Friday, September 30, 2016

Papier-mache Masks part 1

My DragonWing Arts students have been building masks, and I want to share this fun and easy process with you all!  Above, you can see a mask armature covered with papier-mache. 
To create the armature, we began with a brown paper bag stuffed tightly with wads of newspaper, scrunched up one sheet at a time.  You can make these masks any size, using small lunch bags, bags from the bagel store, tall narrow bags from the liquor store, or, as in the case of the ambitious kids above and below, grocery-size paper bags!
Plan on washing your hands when you are done stuffing!  Newspaper ink will come off onto your hands!  When the bag is stuffed, scrunch the top shut, and seal with a rubber band or a twist-tie, and add masking tape to hold it securely.
Then, decide which sides of the bag are the front and back, and whether the end of the bag, tied tightly and taped, will be the chin or forehead.  Features such as bulging eyeballs, mouths, ears, horns, noses, etc are added using cardboard rolls, cereal box cardboard, and other recyclables.  Notice how the bottom of the toilet paper roll pictured below was cut into flanges or tabs that can be taped onto the stuffed bag. 
 On the mask below, you can see how we used a Sharpie to draw a line dividing the front and back, so that all the features are added on the front.  Names were written on the back. 
 Above and below, you can see how items were taped on using straight lines of tape that crisscross each other.  The kids learned to pinch the tape in tightly to the object they were adding to their bag, extending the onto the bag.  Tape doesn't stick to the air!!! 
 Not shown in these photos, ears can be made with cereal box cardboard, with tabs or flanges to help attach them securely to the bag. Below are a couple of older photos, using lunch bags for masks made by my former third grade students.  Note the use of egg cartons for features, and how toilet paper rolls can be pinched shut to make beaks. 
Once the features have all been added, papier-mache can begin.  I usually recommend Art Paste ("School Smart" brand, purchased from School Specialty/Sax).  But since these masks are going to be extra-large, and since I currently only  have three students, with no wheat allergies, I opted for an uber-strong and extra-sticky papier-mache goop.  The recipe was a boiled paste of flour, rice flour, and more, and I found the terrific recipe HERE.  I've used it before and the stuff works like a dream.  BUT - if you work in a school, it isn't half as practical as the Art Paste, because it needs to be refrigerated to save, and only will last about a week before it begins to spoil.  Plus, remember, it has wheat in it, which means that people with wheat allergies could have a problem.  And anyhow, you  have to cook it to make the paste! 
 Above and below, you can see my DragonWing Arts students putting the papier-mache on their masks, using overlapping layers to cover the entire front half of the bag and all added features. 
 Here they are, partly done, but much more papier-mache to go!
And today, all the papier-mache was finally completed!  The mask on the right below is my sample, using a tall thin bag from the liquor store.  The sphere on the right of the photo is an eyeball that will fit into the eye socket on the upper part of the mask.  Cyclops!
 Below, you can see how we used cereal box cardboard with taped-on armature wire to create a tongue for one of the masks.  The armature wire allowed the young artist to create the curved shape.  The extra wire on the end will be used to insert the tongue into the mouth of the mask (the one pictured at the very top of the post).  The tongue has been covered with papier-mache. 
 In case you are wondering what our next step will be, it will be fun!  We will punch a hole in the back of the bag, and "scoop the brains out"!  (Actually, we will be removing all the newspaper, of course.)  Then we will trim off the back of the bag, paint the resulting mask, and embellish with all sorts of goodies, such as yarn, raffia, feathers, buttons, etc.  Below are a few pics of those 3rd grade lunch-size paper bag masks from a few years ago, that I previously mentioned. 
I currently only see my young students one a week, (but lucky me, our after-school class is an hour and a half long!), so they won't be completed immediately.  We'll be painting them with a coat of gesso to strengthen them and provide a super painting surface, and then we'll be painting with acrylics.  While paint is drying, my students will be working on other  projects that I'll be showing you soon!  So be patient, the masks will be done in a few weeks and I'll have part 2 of this post then!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dragon Eyes on Roofing Felt!

 Let me say up-front: I did not invent this project!  Renee Lentz posted pics of her student work in the Facebook Art Teacher group, and I asked if I could "steal" the idea (she said yes!) for my DragonWing Art students.  Our theme this fall is masks and crazy faces, but I thought eyeballs could be a good intro.  Thank you Renee - I only changed the project a little... 

 Renee's students had painted on canvases that were primed black.  Instead, I chose to let my three students use some scraps of roofing felt that we had left over from prior projects.  This was the first time I met with my after-school students this fall, and we were going to be starting a large papier-mache mask project, but I wanted to first get out some paint and do a quickie warmup project.  These dragon eyeballs perfectly fit the bill, and we completed them in about 45 minutes, start to finish. 
We first drew the circle for the eyeball (tracing a roll of masking tape), and then drew the shape of the pupil, using a piece of chalkboard chalk, which will easily wash off.  We painted a white highlight with a Q-tip, and then painted the eyeball with rows of blended color, leaving the pupil black. I suggested analogous colors, but ultimately I let the students make their own color choices.  Then we used rows of colors to make the "scales" on the dragon skin.  The students preferred to paint the scales like ovals, and they look great to me!  My demonstration sample is the painting in the upper right in the pic below. 
 The paint we used was acrylic.  The paintings are now dry, and we will be mounting them on a background that won't be completed for a couple of weeks, as we are now concentrating on making the masks.  I'll show you when they are done!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Goodbye, old friend

 About 1/2 mile away from our little lakeside "camp" on the side of the road, stood this  old phone booth.  Year after year it quietly sat there, long after the restaurant on the hill behind it had closed. 
More than 20 years ago, long before the day of portable phones (unless you were watching Star Trek or some other sci fi), I had driven to the camp with my sister-in-law, with, I believe, our pre-school children in the back seat.  We were meeting our husbands there later in the day.  We arrived at the camp and realized we'd forgotten the key.  They drive back home is about 40 minutes, so instead, we drove back up the hill and down the road to the phone booth, and called home.  My husband told me which window I'd be able to get open to crawl in and open the camp.  The phone booth saved the day!

Year after year, we'd drive by the phone booth, and as cell phones became popular, we wondered whether if would be taken away or whether it had been long forgotten by the phone company.  The phone book hanging inside was more than a decade old, and the booth was overgrown, inside and out. 
Last spring, I tried putting a dime in the slot, and nothing much happened.  A few days later, we stopped again, and this time I tried a quarter instead.  Dial tone!!!  I called my cell phone, and discovered the phone booth actually still worked!  What a surprise! 
I've photographed it in all seasons (though I can't seem to find the winter photos) and had planned to set up my plein air easel this fall and paint it when the leaves had begun to change.  Unfortunately, when we drove by yesterday, this was all we saw:
The phone booth quietly had disappeared sometime within the past week.  
Goodbye, old friend.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Images from a summer

In a few days, my students will be back for the fall session of DragonWing Arts, and I'll be back sharing art projects with you all, but I thought in the meantime I'd show you a few summer photos, since photography is a big part of my summer creativity.  Above, a great blue heron is playing peek-a-boo! Below, a luscious sunset over the lake, as viewed from our dock.
We are incredibly lucky to have a "camp" (that's the Adirondack name for a cabin or cottage or summer residence by a lake, or for some other recreation) on lovely little Loon Lake (one of several Loon Lakes in NY, but anyhow...), so any chance I get, I'm either in my kayak, or relaxing on the dock, or tromping through the woods. This summer my kayaking has brought me close to this great blue heron on a couple of occasions.  I just sat quietly and watched him. 
 That thing you see hanging in the center of my kayak below?  It's a waterproof box, for my camera, a spare battery, and a phone for emergencies.  Of course, since I obviously took the picture, you probably have realized that my camera was not in the box.  
 I'm not sure what this interesting aquatic plant is!
 Drip drop splish splash. 
 Morning fog
 I hope you've enjoyed a little of my summer joy!