate Art

De Stijl

Diego Rivera

Easter Island Moai

Etretat in Art

Faberge Eggs


Frank Lloyd Wright


George Bellows

Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte, Part 2

Harry Clarke

Henri Matisse

Henri Rousseau



Jackson Pollock and Lavender Mist


Jen Stark's Paper Sculpture

John James Audubon

Learning Art Through Apprenticeships

Little Dancer, Age Fourteen

Lost Wax Casting

Mary Cassatt

Maurice Denis

Max Ernst



Les Nabis

N.C. Wyeth

Niki de Saint Phalle

Paul Klee

Photography Guidelines

Photography Guidelines Part 2

Picasso's Musical Collages

Piet Mondrian

Pop-Up Books: A History

Paul Ranson

Paul Serusier


Saimir Strati's Nail Mosaic

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat, Part 2

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Stained Glass


Ukiyo-e Japanese Woodblock Prints

Venetian Masks and Carnevale


Vienna Secession

Vincent van Gogh

Wassily Kandinsky

Wayne Thiebaud

Winslow Homer

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Book Recommendations

Board Books

Mini Masters Boxed Set by Merberg and Bober

Windows to Color by Julie Agnier-Clark

Picture Books

A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch

The Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

The Young Artist by Thomas Locker

Vincent Van Gogh by Eileen Lucas

The Yellow House by Susan Goldman

Olivia by Ian Falconer

Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Weitzman and Glasser

Grades 2-4

The Paint Brush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla

Grades 4-6

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett

Of Flowers and Shadows by Anna Kirwan

Linnea in Monet's Garden

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About Me

My art won’t be selling at Sotheby’s but I still enjoy creating it. Even more, I love looking at other people’s art. I have always loved Impressionism, been interested by the art of the Renaissance, and been confused by abstract art. There was so much I wanted to learn about art.

I graduated from the University of Florida where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English. I read tons of great books and I wrote a lot, two activities I have always enjoyed. Soon after graduating, I regretted that I didn’t study art when I was at school. But it’s never too late to learn. I started Art Smarts 4 Kids because it gave me a reason to write everyday and because I wanted to learn more about the artists I had always loved. I thought that my research could be useful to others, especially children. Kids get 50 minutes of art a week in school, if they’re lucky. That’s not enough. I hope this website will help.

I am currently working toward a master’s degree in elementary education at Johns Hopkins University. It won’t be long before I can use some of the lessons and projects posted at Art Smarts 4 Kids in my own classroom. I can’t wait to let you know how it goes.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas, email me at artsmarts4kids AT

Christmas Crafts

Create Your Own Personal Advent Calendar

Create Your Own Candy Cane Rudolph and Santa

Color Your Own Christmas Ornament

Paint Your Own Christmas Ornament

Create Your Own Christmas Candle Holder

Create Your Own Paper Christmas Ornament

Create Your Own Palm Frond Rudolph