Tag Archives: acrylics

That’s So Beautiful!

A couple of weeks ago, I taught an art class at a local craft store. The class involved step-by-step painting in acrylics on canvas; first I would paint something on my canvas (the sky, the grass, etc.), and each person in the class would paint the same thing on their own. The class consisted of both children and adults.

One student in particular, a fourth or fifth-grader, made quite an impression on me. It wasn’t because of his skill or finished product, but the comments he made throughout the class time. Every so often, I would go around from person to person, look at their work, and see if they needed any help. Every time I came to where he was sitting, he would say, “That’s so beautiful!” Then he would paint something else, and say it again.

His painting didn’t quite follow the one I was doing. I had a bright blue sky; he made his a night sky with yellow dots for starts. Mine had three flowers; his had three flowers of another color and a berry bush. And every time he took a step back to look at it, he would say, “That’s so beautiful!”

A few days later, I told my friend about this student. “Wouldn’t it be neat,” she said, “if we all encouraged ourselves in that way? What if we said, ‘Good job washing those dishes!’ or ‘What a great job you did with the laundry!'” We laughed, but we both agreed — that would certainly change not only the atmosphere in the home, but our attitudes as well.

I’m not sure exactly what the student’s parents did to foster such a sense of accomplishment and appreciation in their son; perhaps it’s just his personality. But one thing’s for sure: he was a joy to teach and have in class. And his painting really was “so beautiful!”

Shaving Cream Art

As we wind down with another school year of art classes (I teach in my home), I like to surprise the students with a different type of art project for the final session. Last year they created some abstract art by spattering paint using several different methods; this year, we’re making marbled paper using…shaving cream!

I have three classes that meet every other week — one of the classes finished up a week ago, while the others will conclude on Wednesday. I tried the project with the first class, made up of boys ages 9 – 13, and it went great!  I figured it would, though; after all, we were using shaving cream.

There are some good sites online explaining the history of marbling, which we talked about before getting to work. Here’s how we did it:


  • Cardstock
  • Shaving Cream
  • 9″ x 13″ Pan
  • Tempra paints or food coloring
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks, combs, skewers

 To prepare, I purchased one can of shaving cream and a disposable 9″ x 13″ foil pan for each student. After reading more about it online, I probably had way too much shaving cream. One teacher recommended using only a few cans for a class of 20. I saved our extra for my next class, though.

 Then I had each student squirt out a layer of shaving cream about one inch thick in the bottom of their pan (Fun!).

 Next, the students painted the top of the shaving cream with tempra paints. Food coloring worked just as well but was more expensive. We also tried watercolors, but the finished pieces didn’t seem as bright as those with the tempra paints. Craft acrylics didn’t work at all.

 Before painting, we added water to the paints to make them more fluid. As the students painted, they tried to cover most of the surface of the shaving cream with color. This usually results in a more interesting final product.

Using a toothpick, comb, or skewer,  the students  then ran the object through the color, creating swirls and other patterns in the shaving cream.

Next, they carefully placed the paper directly on top of the shaving cream. We patted it down gently so that the entire sheet came in contact with the shaving cream. Then we pulled it up gently again.

I wiped off the paper using a paper towel (a bit of a mess). Even though the shaving cream surface was smudged, the design had transferred nicely to the paper.

 We then set the paper aside to dry, and the students tried again. To do so, we simply mixed the used paint into the shaving cream until there was a “clean” surface again.  We were able to use the same shaving cream for all of their projects that day — about four to five pieces of art each.

Okay, Kids – Express Yourself!

img-0136A couple of months ago, we rearranged almost all of the rooms in our house, changing two of our upstairs rooms into bedrooms. My husband no longer has a study (he’s okay with that — he doesn’t bring much work home with him), and each child now has their own room to clean, maintain, and house their treasures.

As soon as she moved in, my 9-year-old, Lillie, loved her new room, and she had some big plans. The room (my husband’s former study) was a neutral beige color with white trim. “Can we paint some shapes on the walls?”

We looked up some ideas online, and we decided large geometric shapes would look really good on those walls. Plus, I wouldn’t have to paint the entire wall again. “Okay,” I said, “but we’ll have to wait until we have a free day.” After spending a couple of weeks on the house, I had a lot of catching up to do on other things.

“Can I do it?” she asked. I thought for a moment. Why not? After all, it would save me some time. We’ve painted enough together that she knew just what to do. And it was just paint — we could repaint the walls again whenever she was ready.

“Sure,” I said. “Use the craft acrylics, and clean up when you’re done.”

Later that day, she called me upstairs to see her masterpiece. But instead of the large geometric shapes I had envisioned, the walls were covered in red, green, yellow, blue, and purple 1″-3″ polka dots. And Lillie couldn’t have been more proud.

“There are a couple of hidden shapes,” she said. “Can you find them? A purple triangle, a green triangle, a blue square…” Her bedroom walls were not only much more lively, but they were a puzzle she could share with friends as well.

As we raise our kids, we’ll probably question a lot of our decisions (I do!). But letting Lillie paint her own room is one I’m glad I made — the results have only been positive. She has a room she enjoys, and she built up her self-confidence in the process. What’s more, she inspired her younger brother who also moved into his own room — now his walls showcase stick figures having adventures! 🙂

Working With Polymer Clay

sculpeyIn my art classes the past couple of weeks and for one of our recent co-op classes, I’ve had the students work with sculpey. Sculpey is a brand of colored polymer clay that becomes hard when baked in the oven — and the kids have been so creative with it.

I purchased a variety of colors for both classes. The clay comes in 2 oz. blocks, and you can sometimes find it on sale at your local hobby or arts and crafts store. You could also purchase the plain white sculpey, which comes in a larger size; after you mold and bake it, you can paint the sculpture with acrylic craft paints.

Before class began, I did an Internet search for “polymer clay” images and printed off a few to give the students some ideas. You can also find ideas in polymer clay craft books at your library.

Then they let their creativity go, and I helped them along if they needed it. They made small sculptures of everything from horses to roses to beetles to fruit and candy. Even my five-year-old was able to make a strawberry without assistance using a picture as a guide.

You can also vary this project to suit your lesson. Because our co-op class was reading stories about snow, winter, and Christmas, we used the sculpey to make simple Christmas ornaments. The children formed simple shapes, such as triangles for Christmas trees, circles for snowmen, hearts, etc. We then cut a small piece of floral wire, bent it into a “U” shape, and pushed both ends into the scupley, making a “hook” for the ornament. Because the wire was metal, it could be baked along with the clay.

After the sculptures were complete, we followed the directions on the package for baking them, and they turned out great! If you decide to try working with polymer clay with your children, though, be very careful not to over-bake it, as it does give off fumes. A well-ventilated area is best for baking.

Now get started molding that clay — and have fun!

Abstract Fun

abstractOnce a week, I teach art lessons from my home to homeschool students. Most of our projects involve drawing or painting from life or photographs. But as we are finishing up the classes for this year, we decided it would be fun to have a day of abstract art.

I have a class of boys ages nine to twelve that meets every other Tuesday, so yesterday we gave modern art a try. We used several different methods of painting the masterpieces, the best being spatter painting. It was an easy and (according to the boys) a very enjoyable project. This is what we did:

1. First, each student put on a paint shirt if they weren’t wearing old clothes. Painting can get messy!

2. Then, for each student, I supplied a half sheet of posterboard to paint on. We went outside and nailed the posterboard to a tree with just one nail in the center at the top.

3. Next, they chose the colors they wanted for their paintings. We used craft acrylic paints, and they squeezed them out onto styrofoam plates (their palettes).

4. The students then chose the brush or brushes they wanted to use. I had a container on the ground with brushes of all sizes, including larger house-painting brushes. I also had a container of water available for them to wash out their brushes when they needed to.

5. Then the paint went flying! Each boy stood in front of his paper and spattered the paint by using quick flips of the wrist.

It was interesting to me to see how deliberate the boys were in their choice of colors and where they made the paint go. Each painting was a unique original, and, by the boys’ reactions, a lot of fun to create!