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Art Room, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, OT, OT Corner, Preschool Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

The Take Home: Tactile Sensory Processing

One unique aspect of our studio is that we incorporate opportunities for tactile sensory play into our weekly themes.   Many of our artists have notable hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to tactile input in their daily lives.  Therefore, we include projects and the activities on our “sensory table” that can promote a greater tolerance for textures that might make us uncomfortable or provide textures that kids may seek out and neeeeeeeeeed to touch.  Seriously, have you ever played with kinetic sand or oobleck?

hands

We think it is important that our artists are exposed to messy, sticky, wet, rough, slimy or powdery media.  These textures are all present in our daily lives, and if we have the opportunity to play with them in this controlled environment (art room), then we can work on our impulsivity to touch, avoidance of touch, and overall tactile sensory integration.

Winter snow bin
Insta-Snow – a fantastically fun medium!!!
Art Room, Artwork, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art

Feed your soul (with art and dessert!!)

We all have things that feed our soul.  It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s teaching art.  This past week, I taught the Art Club kiddos about one of my absolute favorite artists of all time.  Wayne Thiebaud.  Come on, now!  How is it possible to not love Wayne Theibaud’s art?  As a pop art icon, Thiebaud brought us classic Americana with his depiction of diner desserts. We took our inspiration from his work and used oil pastel with watercolor to create our own dreamy desserts.

thiebaux_cakes01
Cakes by Wayne Thiebaud, 1963

As we learn about artists and their techniques, I always try to share a general life lesson that pertains to art, our specific subject matter, and the conversations the students generate.  This wasn’t always intentional.  It happened organically, as my students are very deep thinkers and have some pretty remarkable conversations for their age.  Given that our Art Club students are mostly “tweens”, there are often many opportunities for discussion based on what they bring up in class.  This week was no exception.  I noticed that the kids were comparing their work to their classmates.  I expect them to compare but I never want them to feel badly because someone else has better rendering skills or made a really cool design choice.  This is where I typically decide to have a “talk”. I shared with them about my experiences as a student in art school.

I shared how I spent so much time comparing my work to my peers that I often missed the beauty of the experience.   Creating art is very personal.  Comparing what we make to what others make is human nature.  Learning how to balance that with being mindful of the moment is key.  In art club, we focus on the joy of what we are doing as well as the final product.  And sometimes, we eat our cake (or cupcakes) while we create!

Here are our beautiful cakes!

Color Construct Create, OT Corner

The Take Home: Shoulder Stability

What is shoulder stability??? It seems to be on just about every take home sheet!

When we are working on our painting projects, either at the table or on an easel (or wall), we work on shoulder stability.  Having a stable shoulder girdle promotes efficient use of the rest of the arm, wrist and hand, which is essential for drawing, writing and cutting tasks.  Many of our children have difficulty with shoulder stability so this is a skill we work on frequently.  A stable shoulder allows us to trace a line fluidly with a sharpie or paintbrush.  It allows the free movement of the arm to move in a controlled manner to draw precisely.  The video below demonstrates how free arm movement is helpful for tracing activities.  Our little artist can guide the paintbrush along her black line smoothly without smearing the already painted lines with her forearm.  Many of our children are unable to move the entire arm freely.  Therefore, like this video, the child may place their elbow on the table for improved control of the wrist and hand.    If your child has difficulty with shoulder stability, try having him/her draw or paint on a vertical surface (like an easel or wall) to encourage strong shoulder muscles!!!

There are a lot of fun ways to improve shoulder stability.  Play tug-o-war, wheel barrow walking, crab soccer, and anything else that looks like crawling!

Art Room, Artwork, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

SCIENCE and Process Art!

Oh boy, when we take on a crazy task, we sure do take it on!  Our unit on Science and Weather was one of those “great in theory” moments as we tried to figure out the logistics of pendulum painting, plaster casting plants, making rock candy, etc.  It all turned out but we really did stretch ourselves in the process (not a bad thing!!).  Our big take away from this past month was that sometimes process outweighs product.

What the heck is process art, you ask??  Great question.  After the first couple of classes, we teachers spent a few minutes explaining away to our parents.  “The end product might not be what you are used to seeing but here’s how we got there…” With process art, the HOW is just as important as the WHAT.  We did a lot of non-traditional art-making and the kids want bananas over it!

Week #1 was all about MIXTURE!  We blended our favorite liquid water color paints, used Faber-Castell chalk pastels, and used hand sanitizer to “lift” liquid water color off of our beakers to make fizzy bubbles.  The kids also learned about depth and dimension as we “flattened” shapes to draw the beakers accurately.

In Week #2, we explored life science.  We used food coloring to dye flowers and got out the hammers to make some serious noise (and beautiful art).  Our Tea Towels dyed with natural flowers turned out so beautiful.  Then we used plaster casting strips to make “fossils” of ferns.  The best part was painting them with natural paint made from spinach and coffee.  The kids were not amused but the smell!

Week #3 was all about weather.  Mixed media is always fun.  It was a sensory experience, too, when we used baby oil to blend.  We made our own rain storms using oil pastels. It was a sensory experience, too, when we used baby oil to blend the colors.fullsizeoutput_3490

Last but not least, in Week #4 we explored physical science by making art with a pendulum.  Holy mess, Batman!!  One would think that painting with pendulums and making an epic mess would be chaotic.  Well, much to our surprise, it wasn’t!  The kids were so enthralled by the art they were making that everyone was calm and totally on-task.  It was awesome!  The end results turned out pretty cool.  Check out our next blog post to find out how we did it!

Oh, and check out these adorable little mad scientists!

Art Room, Business, Color Construct Create, How We Roll

New year, new look!

It is hard to believe that our little art studio has been around for 5 years now!  What started as a little seed has blossomed into our pride and joy!  We are so proud of what we have accomplished these past few years and cannot wait for the future.  Our 5 year Anniversary seemed like a great time to update and refresh our look.  After much deliberation, we chose a design for our logo and are so excited to share it with the world.  Let us know what you think!

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Art Room, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, OT, OT Corner, Preschool Art, Therapeutic Art, therapeutic side

The Take Home: Finger Strength

Our hands are amazing.  They are, quite possibly, the most useful parts of our bodies. Hands are a key component to art-making (and pretty much every other facet of our existence).  Our ability to make art starts at the earliest stages of our development.  As babies, motor movements are often reflexive.  Once babies begin to interact with their environment,  their movement patterns become volitional and begin to override their reflexes.  These multi-sensory play experiences form the foundation for higher level skill development.  For babies and toddlers, hand and finger strength is built through play.  They see a toy, they grab it with their tiny little hands.  They want to manipulate it to get it into their mouth, they have to work really hard at it.  With practice, those movements become more fluid and they move toward mastery.  As children become more independent, learning to feed and dress themselves and mimicking our activities, the fine motor demands grow exponentially.

The process of completing a simple drawing task, painting a picture, or molding a dish out of clay is a multi-sensory experience that demands much from our artists small hands. Each week, we create opportunities to promote the development of finger strength.  This week was no exception!  As they became scientists working in our “lab” they used their pincers to drop colored vinegar onto a tray of baking soda, they used pencil and sharpie to draw their beakers and test tubes, and they squeezed out drops of food coloring to dye their sugar solutions.  All the while, they didn’t realize that they were building strength, dexterity and finger endurance!

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Artwork, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art

California Beautiful

Oh my goodness!  Ours students never cease to amaze us.  When you see the work our Art Club students just completed, you will know why I’m beyond excited!  During the month of January, Art Club focused on  our beautiful California coastline.  The California Coastal Commission holds an annual art and poetry contest and our students couldn’t wait to enter!  We started off the month with a study of California Brown Pelicans.  The kids dissected (with their eyes and pencils!!) the shapes within the birds and then recreated them on the page using the shapes as guidelines.

art-contest

We, then, used charcoal to draw ocean waves.  The beach can be very challenging and charcoal is the perfect medium because it is so forgiving.  The students were able to show the waves arc as well as the splash and horizon.  That was fun!

Our culminating activity was a free choice drawing or painting of something that inspires them about the California Coast.  This was to be their contest entry.  Each student chose something completely different.  We have mammals, fish, plant life, and landscapes all beautifully represented.  One of the best parts of this activity were the contest rules.  No one was allowed to complete any part of the artwork except the student.  I took this a step further and facilitated the students making the bulk of the design choices as well.  I love my kiddos.  They are so talented.  They are also relatively inexperienced and often hesitate to make a decision without my input.  I hope I helped them to feel empowered to make choices regarding their art.  The end results take my breath away!  Remember, these kids are in elementary school!

 

Color Construct Create

Arts of Asia!

Our theme this month takes us to Asia!  We could stay with this theme for months given the vast amount of inspiration from the many countries and cultures of this continent.  We visited Thailand, India, Japan, and China on our tour.  One of the favorites from this month was our open hand tray.  Our inspiration came from the beautiful henna designs in India.  Here’s how we did this really fun project:

Materials:
Air dry clay (we like Crayola!)
Paper Bowls
Scoring tools: straws, dowels, plastic knives, awls
Acrylic Paint (Blick)
Small/medium paint brushes
Modpodge

Prep:
Roll out a racquetball/lacrosse ball size slab of air dry clay 1/4″ thick for each student, place between sheets of cling wrap or in zipper bags.

Steps:
Show students images of henna designs.  Discuss the meaning of Mehndi ceremonies in Indian culture.

Each student receives a slab of clay and a plastic knife.  Students trace their hand onto the clay with fingers touching.  Use the plastic knife to gently cut out the hand.  Use scoring tools to make designs and patterns, emphasizing floral patterns, leaves, etc.  Line a paper bowl (or any cereal-sized bowl) with cling wrap and gently press hands into the base of the bowl to round the shape of the hand.  Do not disturb the designs of the hands while pressing into the bowl.  Allow to dry undisturbed for 2-4 days (depending on climate).

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At the next class, return hands to students with a small palette of acrylic paint with small brushes.  We chose colors based on what we had a lot of in the closet ;)!   Ask the students to paint the entire hand, no white spots.  Acrylic paint is absorbed quickly into the clay so it shouldn’t take long to dry.  We intentionally limit the amount of paint the kids have access to for 2 reasons: we don’t like to waste and if you give them only what they need, they are more likely to use it appropriately.  Let’s face it, we all have those students who will apply globs and globs of paint.  If you are intentional with your teaching and materials distribution, they will be intentional with their painting! Once the paint is dry, liberally apply Modpodge with a foam brush or old paint brush.  We have old brushes that we use just for glue application!  Have fun!

Color Construct Create, OT Corner, Preschool Art, Therapeutic Art

The Take Home: Endurance

One of the biggest struggles we have in providing art classes to younger children is their endurance, their ability to fully participate for the duration of the class.

Endurance: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity
Merriam-Webster.com. 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com (11 January 2017).

kids-doing-artWe teach regular art classes in a preschool after school enrichment program as well as our weekend and after school classes.  For children ages 3-5, we know that they will not be able to sit nicely in a chair for 45 minutes while we ramble on about a particular artist, show examples of famous artwork, and then proceed to teach them various techniques, and still expect a carefully designed product at the end of class.  No, we expect that their endurance for these difficult tasks will be no more than 5-10 minutes at a time. Besides, for many young children, coloring and attention to task are two very difficult activities in and of themselves, let alone completing a recognizable art project.

To accommodate and make it fun for everyone, work in natural breaks, provide related sensory activities, and rotate between sitting activities and those where they can get up and choose supplies, or stand at the table or vertical surface.  Instead of one beautiful masterpiece, we choose 2-3 smaller projects that are modified to be less involved and provide novelty and interest for them to be engaged the whole time, building their endurance for longer activities which then carries over into the home and school settings.

Art Room, Color Construct Create, Elementary Art, Preschool Art, Products We Love

Products We Love

Paper is tantamount to the success of any art program.  We mostly use wood-based papers due to the cost and nature of our art work.  These are papers are made from wood pulp and are great for drawing with different media.  When we watercolor or paint with tempera and acrylics, we use thicker wood-based paper as well as cotton rag paper.  Cotton Rag paper is made from cotton fibers and tends to hold liquid without disintegrating.  I’m sure we all remember trying to use those little watercolor sets on loose paper.  After the first brushstroke, the paper tears and looks like a rumpled mess.

Here are some of the papers we can’t live without.

All purpose drawing and light painting:

Ultimate Drawing Paper!  We’ve tried most of the all-purpose art papers on the market and this one is really good.  Holds up under heavy handed drawing and over eager erasing!!

http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?product=28713&Category=

Watercolor:

Canson XL watercolor tapebound pad.  This is a heavy paper with a nice tooth.  Inexpensive enough to supply to our students.

http://www.dickblick.com/products/canson-xl-watercolor-pads/

Butcher: 

Every art teacher needs a solid paper to put up for bulletin boards as well as laying on tables for keeping things contained.  It holds paint and can handle weight of tape.  Doesn’t fade.

http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/product/productDet.jsp?productItemID=1689949371895751&utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=PLA&CAWELAID=520011010000004436&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=14792439177&CATCI=pla-196644073737&catargetid=520011010000055708&cadevice=c&gclid=CMaTl42_rtECFRSUfgodOdwAtA

PAINT!!

Who doesn’t love paint?  There are so many different painting mediums out there, it’s hard to know where to begin.  Some of the paints we love that are easy to purchase for your home art studio are:

WaterColor: There are 2 big winners in the watercolor category, liquid and cake pan watercolors.

Liquid watercolors give the vibrant, beautiful color with the transparency of expensive sets.  They are great for layering, resists, and covering large areas.  We also love that you can adjust the intensity by simply adding water.  We sterilize old condiment jars and store premixed liquid water color for months.

https://www.dickblick.com/products/blick-liquid-watercolors/

For traditional watercolor painting (think back to elementary school and the little paint trays), we love Faber Castell’s watercolor paintbox.  The Faber Castell’s are winners for us because of their strong pigments.  They are more opaque than a traditional watercolor set.  Because the colors are so dense, they last a long time and hold up well under the use and occasional abuse of our little artists.

http://www.fabercastell.com/playing-and-learning/products/washable-paints-and-brushes/Watercolorpaintbox12colors/12501