Friday, November 30, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007 WINNER!!

I am an official NaNoWriMo Winner! I have written 50,000 words in one month!
And I got this pretty winner's icon. Cool, huh?

My total NaNoWriMo Word Count:

50024 / 50000 words. 100% done!

And with 3 1/2 hours to spare!

Create Your Personal Advent Calendar

An advent calendar is a calendar that counts down the days to Christmas beginning on December 1. Each day you pop open one of the flaps and read part of the story of Christmas. Since today is the last day of November (I know, where did the month go?), create your own advent calendar to chronicle your personal journey to Christmas.

Supplies Needed:

Two sheets of poster board (any color but I recommend one red and one green)
Craft Knife
Gel Pen
(Eventually, you’ll also need glue)

Begin by measuring and drawing 24 boxes onto the top sheet of poster board. The boxes can vary in size but you’ll want them to be large enough to fit pieces of photographs.

Have an adult help you cut three sides of each box. Each box should become a window that can be folded open. Number the outside of each box. You can also decorate the boxes with Christmas-themed pictures from magazines or your own drawings.

On the inside of each flap, write an activity that you’d like to do on that day. This can be anything from shopping to wrapping gifts to cookie baking to making ornaments.

Each day of December, open one of the flaps and complete the activity written on the inside. Take a photo of yourself and your family completing the activity. At the end or as the month progresses, tape a photo so it shows through the corresponding box when the flap is open. When you’re finished the calendar, glue the second sheet of poster board to the back of the first to hide the backs of the photos.

Next year, take out your personal advent calendar and remember the times you shared with your family. If you create a new calendar each year you’ll be able to see how you grew and you’ll be able to share memories every year.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

47647 / 50000 words. 95% done!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Create Your Own Matisse Collage

Yesterday you read about Henri Matisse who created large, bold collages late in his life. Today, make your own collage in the style of Matisse.

Supplies Needed:

Acrylic Craft Paints
Poster board
Thick/textured sketch paper
White glue
Plastic Cups

Look around your house or outside and choose a subject. For example, a pine tree. Choose what colors you’d like to use in your collage. Remember, the colors you choose don’t have to be the natural colors of your subject. You might choose to create a pine tree in warm tones: red, orange, yellow, magenta. Or you might use all the colors of the rainbow to create orange slices. You can even use one color for the whole collage like the one by Matisse shown above, Blue Nude. Go crazy. Be creative. This is what art is all about.

When you’ve chosen your colors, paint one sheet of sketch paper in each color. If you’re using all one color, you’ll need to paint a few sheets to have enough material to make your collage.

Let the paint dry.

Cut your sheets of painted paper into shapes. If I were making a pine tree I might use triangles as branches or long rectangles placed at angle and overlapping in the center. Lay your shapes in the desired pattern on the poster board.

Mix some glue with a little water in your plastic cup. Use a paintbrush to apply the glue to the back of each shape and attach your pattern to the poster board. Paint a layer of glue over the top of the collage as well. This will seal the shapes and give the whole collage a smooth finish.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

45336 / 50000 words. 91% done!

I’m struggling to write those last few thousand words.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NaNovel Excerpt 2

In celebration of finishing: another excerpt from the novel.
Henri held the oil lamp and lighter in one hand and Emily’s wrist in the other. There was a restaurant straight across the boulevard and Henri didn’t bother to wait for the horses to trot their carriages out of his way before pulling Emily onto the cobbles. They hurried into the restaurant, making a scene, and one of the waiters took Emily into the kitchen to soak her hand in a tub of cool water.

“Your hand will keep burning unless you cool it off,” Henri explained, “so let it soak for a few minutes. “Do you have any clean cloths?” he asked the waiter. “Here, I’ll pay you.” He shoved his hand into his pocket and searched frantically, finally pulling out a few coins.

“No need, monsieur. Take the cloth. She needs it, we can see.”

“Thank you so much. Thank you.” Henri took the cloth.

“Emily, how’s your hand?” Andy asked. “Does it hurt any less?”

Emily nodded. “I think it’s cooling down.” She swished her hand slowly through the bucket of water. “Much better.” She pulled her hand out of the water and patted it dry on her apron before holding it out for Henri to wrap. Her hand was still very tender but her excitement about unsealing the cave occupied her mind more than the pain.

When Henri finished, Emily inspected the dressing. “Thanks. Ready to go?”

“You sure you’re okay?” Andy asked.

“Yes.” She took his arm with her good hand and began to walk toward the front of the restaurant. “Thank you, monsieurs,” she said to the waiters.
My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

43633 / 50000 words. 87% done!
Started book 3!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, born in 1869, began his working life doing administrative tasks for a court. As a gift, his mother gave him his first art supplies and he fell in love with painting.

He studied art in Paris where he painted mostly landscapes and still lifes. He was successful at this and the state even bought five of his paintings. In 1898, he discovered impressionism. A friend and fellow painter, John Peter Russell introduced him to the work of the impressionists including van Gogh who was still unknown and Gauguin. Matisse’s style changed completely following this discovery and color took center-stage in his paintings.

This love of color evolved into Fauvism, in which natural scenes are portrayed in unnatural, usually extremely bright, colors.

By the end of his life Matisse was thoroughly interested in patterns and from this interest came his
collages. Made from boldly hand-painted paper cut into shapes, Matisse’s collages were usually large works of simplicity. He create a book, Jazz, illustrated with these collages.

Shown below are two paintings by Matisse, Two Figures Reclining in a Landscape and The Red Madrass Headress. Notice the difference in style and color use.

EDITED TO ADD: Create Your Own Matisse Collage

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NaNoWriMo Word Count:

41902 / 50000 words. 84% done!
Yes: still behind but...

Monday, November 26, 2007


You have probably made a collage before by cutting out magazine pictures and gluing them to another sheet of paper to create a new picture or pattern. Many artists have also used this technique in their paintings. These artists include Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who I’ll post articles and projects on during the next two weeks.

Picasso was the first to use collage in painting. In 1912 he glued a piece of cloth with a chair caning pattern, the woven part of the seat, to his painting Still Life with Chair Caning (shown below). This allowed him to use 3D to portray the things he saw.

For Matisse, collages were a way he could continue to create art when he fell sick late in his life. He hand-painted pieces of white paper with bold, solid colors and arranged them into pictures. The collages, such as Iccarus shown below, were then used in his book, Jazz.

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Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

40552 / 50000 words. 81% done!
It’s the final countdown! Just 5 more days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

NaNovel Excerpt

As requested, here is an excerpt from my NaNovel. It comes from chapter 3. You'll notice that it does relate to art so it's not even off-topic for this blog! I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave comments.

“Did you hear that?” Emily asked. They all listened. “Someone’s coming.”

“In here,” Andy whispered, throwing open the door next to the nightstand. Emily scurried through the door, into a second bedroom that was filled with paintings of sunflowers. Demitri climbed off the bed and smoothed the wrinkles from the bedspread before crossing the room in four large strides. They left the door open a crack and spied quietly.

When the entrance clicked open and a bearded, red-haired man stepped into the bedroom, Demitri drew in an excited breath. Van Gogh unhooked the leather belts that he had used to strap his easel and canvas to his back. He set the easel in the corner opposite the door and held the canvas up to consider the composition. Emily widened the slit between the door and the wall so she could better see. There was a weepy-looking tree in the center of a grassy median. A woman strolled the cobblestone walkways as a man looked on from the rail at the distant entrance to the park.

Van Gogh leaned the painting against the wall to finish drying. He lifted another, completed painting from the floor, tested with his finger that the paint was dry, and proceeded toward Emily, Andy, and Demitri’s hiding place. They stood quickly and backed away from the door as van Gogh swung it open.

Van Gogh stopped, braced himself against the door jamb. He stared at the intruders and they stared at him. Emily thought her heart would explode if it beat any faster. Finally Andy spoke.

“Hi, Vincent,” he said. “We’ve come from Paris, your brother sent us.” Andy approached the petrified artist. “I’m Andy.”

“Yeah, um...” Emily walked toward the doorway. “Did he not tell you we were coming?” She concentrated on not turning fire-engine red but she couldn’t stop her cheeks from alighting. How could Andy stay so calm?

Vincent eyed them suspiciously, relaxing his impossibly tense muscles enough to set the painting against the wall. “Theo sent you?”

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Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

35138 / 50000 words. 70% done!

I'm not finished writing for the night
but it's after midnight so it'll count
for tomorrow. 15000 word to go!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jen Stark's Paper Sculpture

Happy Thanksgiving! And since today, I’m assuming, won’t be a big crafting day (at least here in the U.S.), I thought I’d post a link to a really cool website I found recently. The artist is Jen Stark and I love her paper sculpture. Click here to flip through her gallery. What I find so stunning about this art is that it is quite simple but looks extremely complex.

Also, you could create your own colorful, 3D paper art (
like this piece) with just a pair of scissors, some glue, and craft paper. Cut your top sheet of paper into a strange shape. Cut the next sheet into a similar shape that is slightly larger. Continue with as many sheets as you’d like to use—five, ten, twenty-five.

If you want a shape to stick out of the center, you’ll have to do some measuring, but the basic idea is that the shape you cut in the top sheet should be the largest and each shape below should get progressively smaller. Make sure to leave one side of the shape attached or you won’t be able to fold it up. A craft knife would make this step easier but you’ll need an adult to help you.

When you’ve finished all the cutting, line up the papers so they look the way you want, then use a glue stick to attach the sheets to each other.


If you try this project, leave me a comment about your experience or send me an email with a photo of your creation and I’ll post it here.

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NaNoWriMo Word Count:
Check yesterday’s meter; I didn’t write a single word today. I have extremely high hopes for the long weekend, though.

Tune in tomorrow for an excerpt!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Create Your Own Thanksgiving Placemat

Today’s Thanksgiving table usually holds a turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, maybe some corn on the cob, a pumpkin pie, but most of these things were not present at the first thanksgiving. Potatoes were not common at the time, and by November corn had been removed from the cob and dried to last through the winter. Turkey only existed in the wild and had to be hunted so they pilgrims may have had turkey but more likely they ate seafood. Pumpkin pie didn’t exist yet, though they may have enjoyed pumpkin stew, and the pilgrims didn’t have sugar so cranberry sauce was out of the question. They probably at fruits such as grapes and berries, and nuts.

Decorating placemats for thanksgiving is a great way to start a conversation about what the pilgrims ate at the first thanksgiving and how that compares to what your family enjoys. And you can wow everyone with your knowledge of the pilgrims’ menu. It’s also your chance to help create a festive dinner table.

Supplies Needed:

Vinyl Placemat
Fabric Paint
Styrofoam plates
Foods for stamping (corn on the cob, potato, nuts)

Lay out newspaper to protect your work space. Clean your placemat. Squeeze a bit of paint onto each Styrofoam plate, one color on each plate.

Decide what you’d like to use for stamps. I recommend rolling corn on the cob in the paint and then across the place mat. It leaves an interesting pattern. Potatoes are good for stamping, too, because you can cut any shape out of them that you want. (Have an adult help you with this step.) You could use potatoes to stamp turkeys or cornucopias onto the placemat. Use anything you can think of, but be sure you have permission to use the supplies.

When your placemat is perfect, let it dry. If you do this today, it will be ready to decorate your Thanksgiving table tomorrow.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

33415 / 50000 words. 67% done!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Create Your Own Pinecone Turkey Place Cards

Decorate each place at your Thanksgiving table with these pinecone turkey place cards.

Supplies Needed (for each place setting):

Construction Paper (red, yellow, orange, brown)
Pom (brown)
Googly eyes
Pipe Cleaner (orange) –optional

You will need help from an adult for this first step: place the pinecone(s) on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees F for about 40 minutes to kill and bugs or germs that might be living in there. Let the pinecone cool before you touch it.

First, cut out all your pieces. Cut one feather shape for each letter of the name you want to put on the turkey. For example, if I were making a place card for myself I would cut out seven feathers because Jessica has seven letters in it. Cut out a yellow beak and a red gobble.

Write the letters on the construction paper feathers. Alternate colors. Lay the pinecone on its side and glue the feathers in order to the back end of the pinecone.

Glue the brown pom to the front end of the turkey. This is the head. Glue the eyes, beak, and gobble to the pom so the turkey has a face.

If you want to add a special touch, add orange pipe cleaner legs. Twist the pipe cleaners into three-pronged feet and then glue the feet to the bottom of the pinecone. The back of the pinecone will rest on the table and the feet will support the front end.

Repeat for each guest at your Thanksgiving dinner.

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Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

31742 / 50000 words. 63% done!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The First Thanksgiving

Jennie A. Brownscombe’s The First Thanksgiving, painted in 1914, appeared in Life Magazine and became the poster image of the first Thanksgiving. It shows the pilgrims and the Native Americans dining together, as friends, at one table. The priest is thanking God for the harvest and the good fortune of the Native Americans who taught them to grown corn, beans, and squash, and how to hunt.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 to celebrate the pilgrims’ first successful harvest. The celebration lasted several days and included indoor and outdoor feasts. Sometimes the pilgrims and Native Americans ate together, as shown in Brownscombe’s painting, and sometimes they ate separately.

The pilgrims had managed to build themselves a few crude homes and the Native Americans built temporary housing for themselves while they attended the festivities. The log cabin in the background of the painting is a historical inaccuracy.

Click for paintings of the Signing of the Mayflower Compact and the Pilgrims’ Landing.

Please notice that I have begun a links list on the right side of the page. You should check out Peter’s blog about Paris which includes beautiful photographs of the city, including its art. If you have a blog or website that you think relates to this one and would like me to link to you, please leave a comment or email at artsmarts4kids AT

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

30030 / 50000 words. 60% done!

I’m on track again!!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Landing of the Pilgrims

Before the pilgrims went to shore near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they signed the Mayflower Compact as you saw yesterday in Edward Percy Moran’s Signing of the Compact in the Cabin of the Mayflower. Today I’ll show you two paintings that show the pilgrim’s landing.

The first is William Forsby Halsall’s The Mayflower on her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor. Halsall has chosen the Mayflower as the main subject of his painting with the first group of pilgrims rowing to shore to begin their new lives. Halsall was born in 1841 in England and studied art in Boston. He specialized in fresco painting until he joined the Navy during the Civil War and fell in love with painting seascapes. This painting was completed in 1881.
In Henry A. Bacon’s Landing of the Pilgrims you can see the Mayflower in the distance as a few of its passengers unload from a lifeboat onto Plymouth Rock. Bacon was born in 1840 in Massachusetts and fought for the north in the Civil War. He studied art in Paris and went on to produce many paintings designed to tell a story, like this one painted in 1877. Notice the girl who is preparing to step from the boat. She is 15 year old Mary Chilton, said to have been the first pilgrim to set foot in the Massachusetts.
These two seem to be very accurate paintings of this historical event but there are others which do not follow the accounts we have of the landing. Henry Sargent’s Landing of the Pilgrims is one such painting. Here you see the Native Americans greeting (or confronting) the pilgrims as they land. This did not happen. It was about three months after the pilgrims landed when the Native Americans approached them for the first time.
Next week: paintings of the first Thanksgiving, plus Thanksgiving craft projects!

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

24421 / 50000 words. 49% done!

So close to being caught up!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Signing of the Compact by Edward Percy Moran

Thanksgiving is one week away so I thought today would be a good day to begin Thanksgiving posts. The next week will include a short history of Thanksgiving told through paintings like this one, as well as fun craft projects.

When the pilgrims landed in the New World near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they decided they needed to set up a government because other colonies had already failed without one. Most importantly, all the pilgrims needed to agree to follow the laws. At this time, “all people” referred only to men. The pilgrims created the Mayflower Compact as a written agreement to follow the laws of their new colony. It did not list what the laws would be.
The Mayflower Compact was signed by the 41 men on the ship before they went ashore. Edward Percy Moran’s The Signing of the Compact in the Cabin of the Mayflower, shown here, is one artist’s idea of what this might have looked like.

Edward Percy Moran was born in 1862 and studied art under his father who specialized in marine art. Edward Percy Moran enjoyed painting historical subjects, particularly colonial scenes like this one.

Tomorrow we’ll continue our discovery of Thanksgiving through art.

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Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

22707 / 50000 words. 45% done!

Did only the bare minimum today
but it was enough to not lose ground.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Impressionists by the Sea

This will be just a quick post because I’m deep into writing the novel. I’m almost back on track to finish in time!

If you live in the Washington D.C. area there is a great exhibit going on right now at the Phillips Collection called Impressionists by the Sea. This is a collection of paintings down mostly in France in the late 1800s. Some of the paintings you’ll see were done by impressionists that you’ve read about on this blog such as Monet.
In the painting shown above, La Plage de Trouville by Monet, you can actually see the sand that was blown into the paint by the wind while Monet worked (en plen air) on the beach. That alone is worth the trip if you ask me.

If you happen to live near Hartford, Conn., this exhibit next travels to the Wadsworth Atheneum and will show from February 9-May 11, 2008.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

21012 / 50000 words. 42% done!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Paint Your Own Watercolor Sunset

Watercolor is great. It’s fun to work with and not nearly as hard as oil paints to end up with good results. One thing to keep in mind about watercolors is that when you paint over one color with another, you won’t be able to cover the bottom color. This can create some nice effects that will be useful when you’re making your sunset, but can be frustrating if you forget to paint something in and then can’t add it.

Supplies Needed:

Watercolor paints
Cup of water for rinsing your brush

Cover your workspace with newspaper. Choose a sheet of paper. I recommend using think sketch paper because the texture will leave white patches in the water and the sky that will look like breaking waves and cloud wisps.

Since you’re making a sunset, the first thing you should do is paint in the sun. Choose a bright orange or yellow or mix the colors together on the paper. If you want to add any of interesting element, such as a dock or a large rock, do that next.

Now paint streaks of color horizontally across the sky. You could use red, yellow, and orange, or red, pink, and purple, or any colors you want.

Fill in the water the same way. If you’re painting on sketch paper, paint lightly so the texture leaves bits of white poking out. Add more water for lighter blue. I think it looks best if you vary how much water you use. Paint some light blue streaks and some dark blue streaks and let them blend together in places.

Let your masterpiece dry. Hang and enjoy.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

18775 / 50000 words. 38% done!

I’m almost caught up!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Art Supplies: Watercolors

Watercolors paints are made by mixing pigment with water. Because they aren’t made with oil, watercolors are easier to clean up but the colors aren’t as bright. Also, they aren’t shiny the way oil paints are.

Watercolors sometimes come in tubes and sometimes in tubs. You’ve probably used watercolors before. To paint with watercolors, just dip your brush in water and then rub it in the paint to pick up some of the color. But using more or less water you can create lighter or darker colors.

Watercolors are transparent paints. This means that when you paint with them you can still see some of the paper through the color. If you paint on top of another, dry color the colors will blend because you will be able to see through the top color to the bottom color.

Tomorrow I’ll post a watercolor project. For now, check out this illuminated manuscript project which also allows you to use watercolors. Or read about Winslow Homer who painted some amazing seascapes using watercolors.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count.

16339 / 50000 words. 33% done!
(No, I didn’t double my word count...
I didn’t even catch up.
But I would like to point out that I am
one third finished with my novel!!)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Book: Of Flowers and Shadows

Of Flowers and Shadows by Anna Kirwan is the fictional story of one of Winslow Homer’s paintings, Girl and Laurel. It is meant for readers in grades 4-6 but I loved and I'm much older than a 6th grader!

Aurelia Sandborn was orphaned in a shipwreck and left with very few clues about her past. She wonders about her family often. Aurelia goes to work for a family in Boston, Massachusetts in order to support herself and it is here that she meets the artist, Winslow Homer, and becomes his model.

This is a finely drawn story of a girl, her first love, and her discovery of her past, set in a well-researched 1878 Boston. Kirwan does an excellent job creating a personality for Winslow Homer, and the story she crafted for a model we have no historical account of is extremely creative and engaging. I highly recommend this book.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

12000 / 50000 words. 24% done!

I know... I wrote only 550 words today and that hardly warrants a new meter. I've been fizzling a little but I'm still not too far behind. I hope to double my word count in the next four days so wish me luck!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Winslow Homer

Born in 1836 in Boston, Mass., Winslow Homer became an important American painter. He began his career painting illustrations for magazines such as Harper’s Weekly. During the Civil War, Harper’s Weekly sent Homer to sketch battle scenes and capture artistically the daily lives of soldiers. When we returned to his studio he continued creating war-related scenes.

During the early part of his career as a painter, Homer mainly painted images of rural life. He began working in oil paint and focused on painting things exactly as they appeared: he was a realist. He lived in Paris France for a year among the Impressionists but was not directly influenced.
In 1873 Homer began to use watercolors. He fell in love with watercolor and after this time rarely left home without watercolor paints and paper. His loose style influenced many painters after him including N.C. Wyeth and Edward Hopper. (I’ll post on these artists at a later date.)

When Homer began traveling in 1875, he found that he loved the sea. He spent much of the rest of his life painting seascapes. It is his seascapes that are the most popular and famous of Homer’s works.

Tomorrow I’ll post a book review on a book featuring Winslow Homer.

(The paintings shown from top to bottom are The Adirondack Guide; Long Branch, New Jersey; Waiting for an Answer; The Gulf Stream)

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My NaNoWriMo Word Count:

11450 / 50000 words. 23% done!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Book: The Paint Brush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla

The Paint Brush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla is actually the sequel to the Chalk Box Kid but you can enjoy it on its own. This book for grades 2-4 is about a child-artist named Gregory who wants to do a huge, fun art project. When his friend Uncle Pancho finds out that he is about to lose his house, Gregory knows what his art project will be. He paints a huge mural all the way around Uncle Pancho’s house! You’ll have to read the book to find out if Gregory can save his friend’s house.

This is book is great for kids who can read on their own who like stories about friendship and painting.

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My NaNoWriMo Word Count:

10301 / 50000 words. 21% done!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Create Your Own Illumination Part 2

This illumination project is easier and produces a better result, in my opinion, than the project from yesterday; however, yesterday’s illumination project was closer to the process used when illuminators, like Fra Angelico, created illuminated manuscripts.

Supplies Needed:

Glitter-glue pens
Heavy sketch paper
Gather your materials. Use your pencil to draw the first letter of your name in the upper right corner of your paper. Make it decorative and ornate. You may also want to draw a small picture or design next to or around your letter. The simpler your design, the easier this project will be.

Go over your drawing with glitter-glue. Use any colors you want. Be creative. When you’re happy with your drawing, let the glitter-glue dry. This will take about an hour.

Fill in your drawing with watercolor paint. The glitter-glue will have created walls so it will be almost impossible to paint outside the lines. This will make your illumination look crisp.
Write the rest of your name in marker next to your illumination. I recommend writing it in pencil first or it my come out crooked like mine!

I recommend using this project to create a journal cover, scrapbook page, or book covers for your school books. If you decide to make book covers, make sure you take the book out of the cover before you paint. This will work well on brown paper bags, which is what I always used to make book covers.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

8627 / 50000 words. 17% done!

It was a disappointingly slow writing day...
I'll do better tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Create Your Own Illumination

When an illuminator, like Fra Angelico, applied gold or silver to a manuscript illustration, he would have used paper-thin gold or silver flakes. You can buy this gold and silver leaf at any craft store, along with special glue called “metal leaf adhesive size,” but this project will show you how to make an illumination with supplies you probably already have in your home.

Supplies Needed:

White glue in a squeeze bottle
Aluminum foil
Heavy sketch paper
Watercolors (optional)
In the upper corner of your paper, draw the first letter of your name. Make it big and decorative. The larger your design, the easier this project will be.
Next, squeeze some glue onto your letter and use your paintbrush to spread the glue into a thin layer. Make sure to stay inside the lines.

Tear the aluminum foil into small piece. Attach the foil to the glue. Try not to let too much foil hang outside the lines but if it does you can fix that later.
Let the glue dry. After about 30 minutes, gently fold the excess foil on top of the foil that’s glued down. You can tear off any large piece that aren’t stuck down but if you try to tear off the small bits you’ll end up detaching foil that’s stuck to the glue and there will be holes in your design.

Next, write the rest of your name next to the gilded first letter. When manuscripts were illuminated, the writing came first because the pictures were drawn on a separate piece of paper and then traced into the book. For this reason, it would have been more difficult to make a mistake on the writing than on the illumination. This is not the case for your project.
Now you can add watercolor designs to your illumination or just leave it as it is.

You can use this method to decorate all kinds of things, from goodie-bags and place settings to journal covers and scrapbook pages.

Check back tomorrow for another illumination project.

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Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

7702 / 50000 words. 15% done!

Friday, November 2, 2007


An illuminated manuscript is a book that has been decorated with designs, small illustrations, ornate initials, or all of the above. Technically, illuminations must include gold or silver, but today we use the term more loosely to describe any hand-decorated manuscript.

The earliest known illuminated manuscripts are from the year 400, though it’s possible that manuscripts were illustrated this way before that. At first, they were made mainly by monks but illuminated manuscripts were very popular among the wealthy and it was soon discovered that money could be made illuminating manuscripts. With the invention of the printing press came the decline of illuminated manuscripts and by the end of the 1500s they were no longer being made.

An illuminated manuscript began as a page layout. Once the creator decided what illustrations, initials, and designs would go where, the text would be copied into the book. It took a lot of practice and patience to be able to write the text by hand into a manuscript because it had to look like it had been done on a computer with even and precise letters all the way through.

Next, the illuminator would add the illustrations throughout the book. The illustrations were drawn first onto a wax tablet and, when they were perfect, traced into the book and filled in with color.

For Information about one illuminator, click here.

Check out this gallery of illuminations from the 8th century, Book of Kells. (The illumination shown at the top of this entry is all from the Book of Kells.)

And this one of Lindisfarne Gospels, also from the 8th century.

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My Current NaNoWriMo Word Count:

3753 / 50000 words. 8% done!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fra Angelico

Not much is known about Fra Angelico’s early life; we don’t even know his birthday. He was a friar during the 1400s (born sometime in the late 1390s) in Italy. It was at the monastery that he fine-tuned his artistic skills.

Fra Angelico was trained as an illuminator, which means that he added decorations to manuscripts. Though any book can be illuminated, Fra Angelico worked on bibles because he was a monk.

In 1436 Fra Angelico moved to a monastery in Florence where he met a very important member of Florence’s government, Cosimo de Medici. Medici liked Fra Angelico’s paintings and urged him to decorate the monastery—he painted enough frescoes to decorate all the cells. In these frescoes he used very subdued colors such as light pink, and tan, and painted all the figures to look human and earthly. You can see this in the fresco shown below, the Annunciation.
He then created frescoes at the Vatican, including the one shown below, St. Peter Consecrates St. Lawrence as Deacon. Fra Angelico was commissioned to decorate the Vatican so he had to use lots of the most expensive gold and blue made from lapis lazuli. These pricey paints reflected on the patron who paid for the paintings. Brilliantly, Fra Angelico was able to make the figures realistic despite the bright colors and gilding.

For a fresco project, click here.

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And thus begins NaNoWriMo 2007.
Bring on the madness.

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