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.

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.

 

 

Sprouts

Sprouts

My daughter planted seeds and placed the pots in our kitchen window. They’ve sprouted! We forgot to label the containers, but we’ll recognize some of the vegetables by the shapes of their leaves. As for the others … oops! Expect a few surprises.

In April and May, I’ll join first graders to create art inspired by nature. One of the first things we’ll do is sketch the plants sprouting up at school.  The students love to remind me to “visualize.” It’s fun to close our eyes and think of a picture and then paint it! Here’s my painting of the salad I’ll eat — made up of vegetables grown in the next few months.

How do you imagine you’ll enjoy the outdoors this spring?

Summer Salad
Summer Salad | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2016

I’m excited to hear from  Mary Van Dyke at Green STEM Learning about a group that shares ideas for school gardens and outdoor learning — the Virginia Association for Environmental Educators.

For information on caring for a backyard garden, I check the web site of The Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.

And when I feel like sitting down with a book, I read about vegetables, herbs and their botanical families in Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.

Looking forward to spring harvests!

updated: March 17, 2016

 

Dancing

Dancers
Dancers | watercolor – inverted digital image – edited January 29, 2016 | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

Dancing. In my dreams. Last month I broke my femur. Thank goodness the surgeon put it back together. Now I’m painting and thinking about dancing. Maybe in the spring.

One of my favorite fairy tales is The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. I have A Little Golden Book published in 1954. The story is retold by Jane Werner with pictures by Sheilah Beckett. I love the colorful dresses, the trees studded with leaves of silver, gold and diamonds, and the mystery of it all. Where do the princesses disappear to in the night?

What is your favorite fairy tale?

A Little Golden Book: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954
A Little Golden Book: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954

Fox Tales

fox -- head in profile
watercolor | Fox | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.

My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.

Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.

Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.

For glimpses of foxes — I paint the taxidermy specimens, alas! — in Arlington, Virginia, visit the nature centers at Potomac Overlook Park and Long Branch Nature Center.

Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

Seven Degree Days

Snow Houses | watercolor |copyright Liz Macklin 2013

It’s 5:55 am and I’ve checked temperatures on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site. It’s -26 degrees Fahrenheit in International Falls, Minnesota. My town feels like the tropics at a balmy 7 degrees. NOAA cautions us to protect our noses and other extremities from the cold! My favorite post tells how snowflakes form.

Google says its 39 degrees F in Reykjavik, Iceland. In my email I read that poet Joanne Growney has written about measuring winter and about a recent trip to Iceland in her blog Intersections – Poetry with Mathematics. I start to dream of hot springs and the steamy blue waters I’ve seen in photos of Icelandic mineral baths. Time to wrap up in a quilt, brew a cup of hot tea and then get ready for work.