Monthly Archives: August 2014

Local Art: Homeschool Lego Builders’ Show


My plan to have a relaxed, non-competitive, creative, homeschool Lego builder’s gallery show went off without a hitch! I love when that happens. This was held in our local library’s community room, for a small donation fee of our choosing. (Click to enlarge:)

The ages of builders ranged from toddlers to teenagers. We had some by-the-book builds, some invented from imagination, battle scenes, frozen mermaids, country houses, collaborations between siblings, and several great written descriptions of the projects. It was awesome to see so much variety in projects and how personalities shone through.


There was an open invitation to friends, family, our local homesechool community, and anyone who was interested in dropping by. It was a great crowd, and our builders were identified by their badges.

There was a lot of admiring of fellow builders’ projects, and a distinct absence of competitive distractions. There were some non-homeschool friends who came to see the show. It was nice for the homeschool kids to get to invite their school friends to an event for a change.

The kids are already planning when to do this again. 🙂



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Filed under Crafting, Homeschool, Public Art & Local Art, Sculpture

Homeschool Lego Builders’ Show (this weekend)


I’m getting ready for this weekend’s (blessedly) non-competitive, art gallery-style show of homeschool kids’ Lego projects. I’ve organized this event to be relaxed (nobody has to talk about their project unless they want to), easy on the rules (if you’re a homeschooler, you’re in; and if not, you can come to enjoy the sights), and arranged to use our local library’s community room. I’m super excited about this! And I’ve just finished the button pins for the talented, skilled, creative builders, to make it Official 🙂







Filed under Crafting, Public Art & Local Art, Sculpture

Fantasy Mapping

Drawing fantasy maps has been one of my favorite projects since I was a teenager. For kids who like to read fantasy and science fiction, it’s fairly common to find great maps at the start of a book. I wanted them to know it’s something they can create, too.

After a brief chat where I showed the kids some hand-drawn maps from books, our local library map, and this Tilden Park map, I made sure they knew anything goes, and set them loose. One traced South America off a wall map, another went My Little Pony inner-castle, and the third created a detailed series of islands that she is still working on days later.Supplies: Large paper, colored pencils, and imagination:


Small classes are great—space for big paper, elbow room, and wow… Even the moms got a chance to draw!


Filed under Drawing

A Guide to Public Art for Young People


Saturday morning mother-son date: hot chocolate, tea, and collaborative art on a cafe patio. His favorite highlighters, Jenny Doh’s Creative Lettering, and a little Vengekeep Prophecies read-aloud.


My eight-year-old son was inspired to leave some art on the patio for others to enjoy. He knew the pictures might be taken down fairly quickly, but we had a good time imagining these bits of creativity going on an adventure, going home with someone we’ve never met.


WP_20140809_011Wherever you live, I hope you and your kids will leave some temporary public art for others to come across. It can be hard for some kids to let go of a drawing, and that’s okay. Don’t try to force it. Offer to make copies of their art if they’re interested but hesitant to let it go. And if you start creating public art, they might join you.

A few ways to inspire public art appreciation and creation as a family:

* Sticky Notes: Draw on post-it notes and leave for others on railings, public mail boxes, meters, etc. (Just don’t overdo it or it becomes litter.)

* Walk a Stapler: Take a walk with some sketches and a stapler. Spruce up a few telephone poles. It’ll make them so happy.

* Lost Posters: Make some imaginary creature posters. I saw this one in Philly a few years back. Lost Unicorn, friendly disposition! (click to enlarge)IMAG0521

* Yarn Bombing: If you knit or crochet… If you’re the only knitter in the house, have the kids help design and attach the finished product. This one was in Philly, wrapped around a meter post, and made me so happy as I passed by. Thank you to whoever made it 🙂IMG_5123

* Chalk Art: Take after Bert from Mary Poppins, and make some art on your driveway, sidewalk, or a park path. Also, check out Julian Beever’s sidewalk art.

* Nature’s Art:

  •  Cairns: I love coming across stones stacked up by train stations, in empty lots, and even in a clearing just off the Appalachian Trail. (click to enlarge)
  • Leaning Sticks: I love when branches are leaned against a tree, sometimes creating a sculpture big enough for a child to fit inside of. It seems that many people have contributed a stick as they passed by, until the tower is massive. My kids love adding their own, to be part of something so mysterious. (This probably began as a way to simply clear the trail, but became art!)
  • Wildflower Street Art: Gather wild flowers, interesting grasses and weeds, then hold them against a telephone pole, while someone else wraps a string around the plants and pole a few times to keep the bouquet in place. They will dry beautifully. Whoever did this outside my house, thank you!
  • Mandalas: Anywhere you go a mandala can appear: parks, parking lots, trails. You can use sticks, rocks, grass, shells, flowers, feathers, sea glass… This is a lovely beach mandala from the good people at Sparkle Stories. Also, find some photos of traditional mandalas for your kids to see so they know where this is coming from.

* Paths: Check out the painted stone path captured on One Crafty Mama! As a child, I knew an artist who had a path to his studio laid with embedded, oversized marbles, sticking halfway up out of the dirt like tiny crystal balls. I was mesmerized by this, wondering how they ended up there. I bet a lot of kids would have a blast digging small holes into a path and planting marbles. I wonder how long such a planting would last in a public park…

* Little Free Library: These are amazing. I recently saw a Little Free Library nearby, created from a repurposed newspaper vending machine. This seems like the perfect container: water tight and now full of free books to borrow, they painted the box beautifully.

* Isaiah Zagar: Philadelphians, take your kids to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens in South Philly, and then enjoy spotting more of Zagar’s amazing mosaic art around the city. Try it at home with dishes you’ve accidentally broken (or on purpose!).

* First Friday: Go out as a family on First Friday to see art shows in galleries, and consider organizing a children’s FF Art Show in a library community room. We need more non-competitive art-centered events for and by children, and libraries often have a very small donation fee for use of their meeting rooms.

* Events: Look up public art events in your town. Here’s the Association for Public Art in Philly.

* Graffiti: Enjoy it whenever you can, because graffiti can be beautiful, colorful, exciting, and meaningful. Not suggesting you encourage your kids in graffiti arts, ahem… But in some areas it’s impossible to avoid and can be an avenue for discussion. Check out Happy Graffiti: Street Art With Heart, Written on the City: Graffiti Messages Worldwide (probably best for the over-14 age group), and the Popular History of Graffiti (from cave art to the present). Take time to talk about graffiti with social meaning, and why illegal art can propel a deep message.

* Mural Arts:

  • Watch out Dallas Clayton’s video where he paints his first mural and talks about taking chances on new opportunities.
  • Visit murals in your city, bring a camera, and put together a homemade book of photos. If you live in Philly, you’re in luck.
  • Consider painting a family mural in your home (I know, it’s not public, but it’s a start), an outside wall of your house, a door, or designs on your yard fence. These are three spots inside our house where young kids painted and drew:

    If your kids enjoy this, you can look into opportunities where older kids and adults can volunteer on a public mural. Or get a group together and propose painting a mural on a blank wall at your community center, school, library, or wherever seems to be calling out for it. This is a great guide for indoor murals, and here’s a brief overview for outdoor painting.

Art is everywhere. Take time to notice the modern geometric designs on crosswalks, mural-arts garbage trucks, artistically decorated solar trash cans, cafe and restaurant signage. Before long, your observant kids will be pointing out art that you’ve missed, and asking you to slow down to check it out.

Creating public art makes a place more personal, a town more creative, and offers the chance to leave a positive message for the people around us. My son’s artwork is not at the cafe now, a week later. For whatever time it was hung up, it likely made a few people smile. And hopefully inspired them to leave a creative treasure somewhere, too.

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Filed under Crafting, Drawing, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing, Nature's Art, Painting & Mixed Media, Photography

Snail Mail for Art’s Sake


Many people love getting mail… when it isn’t bills, unwanted coupons, or advertisements, right? Unfortunately, for most this doesn’t happen too often. And for kids, it generally happens only on birthdays when they received cards from older relatives.


Email can easily, instantly link people across the world. I have dear friends far away that I have yet to meet, so I’m incredibly grateful for the ability to connect with them this way. But paper mail that you hold in your hands, with someone’s unique scrawl on it? Mail that takes a stamp and days to arrive? It’s something special.


There’s no need to wait for a birthday or holiday. In fact, it’s better if there’s no reason at all for the mail. Sit down soon with some fun postcards or blank paper and pen a note with your kids to someone who is likely to write back. Older folks are pretty amazing this way!

My son sent my writing mentor, Zee Zahava, a doodled card with only his and her names on it. He decided to include an origami cyclops eye he’d just painstakingly made, and then we sent it off. He let it go. That’s how mail works. You can’t follow that letter, rush it, see when it’s opened or if the other person is bothering to respond. It’s an act of faith.

 I don’t think he even remembered that he’d sent it (he’s that zen at letting mail go), so what came back was a great surprise. He received a postcard with Frank Lloyd Wright’s colored pencils, and a note just for him on the other side.


If they’re not the writing type of kids (mine aren’t), no biggee. Mail can still be in their lives. A young artist can turn a  “letter” into a collage of magazine clippings, a doodle page, a place to put a recent sketch, or even make an illuminated letter (literally, just one letter, illuminated!). We’ve mailed collaborative altered books, mini photo albums, and origami birds. There doesn’t have to be a whole lot of writing involved in mail. Pretty cool like that. They call it Mail Art. All you really need is a recipient and the sender’s name—boom. Snail mail of the artistic persuasion! Don’t forget to decorate the envelope, too. That can be the best part: art on the outside—a treasure arriving in a stack with bills and junk mail. This will make someone’s day, and hopefully soon, you’ll get something back in the mail that will affect your kids in a way email can’t.


We’ve had a lot of fun sending tiny mail in our family—both in the house and in the greater postal system. I figure, if an address and a stamp can fit on it, then it’s big enough to survive the post office. I’ve used the throw-away wrappers that cover tea bags for envelopes, as well as made our own from magazine pictures, paper from the recycling bin, and maps given to the artistic cause. Illustrator Tasha Tudor’s Sparrow Post Valentines are deliciously small, with instructions on envelope-making. Here’s some miniature mail from artist Maya*Made and her Swallow Post.

If you don’t get a response or if your child doesn’t have anyone they’d like to write to, consider someone you don’t know yet.

IMG_2991Yep, that’s a magnifying glass. A tiny one, sent from Lea at the World’s Smallest Post Service which is, as you can imagine, just about the coolest site ever. Being the makers that we are around here, we do this kind of thing ourselves, but Lea does sell many awesome bits of inspired littleness, including a Tiny Stationery Kit.IMG_2988

My daughter loves miniatures and dollhouse paraphernalia, and makes most of what she wants herself. She was pretty smitten when we discovered Lea’s talents, and decided to write a tiny letter to her. And Lea wrote back—sending a tiny envelope with a tiny letter inside, a wax seal and itty-bitty snail stamp (of course), all safely inside a cardstock-and-plastic frame (so it doesn’t vanish when you sneeze!), and a magnifying glass with which to read it. The letter was so sweet and personal, and I know it made an impression on my daughter. Reaching out really does affect people, and when they reach right back, it’s a very sweet thing.




Filed under Crafting, Drawing, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing

Illuminated Letters & Art Journals


In YAG this week, children from ages 2 to 14 created Art Journals. Always a hit, because you make it and then you get to use it: the art that keeps on giving.

We began with a quick chat about illuminated letters—my suggestion for the cover which they were free to accept or detour. Watercolor paper was given all around, and some of it actually met watercolors, while other artists went for Sharpies. Ah, Sharpies. You stink bad, but we love you.








I realized that if I had the young artists punch their own paper, they’d be sitting there for a couple of hours, or walk away with a five-sheet journal. I wanted them to make as thick or thin a book as they wanted, so the good folks on Firefly and I tackled the preparations the night before—measuring, cutting paper, and punching holes.

While paintings dried, the journal building began:



I supplied plain and colored paper, lined loose-leaf paper, and a cardboard backing, all cut to size (8.5 x 6.5 inches). The kids also had on hand a box of magazines, maps, and desk calendars to cut extras from. They sized and punched holes in these themselves.

The books grew beautifully, and while feeding the papers though the loose binder rings was a bit of an awkward task, I reminded myself that it’s not the ease of a project that makes it worthwhile. There’s a lot more involved.










And the art continued…



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Filed under Crafting, Drawing, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing, Painting & Mixed Media

Homemade Charcoal

Sharing is good, and often works out well—esepcially with a pack of markers or a box of pastels. But when you have one charcoal pencil and more than one artist at the table (chomping at the bit for her turn), you have to get creative… and tell them to be good kids and start burning sticks in the house.IMG_2673The kids got small sticks from the yard, lit them at the stove and kept them in the fire for about a minute. Then they cooled for a few minutes.
IMG_2666Enough charcoal was on it to draw a couple of pictures, before needing to be reburned.
IMG_2677A comparison, thanks to one of the young artists:
IMG_2675Then we got charcoal chunks from the fire pit out back. These make thick lines, don’t run out of black, and get your hands wonderfully messy! You can’t go wrong.


Filed under Drawing