Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Saints

When a person died doing the work of Christ, early Christians celebrated that person’s sacrifice. The day of his death became a holy day and was considered the birth of that person as a saint. Eventually, so many people had died for Christ that there weren’t enough days in the year to commemorate them all. One day was set aside to celebrate all the saints. The day, called All Saints Day, was originally celebrated on May 13.

Halloween began as a Celtic celebration of the end of the goddess Eiseria’s fertility. It corresponded to the harvest, the end of the earth’s fertility. On this day, it was believed that all the evil spirits would come back to earth to wander among the living and, in order to scare away these evil spirits, people lit bonfires and wore masks. The festival was called Samhain.

In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints’ Day to November 1 and the two celebrations were combined somewhat.

So what does any of this have to do with art? Take a look at Fra Angelico’s All Saints:
This masterpiece was painted between 1423 and 1424 on wood panel. It once decorated the alter of a church near Florence, Italy, but can now be found in the National Gallery in London, England. Just as each saint had his/her own birth day, each saint in the painting is different. And just as all the saints are now celebrated on the same day, all appear together in this one large painting.

Stay tuned for more about Fra Angelico. In the meantime, have a safe and fun Halloween!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Create Your Own Clay Monster

Remember making a clay sculpture? Today, decorate your home for Halloween with scary, clay monsters.

Supplies Needed:

2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Water
1 ½ Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Optional Supplies:

Craft Sealant

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly stir in the water and the oil until there are no more lumps. The mixture should be smooth.

When you made your first clay sculpture, you laid out wax paper to protect your workspace. This time, use newspaper. When you’ve created the shape of your monster, press the newspaper against it so the black newsprint smears over your monster. This will make it look darker and dirtier. You could even choose scary phrases to press into your monster, though the phrases will read backward.

Mold the clay into any size and shape monster you like. If you need some inspiration, read Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Poke sticks into the clay to make long, spiky fingernails and teeth. Use sequins to make scales or polka dots. Remember that you are going to heat the monster in the oven so you should stay away from most plastic items (which will melt) and certainly paper (which is prone to catching on fire).

When you’ve finished your masterpiece, place it on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for about 50 minutes. Once the sculpture has cooled you can paint it with a craft sealant to give it a shiny appearance or display the monster without sealing it.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Create Your Own Ojo de Dios

The Huichol tribe of western-central Mexico doesn’t have TVs or computers or microwaves. They live simple lives, remaining separate from what we think of as society. Instead of a writing system, the Huichol tribe passes on knowledge and stories through traditions, ceremonies, and art. The Ojo de Dios, or God’s eye, is an example of traditional art that is used to pass down knowledge.
An Ojo de Dios is made by wrapping string around sticks. It represents the eye of God which sees and understands all things. The father weaves the inner eye when his child is born and then another layer is added each year until the child turns five. The Ojo de Dios is believed to give protection to the child.

To make your own Ojo de Dios, follow the directions below.
Supplies Needed:

Colored yarn
Two sticks or Popsicle sticks
Glue (optional)

Gather your supplies. Your sticks should be about the same length. I recommend using thicker sticks than I used because they kept threatening to snap in half as I wove.
Cross one stick over the other to form and X. If you have small hands, use a little glue to keep the sticks from uncrossing or moving around. Wrap your piece of yarn around the cross and tie and knot. Now you’re ready to begin weaving.

Lay the bound sticks in an X in front of you with the knot on the bottom. You will begin with the upper right stick. Wrap the yarn from underneath so the end is to the left of the stick. Then flip the end back over the stick so it ends to the right. Wrap the yarn under again so the end is to the left of the stick. This makes one complete loop.
Now spin the sticks clockwise and repeat these steps on the nest stick. Continue going around until the eye begins to form. Keep in mind that as you work you are looking at the back of the Ojo de Dios.
Change colors if you’d like, or complete the entire Ojo de Dios with the same piece of yarn. To change colors, just tie a knot between the two pieces of yarn and continue weaving with the new piece. You should tie the knot over one of the sticks because it will be easier to hide. Don’t clip the first color too short. You should do a few rotations with the new color to hide the end before cutting it off.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Create Your Own Pop-Up Pumpkin Card

Yesterday you learned about how pop-up books became popular. Today you can make your own pop-up. Spread good wishes for Halloween with this festive pop-up card!

Supplies needed:

Orange construction paper in at least two shades
Brown construction paper
Heavy piece of paper to be the card
Glue Stick

Clear Tape

Fold the piece of heavy paper and half and set it aside.

Fold each sheet of orange paper in half and then in half again. Trace a circle onto the orange paper. Try using a cup or a bowl to do this.
Cut the circles out and fold each one in half. Then unfold them and stack them on top of each other, alternating colors. Staple them together. Make sure to put the staples on the fold line.

Glue the outermost circle to the inside of your card, centered on the fold line.
Decorate the card anyway you want, then send it to someone you care about.

I left out a step when I made my pumpkin card. You have to tape the half circles together and I thought glue would work just as well; it doesn't. So here are the directions for taping. Glue the bottom half circle to the card. Roll a piece of tape (so it's sticky on both sides) and attach the bottom half-circle to the one next to it. Then tape half-circle 2 to half-circle 3 near the bottom. Tape half-circle 3 to 4 near the middle. Tape 4 to 5 near the bottom. Use this pattern until you reach the second to top half-circle. Roll another piece of tape and attach this half-circle to the top half circle. Glue the top half-circle to the card.

I ran out of orange paper so I couldn't make another pumpkin. Instead, I made a bunch of grapes. Look at the grapes above to see the taping pattern. Below is the finished pop-up card.
Be creative. You can make any simple shape pop-up this way. Try a festive fall apple.

For more pop-up instructions go to pop-up master,
Robert Sabuda's site.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pop-Up Books: A History

The first pop-up book (or moveable book) was not for kids. It was a book about astronomy, published around 1306. In the book, a series of wheels were attached together so they could spin. The circles could be rotated to illustrate theories. For the next 400 years, pop-up books were used only by scholars.

In the 1700s people began creating pop-up books for kids.

One company, Dean & Son, made about 50 titles between 1860 and 1900. Each element of the scene was attached to the one in front of it with a piece of ribbon. When the ribbon was pulled, the whole scene popped up.

Because pop-up books are so complex, each book must be put together by hand. This was true in the 1800s and it is still true today.

Lothar Meggendorfer created some of the most complicated and original pop-up books of the 1800s. It wasn’t enough for one scene to pop-up on each page; Meggendorfer often had half a dozen parts of a scene moving at once and in different directions. Below is an example of a Meggendorfer pop-up.

The first pop-up book that resembled the books we’re used to was created in 1929 by S. Louis Giraud. The illustrations in the book popped up automatically when the reader opened the book rather than when the reader pulled a string or tab. Pop-up books continued to be popular as a growing number of talented artists created unique books. An example of a pop-up by Giraud is shown below.
Check out this gallery of pop-up books through the years, put together by Rutgers University.

Come back tomorrow to make your own simple pumpkin pop-up card.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Make Your Own Mask Part 2

This Halloween, celebrate by making your own mask. You can even use it as part of your costume for trick-or-treating! If you need some inspiration, look back at the article about Venetian Masks and the article about African Masks.

Supplies Needed:

1 Round Ballon
Masking Tape
Papier Mache (Please read the article Create Your Own Papier Mache Sculpture)

Blow up your balloon until it is slightly larger than your head. Tie off the balloon and tape the eraser end of the pencil to the end of the balloon. This will make it easier to hold the balloon.

Create your Papier Mache mixture. (Follow the directions on the Create Your Own Papier Mache Sculpture article.) Dip strips of newspaper into the Papier Mache mixture and attach to the balloon. You can cover the entire balloon if you wish to make two masks or just cover half if you only want one mask. If you make one mask at a time, you can create jagged edges if you wish. Lay two or three layers of newspaper over the balloon.

Let the Papier Mache dry over night.

When the Papier Mache has dried, pop the balloon. If you chose to make two masks, use a pair of scissors to cut the Papier Mache shell in half.

Use your own face to judge where to cut hole for eyes and a mouth. Decorate you mask any way you want. You can add a nose or a crown by gluing pieces of cardboard to your mask. Use strips of Papier Mache covered newspaper to secure anything you add to the mask. When you’ve finish, let it dry again.

Finally, paint your mask. To attach the elastic, poke two small holes on each side of the mask, one hole about a half an inch above the other. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic. Thread the other end through the bottom hole, from the inside out, until the knot catches. Then thread the elastic back through the upper knot. Pull the elastic across the back of the mask and thread through the upper hole, from the inside out, then through the lower hole. Make sure you’ve pulled the elastic tight enough to hold the mask on your head, then tie at knot at the end and cut of the extra elastic.

For another make your own mask project, click here.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Make Your Own Mask

This is a classic make-your-own-mask project and is especially good for younger kids. Don't forget to look at the articles on Venetian Masks and African Masks if you need some inspiration!

Supplies Needed:

Paper plate
Many colors of construction paper
Paints, Crayons, etc.
Anything else you might want to add, such as feathers, sequins, buttons, jewels

Begin by painting the back of the paper plate. You can paint it any color you want or use more than one color. Use your imagination.

When the mask has dried, cut out eye holes and a mouth so you’ll be able to see and breathe.

Use the construction paper and other materials to decorate the paper plate. You can try making a beak out of construction to create a bird mask. Or you could add construction-paper horns to be a rhinoceros or a dinosaur. Add just one horn to make a unicorn mask.

Poke a hole in each side of the mask and attach the elastic.

Here’s another interesting mask-making technique. It requires a computer and is a bit complicated, but it’s worth a look.

For another Mask project, check back tomorrow.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Venetian Masks and Carnevale

Venice, Italy is a city built entirely on water. Instead of roads, there are canals and instead of taxis and buses, boats. Venice was once its own country, the Venetian Republic, until 1797, and during this time, masks played a large part in the culture.

Masks were especially important during Carnevale, a two-and-a-half-week celebration in February that leads up to Ash Wednesday. Masks allowed all people to be equal: a peasant woman could be mistaken for royalty if her face was covered by a mask.

When the Venetian Republic ended, so did the popularity of Carnevale and the wearing of masks. Carnevale has made a comeback in the last 30 years and today there are mask shops on every corner in Venice.
Venetian masks come in many different styles. Some cover the entire face and are decorated by enormous plumes of feathers. Others are plain white and only cover the eyes and nose. And you can find everything in between. Click here for some great Carnevale mask pictures.
Later in the week, when you make your own masks, maybe these pictures will inspire you. Also look back to the African masks from Friday's post.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

African Masks

In Africa since the Stone Age, and in some parts of Africa even today, masks are used as representations of spirits of ancestors. During various celebrations and during the harvest, one person would be named the chosen “dancer” and would wear a special mask. These Africans believed (and some believe today) that the mask would be inhabited by the spirit it represented and the wearer of the mask would be possessed. This is why the dancer fell into a trance during the ceremony.

When the dancer is in the trance, he communicates with the spirit of the mask. The dancer relays messages from the spirit but they are usually just grunts and screeches. Sometimes a wise man will translate the grunts so that the other people at the ceremony can understand.

African masks sometimes cover the dancer’s face the way we usually think of masks, but sometimes they cover the entire head, like a helmet, or just the top of the head, like a flat hat. The masks can be made of leather, metal, wood, and fabric.

Because these ceremonies have been going on for so long, there are a lot of African masks spread around the world. They are considered objects of art and most major museums have a few in their collections. Look for them next time you visit a museum.

Click here for pictures of African Masks. Notice the three types of masks listed above.

Click here for an easy tribal mask project.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fresco Project

Since I posted about Michelangelo and frescoes, I’ve noticed a lot of people have come in search of a fresco project. I did not originally post one because frescoes are complicated and involve toxic materials. When you mix plaster it gets hot and gives off fumes and this would not be a fun project or a very safe one.

That being said, I remember a project I did when I was in elementary school that was a modified fresco project, using plaster of Paris. If you are really interested in creating your own fresco, try this.

Supplies Needed:

Plaster of Paris
Watercolor Paints
Clay (recipe below)
Thin cardboard (cereal boxes)

Purchase some plaster of Paris and mix according to the instructions on the package. You’ll want to let it set for a few minutes before pouring it into a mold. I recommend making a mold out of clay and thin cardboard.

Follow the directions for clay:

Supplies Needed:

2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly stir in the water and the oil until there are no more lumps. The mixture should be smooth. That’s all there is to it; you have homemade clay.

Mold the clay into a thin, smooth sheet (about half an inch thick). Cut some strips of thin cardboard (try using a cereal box) and stick them into the clay to create a wall. You can make your fresco any shape by just arranging the cardboard into that shape. Make sure to tape the edges where the pieces of cardboard meet. If you want your fresco to be rectangular, just cut the two large sides off the box and use the remaining pieces.

Alternatively, you could use a tupperware container as a mold but you may destroy the container and will certainly not want to keep food in it again.

Pour the plaster of Paris into the mold and let it set. Plaster of Paris will heat up as it sets but it will not be dangerous; it will only reach about 80 degrees. If you want to paint on the plaster as it dries feel free to try it but wait until it hardens a bit. If you try to paint on it while it still looks like pancake batter your paintbrush will sink in and leave blobs of paint in the plaster of Paris.

To turn your fresco into a wall hanging, cut a piece of string and bury the two ends in the plaster before it has fully set. You'll be able to hang the fresco from this string once the plaster of Paris has set.

When I did this project in art class in elementary school, the art teacher created the molds ahead of time at let them dry completely. This allowed us to draw the outline of our picture onto the dried plaster with a pencil. The project also took several hours to complete and art class was one hour at the longest. We couldn’t have finished it before the plaster of Paris dried.

Maybe you should make two molds and paint on one as it hardens and the other one after it hardens. Let me know which works best.

Want to use that clay you made earlier to make a sculpture? Click here to make your own clay sculpture.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Though not an art-related book, Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man does relate to the projects of the last two days, Make Your Own Leaf Pressing and What to do with All Those Pressed Leaves.

Leaf Man, the star of this picture book, is a man made out of fall leaves. Leaf Man goes on a journey, letting the wind take him where it pleases. The book’s illustrations are pictures of fall leaves arranged into shapes such as fish, and turkeys. These are the things Leaf Man sees on his journey. Do you have a leaf man living the pile of fall leaves in your yard?

This book will give you inspiration when creating your own leaf man, as I have done here:

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What to do with all those Pressed Leaves

Yesterday you made, or learned how to make, pressed leaves. So what should you do with all those pressed leaves? Here are a few ideas. If you come up with others, please tell me about them in a comment.

You could identify what kind of trees your leaves came from and create a colorful guide to fall foliage. Pick up a field guide to trees at your local library or bookstore. It's tough for me to recommend anything in particular because nature guides are usually meant for only one region of the world. A guide to Canadian trees would not be helpful in India, for instance. Look for one that helps you identify trees by their leaves. This will be best for this project and for future use since leaves are usually the easiest aspect of a tree to identify.

Next, buy a large photo album. If you buy one that has sticky pages when you peel up the protective plastic, you won’t even need glue. You can just stick a pressed leaf on each page. Write the name of each tree on a rectangle of colored construction paper and stick the corresponding name on the page with each leaf. If you want, you can even take pictures of the actual tree your leaf came from and add the picture to the page. When you’re finished, just stick the protective plastic back down.


A very popular school project is to create a family tree. A family tree is a chart that illustrates how all your relatives are related to one another. What better material to create a family tree from than actual leaves? I would recommend writing the name of each member of your family on a rectangle of colored construction paper and placing this name plate on top of your leaf before sealing it between wax paper as you learned to do yesterday.

Once you have prepared all the leaves of your family tree, use glue or double-sided tape to attached them to a piece of posterboard. Use brown construction paper to create the branches of your tree and show who is related to whom.


You may want to save your pressed leaves to make a holiday wreath. This is especially good for a Thanksgiving decoration but you can cut out some scary bats and ghosts and attach these as well for a Halloween door decoration.

Use a large, round bowl or plate to trace a circle onto a piece of posterboard. Trace a slightly smaller bowl or plate inside the original circle. Cut out your basic wreath shape. Use glue or double sided tape to attach your pressed leaves to the wreath shape. Hang and enjoy!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Make Your Own Pressed Leaves

Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of bloggers will be posting articles that relate to the environment and the earth. The weather has suddenly turned cold and, for us northerners, that means the leaves are going to change and fall from the trees. That, of course, means that the fall leaves will be available for art and craft projects! So I thought this would be a good opportunity to post a leaf pressing project. By sealing fall leaves between wax paper you can keep all those natural earth colors around to enjoy and appreciate through the winter.

You'll notice that all the leaves in my pictures are yellow or still green. The yellow leaves seem to have begun to change before any other color. It's still a bit early here for this project but it shouldn't be long before all the leaves have changed.

I know this isn’t a serious post about the environment and what you can do to help, but it will allow you to take some time to appreciate the art that nature has created. Maybe the beauty of nature will inspire you to try to protect it. Plus, we can’t be serious all the time!

Supplies Needed:

Leaves in a variety of shapes and colors
Wax paper
Ironing Board

Begin by cutting two pieces of wax paper. Place one sheet on your ironing board and set the other sheet aside.

Choose a leaf to press. Put the leaf on the sheet of wax paper, making sure the leaf is as flat as possible. Lay the second sheet of wax paper on top of the leaf. Line up the edges of the two sheets of wax paper.
Cover the top with your dishtowel. Set your iron to the hottest setting and iron over the dishtowel to melt the sheets of wax paper together. Try to create a tight seal as close to the edge of the leaf as possible. My towel was too thick so I used a paper towel. This worked a lot better but there is the added risk of starting a fire.
You can then cut off the extra wax paper, leaving just your beautiful leaf. Please note that the wax paper does not melt to the leaf itself. It will only stick to itself or another sheet of wax paper. When you cut out your leaf, leave enough wax paper around the edge to maintain the seal. You’ll be able to enjoy it through the winter and all year long.

Repeat these directions with as many leaves as you’d like to preserve.

Tomorrow I’ll post some projects that will let you use your pressed leaves.


You can create a leaf mosaic between your sheets of wax paper, too. Just arrange different colored leaves into patterns, shapes, or pictures. When you’re happy with your mosaic, lay your dishtowel over the top and iron the two sheets of wax paper together.

Try cutting the leaves into different shapes and then arranging the pieces of leaves into patterns. This will work best if you cut out the stems because the wax will create a better seal if all the pieces are the same thickness.


If you really want to get creative, combine leaves with melted crayons to create a fall leaf sun catcher to hang in the window. Choose a beautiful fall leaf to be the centerpiece of your sun catcher. Lay the leaf in the center of a sheet of wax paper.
Use a pencil sharpener to create crayon shavings in different colors. Arrange the shavings around the leaf. It’s okay if they overlap the leaf but no light will shine through the shavings that are on top of the leaf.

Place the second sheet of wax paper over your artwork. Lay the towel on top and iron until the crayon shavings and wax paper have melted to seal your sun catcher together.

Now you can use some construction paper and glue to make a frame. Then punch a hole in the top of the sun catcher, thread some ribbon through the hole, and tie a knot.

Hang your sun catcher in the window to enjoy.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). During November I will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel (about 200 pages, double spaced). This will be a great challenge but one that I believe I’m up for.

I will still post five days a week during November and I hope the articles will meet standards, but please bear with me if you notice that you are reading many entries about Vincent van Gogh. He will be a character in my novel and I have been and will continue to do a lot of research on him.

NaNoWriMo also has a Young Writer’s Program for writers 12 years or younger. You choose your own word-count goal ahead of time and you will be victorious if you reach that goal by November 30. If you need help setting a reasonable word-count goal, your parents or teachers may be able to help.

If you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo, leave me a comment and we can encourage each other along the way. At the end of posts throughout November you’ll notice a word count and, if you’re interested, you can track my progress. I would love to hear about your progress throughout November!

19 Days until NaNoWriMo!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Book Recommendation: The Young Artist by Thomas Locker

Thomas Locker’s picture book, The Young Artist, tells the story of Adrian who becomes an artist through apprenticeship. Adrian’s story is different than that of the typical apprentice because he is the artist’s only apprentice. Also, this artist’s main goal is to teach Adrian, not to make money for himself.

Still, Adrian struggles with many of the issues an artist of the past would have had to deal with. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about how an artist would have lived in an age without art schools. Find out how Adrian is able to create the art he wants and still earn enough money to live.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Learning Art Through Apprenticeships

Until only recently—the last 200 years or so—artists learned about their trade and made their name known to art buyers by becoming a famous artist’s apprentice. The artist acted as the teacher and the apprentice was the student. For some, becoming an artist’s apprentice meant they could do a job they loved and earn enough money for their families to live. Others never became artists, either because they weren’t talented enough, or did not please the artist they were supposed to be learning from.

A new artist’s apprentice would do tasks that were not even related to art, such as cleaning the studio. Eventually, he would be allowed to clean the paintbrushes and help mix paints. After several years of these tasks, if the artist liked the apprentice enough and thought he had enough talent, the artist would let him work along side him. Sometimes the apprentice would get good enough and become well known enough to be an artist himself, with his own apprentices.

Today, anyone can be an artist. Anyone who wants to can go to school to learn art. Though art apprenticeships still exist, they are different than those of the past. They do not involve years of cleaning another artist’s studio.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Create Your Own Papier Mache Sculpture

Making a huge papier mache sculpture like Niki de Saint Phalle is not easy, but making a smaller one is very simple. Follow the directions below to create one of your own.

Supplies Needed:

Newspaper, torn into strips
Acrylic Craft Paint
Cup for rinsing paintbrush
Craft Sealant
Coated Craft Wire (Optional)

Cover your work space with sheets of newspaper to make clean up easy. Gather your supplies.
In a bowl, mix one cup of flour, two tablespoons of salt, and two cups of water and stir until the mixture is smooth. You’ll know you’ve stirred it enough when it looks like thick glue. In the picture you can see that my mixture still has a few lumps left but it worked fine. Keep you wooden spoon handy for stirring later because the floor tends to settle at the bottom of the bowl .
I find it’s easier to create a sculpture if you make a frame out of wire and then attach the papier mache to the frame. This is what Edgar Degas did when he created Little Dancer, Age Fourteen. You don’t have to do this, though. Be careful when twisting the wire—the ends can be sharp.
Dip a strip of newspaper into the papier mache mixture and wet both sides. Try to wipe off any extra mixture. This will allow your sculpture will dry faster. I find it’s easiest to run the strip through your fingers to wipe off the excess. Then add the strip to your sculpture. Keep adding strips until the sculpture looks the way you want it.
Let your sculpture dry. This could take as long as two days depending on how much papier mache you used.

When the sculpture has dried, use your acrylic craft paint to decorate it. Let the paint dry and then brush on some craft sealant like Mod Podge to protect your sculpture and to make it shiny.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sculpture Spotlight: Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle, born in Paris in 1930, became famous for her enormous and colorful sculptures. Most of these sculptures are of women, and are called Nanas, but she did sculpt other subjects, as you can see here. These are picture of Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, France.

De Saint Phalle created her first Nana in 1965 out of papier mache. Later, she began using plaster because it was sturdier and allowed her to make sculptures so huge that people could walk through them. The Grotto in Hannover, Germany and the Tarot Garden in Tuscany, Italy are two of these sites.

After building a sculpture, she painted or applied
mosaic in wild patterns and bright colors. If you ever get a chance to visit one of de Saint Phalle’s sculpture gardens you will have a great time. They are like playgrounds made out of beautiful sculpture.

You’ll also notice that there are a lot of fountains and metal sculptures in de Saint Phalle’s gardens. These were created by her husband, Jean Tinguely. I like the contrast between the dark, cold, metal sculptures by Tinguely and the rounded, happy, colorful sculptures by de Saint Phalle. What do you think?

For more information about Niki de Saint Phalle, click to visit her official website.

Check back tomorrow to learn how to make your own papier mache sculpture!

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Monet Painting Damaged

I have written only briefly about French Impressionist painter, Claude Monet but I thought I should say something about the events of the weekend. Early yesterday morning (Oct. 7, 2007) a group of people broke into the Orsay Museum in Paris, France. When they heard the alarm go off the group left, but on the way out someone punched through one the Monet paintings and left a four inch hole in the canvas.

I remember seeing the beautiful Le Pont d’Argenteul when I visited this museum and it makes me sad that someone would destroy it. Above, you can see a picture of the painting before it was damaged yesterday. Click here to see the damage done to Monet's painting. The tear is in the middle of the painting, just right of center, and runs horizontally. Cross your fingers that Monet’s Le Pont d’Argenteul can be fixed.

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Book Review: Vincent van Gogh by Eileen Lucas

Today’s book review is again on a book featuring van Gogh. So many great picture books have been written about this artist that it can be difficult to choose one. There will certainly be more to come.

For a review of the Yellow House by Susan Goldman Rubin, click here.

Click here for more information on Vincent van Gogh.

Eileen Lucas’ Vincent van Gogh is perfect for kids just able to read on their own. She begins at the start of van Gogh’s career when he is making sketches of the poor and continues until the end of his life. She writes about van Gogh’s life and how he created his artwork, squeezing paint straight from the tube onto the canvas and layering the paint in thick textures. Lucas also introduces the idea of Impressionism.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Rochelle Draper who used van Gogh’s own paintings, including his many self-portraits, as inspiration. The pictures have the appearance of having been painted on canvas, just as van Gogh’s were.


Seeing van Gogh’s paintings in a museum helped me to understand the difference between a poster and real painting. There’s is something truly special about looking at the same canvas that the artist worked on. When you look the Yellow House you know that Vincent van Gogh himself placed his hands on that canvas. Plus, the layering of paint makes van Gogh’s subjects almost 3D. You can’t see that in a book or online. Seeing van Gogh’s paintings is a great reason to visit a museum.

Because van Gogh painted so many pieces, it is almost impossible to visit a major art museum without seeing at least one. Also, he painted subjects that everyone is familiar with. Most people have seen sunflowers up close. Most people know what farm land looks like. It’s easy to be comfortable looking at van Gogh’s masterpieces because you can understand what he was painting. He also used bright, attractive colors in many of his paintings which make looking at them fun.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Photography Guidelines Part 2

Yesterday you learned about the rule of thirds and the diagonal rule. Today’s post will focus on another important aspect of photography.

When you look at your subject through your camera, think about the way the viewer’s eye would travel across the image. The best subject to photograph when you first start thinking about this idea is a road or trail or river: something that will run through the length of your photo but won’t move while you’re trying to create the perfect picture.
Look at the photo above, again taken in the Swiss Alps. The dirt path draws the viewer’s eye across and up the picture to the little barn. Then the viewer notices the trees and then the mountain. Is that the way you looked at this photo?

The photograph below was taken in Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. How does the road draw your attention through the photo?
Look at the final example below. The staircase leads the eye around the circular building and upward until it reaches the ceiling. The lines on the glass roof add an interesting detail to the photograph. When you take your own photos, look for things like lines or natural patterns. This photo was taken in the British Museum in London, England. The circular room on the right is the reading room where people can do research.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Photography Guidelines

Photographers know that in order to make their pictures interesting it is helpful to follow a few guidelines. Today I’ll write about two of them and use some of my own pictures as examples.

The first is the Rule of Thirds.

The rule of thirds simply states that the main focus of your photo should not be placed in the center. Instead, move the focus up and to the right or left, or down and to the right or left. If you are taking a picture of a sunset, for example, you could take the picture with the horizon towards the bottom of picture instead of in the middle.
Look at the photo above. This is a picture I took in Pompeii, Italy. In the year 79 AD, the volcano, Vesuvius, erupted and the lava destroyed the nearby city of Pompeii. In the background of the photo you can see Vesuvius. In the foreground are two large pots that were used in Pompeii before the eruption.
This photo is a good example of the rule of thirds. Notice that it has been divided into nine equal parts. The horizon is located in the upper third of the picture while the foreground, the pots, are located in the lower third. Now look at the lower left hand corner. The main focus of the foreground can be found here, in the bottom left ninth of the photo. The main focus of the background, the volcano, is in the upper right ninth.

The second is the Diagonal Rule.

This rule says that the photo will be more interesting if the important points are placed on a diagonal line. This is especially useful when taking pictures of roads or rivers but can be used when photographing any subject.
The photo of Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background is an example of the diagonal rule but it is easier to see the diagonal in the photo of the cows shown here. This photo was taken in the Alps in Switzerland.
Next time you take pictures, try to use the Rule of Thirds and the Diagonal Rule to make your photos more interesting. Try to get used to not putting the main subject in the center of your pictures and you will notice how much better your pictures become.

More photography guidelines to come later on.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Artist Profile: Vincent van Gogh

During his early life, van Gogh tried a lot of professions. He worked as an art dealer, a teacher, a bookseller, a minister’s assistant, and a missionary before he became an artist.

Van Gogh was Dutch and remained in the Netherlands from his birth in 1853 until 1886 when he moved to Paris. His brother, Theo, was an art dealer in Paris and tried to help van Gogh sell his paintings but they were too much darker than the art that was popular in Paris at the time. You can see an example of van Gogh’s early style in the painting shown here, The Potato Eaters. It is much different from his later paintings as you can see below. In 1886 van Gogh moved so he could learn about the style of art that was being practiced in Paris.

In Paris van Gogh was surrounded by impressionists who used a lot of color and preferred to paint natural subjects outdoors. Click here for more information about impressionism. He also met many painters including Paul Gauguin who would later live with van Gogh in southern France.

When he had had enough of living in the city, van Gogh left Paris for the more peaceful Arles in southern France. Here, he lived in the Yellow House that became the subject of a painting shown here. Compare this painting with The Potato Eaters shown above and you can see the effect of the impressionists on van Gogh’s style.

It was in the Yellow House that Paul Gauguin came to live with van Gogh. The two painted almost without break for two months but they did not get along well as roommates and Gauguin moved out after a bad fight. Van Gogh was growing ill and beginning to see things that were not there so he, too, moved out of the Yellow House, but he remained in southern France. Though he never stopped painting, doctors cared for him for the rest of his life.

Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, were very close. Van Gogh and Theo wrote many letters to each other and van Gogh often sent ink sketches of paintings he’d done. It is because of these letters that we know so much about van Gogh’s life. He painted hundreds of works of art and we know exactly when and where most of them were completed. Theo cared about his brother so much that he even sent van Gogh money so he could pay his rent and buy art supplies. When van Gogh became ill, Theo made sure he was well taken care of by doctors.

Bellow are a few more of van Gogh’s paintings. Notice the colors and the thick paint.

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Self Portrait 1889
Van Gogh painted many self portraits. To do so he used a mirror so the details are shown in reverse.

Want to paint the way van Gogh did when he was living in the Yellow House? Van Gogh painted quickly, dashing thick globs of paint onto his canvas. Oil paint had only recently become available in tubes so he didn’t have to make his own paints like artists before him. He could just squeeze the paint from the tube onto his canvas.

Van Gogh didn’t have to paint every little detail for the viewer to understand what he was trying to create. Try using quick, short brush strokes to create the idea of an object. For instance, if you decide to paint a tree, don’t paint each leaf, just use many dashes of green paint where the leaves should be. Use acrylic craft paints for this project. They will be thick enough to paint the way van Gogh did, but will be less expensive than buying many tubes of oil paint. Remember to paint on thick paper so the paint doesn’t soak through. Posterboard would be perfect. Just cut it to any size you want.

EDITED TO ADD: Vincent van Gogh by Eileen Lucas, book review

EDITED TO ADD: The Yellow House by Susan Goldman Rubin, book review

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Monday, October 1, 2007

The Yellow House by Susan Goldman Rubin

The Yellow House is a picture book, written by Susan Goldman Rubin, about Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin’s eight weeks as roommates in southern France. Rubin skillfully tells the story of the friendship that falls apart while the two artists live and paint side-by-side in Arles.

Rubin compares the artists’ painting styles, describing van Gogh as a painter who dashes paint onto his canvas in order to capture a scene quickly, while Gauguin takes his time, sketching his pictures before carefully applying thin layers of paint to the canvas. Jos. A. Smith illustrates these differences by placing paintings by each artist on the same page. He also adds his own drawings to show van Gogh and Gauguin painting together in the fields of Arles. Smith uses the same colors as the artists to show the sunbathed South of France that both painters fell in love with.

This book is an excellent introduction to van Gogh, Gauguin, and the most productive eight weeks of both their careers.

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