Category Archives: Artist/Author

Spirit Animals

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Spirit Animals at Art Club! I’ve been loving the advice and illustrations in Power Animals: How to Connect with Your Animal Spirit Guide by Steven Farmer, so naturally I brought that to the kids, masters at loving animals and nature, feeling connections everywhere. We discussed favorite animals, what we like about them, and how we can feel connected to a kind of animal for reasons we understand, and maybe reasons we aren’t aware of. Either way is a-okay.

20141110_162813I provided about twenty different books with animals images, including animal encyclopedias and guides, and… There Is a Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems, just because I can. Didn’t want the kids to think they had to draw realistically. That is not my style. And so we ended up with some realistic animals, plus an unicorn pegasus, a cyclops cat, an angry sea elephant, and a saber tooth whale. Variety, people.

I drew a few samples from one of my favorite spirit animals: one realistic raccoon, a spiraly-funky raccoon, then a very colorful silly one. During class, I answered calls for help by sketching alongside–a manatee, sea grass, and a barn swallow. At times, watching someone draw an animal (on their own paper, mind) can be just what a young artist needs to make his own come out well.

A lot of spirit animals came out of that group of six lively young artists (click to enlarge):

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Filed under Artist/Author, Books & Media, Drawing, Painting & Mixed Media

Young Artist: Focus on Ponies

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My Little Ponies. Yep, I loved them as a child, and my now I have two sons and a daughter who all love them. The figurines are a lot less stinky now, too, so there’s that. Like my daughter, who drew these pictures, when I was young I had an interest in a few typically girly things, like ponies, and a whole lot of things that would be categorized under boyish.

See this smoke? That’s me burning the labels.

Ach, they keep coming back. Curse of the incredible regenerating label. Best we can do is ignore them, I guess.

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In between reading battle books about warrior cats, evil wizards, and fantastical monsters, my ten-year-old daughter has been drawing creatures she invented called the Namestealers… and a lot of My Little Ponies. I’ll never tell her she has to pick.

 { Click to enlarge }

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Filed under Artist/Author, Drawing, Homeschool

Tracing Art: It’s okay. Really.

 

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My children have taught me that tracing isn’t an art evil. As a kid, I thought tracing another artist’s work was cheating and meant you weren’t a real artist. Even copying a painting or drawing by sight felt very, very wrong.  As a teenager, I had a friend who happily copied beautiful famous paintings and book illustrations, and I admired that, as well as her relaxed approach to imitation,  but couldn’t make myself do it. I was a little tense, I think… Ha.

Even so, I’ve supplied my kids with tracing paper from the beginning, like any good art parent would despite her oddly placed principles (which I kept to myself). So, I expected them to trace their own drawings, for some legit purpose like slight alterations or recreating characters. No. Four years ago, my daughter took that tracing paper and got out my childhood copy of Lee J. Ames’ Draw 50 Animals—and then she went directly to the final, finished drawing, and traced it.

Wait. Is that allowed?!

Apparently, yes. She turned it into her own personal art form for months. Tracing animals, coloring them with markers in exotic ways, attaching yarn and hanging them from the ceiling to spin in the fan-breeze. It was beautiful. And I was humbled. Tracing isn’t so bad.

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So a few months ago, when my 8-year-old son was struggling, near tears, over trying to draw Zita the Spacegirl just right, I suggested he trace Ben Hatke’s cover, to get a feel for the lines and angles. He was game and cheered right up. I’m glad to see I did not pass on my tracing-shame to them. Tracing doesn’t end original drawing, and it doesn’t kill creativity. If anything, the satisfaction from tracing can urge young artists forward, and even train their hand to make the shapes their minds are intending.

So he traced, and the sky didn’t fall. He also drew Zita on his own, and I joined him (sans tracing paper…). These are our sketches of Zita, his first and mine in progress:

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This one he did freehand from Hatke’s back-o’-the-book sketches. The kid hated his version until about six hours later when the heat died down and he was able to see how great a job he did. Sometimes we all need a little time to cool off.

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Filed under Artist/Author, Drawing

Local Art Show: Mark Khaisman

In awe of Mark Khaisman’s packing tape portraits at the Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA.

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Filed under Artist/Author, Inspiration & Imagination, Public Art & Local Art

Ben Hatke: Wizards and Libraries Forever!

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Usually we leave the library laden with treasures, grateful and excited. This time, we brought our treasures to the library, and not surprisingly—because libraries are magic—we left richer than we arrived. We got to know the fabulous Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and take one home, have our Zita books signed, and heard an awesome talk from artist and author Ben Hatke.

See? Magic.

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 Not only did the kids get his signature and their book personalized with their names, but each also got an unhurried sketch in their books—the bird from Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, One or Strong-Strong or Zita from the Zita series.

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Oh, there’s more. Yes. There was a great talk about books and illustration, an art game (will have to try this one at home), a reading of Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and a reading from Ben’s upcoming book.

There was also the hilarious and illuminating What Happened to My Cheeseburger?!? Demonstration:

It was about gesture, body language, and how to explain feeling through a drawing, sparing the speech bubble for further explanations. This made an impression. My son, later that night:

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And one for me, my absolute favorite (so far) from Ben’s InkTober series, The Widow of the Outlands. That’s right, I framed it.

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Wizards Forever! And Artist-Authors! And Libraries! Yes, definitely. Magic all around.

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Filed under Artist/Author, Books & Media, Drawing, Inspiration & Imagination, Public Art & Local Art