Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ants on a Log!

This past Saturday was the Pinewood Derby for our cub scout pack. Being artsy people, my husband and I always shoot for the design award. This year's car was fashioned after the yummy and healthy snack ants on a log! The little raisons looked so cute steering their peanut butter filled celery stalk to the finish line. We didn't win any awards for speed, but we did take home the trophy for best design! Yeah!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Art of Oaxacan Wood Carvings

Alebrijes are carved wooden figures created by artists in Oaxaca, Mexico. These sculptures are a fabulous expression of Mexican folk art. The talented carvers of Oaxaca create, entirely by hand, wonderful creatures made from copal wood. They decorate these with amazing patterns and colors. These wooden sculptures have captivated collectors worldwide. Some examples of these fantastic carvings can be found at Oaxacan Wood Carvings Gallery El Caracol Zapoteca.

In honor of Mexico's participation in the 2010 Winter Olympics, we decided to make our own version of Oaxaca wood carvings. Traditionally, the animals are carved out of wood, but in order to simplify the process, we went outside and found some snakey-looking sticks. The kids then painted them a solid color with acrylic paint.

After the paint dried, we added patterns. For this step, we used acrylic paint pens instead of paint brushes. It was much easier to make small detailed patterns with these. One of the things that make Alebrijes so unique is their intense, unusual use of pattern. I had the kids work quite a while on this step in order to really create the Alebrijes feel. I encouraged them to use contrasting colors, meaning colors that are very different from the background color. Choosing complementary colors can also provide excellent contrast. Complementary colors are located across from each other on the color wheel, and stand out very well against each other. There are three complimentary pairs. They are red and green, orange and blue, and purple and yellow.

When the paint was dry, we stuck an unbent paperclip in the mouth for a tongue, and turned them loose! Here is my daughter's finished snake, Pinky.

Our finished snakes enjoying the cool grass.

I have always loved the fabulous Mexican Oaxacan wood carvings, and really enjoy teaching kids about this art form. Children enjoy the bright colors and fun whimsical feel of these critters.

Give these colorful, fun creatures a try. It is a great opportunity to create an exciting piece of art and learn about Mexican culture.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fantastic Friday with the Olympics!!

He everyone! For the next few Fridays, I am going to be planning most of my activities around the Olympics. The Olympics provide an excellent opportunity to teach about the geography and culture of the many countries involved in the games. We started our Olympics unit by learning about the history of the games (Greece) and about the hosting country of Canada. I found a lot of really good information about the origins of the Olympics at Olympics - Enchanted Learning is a pay site (not too much), but I have found it to be well worth the money. After learning about the background of the games, the kids colored their own Olympic flags. We put them on sticks so we could wave them around a bit.

Next, we pulled out our atlas and found Canada (Vancouver) on our map. Then we made our own Canadian flags. I found a good maple leaf template at We of course had to listen to the Canadian national anthem while we made them. I found lots of good versions on YouTube.

Here the kids are making their own maple leaf paper quilt squares. I found a great paper template for it at Maple Leaf Quilt Block Coloring Page - I printed one out and colored it as a guide for them. I also pre-cut one blue 6" x 6" square, and nine 2" x 2" red squares for each child. The kids arranged them in the maple leaf pattern, cutting them diagonally in half when needed.

Here are our finished maple leaf quilt squares. This activity really worked the kids' observational skills. They had to make sure all the pieces were in the right places, turned the right way.

Next week we'll start learning about some of the countries participating in the games. Check back for more activities!
Go USA!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How We Spent Our Snowy Day

Well, It was a very snowy day in Eastern Kentucky and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out our new microscope - on snowflakes of course! We sprayed some microscope slides with lacquer and set them outside to catch some flakes. Once we were sure we had some, we brought them in and gave the lacquer time to dry. The snowflakes melted, but the lacquer was imprinted with the shape of the snowflakes! Too cool! Here are the kids checking out the flakes. The kids drew pictures of the magnified snowflakes in their nature journal. Thanks Papa for the new microscope!!!

After our snowy science lesson, Abbey moved on to a recycled materials art project. When we received our fabulous new microscope in the mail, it came packed in lots and lots of packing peanuts. Abbey created a terrific picture for her daddy by gluing them down to construction paper and coloring them with paint pens.

The final product!

Last, but not least, we brought some snow inside for the little dollies to play in. It was really too cold to play outside today, so we brought a bit of the fun indoors! Abbey loved this - I refilled her snow many, many times.

Anybody have any new snow day ideas for me? I am always looking for fun ideas. Let me hear your thoughts. Apparently, the weatherman says we may get more snow, so I am gonna need them!

Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Art in the Family

Doesn't this baby look like it should be in a Gerber commercial?
This is a portrait of my niece, Macey.
My husband is a portrait painter (we met in art school), and I think this portrait is one of my favorites.
Meet Garcia - a family dog. He passed a few years ago, but this special portrait reminds us of his happy personality.

Check out some more of his work at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fantastic Friday with the Arts - Rockwell/Big Band

Welcome everyone!

On this fantastic Friday, we are studying the American Artist and Illustrator Norman Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978). We began this lesson by learning a bit about his life. I found a wonderful bio sheet on him at teachervision. It is a pay site, but they will let you print out a few for free. Here is the link - Norman Rockwell Printable (5th - 8th Grade) -

Next, we looked at a Norman Rockwell book from the library. My kids loved his work. They could really identify with the everyday situations in his paintings. I also found a great packet of activities online at The Norman Rockwell Museum. The packet can be downloaded as a pdf and printed from this link - It was just full of fun activities that helped the kids really explore the paintings. The last page of the packet is a blank Saturday Evening Post cover template. As Rockwell was most known for his covers of this popular magazine, I thought it only proper that we try our own Saturday Evening Post covers. We discussed the fact that Rockwell was an illustrator portraying endearing scenes of everyday life. That they are in fact a good example of narrative art - artwork created to tell a story. I then set the kids off on their mission - to create their own magazine cover telling a story about their own life. My son's picture is all about his dog - his best friend.

My daughter decided to draw about her favorite time of day - reading in bed at bedtime with her daddy.

Here is Abbey's finished masterpiece - ready for publication!

Our music connection this week is big band/swing music. It was a popular style of music during Rockwell's time. I found a bio sheet for him at teachervision as well. Here it is - Swing Was the Thing Printable (5th - 8th Grade) - We talked a bit about Benny Goodman and listened to his big band music while working on our magazine covers. I found great videos of his music on youtube.

Well guys - that 's it for this week! Have fun creating!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Upcycled Valentine Crayon Hearts: HeARTs full of Art

Here is a link to a fun and easy Valentine's activity. My daughter and I made them yesterday and they turned out absolutely adorable. This is such a great way to give those old, broken crayons a fresh new start! Pink and Green Mama: Upcycled Valentine Crayon Hearts: HeARTs full of Art