Thursday, January 10, 2019

Why I Keep Thinking About Artist Sonia Delaunay

A digital story sharing my impression of artist Sonia Delaunay: as a visual teaching artist, why I find her inspiring, both aesthetically and personally.

This topic sticks in my mind over the years, so it seemed like a rich place to start and one that would allow me to get a running start with a better chance of success on a short timeline. I wrote most of the script with pencil and paper using a writing prompt from the instructor of Coursera's "Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling" Course.

The images in the video include watercolors and sketches I created when attempting to put together a picture book dummy several years ago. I also included photographs of books about Sonia Delaunay, and a few photos from Wikimedia Commons.

My goal was to tell a story within a story, using personal narrative voice to engage the audience with my impressions and experience. I also wanted to closely study the step-by-step process of assembling the many parts of a digital story, so that I would be better able to guide my students in creating their own digital stories.

The most difficult part of the project for me, emotionally, was recording voice narration. I had to really struggle and overcome some self-doubt. When editing the audio, I tried to listen to my voice as if it were someone else talking. Another problem was just carving out enough time to do the very time consuming work that is required for a digital story! It did help me to just really focus on getting each step completed by the class deadline, and think of the project as if it were someone else's work, such as one of my students, so that I would not get too discouraged!

The most significant things I learned are to believe in myself, be creative with emerging technology, and work step by step to achieve a goal.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Painting with Patterns

Are you ready to re-invent the color wheel?

These paintings are created with acrylic paint, enjoying it's wonderfully opaque qualities, over a black surface. We added the earth pigments burnt umber, yellow ochre, and iron oxide to our primary color studies and expanded our understanding of color theory with many new mixing experiments and combinations.

We got inspired with geometric patterns from folk art, graphic art, and woven textiles. The bold results really pop! They grab our attention even from across the room. 

Sunprint Drawing Transfer

Students and families were amazed at the striking results from this multi-step process! Several parents asked for details.

The first part of our project was to draw in reverse using a Sgraffito technique, also known as scratch art, on a clear sheet of plastic coated with ink. This can be purchased prepared for you, or you can make your own with waterproof ink. (A variation is to draw or paint with ink on a clear sheet.)

The scratch tools must be sharp enough to draw easily, or it's not much fun! Before class, I whittled dowel rods down to a point, and students used sand paper to maintain the point while working. (Of course, we always remember our safety rules with these sharp tools.)

Next, we were ready to transfer our drawings to sunprint paper. The clear sheet with the ink drawing was laid directly over the photo-sensitive paper and exposed to direct sunlight. All clear areas where the ink had been scraped away allowed light to reach the sunprint paper, creating a polarized, or reverse, image.

Also called nature print paper or cyanotype paper, sunprint paper can be found at many art, craft, and science suppliers. The paper is coated with a non-toxic chemical that turns a brilliant blue color after being exposed to sunlight, rinsed in plain water, and air-dried.

Final art work can be treated like watercolor paintings, that is, keep dry and protect from gradual fading caused by direct sunlight over time.

Drawing Class: Baskets in Charcoal

As I looked around my studio for a something to challenge returning students while welcoming newcomers, my eyes landed on my collection of baskets. I thought, what a great way to introduce concepts of line to a new group of drawing students. To develop a strong sense of contour, we need clear visual pathways to follow. Baskets have many lines in repeating patterns that we can follow and study through drawing. For advanced students, working to capture the overlapping forms can give an added challenge. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Drawing Students' Final Projects

My drawing students from Family Learning Program fall quarter surveyed a broad range of drawing topics, practiced skills and experimented with new concepts, and shared this final artwork with their community.


We explored how drawing can create the illusion of three dimensions with marks on a two dimensional surface.

I could tell the students took to heart the importance of building our Drawing Community when I noticed everyone sharing their work either with a neighbor or with our whole class.

Perspective drawing is especially useful for useful for building spatial-visual connections, showing architectural and mechanical forms, room interiors, and landscape drawing. 


Objects appear to diminish with distance. Things appear smaller when farther away.

Students were asked to study proportions and practice using sighting and relative units of measurements.


Every person has unique and beautiful proportions. We can use relative units of measurement to show all kinds of interesting people.


To train our eyes to see small but important changes in the light to shadow scale, or spectrum, we set up a visually simplified situation with a single light source. Then we practiced drawing an object while attempting to capture a full range of light and shadow gradations.

At it’s most basic, a drawing is a group of marks on some kind of surface. Any drawing will relate to line, shape and/or pattern. You can draw anything visible, and many imaginary things as well, with a step by step process. Start with a soft gesture drawing that captures the shapes and motion of the entire subject. Next, check and correct proportions using relative units of measurement. Finally, add detailed contours and gradations of light and shadow.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friendship Tales

We started Friendship Tales with Cartoon Day and some very fun results!

The kids learned about word bubbles and drawing simple cartoons with basic shapes.

Some even had previous experience and were working in panel form!

Students participated in get-to-know-you games, helped build our learning community, and listened to Mo Willems’ My Friend is Sad. We worked together to figure out if the story was sad, silly, or a little of both.

Corduroy by Don Freeman and Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel helped us persevere to learn sewing skills.

Finally, our button artwork came together in fine form. Meanwhile, we thought about different ways friends can help each other and work together to solve problems.

After reading Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard, we made a list of good things, just like Mr. Putter. Then we had lots of fun crafting books! It turned out the students were already experts at this.

Ling and Ting - Not Exactly the Same! By Grace Lin led us to a painting activity. I had plans for the kids to paint the covers of their books, but the students declared mutiny and decided to create these beautiful paintings instead. We struck a happy truce!

While reading The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, we began creating stick puppets to help us tell stories of friendship. Best Friends for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, helped us continue our crafting fun, by this time settling into a great routine for our final few class sessions.

I am so proud of the thoughtful discussions we had on some difficult friendship problems. The Sneetches helped us talk about how it’s okay for friends to look different from each other.

Hearing Frances’ troubles helped us think about ways to get past hurt feelings and be friends again.

We decided you can have time by yourself and still be friends. But, we all especially agreed that it's not okay to exclude people because of who they are.

Our final class, we were inspired by Little Bear’s Friend by Else Homelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This story helped us find ways to stay friends, even when we had to say goodbye!