Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rubber Stamp Carving: The Kids Mean Business


Rubber stamp carving: not a forgiving project, but if nobody ends up bleeding, I call it a win. The Speedy-Cut rubber blocks were gouged, scraped, picked at, sliced and trimmed with both scissors and knives. Those kids meant business. And as I explained to one of the most frustrated ones, it’s okay if this doesn’t end up being his favorite kind of art. The rubber won’t mind, and neither will I.

I gave a brief safety talk, a bit about positive and negative space (with my samples above showing two different styles of carving), showed them a couple of pictures from Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps by the amazing Gennine Zlatkis, and encouraged them to draw in pencil first, before picking up the Speedball carving tools. There was some sketching on paper and then transferring to rubber, consulting photos online, inspiration from Geninne’s book, and even some moms got a chance to carve. Definitely a win. 🙂

Check out Carving Eraser Stamps: Small but Mighty next.



Filed under Drawing, Stamp Carving

Local Art Event: Ben Hatke

Getting excited. Very, very excited…

Ben HatkePhilly locals: coming up at the Havertown Library on October 9th, a visit from the creator of Zita the Spacegirl and Julia’s House for Lost Creatures! You can hear the squeeing from there, ya?

Now it all makes sense why I haven’t snatched up Julia’s House for my kids yet—I was waiting for this. Only, ahem, without knowing it. We can buy the book, ask him to sign it (or you know, huddle at the back and be too shy, whatever), and then read it piled up in a comfy library chair (yes, the four of us will fit, trust me).


Last week I lost the event sheet from the library (even though we took three between my kids and I), and was on the verge of forgetting… But today I found myself standing in front of a stack of Julia’s House at Barnes and Noble…



And shortly afterward, saw an announcement at the Children’s Book World in Bryn Mawr, PA…


Thanks, Universe. Now… where’s my calendar and a big red marker?

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Filed under Books & Media, Public Art & Local Art

Carving Eraser Stamps: Small but Mighty


It’s dangerous, fun, challenging, and makes a bit of a mess. Perfect.

Stamp carving wisdom: Always carve away from your fingers, and have extra rubber ready to soothe the frustrated artists.

This is not one of the easier projects, and when my kids were little they basically gouged out marks, trying for a straight line, and that was that. They were proud then, and that was enough. Now, they have higher aspirations, and carving rubber is pretty unforgiving.

But some kids forgive the rubber, and use every last scrap for a doodle and design:


The great thing about eraser stamps is that you can buy a bunch for cheap, especially during back-to-school sales. The difficult thing is that they are so small it’s hard to hold and you run out of edge pretty quickly. We use Speedball Linoleum Cutters, changing the carving attachments as needed for varying thicknesses.

When it works out, it’s incredibly satisfying…


This artist used Strathmore 300 Tracing Pad paper to capture characters from Star Wars: Jedi Academy, then transferred them to the rubber. This also works for your own design if you don’t want to draw directly on the rubber, because it’s hard (impossible?) to erase graphite off a rubber eraser. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true.

We consulted the inspiring book Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps by the talented Gennine Zlatkis. The best thing is that once you have a stamp, you can use it again and again! I made a hollow heart so I could watercolor, colored pencil, or pastel the inside for some Mail Art love.

Check out Carving Rubber Stamps: The Kids Mean Business next!


Filed under Crafting, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing, Stamp Carving

Nature’s Art: Rough Elegance


Rickett’s Glen, PA

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Filed under Nature's Art, Photography

Science & Art: Bartram’s Garden



Scale, miniature worlds, drawing a map of one small space within a yarn boundary—and a Monopoly house set somewhere within its tiny wilds. It’s always a great time at Bartram’s Gardens in Philly, and I’m an eternal fan of mixing art with nature study. 🙂



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Filed under Drawing, Homeschool, Nature's Art, Science & Art.

Mail Art to London


Sometimes my kids aren’t interested in a Fabulous Exciting Amazing Art Project I think they’ll love. I’m not terribly surprised when this happens. They’ve trained me well. Sometimes they love things I think they’ll hate, and sometimes they hate things I think they’ll love. That’s life, and they have every right to their opinions.


If it’s that Fabulous and Amazing, I’m either already doing it myself, or I’m about to start doing it. There aren’t any “kid’s art projects” around here. There’s just Art, regardless of age, entirely dependent on the artists’ interests and abilities: if you can whittle it, draw it, paint it, go for it. This is great for a lot of reasons—supplies are shared within the family, kids have access to good-quality materials, and projects can be done alongside siblings and adults. It helps young artists feel that what they’re doing is “real” art (if there was ever any question), and I don’t end up painting with crappy watercolors at the kitchen table by myself. I may be painting with really nice watercolors at the kitchen table by myself, and in that case I’m probably having a grand old time.  Often enough, seeing me doing a project they previously rejected gets them inspired to try it, or bring a different project to do alongside me. Mail Art, case in point:


I needed to send a small package that had been on my to-do list for at least two months. It contained a couple of old postcards, but required an updated note because it had been sitting there so long. Mail Art I can handle. Getting to the post office, not so much. I wasn’t in much of a mood to write, but doodle? Sure thing. I ripped a page out of a magazine I’d gotten from the library’s free bin (aka “Take This Junk We Don’t Want It”) that was destined for altered book/collage projects, and began sketching, scribbling, commenting, generally enjoying the heck out of myself. My kids wandered by, intrigued. I filled both sides of the page.


In it goes with the old letters, and a tiny hand-bound gift in a tiny package:


It was a few days later that I was going through some mail art samples for a class, when my older kids asked when we were doing Mail Art. I jogged their memories: “You said you didn’t want to.”

They stared at me. “We want to!”

“Okay, then. Tomorrow.”


Make something look interesting by enjoying it yourself, and they’ll probably join you. Be warned about reversing this process: it doesn’t work on ice cream. No matter how unhappy you look while eating it, they’ll still want some.


Filed under Drawing, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing

Loosening Up With Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawings by 5-10 year olds. I wish you could hear the laughter this unleashed! These are created by looking at an object in the room (or a person), and drawing the outline without looking at your paper or lifting your pencil. Contour means outline, but the kids drew the whole object, with some fun and impressive results!

I presented this right after they finished an hour-long structured drawing project. Blind contour drawing is a fun exercise that had them giggling and not agonizing over “getting it right.” I love a project that won’t come out perfect, that takes a real object and makes it a whimsical or abstract version of itself.




IMG_2718 Ceiling fan (while in motion!):


Pencils in a wood-stump holder:
IMG_2730Some kids decided to draw from their imagination without looking at the paper:


These circles that were heads, ended up looking like muzzles on bears!IMG_2734
IMG_2697 Awwww. The cuteness.


Filed under Drawing