Category Archives: Paint

Street Art – Behind the Scenes

Exit Through the Gift ShopMy son, who is very interested in street artists, recommended I watch the movie, “Exit through the Gift Shop”.  The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and  I watched the movie this past rainy day weekend thinking it was going to simply be a documentary on this counter-culture underground movement called Street Art.  It was so much more … at the end of the movie you should ask yourself two questions, “What is Art?” and “Who decides it’s Art?”  There has been a lot of speculation as to whether or not the movie is “real” or not … I’m not sure it really matters, in the end.

Without telling you too much about the movie and giving away the good stuff, the movie was made by the most famously anonymous street artist, Banksy.

An amateur filmmaker, Frenchman Thierry Guetta aka “Mr. Brainwash”, shoots reels and reels of film on the pretext that he is making his own documentary about street artists and their nocturnal pasting and spraying.  There are many interesting focuses on different artists, most notably Banksy and Shepard Fairey (founder of Obey and the artist made famous by his iconic Obama image), who allow the filmmaker to go along on their adventures.

The drama intensifies and in the end … well, I think it has a wonderful twist.  I thought it was interesting how bitter the street artists were in the end.  Did “Mr. Brainwash” sell out?  Is he smarter than everyone else?  Is he a fraud?  Is “Mr. Brainwash” nothing more than a character made up by Banksy himself?

All in all, it is a very entertaining and interesting movie!  Let me know your thoughts!

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Filed under Artist or Focus, Medium, Paint, Sparks~Inspirations, Street Art, ~Blog~

Pulp FASHION – Paper Art

Men's costumesLast week I visited the fantastic exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco … Pulp Fashion by Belgian artist, Isabelle de Borchgrave.  The fashion was life-size period costumes made from nothing other than paper and paint (of course it was either glued or stitched together).  Not only did I thoroughly enjoy her beautiful, realistic creations, but I really apprecThe artist at workiated the thorough explanation of her process.  The video was well done and you could get “up close and personal” with her art.

The costume time periods ranged from the renaissance period to modern-day Coco Chanel.

De Borchgrave uses stencils and other techniques to re-create the uniformity of fabric and I especially liked the use of metallic paint.  That really made it look like silk.  The foundation paper is quite thick and looks to be very heavy and resilient.  The lens paper lace was fantastic and all the tucks and pleats … mind-boggling!  White dressesBeads and hair pieces, and even the hair itself, if necessary, was made from paper.  Every piece was a little different and had a different flair and inspiration.  All the pieces were exhibited on simple paper mannequins.

In theNeapolitan woman last exhibit room was a presentation of costumes De Borchgrave created using actual paintings in the Legion of Honor for inspiration.  They were incredible!

At the end of the day … we decided that it was impossible to decide on a favorite.  We even tried to break it down by room,  Everything was beautiful and different.

Not only did I have a great day with my good friend, Linda, but was really inspired by the creative use of paper and stencils and how it could be translated into the “real thing”.  I have pulled out the mylar, the textile paints, and the tees to create my own stencils and give it a go.  My creative juices are flowing!!

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Filed under Medium, Paint, Paper, Sparks~Inspirations, ~Blog~

Beautiful Botanical Illustrations in Fifth Grade

I am constantly amazed at the skills of my students and this project was no exception … especially with regard to the boys.  Painting flowers isn’t generally their favorite thing to paint, but it takes a lot of patience to paint botanical illustrations and they were up to the challenge.

They were BEAUTIFUL!

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We began with quite a bit of discussion about how the point of botanical illustration is to accurately record the plant in all its forms.  Botanical Illustrations began as a scientific study that turned into an art form.  Artists work very hard to exactly represent the plant, down to dissecting the pods, showing what it looks like underground (roots, bulbs etc), showing leaves,  flowers and other parts in all their different forms.  Then they “glaze” watercolor in many sessions to get the colors just right.

I had a wide selection of plastic fruit and flowers for the students to choose from and they started their drawing.  Of course, we didn’t worry so much about the roots etc, just the flower/fruit and a stem and leaf.  Given our already tight time constraints, they worked exceptionally hard to get as far as they did.

After the sketch was done, students used watercolor pencils to add the color.  We talked about the blending of colors and how that helps with low lights and high lights and showing where one pedal ends and another begins (or one grape …)  I asked them to work with a minimum of 3 colors … starting with yellow (which I believe to be the foundation color for nearly all things “natural”.  

Being fifth graders, they have a really good background in color from all our other classes and they did a remarkable job thinking about color mixing and how it would help or hurt their painting.

All in all, it was a great send-off project for my lovely fifth graders… they are off to middle school!  This is my first group that I have taught from first grade on up and I really believe it shows in their work!  Good luck to them all!

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Filed under 5th Grade, Artist or Focus, Botanical Illustration, flowers, Medium, Paint, Watercolor, ~Blog~

Easy Peasy Printmaking

How did they make more than one copy of a book before the printing press?!  What do you mean there was no such thing as a copy machine?!  A typewriter?!  Carbon paper?!  What the heck?!

The printing press was an invention that truly made the world a better place.  In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented a way to make multiple copies of books and mass media.  Before movable letters and numbers, books were re-written and illustrated one by one and were only seen and owned by either the church or the very rich.  Having books, illustrations and printed media produced by a press meant that the more common person could be educated and break the cycle of poverty and repression.

With the above in mind, printmaking in art is Printmaking is the process of making multiple pieces of art, where painting makes only one piece of original art.  The prints are made from a single surface or plate and creates an “edition” that is signed and numbered.  Artists will either carve or make a raised image on the surface of a plate using wood, stone, plastic rubber etc.  The then ink it and make a print.

Our 5th graders made their own printing plates using styrofoam (you can buy these through Blick … Inovart foam).  Our ink was simply black tempera paint.  I gave students a piece of scratch paper to play with their designs first.  They transferred the design to the plate by placing the paper over the top of the plate and redrawing.

Students carefully etched their design into the plate, making sure they had a deep groove.  Remember … this will be a negative image!  If you are writing on your plate, make sure it is a mirror image or it will print backwards!

Instead of expensive (and messy!) brayers that roll on a uniform amount of ink, we carefully brushed the paint over the plate until there was a very thin coating of paint.  Too much meant a messy image and too little meant a spotty image.  I don’t give students water … it creates a huge mess and only serves to water down the paint, making it difficult to get a good print.

Lift/peel your paper from the plate and see how you did.  Didn’t work?  These plates are meant to be used over and over!  Try it again … (-;

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Filed under 5th Grade, Artist or Focus, Paint, Printmaking, ~Blog~

Kan U Kandinsky?

Today I asked the Kindergarten classes this same question … and the answer came back a huge “YES!”  Their art work today was beyond even my optimistic dreams!  It was a perfect project for a warm Spring day … full of bright glorious color!

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Before exploring our Kandinsky Style, we talked about shapes and how everything you draw is made up of different shapes just modified in your mind to tweak a little and make up the whole.  A simple example is a house … what shapes do you use to draw that house?  Rectangles for the structure, triangles for the roof, square for the windows, and so on.  We then moved on to something a little more complicated.  If you want to draw an elephant, you would start with an oval for the body adding some wrinkles and details, a tube for the nose, ovals for the ears adding wavy lines around the outside to make it look more realistic, etc.

We then talked about Wassily Kandinsky, the russian artist credited with painting the first piece of abstract art that was made up wholly of shapes.  Showing them his famous painting, Concentric Circles … we now had our theme.  I reminded them to look closely at his painting.  Did he worry about the colors mixing?  NO … it only added interest to his painting so, don’t worry about it!  I think that was very freeing for many of my art shy kinders!

We talked about how to use the tempera cakes neatly and how to keep the colors clean without too much water.  They did a great job dabbing their brushes on the paper towel and the applying the paint.  You will notice there is no black or brown … I only give those colors out sparingly and for particular projects because the project tends to lose it’s brightness and we are dealing with “mud” at the end of the project.  (:

Using 12×18 heavyweight paper, we folded our paper together in half 3x to make 8 rectangular sections to begin our shapes and concentric rings.  They then chose what shape to put in the centers of their paintings.  I encouraged alternating colors for the rings, but some had their own idea about what they wanted to do, which is great … that is what individual creativity is all about.

A little note … I also did this project in our younger special needs group and while I didn’t take pictures )-: they were also very successful.  We scaled back the project to only 4 very large sections and a limited amount of paint.  We had lots of smiles!

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Filed under Artist or Focus, Kandinsky, Kindergarten, LASS - Special Needs, Medium, Paint, shapes, The Art Room, ~Blog~

Peter Max and Acrylic Postage Stamps

I LOVE this project because it introduces an artist who is still alive and painting today, as well as exposes my 5th grade students to a more “modern” medium ~ acrylic paint.

Peter Max’s art is not only eye-catching and appealing to young children, but his subjects tend to the ones that are easily remembered and appreciated.  We talk about his influence on pop/psychedelic/60’s art (beatles’ Yellow Submarine), as well as his modern take on painting iconic things and people.

I love the book, The Art of Peter Max by Charles A Riley and we look at many different examples of his very distinctive style.  This book is chock full of visuals!

Peter Max paints very freely and doesn’t worry about getting that perfect paint color or line on his page.  I encourage NOT cleaning your brush much and just “loading” your brush with 3 different paint colors and just explore the paint and colors.  I love the shrieks I hear when I turn the paint plate upside down and hold it there for a minute or so to demonstrate to students the thick paint that doesn’t mix and mingle with other colors like other mediums they are used to using.  The unique properties of acrylic paint (we talk about these too) really lends itself to this project and older students appreciate using a medium they have never experienced before.  It is so flexible and forgiving they can’t really mess up and the bright colors used make all the paintings beautiful.  This project always goes up on the classroom boards afterwards!

I chose the postage stamp theme because it was a different way of looking at the paper and it celebrates all the philanthropy Peter Max has done through his art.  I mention that every July 4th, Peter Max paints canvases of the Statue of Liberty and the proceeds of the sale of the painting goes towards her continued restoration and maintenance.  At one time, Peter Max painted numerous paintings of Lady Liberty, donated the proceeds and, some say, he single-handedly saved Lady Liberty from disrepair.  Peter Max also designed postage stamps to raise money for our National parks – hence the postage stamp theme!

I demonstrate and encourage students to play with the paint and the colors with their brushes.  There is lots of dabbing and rolling of brushes to get different effects.

Starting with a stencil of a postage stamp, students trace the stamp outline which will become the paintings frame.  After painting and the paint dries, the final step is to cut out the postage stamp! 

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Filed under 5th Grade, Paint, Peter Max, ~Blog~

Gyotaku or Japanese Fish Printing

First Grade students study ponds and fish and I love to do this project celebrating the art of Gyotaku. (Gyotaku: “gyo” = fish – “taku” = impression – pronounced: guh – yo -tah – koo).  While it isn’t reeeeaally pond related and I suppose there are other ways to celebrate fish, this is a unique way to think about fish and art together!


Gyotaku originated about 100 years ago in Japan as a way for fisherman to record the exact size and species of fish they had caught. With no photography available and the practical need to sell or eat the fish the fisherman would hire an artist to make a print of the fish using inks or paints when they had an exceptional catch. The inks and paints used were water-based, and more importantly nontoxic so that the fish could be washed off and then sold in the market. Fish were painted to exactly replicate colors.  If a fish is large, rice paper or a silk sheet is placed over the top of the fish, rather than trying to turn it over and get a good imprint.

In 1955, Gyotaku officially became an art form.  The Association of Gyotaku was formed and the first exhibition was held in Tokyo.   Recently,Gyotaku has become popular in the United States. Along the docks in San Francisco and Hawaii, and also in other parts of the country, artists wait for the sports fisherman boats to bring their catch back from the ocean. Many tourists on the boats choose to have prints made of their fish, rather than having it stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist.

I have done this myself using real fish (slimy), but I chose to invest in rubber moldings of the fish.  I am so lucky to have purchased these when we had more grant money available… I purchased our “fish” over a 4 year period and finally had enough for everyone to use 1.  Before, I was madly washing a re-using them in one class time.  Thank goodness I have the classroom teacher who gladly helps!

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Filed under 1st Grade, Medium, Paint, The Art Room, ~Blog~