Watercolor Turnips

Watercolor paintings of turnips
Art by students at Carlin Springs Elementary School

A recipe for July watercolors:

  1. Step out to the backyard garden.
  2. Pick a few turnips and bring bring them to school.
  3. Take out the paints, brushes, paper and containers of water.
  4. Look at all the different greens and purples on the plants. See how the leaves curve in and out. Which part of the turnip grows underground? Why is the root purple?
  5. Paint!

Could your paintings also show the soil, the surrounding plants, and the animals that visit the garden?

For more ideas for school projects in the garden, check GreenSTEM Learning by Mary Van Dyke.

And if you’ll be in Arlington, Virginia, in October attend the 2017 Virginia Agriculture Summit.

Painting Creatures of the Reef

Photos of children painting and of the backdrop hung on stage
Painting a Backdrop Inspired by the Great Barrier Reef

No, say it isn’t so! The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble.

This year the kids at Carlin Springs Elementary School dove down under to visit the reef — all in their imagination. Inspired by their adventure, young actors created a play and young artists designed the backdrop. Together we admired a host of beautiful sea creatures, especially those in Here is the Coral Reef by Madeleine Dunphy and in Great Barrier Reef by David Doubilet. Ashley Hammond and Colleen Murphy of the Educational Theatre Company directed the performers, and Angel Lopez and I coached the artists.

Long live the reef!

Photo copyright Liz Macklin 2017

 

Antique Presses and Artists’ Books

Reviewing Presses
Frank Deichmeister admires the vintage presses at Tribune Showprint.

Last fall I zoomed to an era long before smart phones and social media with a visit to Tribune Showprint. It’s a workshop full of printing presses dating as far back as 1878. Known for years as the printer of the Benton County Tribune, the shop also made posters for store windows and outdoor advertising. As we admired the presses in operation, owner Kim Miller told the story of how she and her husband moved machines from Fowler, Indiana, to their current location in Muncie — all overnight to preserve the reputation as the oldest continuously operating print shop in the country.

2016_millerpress_posters
Kim Miller impresses Elaine Vidal with tales of the historic print shop.  Posters for recent events line the walls.
copy press
An antique press at the Book Arts Collaborative

At the studio of the Book Arts Collaborative next door, we admired books and letterpress cards designed by local artists and students from Ball State University.

I learned that before the invention of modern duplicating machines or carbon paper, clerks used special copy presses. The clerk placed an original document — with the ink still wet — against a sheet of thin onionskin paper. When pressed together, the papers printed a mirror image! The text on the copy could be read from the back when held up to the light from a window.

Student finishing hand sewn book
Student finishing hand sewn book

On returning home, I focused on ideas for design sessions with teens. I pulled out my copies of Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson and Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz and tested techniques for decorating papers and sewing hard covers. The students, under the direction of Erika Lucas, completed their projects in March. I stitched two books then and plan to sew again this week.

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On April 21 and 22, 2017, the Collaborative and Tribune Showprint will host Interrobang, a festival celebrating the craft and the art of the book.

Handsewn Books April 2017
Samples of hard cover books designed for lessons with teens | copyright Liz Macklin 2017

Swirling Colors, Decorating Papers

A Collection of Decorated Papers
Decorated Papers | copyright Liz Macklin 2017

Pattern, texture, color, and a project with beautiful surprises!  This month twenty-three students at Yorktown High School created designs for book covers. I joined them as a guest artist, collaborating with artist and educator, Erika Lucas. With Erika, the students experimented with watercolor painting and carving and printing stamps. I brought materials for marbling papers.

There are some tricks to successful marbling. A good way to start is with shaving cream. It’s easy to squirt the cream onto a flat surface, spread it, and then gently drop or splatter ink on top. Drawing ever-so-lightly with the tip of a skewer or plastic spoon, the students made swirls and patterns in the colors. They placed a paper on top of each design and pressed softly to make contact everywhere. Then, lifting up, gently scraping the cream from the paper, and rinsing revealed a bright image!

Swirling Designs on a Paper Marbled Using Shaving Cream
Swirling Designs on a Paper Marbled With Acrylic Ink on Shaving Cream

The students went on to explore more traditional techniques. Once again, a light-as-a-feather touch led to success — swirling patterns of color.

Red, Black and Yellow Marbled Paper
Red, Black & Yellow Marbled Paper | copyright Liz Macklin 2017

Sunflowers

Three Sunflowers
Sunflowers | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2016

We have a bumper crop of pumpkins this year but absolutely no sunflowers. I guess the squirrels ate the seeds.

My friend, author Jackie Jules, grew sunflowers on her deck. Her seedlings vanished once, then twice. But did Jackie give up? No.  In fact, I bet that she sang as she watered her plants– songs of maidens and magic seeds. Her flowers bloomed in the brightest gold.

More than a thousand miles away, I dreamed of blossoms and howling guards that chased away the squirrels. In the morning I’d walk the dog and sneak past a neighbor’s house for a glimpse of her sunflowers.

Then one day Madelyn Rosenberg came to my rescue. She was typing away. I imagine her looking like a brunette Katherine Hepburn — author/ journalist. She took a break to bring sunflowers to everyone at our writers group. Madelyn, how did you know? I just had to paint them.

—————  Even if plants can’t hear storytellers,  what do we know of how plants respond to sound? A study of caterpillar crunching! From the California Academy of Sciences.

Ogees in Pink and Blue

Ogees in Pink and Blue
Ogees in Pink and Blue | copyright Liz Macklin 2016

Making prints is like magic. You can create an image on a sheet of plastic, place paper on top, apply pressure and lift the paper. Suddenly you have a new design!

This technique uses wet watercolor with either wet or dry paper, and I never know exactly how the paint will spread. On a grey day, we experimented. Our first grade students created prints with tempera paints on construction paper. In an instant the room filled with spring colors.