Monday, October 20, 2014

Children's Books on Bugs - Woderful Worms

"Wonderful Worms" by Linda Glaser

"Wonderful Worms" by Linda Glaser, Pictures by Loretta Krupinski 

Of the two books I looked at this week that depict worms ("Diary of a Worm" is the other one.), I prefer this one. Not only does it meet my criteria for showing levels and layers (both underground and above ground at the same time), it teaches a little about what worms do. It also has lots of illustrations of  plants (roots, trees, leaves, grass, flowers, mushrooms, seeds, ferns) and animals/creatures (birds, worms, mice, people, snakes, chipmunk with acorns, toad on a rock, dog digging for a bone, mole catching a worm, lizard, snail, rabbit eating strawberries, butterfly).
While reading the book, we'll be able to talk about the plants and animals and what they're doing, as well as observe patterns in the different leaves, snake scales, robin's feathers, mole's fur, etc.

Look at all that action above and below ground!

I'll definitely be presenting this book to all my mosaic kiddos. I really like the way it talks about the importance of worms in the garden and the illustrations are perfect for talking about layers and levels. There are so many creatures and different plants to look at discuss. There's also a page at the very end that gives "Facts About Wonderful Worms:"

 Q: "Which animal is the most dangerous to earthworms?"

A: "People who spray insecticides (bug-killer poisons) on the earth are the biggest danger to earthworms. that's because poisons can kill many acres of worms at one time. And there can be over a million earthworms in one acre of fertile land!"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Children's Books on Bugs - Diary of a Worm

"Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cronin
In my continuing quest to find books that illustrate the natural world (i.e. garden and outdoors) for my mosaic kiddos, I picked up "Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cronin, Pictures by Harry Bliss. What I'm looking for in the books are some good illustrations of layers and levels, like underground, above ground and sky. I'd like the illustration to spark some design ideas for the kids in creating the sketches for the collaborative mosaic we'll be working on.

Some of the bugs and bees (before firing in the kiln)
that we'll incorporate into our mosaic.
We spent two weeks creating components (some bugs, bees and caterpillars) to incorporate into our mosaic, but now we need to come up with an overall design to begin filling in with glass.
The "Diary of a Worm" is a pretty funny book that I think my littles (preK-1st grade) will really laugh at. I got a chuckle out of several of the pages: " Today we made macaroni necklaces in art class. I brought mine home and we ate it for dinner." But, I also appreciated that the author touched a little bit on the purpose of worms: "When we dig tunnels, we help take care of the earth. 'Must make tunnel-help Earth Breathe.'"
I also liked the illustrations on several pages that showed a side view of the ground, both above and below. I'd like our collaborative mosaic to have a similar style, showing viewers what's happening below ground, above ground and in the sky at the same time.
I also want to get some of the other books by the author: Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet, Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly. I think my niece (~6)  would enjoy these, too, and be able to read them on her own.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nebraska Art Teachers Association Fall Conference ~ Mosaic Glass Workshop

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Children's books on gardening and growing

I'm on the search for some good books to introduce plants and their growing cycles to my littles...
I did a quick search and found some links from other blogs to different books. I should qualify the following reviews by letting you know what I'm looking for in a good book:
  • Shows plants, critters, stages of life and/or life cycles.
  • Shows above ground and underground.    I want to introduce layers or levels to my kiddos. I'm hoping to create a collaborative mosaic that shows what's happening underground, above ground (in the garden/fields as well as in the city/country) and in the sky.
"Rooting for You" by Susan Hood
 My impression:
Meh :/ - kind of cheesy; has a positive message, all the insects are cheering for the seed to grow. The seed seems kind of whiny and intimidated; he is scared of the dark, of the light, of monsters that may be under the bed(?), of monsters that may be over his head, above ground. In a couple of sections, the pages open up and fold out in different directions. There are plenty of bugs and creatures to spot both above ground and underground. One page vilifies a spider that's minding her own business underground.
Some of the pages fold out in different directions.

This book did show layers... I liked the way that the ground and above ground were presented in layers and levels. This style of illustration is similar to the look that I'd like the mosaic to have, so it may be a good book for discussing the illustrations. But, I don't think I'll be reading the book to the kiddos.
"Miss Maple's Seeds" by Eliza Wheeler
 My impression: During my first thumb through, I wasn't too impressed with this book. However, when I looked through it again, I started to notice a few different things that could spark discussions. This book could be a good discussion starter for seed saving and where plants come from, as well as different landscapes/ecosystems/environments.
These pages show both my favorite illustration (all the different seeds),
and favorite line, "Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small."

 This book did show many different landscapes and environments for different seeds to grow... For example, Miss Maple takes the seeds on a field trip to a river where frogs on a log, dragonflies, tadpoles and water lilies live. It's a fun introduction to what seeds are and how they might disperse, but leaves a lot of room for discussion.


My impression: 
While not specific to actual gardening, the main character's imagination creates her own whimsical garden with chocolate rabbits and jellybean bushes. I like the idea of introducing this book to get the kiddos thinking about abstracting their garden mosaic designs to incorporate things that might not grow in a garden, as well as coloring flowers or things non-traditionally to free them up to the idea of creating in glass. For instance, we may not have access to as much yellow glass as they'd need to make a sunflower, so they could create a pink or purple or white one instead.
"My Garden" by Kevin Henkes
 This book did have really good illustrations... that could be interpreted into mosaics easily. While I don't want to have the kiddos copy the illustrations, they could observe them to talk about the criteria and qualities that make a good mosaic / image.

I like how the illustrations present subjects in untraditionalcolors or styles.
"When the Root Children Wake Up"
by Audrey Wood and Ned Bittinger
My impression: 
Absolutely GORGEOUS paintings! I adore the style and the story in this book.
The paintings that make up the illustrations are breathtaking!
 This book did not quite fit my criteria for the mosaic project I have in mind. Although, it would make for a good introduction to the changing of the seasons and I'm sure we could have a good discussion surrounding the story and perhaps work on a supporting project that got the kiddos thinking about subjects they may want to incorporate into their mosaic.
"The Vegetables We Eat" by Gail Gibbons
My impression: 
I love the way this book explains and defines words related to vegetables and producing food. It even goes into how we grow food in a garden, on a farm, as well as touching upon how food is processed, shipped and made available in grocery stores or farm stands. Some of the vocabulary: perennial, annual, leaf, bulb, flower bud, root, tuber, stem, fruit, seed, fertilizer, shovel, rake, starter plants, harrow, plow...
A look inside: classifying vegetables by anatomy, producing vegetables in a garden.
The illustrations will be helpful references for looking at different vegetables and drawing them. I think I'd like to add it to my personal library.
Food production, from farm to store.
 This book did... explain a lot of vocabulary, showed a process, categorized vegetables by anatomy.

Do you have any good children's book recommendations?
Please let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

artVenture 2014 - Girl Scouts and Fused Glass

Interpretation of Wassily Kandinsky's "Circles and Squares"
 This year's artVenture collaboration took place once again at Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln, Nebraska. For the collaborative pieces, the girls picked a master's painting to interpret with fused glass. Check out this great article in L Magazine to read all about it and see more pictures!
Interpretation of Claude Monet's "Waterlilies"

Interpretation of Claude Monet's "Waterlilies" - detail

Interpretation of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Interpretation of Paul Klee's "Lagoon City" - backlit

Interpretation of Paul Klee's "Lagoon City"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Henri Rousseau and The Tiger

This post is for my niece, Adi…I wanted to introduce her to the paintings of Henri Rousseau and share a few of the projects that I've been working on with my art students. The book, "The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau" written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Amanda Hall, tells the story of Henri Rousseau with beautiful pictures inspired by his style of painting.
"The Fabulous Jungles of Henri Rousseau"
tells a nice story of Rousseau's life and shows
beautiful interpretations of Rousseau's paintings.
To color your own illustration out of the book, you can check out this link and download one of the illustrations of Henri Rousseau riding a tiger!

Henri Rousseau coloring page
I've divided this project into three sessions, but you can do it all at once if you feel like it. Don't rush through it, though! Take your time and practice your techniques to make the best art that you can. If you get tired of working on it, take a break and come back to it later. Remember that after each session, we need to clean up our workspace, so make sure to schedule at least 5 minutes for clean up!
Rousseau's Tiger

We're going to create a tiger that could live in one of Henri Rouseau's paintings!
At the end of session 1, you'll have a tiger that looks like this.

For the first session, you'll need a sheet of construction paper (yellow, pink or light blue), a pencil, & black oil pastel (or black crayon). First, we need to make our tiger. To create the outline of our tiger body, you'll want to draw a big "X" on the yellow construction paper with a pencil. Is your "X" big so that it almost fills the paper? If the "X" looks good to you, then we can grab our black crayon or black oil pastel and trace the "X."
Session 1 ~ Drawing a tiger with black oil pastel (or black crayon)

Next, draw a line across the top of the "X" to make the head of the tiger. Fill in facial features: ears, eyes, nose, mouth, whiskers, and then fill in the tiger's stripes.
We're only using the black oil pastel (or crayon) for this first part of the project. Once we color in all the parts of the drawing that are black, we can move on to the next step: Creating a color wash.
Session 2 ~ Adding a color wash
For the second session, we'll be creating a color wash. You'll need: the tiger drawing you made, a palette for mixing paints, a wide, flat paint brush, blue, red and yellow paints, a bowl of water and an old rag, paper towel or damp sponge.

A "Wash" is a very light coat of paint that we apply to our paper. We should still be able to see a bit of the color of the construction paper behind the paint wash. To make a paint suitable for a wash, grab your palette, a bowl of water, a big, flat paintbrush and your blue paint.
Steps for mixing blue paint into a wash.
Squeeze a drop or two of the blue paint into one of the dips in your palette. Now, add some water: Dip your brush into the bowl of water and then mix the paint with your brush. The water from your brush should thin out the paint. Without cleaning your brush too much, dip the brush in the bowl of water again to pick up more water. Mix the blue paint again, so it's very watered down. Now, you can apply the blue wash to the background of the painting. Try to stay outside of the tiger lines because we will apply an orange wash in the tiger.
Applying a wash: Don't dip your brush into the paint after every stroke.
Spread the watery paint around until the brush is dry, then load the brush
with more paint. If you run out of paint, mix another batch. Try to keep
it about the same consistency as the batch of paint you just used.
Notice how I'm holding the brush in the above pictures. The flat edge should follow the lines of the tiger's head and body. Only dip into the paint after your brush is almost dry.

What is the background of your painting?
What is the foreground of your painting? 
Is the subject of your painting in the foreground or the background of your painting?

Time to clean our brush before mixing up some orange paint. Make sure that you've cleaned your brush thoroughly of the blue paint. Wash your brush by pushing it gently against the bottom of the bowl with water in it. Be gentle so you don't send water flying everywhere and so that you're nice to your brush. If you're nice to your brush, it will last a long time! After tapping the brush along the bottom of the bowl, dab it dry by pulling it along the rag, paper towel or sponge. This will get rid of any blue paint still in your brush.

Making Orange Paint from Two Primary Colors

Now we need to mix an orange paint. Do you know what colors we need to mix to make orange? There are two colors that we'll use to make orange, and one of them is lighter than the other one. When you're mixing colors, you want to start with a little of the lighter color in your palette and then add a bit of the darker color and mix. If the color isn't dark enough, add just a bit more of the darker color and mix again. (If you start by adding the light color to the darker color, then you end up mixing a lot more paint than you need.)

After we've mixed a little of our orange paint, we need to add water to make it watery enough to be a wash. If you want to get clean water, you can rinse your bowl out and get fresh water. Otherwise, you can use the blue water to mix water into your orange paint. It will make it a little less bright, but it will still look good.

Apply your orange wash to the tiger, trying to stay inside the outlines, so you don't mix blue and orange paint washes. Now, we need to let the painting dry before continuing to add more elements to the painting.

Time to let the paint dry so we can add the next layer.
For the third session, we'll finish off our tiger painting by adding leaves of the jungle that the tiger is hiding behind. For this session, you'll need: green construction paper, bright green foam, scissors, black oil pastel and black chalk pastel, and a glue stick.

Session 3 ~ Materials: scissors, glue stick, oil pastels, chalk pastels,
green construction paper, green foam

We'll start by cutting out some leaves from the green paper and foam. What shape is a simple leaf? Cut the green construction paper in half. You can fold the paper over on itself to find the middle and then cut along the fold line. Cut the green foam roughly in half lengthwise.

Cutting and coloring leaves: Fold the green construction paper in
half hot dog style (lengthwise). Cut along the fold line.
Cut each strip into triangles. Draw in the leaf veins.
Cut the green foam in half. Cut almond shapes out of the foam.

After cutting the green construction paper and foam in strips, we're ready to cut out our leaf shapes. You can cut triangles out of the strips, or perhaps almond shapes. Once the leaves are cut, it's time to add the leaf veins with the oil pastel. If you want to use the green oil pastel instead of the black, you could do that, too. What does a leaf look like? Maybe you can find a leaf outside to study. Then, draw the leaf veins where you think they should go.

 If you used black crayon instead of black oil pastels, you may want to go over some of the black lines with black chalk pastels to make them stand out more. Then, the next step is glueing the leaves to the tiger painting so it looks like the tiger is hiding behind the leaves ready to pounce!
Glue the green construction paper leaves, first.
Then, glue the foam leaves on top.
At bottom, you see two different tigers, one on blue construction paper
and one on yellow construction paper.
The tiger in the bottom right corner above has chalk pastel outlines added. He also has some dimensional leaves made out of toilet paper rolls added, too.

Hope you had fun making your tiger! Make sure to take a picture and share it with me?
Love, Aunt Carrie


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Taking and editing self-portraits ~ CLASS co-op art class

Step one ~ Take a "selfie" or have someone else take your photo. Make sure that you have a monotone background. A wall works really well for this. If you've got a photo that you'd like to use already, you can adjust it to work for our self portrait purpose. Here are several photos that I looked at:
Several pictures that I had that I thought might work...
Step two ~ Edit the image using a photo-editing program. If you've got one you're comfortable with using, feel free to use it. I'll be giving a short step-by-step for using
 To decide which photo I wanted to use, I decided to upload and crop them so that I could get an idea for how I looked, and how my background looked.

When you go to, you will see this: website
Click on Pixlr Editor (the butterfly at the left) and then we are given the options for retrieving our images. To Upload an image from your computer, click on that option:
Click on "Open Image from Computer" and find the file you want to upload.
First, we need to crop our image.  Select the crop tool if it is not already selected. It's the tool in the very top left of the vertical toolbar to the left of the pixlr program. Change the "Constraint" setting to "Aspect Ratio" with a width of 8 and a height of 10. When cropping the image, try and make your head and face fill about 2/3rds of the frame:
Crop: select "aspect ratio" constraint at width=8 and height-10.
Make your face fill about 2/3 of the crop box.
If you've got several images you want to compare, you can start by cropping them all at once. This might be enough to help you decide which image you like best. I'm leaning towards the third picture below. But, I'm going to demonstrate the next step with the second image, just to see how much or little the background gets in the way with my portrait.

First thing to do is crop off possible portrait pictures
so that your head or face fills most of the frame.
Next step in image editing is to Adjustment > Desaturate. This is the common way that someone will list menu items in editing software. If you go to the top menu bar, you will see "Adjustment" listed halfway across. It's between "Layer" and "Filter." When you select "Adjustment," you'll see a drop down menu with more choices. Head on down to "Desaturate." That's going to take all of the color out of our image, and we'll end up with a greyscale image that's perfect for helping us to judge the values that we'll use when painting.
Desaturate: Adjustment > Desaturate
If you're still working on several images, go ahead and desaturate all of them. If you're not sure what steps you've done on the photo, you can always check out the image history:
The History window tells you the story of your editing. What step am I on?
Now, it's time to adjust the brightness of our photo. We're going to do that with "Levels."
The images above have been "Posterized" already.
The only difference between the two is "Levels" adjustment.
The two images above have already been "Posterized" (last step) to show you the difference that adjusting the Levels makes. Notice that the very light values are missing from the photo on the right. That one did not have it's levels adjusted. Those missing values will make it harder for us to create our portraits, as there will not be as much definition / difference in the values.
Adjust the levels: Adjustment > Levels
When you click on the "Levels" option (not "Auto Levels"), a new window pops up that will allow you to adjust the values of your photo.
A pop up window appears with different slider buttons
for adjusting the values of our photo.
First, use the white button and slide it to the edge of the "mountains." We want to eliminate any bits of the photo that are too far to the left or right of this window. We want the mountain range to run across the entire rectangle of white in this menu. Does that make sense?
Move the white button slider to the left
until you've almost touched the bottom of the mountain.
That should have visibly made your photo much lighter. Squint your eyes and look at the photo to see if it needs more adjustment. Do the values have enough contrast? That is, can you see areas that are almost white and areas that are almost black? We want to maintain some areas of grey, too...
If there's a lot of space to the left of the mountains, you'll want to adjust the black button slider, too:
Move the black button slider to touch the edge of the mountains.
There wasn't a lot of space between the left of the screen and the left of the mountain range in my photo, but it does make a tiny difference. The last slider will help us adjust the values even more.
Play around with the middle slider to see what happens.
If you don't like what you did, press cancel.
Move the grey slider back and forth and see if you get an image that you like. It should have plenty of light and dark with different levels of midtones (in between the light and dark). If you don't like what you did with the slider, just press "cancel" instead of "ok."
If you feel like you made a mistake and you need to get back to a spot before the editing that you have done, head on over to the history window. It lets you move back and forward between steps to compare what you've done. However, once you make a move, it will replace any previous history (if you've gone backwards and made a move, you can't go forward to the step that you replaced).
You can use your history window to go back and forth between actions.
If you did something you don't like, just go back in time!
Now, that we're happy with our Levels, we can add a blur effect. We want to use "Gaussian Blur," which lives in the "Filter" drop down menu.

Blur Effect: Filter > Gaussian Blur
Not all photos will need the blur.  The previous photo I was working on didn't need it. The "Gaussian Blur" default in pixlr is "50." That's a lot of blur!
If there's too much blur, then we lose detail and our final image
doesn't have as many different values as it could have.
The example above shows what happens with the final step of "Posterization" if we don't have enough detail. Notice, there's a lot of midtones. Our painting will be very boring if most of the canvas is covered with the same values.
Some photos won't need a blur effect.
But, 20 is typically the highest setting we want to use.
Notice the difference in detail between the two Gaussian Blur images. It's subtle, but important.
Okay! We're almost ready for the last step! I bet you're glad for that, huh?
Last step: Adjustment > Posterize
The last step is what changes all of our values into similar groups. We want 6 different values in our photos. So, we need to change the default setting of 4 to 6.
Change the Posterize level to "6"
Now, you can save that pesky image. Or if you've got several, it's time to compare and choose your favorite.
My favorites are the third and fourth images.
 What are your favorite images now? Look at the backgrounds. If you've got a lot of clutter, it tends to distract from your portrait. The first and second image above are guilty of background clutter. They've also got a lot of contrast in weird spots (mainly due to the backgrounds). The image for number one was a small file size to begin with, so it's more pixelated. But number three and four are easier to view. The background in image 4 wasn't totally the same, but it's not too distracting with harsh vertical lines. The values in the background are similar and run into each other. But I think I'll end up painting from photo #3. Time for you to choose your favorite!
File > Save. Then, name your photo and change the quality to 100.
You'll need to save your file and email it to me. I'll print the image out for you in the right size for Tuesday's class. To save your image, go to the "File" drop down menu and click on "Save." Name your file with your first name. Change the quality setting to 100 and then click okay. Email me your photo and I'll see you on Tuesday! If you've got questions, email me or leave a comment on the blog and I'll try to help you along.

Quick guide: Open Image, Crop tool, Desaturate, Levels, Gaussian blur, Posterize


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