Tag Archives: children

Swear Box

When my son was in elementary school, there came a time when he discovered the fine art of cussing. To discourage this behaviour, we started a swear box. Fines consisted of a dollar for your basics and a whopping $5 for the ‘f’ word. He was a sweet little chap to begin with, so I really had nothing to worry about. I was the problem. It’s not that I ran around randomly using obscenities for no good reason. I had reasons, dammit! I dropped things, broke things, tripped over things…actions that warranted something stronger and more satisfying than darn it or effin. In short, my son’s elementary school years were fairly lucrative. Miracles happen, I’ve been cured and we don’t need a swear box anymore, but you might. And if your children don’t have a problem, think of how they will delight in making money from their potty-mouthed parents.

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Filed under painting, swear box

Drifting Into The Abstract

Jackson Pollock’s explosion of drips filled his canvasses with energy and passion, and while the paint appeared to be applied randomly, he usually had a very clear idea of what he was looking for. This American artist was born in 1912, and died at the young age of 44. Today would have been his birthday.

During his “drip” phase, Pollock dispensed with traditional tools like easels and brushes, preferring instead to place his unstretched canvas on the floor or wall where he could fully engage in applying paint from any direction. His unique style of pouring, flinging and splattering paint with tools such as sticks and basting syringes, earned him the nickname “Jack The Dripper.” His body of work was considered part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and is currently part of an exhibition at MoMA called Abstract Expressionist New York, on until April 25, 2011. It will then move on to Toronto’s AGO from May 28 to September 4th.

For obvious reasons, children love to explore this technique of getting paint on canvas, so  let’s celebrate Pollock’s work and splatter some canvasses of our own.

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Filed under Jackson Pollock, painting

Gum Art

Of course this is all Jason Kronenwald’s fault, an artist who uses gum as his medium of choice. He had a show in Toronto a few years ago, exhibiting his series of Gum Blonde portraits of famous blonde starlets. The idea seemed unique and impressive at the time. So much so that I gathered my kids, drove to the nearest Walmart, and bought a crap load of gum for all of us. For a brief moment, I was the coolest mother on the planet. For the sake of art, I was asking my children to chew gum, as much as they wanted, with or without sugar, as long as we had a decent palette to work with. Then the ick factor set in. It’s one thing to chew the stuff, it’s quite another to store saliva laden globs of gum for weeks on end. We became so grossed out by the process, we gave up and joyfully tossed our chewed bits away. Upon reflection and sad to have been defeated by a bit of saliva, I realized scale was the problem. This guy’s work is done on huge pieces of plywood which inspired us to aim big as well, instead of doing the opposite. So this project aims small. Miniature canvasses are used, which means commitment to chewing and storing is shorter, and the ickiness becomes acceptable. Plus it was fun.

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And so begins the month-long journey towards the most splendid holiday of the year. You’ll find shrunken apple heads perfect for turning your home into a Halloween house of horrors, and a big hit with kids. Although I don’t remember making them as a child, I certainly recall coming across the real thing in National Geographic, which routinely featured stories about indigenous peoples and their curious practice of decapitating enemies and collecting their heads as trophies. I propose we begin the festivities with a little headshrinking of our own. This sort of thing takes time, so lets get started.

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Self Portraits With A Twist

The illustrator and cartoonist Michael Mathias Prechtl made this poster for the G. Schirmer music store in New York, back in 1974. When I recently saw it in an old graphic design book, I realized it was time to spice up the traditional self portrait. If Beethoven could have his head exploding with women and music, children could also have things they enjoy tumbling out of their head. Imagine the possibilities.

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Making Mistakes

Detail from The Son of Man by René Magritte. Image:http://bertc.com/g9/magritte16.htm

Maybe Magritte just couldn’t get the nose right and gave up. In the world of arts and crafts, mistakes will happen. Some will be beyond repair and require moving on (sniff, sniff), like incorrect folds in your origami paper. Learn from your error, grab another sheet and start again. Other mistakes can be fixed with problem solving and patience. And sometimes you can build on your mistakes, which can lead to wonderful, unexpected outcomes. A willingness to explore and make mistakes can also teach you a tremendous amount about art supplies and materials; about the best ways to use them and unexpected ways of applying and combining them.

When making things with children, they can easily become frustrated if their creation does not meet their expectations. And rightly so. We all know the disappointment of something not working out as planned. Opening their minds up to other possibilities will help teary-eyed and demoralized little artists to look beyond their initial plan, and see that there are alternatives to destroying their work and stomping away. Mistakes can be happy ones. Accidental drips and blobs of paint can give rise to new creatures or intriguing abstracts and backgrounds. That “perfect” outline that didn’t quite happen can be transformed with varying thicknesses, adding more interest and movement. Unintended colours can be welcomed to stretch the imagination, or simply painted over and changed. Reassure children that even great artists made mistakes and chose to learn from them and work with them, or simply start over.

Finally, my apologies to Magritte, whose Son of Man is a fine example of Surrealist art. I’m sure he had no difficulty painting noses.

Detail from The Man In The Bowler Hat by René Magritte. Image: http://www.surrealist.com

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
Scott Adams

“Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.” Salvador Dali

“It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.” Vincent Van Gogh

References: http://quote.robertgenn.com/getquotes.php?catid=192

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March Break Addendum

…with an emphasis on ‘dum’. There is no snow, in Toronto anyway. My apologies for all the snow-related suggestions in my last post. Clearly, my headspace was clouded by images of last winter. Your options now include dusting off your wellies and doing the swamp thang with the kids. Enjoy the mud puddles.

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