August 15, 2016

Magic Paintings

For our last trick, Magic Academy campers ventured INSIDE paintings from PAFA's collections. They began with a photo hunt, scouring the galleries for magical elements of paintings. Armed with iPods, they captured images that spoke to them - which tended toward the surreal and sparkly.

With a little cropping, a projector, and a nice dark auditorium, the kids were able to insert themselves into favorite paintings (which were then photographed again.) They took turns choosing which painting they wanted to step into, and jumped right into the paintings (in this case, hanging off one of the branches of "Tasso's Oak" by Peter Blume):

Magic, indeed.

August 6, 2016

Light Drawings (long exposure photography)

We made lots of cool stuff during our week of "Shadow Play" at PAFA this Summer, all (obviously) referencing light and darkness. In this particular project we investigated the qualities of line, by taking long exposure photos in a dark hallway!

If you've never done this before, it's fun and so easy and produces stunning shots! We used my digital SLR camera*, and with some experimentation, set the shutter speed for 15 seconds. The camera was set on a stool (poor man's tripod) and they kids took turns being photographers, directors, and light artists. And screaming about how spooky the hallway was. 

They experimented with a variety of tools,  making abstract shapes and lines in the dark, impatiently waiting to see the results! We used an LED flashlight (a little too much light for 15s), glow sticks (not *quite* bright enough, and found the BEST tool were little LED "finger lights" that came in a four pack at Dollar Tree (and even cheaper from Amazon here!)
Finding the perfect combination of lights and time exposure was like a (fun) science experiment, which I think really speaks to the artistic process.

The final cut of photos got printed on PAFA's fancy schmancy Epsom printer and looked muy bueno at our art show.

*I did try, in vain, to find an iOS app that could help us produce similar long exposure results so the kids could BYOD or at least play around with it at home. No dice. Hear me all you app developers? 

July 17, 2016

Altered Silhouettes (Kara Walker)

"Monkey's Uncle" 1996

I spent a week exploring SHADOWS with 8-10 year olds at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. We saw three different Kara Walker pieces in the galleries, part of PAFA's "Happiness Liberty, Life?" exhibit, and discussed how silhouettes can tell a story.

"Canisters" 1997

After seeing these pieces, I broke out of one my personal favorite art-making tools: the overhead projector of olde. (The kids guessed it was an old scanner, a microscope, and a "typer". Sigh.)

Using the projector as a light source, they traced oversized silhouettes in pencil, then added a detail that would tell their story. 

Each student mixed their own special paint color, and completed a detailed altered silhouette.
(And, through the course of this project, I learned how to confidently spell "silhouette". Victory.)

June 15, 2016

Visiting Artist: SEPER

My students were lucky enough to have a visit from a Philly muralist and street artist (and Kaleidoscope parent!) SEPER. 

We looked at some slides of his work, mused about the tools and techniques he might use, and watched a time lapse video of one of his murals going up. The kids were so stoked to learn that we'd not only be meeting the artist, but we'd also be collaborating with him that very day.

Anthony set up a demo outside, and taught us the tricks of the trade. After watching him put down the first layer, the kids got to take turns trying out spraypaint for the first time.

A quick aside: I found these awesome, tiny cans of MTN water based spray paint. The nozzles were easier enough for little kids to manipulate, and they're easy to clean, safe, and spray like a straight up dream. Really, I can't recommend these enough. NICE PAINT. (Not cheap, but....write a grant or something.)

Kids combined button-pushing fine motor skills and large sweeping motions while experimenting hands-on with the materials street artists use on the regular. Lot of patience and turn taking and decision making too!

At the end of the day, we had two rad collab paintings to show:

"Ring Dash" and "Cool Kids"

So what other artists want to come in and do a demo? I want to host a million next year.

June 4, 2016


I love to do photography projects with little kids, and this year we had the opportunity to experiment with real cameras, real film, and real, tangible pictures. 

This year we checked out the photomontage joiners of David Hockney, comparing his iconic gridded Polaroids and sprawling film collages. Students learned about portrait, still life, and landscape photography through his work, and thought about looking at things from multiple perspectives!

Students tried out both techniques, first making gridded portraits of their classmates using instant film.  In this case, the students were the photographers, and directed the shoots. After a solid day of photography "practice" (photoshoots with unloaded cameras), students spent two days photographing with my FujiMax Instax, then spent a third day arranging the photos of themselves into their final compositions.

I am like, In Love with these pictures but will begrudgingly send them home.

As a companion project, I photographed entire classes, making sure to take lots of pictures from various angles. The students helped decide which ones should be printed and carefully assembled them into cohesive puzzles. 

These, I'm also in love with. Obviously.

Happy snapping!

May 30, 2016

Batman Bags

Faced with that annual problem of sending artwork home at the end of the year, I thought bags might be a fun solution, and slightly more exciting than the poster board portfolios I've done in the past. 

One of my students draws this Batman. Most days. And his classmates definitely recognize his style and like his work, so we decided to dip into silk screening. I cut a stencil from contact paper (after, sigh, several failed attempts at using light emulsion), and the kids each pulled their own ink.

After they dried for a day, kids personalized them using fabric crayons. (I didn't exactly follow the fabric crayon directions, but our method worked pretty well! The students colored directly on their bags, and I ironed them under a piece of white paper to set the crayon.)

It was really fun to see how they turned out - each one had it's own color scheme and style.
I can't WAIT to get them full and get all that art outta the studio!

Most of my students made these cool masking tape stencils of their initial 
(and you can read about this positive/negative space lesson right here on Pacon's site)

April 16, 2016

Drawing from Life

Still life and pre-Kindergarten might sound impossible. Oxymoronic. But look! It happened!

Thanks to an influx of succulents in my life and some beautifully blossoming city trees, we had lots of plant life on hand to draw. 

Students spent a (4 y/o relative) long time observing the plants and fruit with their best "looking eyes", noticing the 3d shapes of the pots, the shapes of the flowers and leaves, and the relation of the plants to their surroundings.

We discussed the differences and similarities we saw, learned some still life vocab (like baselines and foreground and background) AND even got to watch Cookie Monster eat paint a still life.

Some students worked on their projects for multiple days (which is a BIG "persistence" win for us), and their final artworks were a mix of oil pastels and watercolor. Pretty fantastic.