Monday, June 11, 2012

Project: Paper Chains

Seemingly simple art projects usually have myriad possibilities to be explored. Paper chains are one of those.
I really only thought of these as a holiday decoration, but after doing this project with a class of kindergartners, my mind has been broadened. Give a 5-year-old free rein and you'll realize there are tons of different ideas to try!


-Colored paper cut in strips

The more colors the better! Also, cut the strips into various widths--you don't want them all to be the same size. (I'll explain why in a moment)

First of all, the basic chain link:

I used scotch tape instead of glue, because it's so much easier and faster. You don't have the mess or need to wait for the glue to dry.

So, you can make a basic paper chain to hang on the wall or string across the room for festive decoration. My boyfriend also suggested a good use that I hadn't heard of before: You create a chain with a certain number of links to count down to a special day. Each day you cut off a link (kind of like an advent calendar, but not just for Christmas). I took that idea to heart and made a chain to count down to my boyfriend's birthday...that's not until October. Needless to say it's a HUGE chain that's strung up all over his room. :)

You could try your hand at wearable paper chains:

 Necklaces! Simply a closed loop of chains.

Bracelets and rings! (variation for boys: superhero wrist bands) 
This is why I suggested cutting thinner paper strips. It'd be a good time to pull out the markers too. Obviously, I didn't measure these bracelets to be reused, since I wouldn't be able to get them off without ripping them. Just make sure your kids can slide their jewelry on and off easily if they want to wear it again. 

And you don't have to stick to a single paper loop. Your kids can try creating more complex bracelets. And they can be fun noise makers--add a bunch of links and shake. It creates a fun "shooka shooka" noise.
(And, yes, I know from trying it out myself)

Crowns, hats and masks!
This is just three wide paper strips taped together. Masks work the same way.

The ideas are really quite endless. Let the imagination run wild and you can come up with some pretty cool stuff.

If your kids make one of my projects, please send me a picture. I'd love to post it here on the blog to inspire others' creativity! E-mail me at

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fun: Lifelike Redux

I recently wrote about an exhibit that's currently at the Walker, and how much fun it was to see. One little girl took it a step further and recreated some of the pieces when she got home. The Walker got wind of it and posted on their blog about her project.

The recreation....
...and the original

How cool is that? This is what happens when we let kids embrace their creativity and have fun! You just know that she'll remember going to the art museum and seeing this particular exhibit for a long time, because she got to have so much fun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Video: Idea Channel

There's a new video series on Youtube from PBS Arts Online that I just love. The Idea Channel is, "a biweekly web series that examines the evolving relationship between modern technology and art." Or in simple terms, quirky and thoughtful 3 minute videos about art and pop culture. It's a great springboard for discussions and essays--if you're looking for something to spark thoughts on that subject. This is a great resource for your tech savy, pop culture loving teens. The host poses an off the wall question, and then quickly sets out his argument for the answer. I enjoy the fact that they're simple questions yet make you stop for a moment and really think.

Watch a video, respond to the questions posed in each short, maybe find some fresh inspiration or a new perspective on the world around you. Plus, they're just fun to watch!

This video is about Mario, which pretty much every kid has played at least one Mario Bros. game. But it's probably not how you or your kids have ever thought about the video games before: How is Mario like a Salvador Dali painting? Huh? There's more to it than you might think....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Project: Pop-up Cards

I learned how to make pop-up cards when I was very young and have enjoyed creating them ever since. It's such an easy thing to make with so many different variations to try. Pop-up cards are a great project for kids of all age ranges and skill levels. You can make a simple design, using just markers...or you can go all out and throw in feathers and glitter and tissue paper!

-Cardstock paper (you want something that will hold its shape and not bend too easy)
-Markers, crayons, etc.
Other suggestions:
-tissue paper
-whatever else you can think of! 

Once you get the hang of making these, it's really fun to try all sorts of different materials.

To start off, fold your paper into cards. Next, I suggest drawing lightly with a pencil or making a dotted line to plot out where you want to cut. It's really easy to cut too far, and then you're making cards with holes in them (which is another project entirely). I suggest starting with a basic triangle shape, because you can create many different pictures with that as your base. 

Once you've drawn out what shape you want to create, carefully cut along your lines. Then, open the card and push the shape out. It should look something like this once you're done:

Now, you've got a lot of possibilities in front of you. Flip the card one way, and you can create a bouquet of flowers:

All I did for this was tape a piece of tissue paper to the triangle. Then, I drew some flowers, cut them out, and taped them to the back of the triangle as well. (It's easier if you draw and color the flowers first, then cut them out. Just add some extra length to the stems so they pop out enough. And tape is a lot better than glue for this, because it's easier to adjust and get things to stay put right away.)

Flip the card the other way, and you have a crown or hat on someone's head:

You could try something a little more abstract and flamboyant:

I just taped the two feathers to the back of the shape like with the flowers above. 

Once you get the basics down, you can try more complicated ideas. Turn the card on its side and you have a whole new pop-up:

I cut out another piece of cardstock and taped it to the base. Just remember to check that your card can fold up correctly when you add other pieces. 
After you master simple shapes, you can move on and try your hand at other outlines:

Hearts are always fun ones to try, and work for a variety of occasions. 

So, you can go as simple or complex as you want to. It's a very easy and fun way to let someone know you're thinking about them. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Project: Scribble Collage

I really like making collages, it's my favorite easy art project. And there are so many variations that you can try. This for those of you especially who don't think you can draw. Everyone can scribble. I like to scribble, it's fun:

I actually draw during church.... helps me pay attention. Really. 

I'll scribble like crazy (sometimes closing my eyes or drawing with my left hand) and then go back and color it in. Recently I was looking at my doodles and wondered what it would look like if I cut them out and made a collage. Here's the first result:

Now how did I do that? I'll show you, it's really easy!

The fatter the marker tips the better. 

First of all, here's the materials you'll need:

-Colored paper (card stock is good, it's easier to cut out)
-Tape or glue
-11in x 17in piece of paper (I used black because it's more striking) 
-Colored pencils (if you want to color in your scribbles)

Once you've got your supplies assembled, go crazy and scribble! Hold the marker in your left hand, close your eyes, look away, this is not the time for a fussy drawing. Be loose and go fast, like a little kid. You can also color the scribbles in with pencils to create more variety. You'll wind up with pages like this:

Scribble scribble scribble!

Next, cut out all your doodles. You could try those scrap booking scissors that create decorative edges. Or you can cut your scribbles into smaller pieces. You'll wind up with a big pile to create with:

Now, pull out that big piece of paper and play around with creating a nice composition. Try some different arrangements like I did before you decide to glue or tape the pieces down:

It kinda looks like a face

I played with the light settings on my camera to make it glow like this.

It's a shining abstract butterfly!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Project: Compare and Contrast

Hefty 2-Ply
Veiled Lady

Take a moment to look at these two images.

Seem pretty different at first glance, don't they? What if I told you these two pieces actually have a lot in common? Don't believe me do you? You're probably thinking, "Elisabeth, what on earth does a trash bag have to do with one of the most beloved sculptures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts? The one is a beautiful marble carving, and the other is literally full of garbage." 

Appearances can be deceiving: that trash bag is actually carved out of marble too, and is currently on display at the Walker as part of the Lifelike exhibit. They may have been created almost 100 years apart, but both of these sculptures have similar techniques and ideas behind them. I didn't even realize this until a friend of mine pointed it out to me. In both works, the artists are showing off their skill by fooling your eye. They're both pushing the limits of the medium, making your brain think it's another material. The Veiled Lady looks like her head covering might flutter in the slightest breeze; Hefty 2-Ply seems as if it's about to fall over or burst at the seams. They're both very much products of their day, created out of the trends and fads of their respective time periods.

And yet these two pieces are also quite different as well. The Veiled Lady was created around 1860 by an Italian sculptor, Raffaelo Monti, known for his delicately carved work. The Veiled Lady seems like she might float away on a strong breeze. Monti's sculpture is romantic and alluring, showcasing the beauty of a woman with a veil over her face and flowers in her hair. His work is part of the Romanticism movement. 

In 1979, the Walker commissioned the American artist Jud Nelson to create a piece for their permanent collection. He decided to recreate a garbage bag filled with trash and spent the next two years carving it out of marble. Nelson is known for making hyper realistic sculptures of mundane things. He makes people see every day objects in a new light. I think his work relates to the ideas in the Pop Art movement.

At first, these two sculptures might not seem like they have anything in common, being created almost a century apart and as part of different art movements. And yet there are many ways in which they relate to each other, not just because they're made from the same material, but also by playing with viewers' perception of what's real.

Okay, so what I just did is known as Compare and Contrast. It's one of the most basic and commonly assigned essays any art student has to write. I did a very pared down version for you, but it's basically the same format whether someone is writing one page or ten pages:

Introduce the two pieces. 
Say what's different about them. 
Now how are they similar? (or vice versa) 

Each of those sentences could be a paragraph or a page, it's really based on how much detail you want/need to go into. And you don't have to get fancy or do a lot of research either. I looked up both of these sculptures starting with Google, then moved on to their respective museum websites. I could have gotten pretty much the same information by partaking in tours at the Walker and Minneapolis Art Institute as well. 

The reason I classified this post under the Project heading is because it's easy to replicate and is just as important to art education as creating work. Doing this exercise helps refine thinking and observation skills. It's also helpful for students to reflect on what they know by not just repeating facts. I always found in school that something stuck better when I wrote or talked about it rather than simply studying for a test. 

And this assignment can be adjusted for any grade level and doesn't have to be about ART per say. A kindergartner can say what the similarities and differences are between oranges and apples. Elementary students can paste images on a poster and write a list. Junior and senior high students can do research and write essays of varying depth. From personal experience, college students write 12 page term papers utilizing this same basic idea. 

Your kids could pick two comic book or video game characters, images from an art history textbook, clothing by two different fashion designers, pieces on display in a museum, etc. I think you get the idea. In a nutshell, it's what two things have in common and what they don't and providing some proof to back it up. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Exhibit: Lifelike

My Mom, my younger brother, Andrew, and I went to the Walker tonight to see the current exhibit, Lifelike. On Thursdays after 5pm, admission is free, so all we paid for was parking (which was only a couple bucks). It's fun to walk through the museum when there's so many families there--it's a lot more fun to hear the kids' reactions to things and to have other people to enjoy the art with.

Lifelike is a perfect exhibit to take your children to. I know the Walker can have "weird" art sometimes and some of their shows aren't appropriate for young kids, but this current one is awesome. It's all about playing with our brains.

A comb leaning against the wall....that's five feet tall. A trash bag...carved out of marble. A perfect replica of a milk feet tall.

My favorite piece are the giant folding chairs and table:

Doesn't look that big  in this picture, right? Well, watch this 2 minute video to see how many people it took to get this piece into the museum!

This is a great family friendly exhibition that is really neat to see. Don't just settle for looking at the art in the video, it's way more awesome to experience it in person. It's fun trying to figure out what things are made out of, how the artists were able to create their pieces to look so realistic.

Lifelike runs through May 27, 2012. To plan your visit, find directions, and other information check out the Walker's website: