Thursday, February 27, 2014

Marbling with shaving cream

I know you've probably seen this before, but it is always such a cool thing to do!  I previously blogged about using this process; you can find the post by clicking HERE

Today my DragonWing Arts after-school students leaned how easy and fun it is to make marbled paper using shaving cream and liquid watercolor paints.
I taped off an area of our work table the size of our paper, 12x18".  I squirted some shaving cream into the rectangle and the kids smoothed it out with a cardboard rectangle.  Then, they dripped liquid watercolors into the shaving cream. 

Using a fork, the paint was swirled through the shaving cream.  

A piece of paper was placed carefully on top, and pressed gently.  The paper was then removed (along with globs of gooey shaving cream), and cardboard rectangles were used to squeegee the excess shaving cream off of the paper.  That's all there is to it!  And here is what the result was from the piece being worked on above.
We added a little fresh shaving cream each time, smoothed it out again, and started the marbling process again.  Here's a couple more examples.
It will be a couple of weeks before I can show you what we are doing with them (but I think it will be cool), so you'll just have to wait and see!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What was I thinking?

was in JoAnn's buying a piece of fabric for a project I had planned , when I got sidetracked and fell dangerously in love, with this:
I mean, how could I help myself?!?  I was smitten with the saturated colors; there was vivid red, bold orange, rich turquoise, brilliant yellow, deep blue, and vibrant green.  Oh, and some lovely violet, too.  All reason went out the window when I saw this stuff.  I've been sewing most of my life, but I absolutely DESPISE sewing on either stretchy or slippery shiny fabric. And this stuff is of the ridiculously slippery and shiny variety.  I took it to the cutting counter thinking "maybe I'll make a summer dress" totally forgetting my distaste for working with this type of fabric, and also not thinking about my casual summer lifestyle.  I'm usually in shirts and t-shirts in the summer; and I don't even own (or desire) the proper shoes for a shiny dress, so why would I make one?

When I got the gorgeous fabric home, I decided to be more practical and make a summery bathrobe, kind of shaped like a boxer's robe.  Easy construction.  I took an old summer robe, traced the simple shapes to make a pattern, cut my fabric, and started to sew.  And then I remembered why I don't usually buy this stuff.  Slipping and sliding, it was a nightmare to sew, even for an easy construction, and my simple one-afternoon project became a major enterprise.  Then, I discovered this:
Can you see it? A pull in the fabric. They are everywhere.  Simply pinning a seam causes pulls like this.  And a cat who likes to keep me company when I sew did not help the situation either.  "Good thing it's just a bathrobe" I thought.  And if you make a sewing mistake on this fabric?  It is next to impossible to take out a seam without damaging the fabric.  So every time something didn't go as planned, my solution was to cut it off. Hemming the sleeves was a disaster.  The hems twisted and looked so awful that I cut them off; I actually cut them off THREE times, leaving the sleeves too short and still unhemmed, and in the end I made a fake cuff out of a piece of blue fabric I had intended to use for a different project. And I found a piece of red to use to make a tie belt, since I hadn't bought enough of the patterned fabric for the belt.  I also used the red for some invisible on-seam pockets. (Gotta have pockets!).  I think the red belt makes it look like gift-wrapping.  I do not like it, and may still come up with some other belt.
I finally finished it today, working on it for so long that I never did anything else I had planned this afternoon.  And my realization is this: the final product is not worth the amount of time spent sewing. The fabric frays terribly, and I don't think will hold up well at all for many wearings. I expect it will quickly tear around the belt loops and the pockets.  And it is so slippery, it won't easily stay in place when worn anyhow.  I picture myself on Project Runway, with the judges mocking my sloppy construction, and Tim Gunn telling me it's time to go clean up my workspace because Heidi says I am OUT.  My love affair with the fabric is over.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another glimpse at a snowy winter

I thought I'd take a moment and share a few more photos from our recent snows.
My house, yet again...
 Below (and at the top of the post) are a few scenes from a local park just before dusk.
 And a few images I found interesting while strolling around Lake George during Winter Carnival weekend.  I'd show you photos of the zillion snowmobiles racing on the frozen lake, but the sky was overcast and it wasn't that photogenic!  That's me, of course, on the ice bench.
And then there was the 'night of the crows', which at the time was so gloriously creepy it seemed like it was a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. (Except I didn't get attacked.) There are NO leaves on these trees; those are all crows.  The next day there was an article in the local paper about the sightings of massive flocks of crows around some neighborhoods!  Let me tell you, it has to be something really crazy to get me outside in fingerless gloves taking photos on a cold and snowy night, especially after just returning home from a lovely dinner out celebrating our anniversary.
 And I swear, I shot this photo below in the mall parking lot.  Quite the snow pile!
And a visit to our camp yesterday...
  Look at all the deer tracks in the snow!  They were everywhere!!!
 Dr. Zhivago-esque icicles hung from every side of the camp. 
  Hubby can't wait till spring to try out the newly repaired rowboat he bought!
Time to go home.  Love this pristine hill, by our camp road.
On the main road near our camp, I have passed this house below so many times.  Finally, I got my husband to stop the car briefly so I could take a snap!  Isn't it cute?
 Tomorrow forecast is for rain, and then some warmer weather, so maybe this is almost the end of snow photos this year?  Though we did get another fresh inch or two again today, while I was at the movies with some teacher retiree friends.  Fittingly for the season, we saw Winter's Tale, which we enjoyed despite harsh reviews. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One Drawing a Day; week 2

In case you don't remember from last week, I'm participating in an online 'Artsy Book Club', the brainchild of blogger Cassie Stephens.  Our first book is One Drawing A Day, and we have just completed week 2 of the 6 week adventure! 

So week one started in a drab way, with the day 8 assignment to do three portraits of someone done in different media: one with charcoal, one with pencil, and one with ink (I used my bamboo pen again).  I'm not gonna lie; I was not feeling great and was grumpy when I started, and I got grumpier the more I drew.  Isolated in my grumpiness, I drew myself.  Here are drawings 1 & 3.  Drawing 2 is in hiding and has decided not to appear on the blog!  (Let me put it this way: am not particularly a fan of drawing with pencil.)
But then, wonder of wonders, the day 9 assignment finally let us start using color!  Hurray!  As per the instructions, I played with crayons,  first tracing my hand, and then adding letters, numbers, and whatever other symbols or doodles I wanted.  It was fun. 

On day 10 we had to do another portrait, using color inspired by light and mood, with pastel chalk and colored pencil for added line.  I decided to redeem myself by drawing myself yet again, attempting to smile even though I still had a touch of the sniffles.  
Day 11 assignment was to use watercolors washes for a quick sketch of an urban setting.  I put it off, claiming all sorts of excuses.  Day 12 was no better.  Using watercolor crayons we were supposed to make monoprints of a monument.  It was a monumentally unexciting idea to me, and... Well I put it off again.  I still haven't made up either of those days and don't know if I will.  But at least I did do some creative stuff, getting out in the fresh snow a bit with my camera.

Day 13 was a still life using colorful line. I tried it with colored pencils, didn't like it, and then tried again with water soluble crayons.  I wasn't crazy about it then, but I'm feeling better about it now.
Day 14 made me feel like myself again.  It was fun, and cheerful.  We were to use tube watercolor for shrubbery.  I don't have any tube watercolor but I do have gouache, and I haven't used it in years, so I thought it was time to get it out and use it.  The world is all white outside, but in my home I have a sunny bay window filled with happy house plants, so that's what I used for my subject.  The idea was to use no pre-drawing, just to squirt paint directly on the paper from the tube, and then use a wet brush to pull the color out in washes.  That's exactly what I did.  Here's my painting:
Hard to believe two weeks have already sped by since we began this project! I'm a little nervous about some of the challenges ahead, since the book will be sending us out to busy places to sketch people.  That seems intimidating, but I'll find a way to give it a try!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The wonderful magic of toothpaste batik

Isn't this gorgeous?  The piece above is an example of a process I call 'toothpaste batik', and was created by a 5th grader in my DragonWing Arts after-school art program.  She started with a resist made of a 50/50 mix of toothpaste and aloe vera lotion.  I have previously blogged about this fun process here and here and here and  here.  Check each of them out to see images inspired by Matisse, by Victorian architecture, and by dragons and castles and fantasy!  I was first inspired to try this by a blog post I read, but the link is unfortunately dead so I cannot share it with you.

Anyhow - when the resist (above) was dry, the whole thing was painted with tempera, (but definitely NOT the washable sort).  She realized that she didn't have to stay in her lines, so she had a lot of fun mixing and playing with color, and painting right across the spirals and swirls she had drawn.  Here it is after being painted:
When the paint was dry, the piece was washed out to remove excess paint and resist, leaving behind the lovely white lines.  And voila!  Below is the end result.  If she wants to add extra detail now, some colored Sharpies will work great.  She can frame it with construction paper, or leave it alone; it's up to her.  Great job!  She was absent this week, so she hasn't seen how it turned out yet, but I'm sure she'll love it!
Below is another student piece, a dragon cave, made by a third grade student.  The first photo is of it after it was painted, and the second photo is the completed piece.  The third photo is, of course, the proud artist.  I had intended for the girls to mount the pieces on construction pieces, but they didn't want to.  This student told me that this was "the best art project I have ever done, EVER."  She was beyond proud of the result, and I am so happy for he!  Her choices were truly her own;  totally different than what I expected her to create, and I'm glad that I didn't try to force my ideas/opinions on her.  I don't think she would have been as proud. 

Lets walk through the entire process, step-by-step.  We begin with a drawing in pencil, traced over with a black Sharpie marker.  The drawing is then taped to a board.  The example in the photos below were made by another third grade student.
A piece of fabric is stretched to get out wrinkles and taped directly over the drawing.
Then, we will need to prepare our 'not glue': a mix of toothpaste and aloe vera lotion that I purchased at the dollar store.  (I'm sure they wonder why I sometimes buy SO many tubes of toothpaste.  They must think I have a strange obsession.)  I purchased these small glue bottles to hold the mixture, and I clearly label them 'not glue'.  (Once, a couple of years back, a student thought they were bottles of glue and could not understand why a cardboard structural project he was making would not hold together!  We had a good laugh when we discovered he was attempting to glue it together with toothpaste and handcream!)
So I squeeze the two products into the small empty squeeze bottles, which then have to be shaken like crazy to mix them together adequately.  I do not measure, but I try to be equal in the size of my squeezes.  To mix them together well, my enthusiastic students do what we call 'the shake-shake dance'.  (Make sure your finger is on top of the cap when shaking!  We do not want toothpaste squirting around the room!)
Now the student is ready to trace over her drawing on to the fabric, periodically putting her finger over the top and re-shaking the bottle to keep it well-mixed.  She keeps the bottle tip close to the fabric to aid in her control.  I warn the students to be wary of drawings with too many tiny details; sometimes you might get a blob!  Little drips and mistakes are incorporated into the design and add charm.  Remember, this is a resist; anywhere it is placed on the fabric will remain white (or the color of the fabric; I used this process on a piece of pink fabric for a project that I blogged about here.) The big bonus is that, while your students are working with the resist, your classroom will smell wonderful from the aloe and toothpaste mix - minty fresh!  How often can you say that in an art room?!?!

She lets the resist dry overnight; it might still feel sticky or rubbery afterward; that's OK.
The resist is dry, and now she is ready to paint.  It is OK to paint right over the resist lines.  A word about the paint brand - I have tried various brands, with varied levels of success.  This paint worked great!  We used Blick Premium Tempera.  We want richly pigmented paint that will stain the fabric and not wash out in a rinse in the sink.  Washable tempera is no good to use.  I previously have done fairly well with Crayola Premium Tempera and with Sax Versatemp, but honestly, the Blick has proven to be the best at color retention (which I suppose is a good reason to make sure your students wear an art shirt, since the paint will stain your clothing!)  The young lady who did the piece in these photos insisted on just painting the bottom very lightly.  I was concerned that it would not turn out well, but she insisted on trying so I let her.  I, of course, was wrong to have worried!
To wash the piece, we first remove the tape to remove the fabric.  (By the way, in a larger class of students I would have the students write their names in fine Sharpie on the edge of their artwork, covered by tape, and then once again on top of the tape!)

Take the piece to the sink, let warmish water run over it, and rub lightly with fingers.  Excess paint will come off, and after a brief time, the toothpaste mix will start to come off easily.  Rinse it off well, and lay it back on the cardboard board to dry.  We put a couple of clean pieces of newsprint under the wet artwork to absorb some of the excess water. 

In my former classroom, I had three sinks, and I had the kids work together in teams to rinse their projects.  Unfortunately, I do not currently have a sink in my classroom, and I only have three students once a week, so I washed their projects for them.  You can see in the photo below that her lightly painted ground area has come out just as she desired! 
You can see, she is very happy with her result! 
 Here below is the sample I worked on with the kids, when I demonstrated the steps/process.  First, here is the fully painted and unwashed piece.   I like lots of color, and I used a lot of paint.
 And, after washing, here's how it turned out.  I think the Blick paint colors worked out fabulously!  Note - because my previous experience with this process had poor results with pastel colors (paint colors with added white), I was hesitant to use white at all for this project.  I did, however, end up adding a little white to one of the blues because it was SO dark, and the result is fine, so I think next time around I may try with some much more white added, to get some lovely pinks, lavenders, and turquoises.  It's worth a try, I think!
One last thing... I have seen many blog posts and pins on Pinterest doing this same sort of process, using a resist of Elmer's washable School Glue or Blue Gel Glue.  I tried it once when we ran low on toothpaste, and even though the process worked, it was very challenging to wash out the resist and I wouldn't use it again.  I also saw that someone used hair gel; certainly worth trying, I suppose.  The point of the toothpaste/ hand cream mix is, I assume, to get the liquid flow of the lotion, and the drying ability of the toothpaste.

Have fun!!!