Winter Birds

North American Birds Drawn By Fifth Grade Student
North American Birds | By Fifth Grade Student

With sleet and snow blowing across Arlington streets, the birds have disappeared from sight.  Looking for inspiration, kids in art club discovered the Audubon Society’s North American field guide. Their imaginations took off with drawings of colorful owls, finches, hummingbirds, tanagers and flamingos.

Winter Birds Around My Home published by the Iowa State College Extension Service
Winter Birds Around My Home published by the Iowa State College Extension Service

In a box with books from my childhood, I found a paperback published in 1948 by the Iowa State College Extension Service. It includes information on 24 birds with drawings and instructions for coloring.  Never miss an opportunity to use your color pencils!

On the crow, authors Thomas Scott and George Hendrickson wrote, “The ability of this crafty creature to perform such misdeeds as eating bird eggs, pulling corn and the like is due to its high degree of social cooperation. Although these birds are with us all year they are seen at their best in the large flocks which form in groves during the winter.” (page 20)

I hope your neighborhood is full of feathered neighbors. It’s not too late to put out birdseed. This handbook says cardinals prefer to feed off the ground and like seed plus a little fruit and insects.

Poems and Snow

Do poets wander alone “scribbling in notebooks, peering across moors, feeding ducks…?” In  “Mary Oliver and the Naturesque,”  Alice Gregory suggests that Oliver writes and invites us to ramble with her. As the poet says, “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”

So … yesterday I wandered. After watching reports of far away blizzards, I followed sidewalks dusted with snow. It was my first time out taking photos, because last October I chipped a bone in my foot. Since I am just beginning to paint again, I’m posting this sketch.

Duck
Duck | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2018

Gregory’s article appeared in Poetry magazine on February 16, 2011.

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