Category Archives: Painting & Mixed Media

Spirit Animals


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):


















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

Collaborative Birthday Art


I’ve been thinking a lot about collaborative artwork for an upcoming class, and planning how to help the kids create with one another—instead of alongside one another. My kids and I have been creating a lot of art together. It’s what we need right now: art and connection. (Also nature and extra love and puppy hugs and campfires and… well, lots of good things!)


It’s amazing how sibling irritations can be eased by a simple rule: “Don’t draw over anyone else’s art.” When there’s only one rule to stick to, everything gets easier. Part of me wishes everything were this easy…

It’s been interesting to revisit the collaborative art that was created on my birthday a year and a half ago (all pictures are from this project). It’s like a snapshot of the gathering of friends and family. But instead of a photo moment, this beautiful thing is something we made together. It was the best gift.


I wanted to have an Art Birthday Party (never too old, I say). So I hosted a potluck, and put out a 15 x 20 inch piece of hot press watercolor paper, and an assortment of pens, paints, stamps, markers and oil pastels. There’s something powerful about looking back on photos, as well as art from times past. My kids had fun this week remembering who drew what on this paper, turning it round and round to figure it all out–there is no “Up” on this art! Things in my life have changed a lot since that birthday, but this colorful treasure remains. I think this coming spring it’ll be time for another round of Birthday Art 🙂





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Filed under Collaborative Art, Drawing, Painting & Mixed Media, Uncategorized

More Dragons, Please

Sometimes—often—our kids are passionate about things we are uninterested in, perplexed or bored by. At times, listening to them closely can explain why they care so much, and give us enough fuel of interest to hold our attention through the monologues of information. If nothing else, we can love their love, be grateful they care a whole lot about something (not everyone does), and help nurture it in whatever way we can.


For instance, my ten-year-old daughter’s dragon love. It has been in her since toddlerhood, since before she could speak in sentences. It began with toys and board books, then drawings, sculptures, paperweights, Lego projects, and now in chapter books.

Yes, honey, I will buy you out-of-print dragon codices. Don’t worry.

And yes, you can make dragon rune graffiti in the garden. I understand.


And I love your love.


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Filed under Books & Media, Home Art, Homeschool, Inspiration & Imagination, Painting & Mixed Media

Body Art: Henna Tattoo


One very cool girl is sporting this today…


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Filed under Body Art, Painting & Mixed Media, Photography

Mail Art Inspiration

And this is how I lured them in…







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Filed under Drawing, Inspiration & Imagination, Mail Art, Lettering & Writing, Painting & Mixed Media, Stamp Carving

Homework and Graffiti

Being the type of homeschoolers we are, there’s no such thing as homework around here.

But there is Home Work, especially for old chests that need a new lease on life and a happy color. Nobody in this family needs cajoling to complete a lesson using spray paint.

An after Home Work, there’s Extra Credit in Dragon Runes:



Filed under Collaborative Art, Home Art, Homeschool, Painting & Mixed Media

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