Start with an idea and a piece of paper, and you have the beginning of a book. Fold the paper in half. Then draw or write or create secret code or mark with musical symbols. It’s your idea, so express it in your own unique way.
Colored paper adds pizzazz! Don’t forget that paper has two sides. Be sure to remember the name of the author and illustrator.
Stories can be told in many ways, and the tale might change each time. Young children often like to make audio recordings of stories. Adults who want to help might also write down the words.
You’ll find a million ways to embellish and add to your books. Check back and we’ll look at a few of them here.
Put on an architect’s hat. You might discover a place filled with patterns and colors.
A place for friends.
A place for a party — with pets.
A place for quiet thoughts.
A place to dream.
The children at Carlin Springs Elementary School created these designs in after school art club. Materials included recycled boxes, plastic lids, ribbons, beads, pipe cleaners, colored papers, markers, stickers, tape, glue, paint, and photos.
Often we look at books from the public library for inspiration. For younger children, you might read Home by Carson Ellis or In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck. For older children, I bring out a book I bought many years ago, Houses by Piero Ventura. We design by drawing, cutting, folding, and gluing until our homes are complete!
If you were an animal in the rain forest, would you be a butterfly? A toucan? An iguana? A jaguar?
In art club after school, Carlin Springs students painted a wild setting for the spring play. They discovered inspiring scenes of forest canopies in books from the Arlington County Library, including Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest by Moira Rose Donohue, The Amazon by Tom Jackson and What’s Up in the Amazon Rain Forest by Ginjer L. Clarke.
Students wrote the script and acted as animals alarmed by changes in their habitat. Katie McCreary and Ashley Hammond of the Educational Theatre Company led the writers and directed the performance — all in the spirit of learning through the arts!
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.
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.
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.
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!
The students went on to explore more traditional techniques. Once again, a light-as-a-feather touch led to success — swirling patterns of color.
A sunny afternoon and we couldn’t resist drawing outside.
I looked in my bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Nature Drawing by Clare Walker Leslie. Beyond the front door we sketched blue skies, puffy clouds, cherry trees and architecture — inspiration all around us.
Making prints is like magic. You can paint 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.