Opening our doors soon!

It is finally here! All of the planning and working is coming to an end. 

The remodel of our preschool is done. Furniture is in place. Toys are on the shelves and blocks on their baskets. Light table is plugged in and a mini fridge is keeping a head of lettuce fresh for our tortoise… And I’m going to talk to people about our program for the first time on Saturday at a local preschool fair. Can’t wait!

Here is a little preview of my table display ☺️

Northern Lights Art Project

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This is now officially one of my favorite winter lessons. I created these pictures with first-graders in about 60 minutes and it went really well. We started talking about Ernst Kirchner and Expressionism. We noticed that he uses warm and cool colors and created a bold contrast in his work. So, we looked for warm and cool colors in other artists’ paintings, talked about how the colors make us feel, and what do they make us think of.

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Then, I showed them pictures of the Northern Lights and we talked about how we could paint them like Expressionists – focus on our emotion rather than reality and to exaggerate the colors and sharp lines:

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And of course, we had to add some animals that could see the Northern Lights (the first-graders are now talking about animals, habitats and are starting to explore the world on maps… so it tied nicely to their science lessons). We got everything: from polar bears and arctic hares to musk ox and a high-jumping killer whale.

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Happy New Year 2015!

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Happy New Year! 

Let’s fill this year with lots of color and creativity!

Have you chosen your new year’s resolution yet? Are you going to? Well, I am.

I pledge to work hard to bring even more art projects and ideas to my readers – in the magazine as well as on this blog. I want to share my everyday little projects, favorite art books and techniques as well as interviews with people who truly inspire me. 2015 here we come!

Astonish Paris with an Apple!

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Paul Cézanne said, he wants to astonish Paris with an apple – and after 30 years of hard work and dedication, he did.

Show the kids how they can do the same. Give them an apple, piece of paper, oil pastels and little bit of oil in a cup. First, the kids sketch the basic shape of the apple and then color it in with the oil pasels. It does not have to be perfect but it is nice if they can press down hard (to get nice, bold colors) and hold their pastels down low (so that they do not break).

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When they are done, ask them to dip a q-tip in the oil and use it to blend the oil pastels together. They will be amazed how smoothly iy works and how much fun it is. Just make sure, they do not spill the oil. I put a paper plate underneath and keep a lot of paper towels handy, just in case.

If you want to achieve the same effect we did – use watercolors in the end to paint over the background. The good thing is, if you do paint over the apple, it doesn’t really matter since the paint does not stick to the oil at all. Just wipe it off with a paper towel and you are done.

I am doing this project in a couple of days with first-graders – but we will do more than apples. We’ll talk about composition and add pumpkins and squashes to the mix. Stay tuned for the pictures!

arTree story: how art docents found their art

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Kids are natural artists. They love to paint and draw, they love to explore and experiment with all the colors and textures… basically, they love to create art. And yet, art programs are being cut at most public schools all the time.

I would like to change that. I would love to bring some of the art back to the schools, where it belongs.

Last year I started publishing a digital art magazine for kids. It is called arTree and it combines art history with art education. It teaches kids about perspective, color theory, shading, blending and much more. It introduces current artists in special interviews and connects art with Math, science, physical activities and storytelling. It is a digital magazine that comes out every month with 14 – 18 pages of art.

I started publishing the magazine because I thought it was missing on the market. There are magazines about animals, pop culture and some magazines just for girls but I could not find a magazine about art. And my son loves art. He doesn’t just like it, he loves it. When he was three years old he would spend hours drawing pictures for his friends. And I would spend hours and hours on Pinterest preparing some fun projects and activities for him to keep him challenged and busy. It was exhausting, but really fun.

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In the fall my son started attending Woodside Elementary. The school seemed like a wonderful place for him with one little problem – there was almost no art. There were a couple of dedicated moms who brought their own ideas and supplies to the classrooms but they could not more than a couple of classrooms. I decided to change that. Some of those wonderful PTA moms and I decided to take arTree and use it as our lesson plans for the following year. Today, couple of months later, there are over 700 kids involved in the art docent program at Woodside. They all have free access to the magazine and they all make one or two of the arTree projects during their art docent lessons each month.

In the first months some of the teachers were reluctant to share the valuable time with the parents, but now, they all have spots for their art docents in the schedules. Even the principal, Dr. Betty Cobbs, called it the best running art docent program she ever had in any of her schools. And of course the kids have learned a lot. They have learned about one-point and atmospheric perspective, they have made collages and drew with oil pastels, they designed their dream houses with watercolors and learned about minimal realism with potato stamps.

The art docents have a wonderful time as well. Every month we do an art docent training. Basically, it is a time when all of the moms meet, learn about the new project and make some wonderful art together. Everybody loves it! It’s like a ‘sip and paint’ – without the wine.

In the last couple of months I have started developing more and more art projects and presentations for the art docents to use. And now, I am adding a whole new visual arts program to the arTree magazine and I am starting to look for more schools that would like to adopt the program.

Getting art to kids is my primary goal so I am keeping the program in the digital format. It allows me to keep the price down and get the magazine to all kids at the school for free. Some of the competitors sell their lesson plans for $200 per class which I think is very steep for some of the schools in the area. I provide the lessons for the whole year, the magazine and a list of materials for $250 per year – for the whole school. The program aligns with WA Arts K 1-12 learning standards and it makes it super easy for parents who have not painted since they were kids to get involved in the program. Plus, I help schools raise money for the supplies. I give them all two lesson plans for after-school art classes that they can run themselves to get all the art-docent-supply money they need.

I love art. I love teaching it and I would love to share that experience with others. It is very rewarding when you walk around the school and the kids greet you excitedly with: “do we do art today?” Art docent program is a wonderful thing and arTree makes it easy for everyone to get involved. You do not have to be an artist to teach a lesson. You just need to be passionate and love what you do. The kids will do the rest.

Do you want to bring this program to your school? If you contact me (info@artreekids.com) by 5/25 and mention the code: artDocent514 you will be able to bring the whole program to your school for only $125/year!

Warm & Cold landscapes with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

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When we were talking about warm and cold colors last week, we visited one of my favorite German expressionist painters: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

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We have learned about German expressionism: about the way the artists painted emotions rather than reality, how they distorted or exaggerated objects and used vivid and shocking colors. We talked about all the emotions they were trying to capture, from anxiety and fear to peacefulness. We even mentioned Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (click here to watch this 1920s marvel)!

We explored Kirchner’s landscapes and looked how he used warm and cold colors to express his emotions.

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Then we looked at pictures of different landscapes for inspiration.

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Then kids got a big black paper and used white chalk pastel to sketch their landscape. Then they divided it into segments and started coloring them in. They used only warm colors for the land, cold for the sky – or vise versa – but did not combine them. When they were done (it took them a little bit over an hour) I sprayed it with a hair spray to help the chalk pastels stick to the paper. Stunning results, don’t you think?

Quill and ink birds

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Handmade quills dipped in ink. There beautiful birds were made by students from Lake Stevens and inspired by arTree’s February issue dedicated to Charley Harper and birds. The kids looked for simple ways to capture the birds – the least amount of elements that still made the bird recognizable: minimal realism. Aren’t they beautiful?!

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Charley Harper was an illustrator and a graphic designer. He grew up on a farm and though he didn’t like working there, he loved walking through the woods and looking for birds and other animals he could draw. And he drew, sketched and painted a lot of them and in quite a different way than anybody before him.

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His style is called minimal realism. It is what happens when you simplify the birds (or other objects) as much as you can BUT people are still able to recognize what kind of a bird it is. Harper always said that he did not ‘count the feathers, only the wings.’ And you can clearly see it here:

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And how did Charley draw his birds? What technique did he use? A serigraph (or screen printing or silkscreen). What is it?

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The result of this technique is a print made using a stencil, woven mesh and paint. It works like this: you use a mesh and a stencil to create your print. You keep adding layers, one stencil and one color at a time until you are done.

The project inspired by Charley is simple: we are printing birds and simplifying them even more. We use potato and carrot stamps to create the birds and a toilet-paper roll to make the tree. Just cut the potatoes in halves, quarters and eighths, use a brush to apply paint to them and stamp them to create your unique birds.

Here is an example of the project. As always, you can find more details, variations and ideas in February’s issue of arTree.

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If you want to teach this lesson, you can download the power point presentation here: http://1drv.ms/1ghHGsz

Pieter Bruegel’s Landscapes

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January issue of arTree magazine is here! And art docents at many schools started teaching the kids about Pieter Bruegel and the atmospheric perspective in his landscapes.

Hunters in the Snow, Winter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

In a shortcut: Pieter was a Flemish Renaissance landscape artist. He loved painting ordinary people at work. So, often he dressed up as a peasant and walked among them to observe and sketch them. He sometimes even went to a wedding nobody invited him to – just to be able to paint it authentically.

He also loved mountains and sketched many of them in Italy. When he got back to Netherlands he added them to many of his paintings. And it was at that time when painters started using atmospheric perspective in their work (scattering of light that makes mountains in the distance appear lighter/bluer).

That’s January’s main project in arTree magazine – and is being used by art docents at different schools in different grades. These are examples from one of WA schools: Kindergarten and 3rd grade. Mt. Rainer has never been so colorful!

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Mount Rainier by Kindergarteners (above) and St. Mary’s Lake by 3rd graders (below).

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If you would like to teach this lesson at your school, you can download and use the Power point Presentation here:

Atmospheric perspective for K-3 (Mount Rainer National Park): http://sdrv.ms/1j9wsLj

Atmospheric perspective for 3-6 (St. Mary’s Lake at Glacier National Park): http://sdrv.ms/KlUH9W

And if you would like to learn more, get all of the information and other examples, visit our website. Make your art docent program really stand out!

http://artreekids.com/

Antarctica in art

The Art around the world course is slowly finishing up. This week we have visited the land of ice and snow: Antarctica.

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It was a pretty ambitions project that I am very proud to say: we were able to finish in 50 minutes! Kids were playing around with watercolors. They used light and dark blue, lemon juice, salt, sponges, tissues, water and foil to create an interesting snowy effect for the background of their painting. Then we talked about the way to create a penguin, sketched it on a piece of watercolor paper, cut it out and decorated it with tempera paint. Kids loved adding sweater, mittens, hats and more fun stuff to keep their penguins warm and cozy.

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Then we glued the penguins onto the watercolor paper and added some snow. Done. Hectic but totally worth it!