Sunday, March 29, 2009

Awesome April Events

So many awesome things happen in April and I want to be sure you know about some of the things I'm exited about.

First, April is Script Frenzy! If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll remember that National Novel Writing Month happens in November every year. Script Frenzy is hosted by the same wonderful group of people. In April, adults are challenged to write a 100-page script in 30 days. For kids 12 and under, or classes of students in kindergarten through 12th grade, there is a Young Writers Program complete with a writer's resources section that teaches you how to write a script. The site even offers safe, kid-friendly chat rooms.
I will not be participating in Script Frenzy but I will be working on a new novel in April while some of the members of my writing group work on scripts. I will set a much smaller word-count goal for April than I did in November but I will post a word counter in the sidebar so you can keep track of my progress if you're interested. I hope you'll write along with me!

Second, April is National Poetry Month! I urge you to check out 30 Poets/30 Days at GottaBook where Gregory K. will poet a new poem for kids everyday of April. The poems are all previously unpublished. The poets who are participating include Jon Scieszka (who wrote Seen Art and Math Curse, which you've read about here) and Jane Yolen. The celebration begins on April 1 with a poem by the former Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky.
If you want to write some poems of your own, you might consider looking to art for inspiration!

And finally, April is the first full month of spring! Warm weather is on its way. Make sure to get outside and enjoy it! If you live in the D.C. area, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is underway. The peak bloom period is expected to begin on April 1 and continue through April 4, but the cherry trees have already begun to blossom. There will be a parade in the city on Saturday, April 4 and there are sure to be tons of people enjoying the cherry trees.
I took the above photo last year. I'm not sure if I'll be able to see the cherry blossoms this year, but I am certainly going to try!

What does any of this have to do with art? Well, script writing is an artform, poetry is an artform, and if you take photos at the National Cherry Blossom Festival, photography is an artform, too.

I can't wait for April!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Year Old Artist

You all must go watch this video! Of course, videos like this pop up from time to time, but they always amaze me.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all two-year-olds were given tubes of paint and canvases to play with?

Create Your Own David Wiesner Cloud Scene

This is another project inspired by David Wiesner. To try the first project, click here.

I don't think you really need to see my attempt at this. It was fun and that's all that really matters.

Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper
Oil Pastels
Baby Oil

Read Sector 7. In fact, you should probably not read the rest of this project until you have read Sector 7. I don't want to ruin anything for you.

As you'll remember from the book, sector 7 is where all the clouds for the eastern coast of the U.S. are made. When the boy visits sector 7 he helps the clouds take on new shapes--as sea creatures.

Today, draw your own underwater scene made entirely of clouds. Use a dark colored piece of construction paper. Go with blue, green, or black. Fill your page with sea creatures such as fish, starfish, seahorses, dophins, and whales. Draw them with white oil pastel and then fill them in with white, black, and shades of grey.

Blend the colors with Q-tips. You may want to use a little baby oil to help the colors blend. The oil with also help the clouds look whispy. For big, fluffy-looking clouds, skip the oil.

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Create Your Own David Wiesner Picture Book

I’ll post two projects inspired by David Wiesner. The second will post later today. Enjoy!

Because there are only 24 hours in a day, and even fewer waking hours, there isn’t an unlimited amount of time for art (obviously). But art, and the opportunity for art, is everywhere. Teachers and homeschoolers may be interested in reading this before completing the following project. I know that if you found my site you think art is important, but sometimes we all need to be reminded.

Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper
Crayons/Colored Pencils/Markers
A short story with no (or very few) pictures

David Wiesner is able to tell a story in only pictures. Now it’s your turn to do the same.

Read a story. Fairy tales work especially well for this project. They are short and can be printed from the internet without pictures. As you read, try to picture the characters and the setting in your mind. Try to watch them as they move. Hear them when they speak. These are things that good readers do without thinking.

You may want to read the story a few times so you can clearly picture everything.

Retell the story in pictures. You’ll want to draw and color 1-3 pictures for each scene. Be careful to draw the characters, settings, and actions the way you saw them in your mind as you read.

If several of your friends all illustrate the same story, everyone will draw their pictures a little differently. This is because no two people see exactly the same thing in their minds when they read. And that’s okay.

You might instead each choose one scene to illustrate, put the scenes in order, and make a group picture book.

When you’ve finished illustrating the story, make a construction paper cover and staple your book together. Share your book with your friends and family.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

David Wiesner

Remember all the things that a picture book has to be to win a Caldecott Medal or Caldecott Honor? When I read that list, I think of David Wiesner. And I’m not the only one. He is only the second person ever to win three Caldecott Medals. Two more of his books are Caldecott Honor Books. This is extremely impressive but what really matters is how the books make you feel. Do you like his books?

I do!

I especially love the books that do not use words at all to tell the story, like the three I’ll tell you about today.

David Wiesner’s Caldecott Honor Book, Sector 7 is amazing. Using only pictures, Wiesner tells the story of boy who makes friends with a cloud while on a class trip. The cloud takes him to Sector 7 where all the clouds for the eastern coast of the U.S. are formed and sent into the world. There, the boy and the cloud cause some mischief that turns the sky into a giant, under-the-sea-themed art exhibit.

Tuesday, winner of a Caldecott Medal, uses words only to tell us that the story takes place through the night on a Tuesday. Just as you would expect from David Wiesner, the rest of the story is told with pictures. On this particular Tuesday, a collection of frogs rise out of the water and ride their lily pads like magic carpets through the town. I especially love when the frogs get caught up in the drying laundry.

And finally: Flotsam, another Caldecott Medal winner. In this story, again without text, an interesting piece of flotsam washes up on a beach and a boy discovers it. The underwater camera is ancient and filled with unbelievable pictures of sea life. In one picture, a family of octopi relax in their living room while fish swim between the pieces of furniture. In another picture, colonies live in seashells on the backs of turtles. But the best part of the story is the history of the camera. Generations of children have passed the secrets of the sea from one to the next by putting a new roll of film in the camera, taking a picture of themselves, and tossing the camera back into the ocean.

I recommend that you check out Houghton Mifflin’s webpage about David Wiesner if you’re interested in knowing more about this incredibly talented artist.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Create Your Own Art Garden

Happy first day of spring! I promise to share more illustrators with you but today I want to celebrate spring. Today, create your own art garden by painting terracotta pots in the styles of famous artists.
Supplies Needed:

Three terracotta pots
Three terracotta saucers
Spray bottle
This is a messy one. If you’re having nice weather I recommend taking your whole art studio outside today. Wear old clothes and, no matter what, cover your workspace.

The first pot we’ll make is in the style of Jackson Pollock. If you don’t remember him, go refresh your memory.

I did my splatter painting in the sink, but it still made quite a mess:
You want to use a dry brush for this. A hard-bristled toothbrush would be better than a paintbrush. Squirt some paint onto the end of your brush. Aim the brush at the pot and run your thumb across the bristles. This will send the paint flying in all directions. That’s why you’re outside and wearing old clothes!
Rinse the brush and then squirt a new color onto the bristles. Splatter the paint across the pot. Continue adding colors until you are happy with your pot. Do the same with the saucer. It will save you some time and brush washings if you do the pot and the saucer at the same time.

The second pot is in the style of Piet Mondrian. Remember him? Paint squares, lines and rectangles in blue, red, yellow, and white until you have covered your whole pot. I left the lip clean but you may paint it if you wish. Let the pot dry.
When the pot has dried (about 30 minutes), paint black lines between each square, rectangle, and line.

The final pot is in the style of Morris Louis (sort of). Remember his stripe paintings? Place your pot in a box lid or some other container to catch the water and paint runoff. Stand the pot in the container with the lip down. Dab paint around the edge of the pot. Use a spray bottle to spray the paint down the side of the pot in stripes.
You may want to let the pot dry and do another coat of stripes in the opposite direction (from the lip to the base). I chose not to.
Use the same method to paint the saucer. Dab paint half way around the lip of the saucer. Then use a spray bottle to spray the paint into and across the saucer.
When your pots are dry, plant seeds, water, and watch spring bloom in your art garden. I’ll post pictures of my flowers when they bloom.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Create Your Own Jasper Johns Map

Today, create your own Jasper Johns map. Click here to see a picture of Johns’ original painting before you begin your own.

This is a very simple, very quick project. You can practice finding and labeling the states while creating your own artwork. If you choose, use a map of just the original thirteen colonies, just New England, just the southern states, or even a map of Europe, Asia, or Africa.

This would make a fun and simple social studies center if you have a place to set it up.

Supplies Needed:

Blank Map
White crayon
Print a blank map like this one. You might consider enlarging it on a copy machine and printing onto larger paper.

Trace all the lines with a white crayon. It can be difficult to see which lines you have already traced and which ones you have not. When in doubt, run your finger over the line. If it feels smooth, you need to trace the line. If it feels waxy, you have already traced it.
Next, label the states. This is where having a larger map comes in handy. It might even be a good idea to print the map in sections onto several sheets of paper and then tape or glue them together when you finish. Use your white crayon to write the names of the states on the map. You’ll want to use abbreviations for some of the smaller states. In my example, I only labeled a few of the states. You should label them all.

When you have traced every line and labeled every state, paint the map with watercolors. It’s okay to color outside the lines. In fact, you should color outside the lines. Remember what Jasper John’s map looked like?
When you’ve finished, the state lines and names will stand out against the colors of your map. Hang and enjoy!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Craft Contest at Plaid

Plaid is holding a craft contest over at their blog. This is a great opportunity to show off your artistic skills and possibly even win a prize. Head over to their site and check out the details. I wish you luck!

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia. He is still living and creating art so I will not say too much about him, but tomorrow I plan to post a project inspired by his art. You should certainly know a little something about him. Be sure to check out the links to his artwork so you’ll have something to inspire you when you create your own masterpiece.

Johns didn’t take any formal art lessons as a child but he knew he wanted to be an artist. In 1949 he moved to New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design. There were a lot of artists working in the city at that time and Johns made friends with some of them. He was drafted into the army soon after arriving in New York City, though.

When he returned from war, Johns began to experiment with different styles. At the time, Abstract Expressionism (the movement that included Jackson Pollock) was the popular artistic style. For the Abstract Expressionists, art was all about showing emotion. Johns work is the opposite. This may be one reason his art became as popular as it did.

Johns painted objects that everyone could recognize, like flags, numbers (and more numbers), targets, and maps. The paintings don’t show Johns’ opinions. In fact, the artwork may not have any particular meaning at all. His paintings show us things that we have seen hundreds of times and often just ignore. But we don’t ignore Johns’ paintings. Instead, we study them and find new meaning in the objects he shows us.
Johns has created more than just paintings. He has also made prints of his artwork and he has created sculptures out of found objects.

Tomorrow, create your own Jasper Johns map painting.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak was born in New York in 1928. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Disney’s Fantasia when he was twelve years old. I can understand that. It is a pretty inspiring movie.

Before he began writing his own books, he made a name for himself by illustrating children’s books written by others. You may have read some of the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak illustrated those books!

He then began writing and illustrating his own books. There were (and are) people who didn’t think his illustrations were appropriate for children and some of his books have been banned or challenged.

Maurice Sendak has also helped design sets for major ballets and operas.

He won several awards, including the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are.

Which brings us today’s first book review. I hope you have all read Where the Wild Things Are, but if you haven’t, there’s still time! Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963 but hasn’t lost any of its appeal in the 45 years since. In this tale, Max, dressed in a wolf suit, makes so much trouble that he is sent to bed without supper. But a magical thing happens when his room becomes a forest with an ocean rolling by. Max hops in his private boat and sails away to where the wild things are. He is made the king of the wild things and he has a fantastic time making trouble with the other wild things. Soon, though, he misses his real home.

Next up, Chicken Soup with Rice. This is perhaps the best children’s book for learning the months of the year. Each month gets its own rhyming poem about chicken soup with rice and its own illustration, colored in yellows, blues, grays, and greens. Sounds like a boring book, you say? Not so! During the winter, soup is eaten to celebrate a snowman’s birthday. In the spring, soup helps cure roses that have begun to droop. Who could write twelve fun and whimsical poems about chicken soup with rice but Maurice Sendak?

Sendak has also illustrated several simple nursery rhymes, like We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, and Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water. His illustrations bring new meaning to these short stories. In the Hector Protector nursery rhyme, all we know about Hector Protector is that he is dressed all in green and when he goes to the queen she doesn’t like him so she sends him home. Sendak shows us that Hector Protector doesn’t want to be dressed in green. He also doesn’t want to go see the queen so he throws the cake he is supposed to take to her in the dirt, hops on the back of a lion, and delivers a snake instead. No wonder the queen sends him home!

And finally, Maurice Sendak recently published a pop-up book called Mommy? which he wrote and illustrated with Arthur Yorinks and Matthew Reinhart. Reinhart is one of the greatest pop-up artists out there and this book is a masterwork. In this fun story, a toddler wanders into a haunted house in search of his mother. He asks the creatures, Frankenstein, an Egyptian mummy, and others, if they are his mommy. When they try to scare him, he pulls pranks on them. The toddler pulls the pins out of Frankenstein’s neck, for instance. This book is so much fun. Kids could certainly destroy this pop-up with over-use but it is well put together. I highly recommend it.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Blog Award!

Julie of Ms. Julie’s Place has honored Art Smarts 4 Kids with a blog award!

“This award acknowledges the efforts that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.”

I’m flattered that Julie thought of me when choosing recipients and I’m so pleased that people are reading, enjoying, and finding value in this blog. Thank you, Julie!

I’m supposed to pass the award along to 15 other bloggers now. Those bloggers should post the award to their sites and choose 15 bloggers that they find deserving of the award. There are certainly 15 bloggers that I would like to pass the award on to, but some of them aren’t as kid-friendly as I like to keep things around here. So I’m going to award 7 Wonderful Blogger Awards, though I agree with
Julie’s choices. I read and enjoy all of her art-related honorees, too. Make sure you click through.

The blogs listed below are all wonderful and deserving. Some of them I just discovered, some I’ve been lurking at for quite awhile, and some of them are old favorites that you’ve heard about before. Please, go check them out.

Modern Art 4 Kids
Wonders Never Cease
Peter’s Paris
Art Projects for Kids
Jenny Wren’s Nest
Teach Kids Art

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Randolph Caldecott and the Caldecott Medal

In the upcoming weeks I will be posting about several winners of the Caldecott Medal, as well as a few runners-up, also known as Caldecott Honor books. In many libraries you’ll see Caldecott Medal winners displayed along the tops of the shelves or in their own table displays. They each carry a medal on their covers. But what exactly does it mean to be a Caldecott Medal winner or Caldecott Honor book? Who decides which books should receive the award? And how did this all start, anyway?
Well, it all started with an illustrator named Randolph Caldecott. Throughout his life, he created artwork for magazines. He illustrated novels and drew cartoons. He sculpted and painted. He even illustrated his letters, drawing pictures around the edges of the pages.

In 1887, Caldecott was asked to illustrate two children’s books which were to be published for Christmas. The books were huge hits. Caldecott illustrated two picture books each year for Christmas for the next eight years (until his death). He wrote some of these books himself, but he always added something with his illustrations. The pictures in Caldecott’s books help to tell some of the story that the words do not. Below is one of his illustrations. It is from The Diverting History of John Gilpin. It should remind you of the picture on the Caldecott Medal pictured above.
In 1938, the Association for Library Service to Children awarded the first Caldecott Medal. The award was named in honor of Randolph Caldecott and the winner had to contribute to children’s literature the way Caldecott had. The illustrations had to be original artwork and they had to help tell the story.

Recently, there have been winners of the Caldecott Medal that do not include words at all. David Wiesner, who I’ll post about soon, has won three Caldecott Medals and two Caldecott Honors. He tells his stories all in pictures. He has definitely continued Randolph Caldecott’s tradition!

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Create Your Own Lois Ehlert Bird

Yesterday you read about some of Lois Ehlert’s picture books. Today, make your own illustration in the style of Lois Ehlert. This project came out so well that I couldn’t wait until Friday to share it with you. So this will be a full week all about illustrators!
Supplies Needed:

Construction Paper/ Textured Paper
White Glue
Glue Stick
Hole Punch (optional)
I’m going to walk you through the steps to create this bird, but keep in mind that you can make any animal like this. If you have been studying butterflies for example, you might want to make a butterfly.

Cover your workspace and gather your supplies.

Begin by cutting out the shapes for your bird. Look at the shapes shown below and try and draw, then cut out, similar shapes. I cut little triangles out of the tops of the wings to show the separate feathers. Lois Ehlert folds her wings like accordions instead. You choose which you’d rather. Don’t forget to make the eyes. I used a hole punch to create the black part of the eye but you can use scissors to make the eye if you want.
Next, prepare the cardboard. This will become your tree. Peel the back off of the cardboard so you’re left will ridges. Squeeze some brown paint onto a palette or plastic lid. Cut another small strip of cardboard and dip the edge in the paint. Dab off some of the paint and then stamp the edge onto the large piece of cardboard several times. You’re just trying to make the cardboard look more like a tree. Work until you’re happy with the look of your tree, then set it aside to dry. It will dry quickly.

If you chose to show the separate feathers with cuts instead of folds, you’ll want to add some paint to your wings and tail, too. Squeeze some black paint onto your palette. Cut a new strip of cardboard, dip it into the black paint, and pull it across the wing. You’ll want lines that begin at the bottom of each triangle you cut. Then fill in the rest until you are pleased with the look. Do the same to the tail. Let everything dry.

Now, cut some simple leaves from green construction paper. You will need about ten leaves. Cut a third strip of cardboard and use it to paint green lines on your leaves.

Tear some short green strips for grass.

Your bird should be pretty much dry by now. Use your glue stick to glue it together.
Finally, cut off a strip of your painted cardboard to use as branches.

You have now prepared everything you need to make your illustration. Begin arranging your pieces on a sheet of colored paper. I chose to use blue for the sky.

Glue down your tree first. Use white glue anytime you work with cardboard. It needs a stronger hold than a glue stick gives. Cut off any cardboard that hangs over the edges of the paper.
Next, glue down the leaves and grass. Use white glue when gluing to cardboard (because of the ridges) and a glue stick when gluing to the background page.

Finally, glue your bird to the tree.
Remember to sign your name somewhere on your masterpiece!

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert is the author and illustrator of many lovely books for young children. You may remember reading about Leaf Man last fall. Perhaps you even made your own Leaf Man. In that book, Ehlert created the illustrations using different types of fall leaves. In her other books, she uses materials such as textured paper, cardboard, and cotton fluff.

What I really love about Ehlert’s picture books is that they are related to subjects that kindergarteners, 1st graders, and 2nd graders learn about in school. At this age, you are learning about the changing leaves, weather, animals, and the life cycle of butterflies. Ehlert has written books on all of these subjects and more.

Waiting for Wings is the story of a group of caterpillars who disappear into chrysalises and emerge as beautiful butterflies. Ehlert’s simple, rhyming story walks you through the life cycle of the butterfly. Her cut paper illustrations feature colorful flowers and several types of butterflies. At the end of the book there is a guide to the types of flowers and the types of butterflies shown throughout the book.

Pie in the Sky is one of my favorites because it features so many different types of birds. Ehlert’s birds are gorgeous and tomorrow I’ll show you how to make your own. Pie in the Sky is the story of a pie tree. Have you ever seen pies growing on a tree? No? Neither had the speaker in this story. But the child soon finds that the tree grows a cherry feast for all the birds, a raccoon, and eventually for the family. And you’ll learn to make a cherry pie right along with the child in the story.

In honor of the snow day that many of us on the east coast are enjoying, check out Snowballs. The snow people and snow dog in this story are anything but ordinary.

Ehlert has written many more books worth reading. These are just a few of my favorites.

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Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to the good doctor, Dr. Seuss. Make sure you check out all the Dr. Seuss posts throughout this website: Dr. Seuss, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss book review, Create Your Own Cat in the Hat Summary Hat, and Create Your Own Seussian Birthday Adventure.

Schools are closed here for weather, sadly, so I won't get to do any fun Dr. Seuss activities with the kids today. I hope you get to, though!

And finally, Happy Birthday, Julie! Head over to her site and wish her a happy birthday!

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