Wednesday, April 1, 2020

When People Are Stuck At Home, Artist Edition 4: What Brings Comfort To You?

Kokeshi Dolls

Hello lovelies, 
       Sometimes, when I have a long week or a long day or a hard conversation, I look for comfort when I get home. Many people have something at home that brings comfort. A particular stuffed animal, perhaps, or a treasured mug. Third graders might remember a recent conversation about special objects in our kitchens- that perfect cup or bowl that feels just right, or has a neat picture or perfect texture. There are lots of foods that bring people comfort as well, like ice cream or soup. What brought you comfort today?

     As long as humans have been creating art, artists around the world have worked to bring emotional comfort to their own lives and those of others. Teapots get painted with flowers, wooden spoon handles get carved. Those details are not necessary, but they feel nice to our hearts. It is a pleasure to own something special, something beautiful, something to play with, something to treasure. Do you have a favorite toy or lovey which brings you comfort? A person, a special spot in your home, a plant, a pet, or a blanket which you adore? Today we will look at how artists around the world both bring comfort and show us what makes them happy in their homes.

    Owning toys and dolls is a part of childhood that most of us share. Artists have been creating toys and dolls for children for a very long time. In Japan, kokeshi dolls have been produced for over 150 years. They are made for children to play with. These dolls are made from wood, have no arms of legs, and have simple painted faces and cylindrical bodies sealed with wax. 

   Northeastern Native Americans have made cornhusk dolls for likely more than one thousand years. When European settlers arrived, they adopted the practice of making cornhusk dolls into their toy making, which included making rag dolls out of bits of fabric. Husks are often dry and crack easily, so Native American artisans first soak the husks in water so that they are pliable to work with, yielding tough, sturdy dolls when dry. These dolls traditionally did not have faces. 

Today, reflect on what brings you comfort in your home. Try to make a drawing, or, if you can, a painting with markers and water of what comforts you at home.

Here is a little video I made to show you this simple process:

Here is what you would need: 
Paper (Thicker is better when painting, so that your paper is less likely to wrinkle.) 

The basics: 
Draw a picture of something, someone, or some place that you turn to for comfort. Color it with markers, then brush water over the marker lines to create paint.

More ideas to try: 
You could add a background. If ice cream brings you comfort, where do you like to eat it?  If you find comfort with a lovey, do you cuddle it in bed? If there is a special person who you go to for comfort, and do you have a routine with that person you could draw, like when they read you a bedtime story?

Here are some contemporary artists showing us the comforts of home. 

The painting below is by March Avery. She was born in 1932. Her dad was an artist, too. His name was Milton Avery. She started painting at a young age and practiced a lot. Her artwork has been shown at many museums.

March Avery, Bedtime Story (1989)

Some people feel comfort when someone reads to them, especially at bedtime. One of my favorite stories to have read to me as a child was The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. What stories do you love?

Other people feel comforted by the objects in their home that make it feel cozy and welcoming. Some people, called interior decorators, even have a career where they decorate the homes of others to make it have a certain feeling. In this painting below, you might notice the soft, bright pillows, the game of chess, the to-go cup (perhaps filled with coffee, cocoa, or tea), the bouquet of flowers, the sharp new pencil, and the wall of art and posters. 

Hilary Pecis, Harper’s Game (2019)

It was painted by the young artist Hilary Pecis. She lives in Los Angeles, California. She paints representational landscapes and interiors from what she sees around her. She was born in California in 1979. Her artwork has been seen in many art magazines, and she shows her paintings in art galleries, which are like tiny museums.

I look forward to seeing your artwork, and I miss you all so much I think that I will go hug my stuffie now. 

Mrs. Elliott

Here are all the AMAZING artworks you have shared with me this week!  Some of you have been veritable creative fountains!  I LOVE to see what you have been doing. Thank you for sharing! 

Anet's art
The McNeil family making art

Isaac's artwork
Graham's collage

Milo took a sculpture walk
Sculpture around UVM

Topiary sculpture at UVM
Leander's large-scale mandala

Ivan's artwork
Kevin and Christian's mandala

Gabriel's mandala
Adele's painting, "A Day In Spring"

Mariella's family painting

Holly's artwork

Graham's mandala
Jaime's mandala

Gabriel's second mandala

Rosalie's painting
Milo's mandala

Bernadette's snowperson

Bernadette's snow sculpture of Frida Kahlo
Bernadette's self-portrait

Jonah's mandala

Jonah's second mandala
Jonah's collage
Lily's artwork
Bernadette's mandala added objects in multiples of three

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

When People Are Stuck At Home, Artist Edition 3: The Materials Around Us

Hello my most ingenious brainiacs! 

You can read today's letter, or you can listen to me read it to you in this video I have embedded.  Let me know how you feel about listening to it versus reading it. I want to do whichever works for you. It has been lovely to attend your virtual circles and hear some student voices! At the end of this post I have attached lots of student work that artists have been sending along. Bravo, children!  You are amazing.

Cresencio Perez Robles, circa 1970's

Today, I will tell you about how artists use what they can find around them to make their art. People around the world have been making art with the materials from their environment for thousands of years. Artists do not have to own lots of fancy materials from art stores to make artwork successfully, or to become famous. 

The indigenous Huichol (sounds like “wee-chol”) people of the Sierre Madre Occidental mountains in Mexico have used the materials around them to make art for a long time. For many generations, Huichol artists have used stone, clay, bones, and seeds to make beads for jewelry. Huichol artists also produce Nierikas (sounds like “near-eeka”), which are paintings make from lambs wool yarn. The yarn is traditionally glued on with a mix of resin from trees and beeswax, which are both available in the natural environment. Nierikas told stories, mythology, and life experiences of the Huichol people. 
Artist José Benítez Sánchez
The artist José Benítez Sánchez is renowned for his yarn paintings. He was born in 1938 in San Pablo, Mexico. He used to be a janitor for the Instituto Nacional Indigenista in Tepic, Mexico. The director asked him to display his yarn paintings there at work. He became famous for his artwork. His yarn paintings are now in collections all over the world. Here is one you might like. 

Yarn painting by José Benítez Sánchez
How can you use the materials already around you to create amazing artwork?  Let's brainstorm some of the things that you might have in and around your home, and make an artwork with it. Make sure to first ask your grownup for permission to use these things.

Natural objects, such as feathers, stones, leaves, sticks, shells, pinecones, seed pods. 
Plastic bottles and caps
Paper junk mail
Bubble wrap
Cardboard, from food boxes or mailed packages
Used makeup brushes
Used kitchen sponges
Old fabric, from outgrown or tattered clothes, cleaning rags
Found objects, such as greeting cards, used wrapping paper remnants, postcards, playing cards, odd puzzle pieces, outdated maps
Kitchen utensils
Toys, such as little cars

Let's make a mandala today with objects from around your house. Mandala means "circle" in Sanskrit.

Here is what you need:
Assorted supplies from the list above.

The basics:
Begin with a shape in the middle. A mandala is a radially symmetrical design that starts at the center, and you add on "rays" like the sun all around it. Add on all around it, then repeat in additional layers.

More ideas to try:
Can you make a mandala using only warm colors? Only cool colors? In shades or a single hue? Can you make one from only things in your bedroom? How about from only things in your kitchen?

Here is one I made this morning:

Another artist who makes artwork from the things in his environment is the contemporary (living and working now) British artist Andy Goldsworthy. He lives in Scotland. He is 63 years old. He is very famous in his own lifetime, and there are many books written by and about him. He makes artwork from the materials he finds on the land where he lives. There is a wonderful documentary movie about his work called Rivers and Tides. Ask your grownup if it would be okay for you to watch it. The best word I know to describe watching it is "mesmerizing". Mesmerizing means that your attention is held as if by a magical force. 

Andy Goldsworthy
Sometimes Andy Goldsworthy makes mandalas, like maybe you will try today. Here is one he made with rocks arranged around a little hole he dug. When he is done, he uses a camera to take a photograph of his work.

Notice that this one is monochromatic- made only from tints and shades of black
Here is another one he made from leaves.
This one is made with warm colors
What can you make a mandala out of today?  Can you make a mandala out of all your socks? Can you make one using slices of an apple you are going to have for a snack after? If you want to share your work, please ask your grownup to email me a photo of whatever you have made. I miss you!


Mrs. Elliott

And as promised, here are some of the many wonderful works of art you have been making at home.  I am so proud of you for finding so many ways to be creative! 

Ava painted a rock
It looks like a tiger!

Jumana made a collage

Sylvie is painting the Simpsons
Isaac and Eli are trying papier-mache

McKenna is making lots of drawings!
Wells is printmaking

She made different sizes and form types
Grace tried the app

You can try it too!  The app is free.
This one has handles

Masyn made his rocks into a collage!
Masyn collected rocks

Maeve collaged
Isla collaged too!

Avery made three collages!

Anet made a collage
Andrew and Claire built a fort
Thireas drew animals he loves

Hazel made a self-portrait

Andrew and Claire baked
Claire made a mask