Brush strokes

There are plenty of suggestions on the web, on how to make your own paint brushes, funky or more conventional ones. We thought we’d share one of our favorites by Miss Annie on Instructables. The step by step and the photos are clear and engaging. It sure is a fine way to save on art supply spending and make one fully appreciate how personalized tools can stimulate creativity and style.

Learn and show children how the pros are making paint brushes at DaVinci Artist Brushes and also Lineo, both in Germany.

Three homemade paint brushes. By Miss Annie. Source: Instructables.com, 18 May 2021.

News from the driveway

The long title of this post is: Great news from Macaire’s worldly driveway. Indeed Macaire Everett and her muse brother Camden make the news again this Spring 2021, by publishing an amazing book, filled with more than 120 full page photos of chalk drawings by Macaire.

The book The world from our driveway (on Amazon) depicts the journey of two siblings facing the imperative remote learning, imposed by the pandemic. With its behind the scene section, the book shows how what started as a home remedy against boredom, turned into a family and community effort for promoting resilience and bringing smiles and joy around the world.

Macaire had largely shared her work digitally on social media. One of our earlier posts last Summer linked to her busy Instagram. It is such a relief that Macaire’s work, though ephemeral by design, can be preserved on paper. Maybe the driveway itself will some day receive a heritage site designation from UNESCO. And we are only half kidding, because we heard that museums around the world are racing to document life during this pandemic.

The compositions are so inspired and engaging, that picking a favorite is mission impossible. With Mothers’ Day coming up, see Macaire’s touching birthday drawing to her mother. It will melt your heart. For us at the Collection, if we had to pick one, it would the one titled We are all in this together. Not only is it a propos because of the pandemic, it is also one for which Macaire digged into her own personal archives, and in which she staged herself with her muse. In this image more than in all the other ones, personal and universal appeals come together and come full circle.

The world from our driveway, back cover. By Macaire Everett. Source: Amazon.ca, 4 May 2021.

Camera-ready

Drawings are known to be at the heart of our Collection. However, it is not limited to them and our blog has also touched upon other formats in the past. For instance, see our recent entries about collages and writings, such as notebooks and diaries. One format that we had yet to touch upon is photography by children.

Normal, we may say, because if access to paper and crayons is not universal, access to cameras by children is more than marginal, to say the least. Certainly, allowing children to handle expensive, fragile equipment comes with a stress most parents do not want to endure. Still, there are ways to do it and choosing the right time to make a child responsible for a camera, is the first step. Giving a purpose and an end goal, is also I way to engage the child. Take for example, combining the photographic activity with a drawing class, or a holiday documentary project. Even more engaging is making sure that parents and the rest of the family take part in the project and that the images are shared and discussed with family members. Taking photos can be a short easy-come easy-go activity that bores just as quickly. For the child to maintain and develop an interest in it, a broader purpose should be understood and shared. It can be a great path to deeper visual literacy for the child and improve observation skills, critical thinking and drawing abilities.

A nonprofit organization took it even further, by setting the stage for photography by children as a team effort, community-based program for personal growth, and a channel for social change. Meet 100 Cameras. Based in New York City, it operates globally to provide young people with cameras, so they can tell their own stories visually. Images are then sold online to fund local community-driven initiatives. Programs for educators are also available. We do not know yet whether the photographer gets to keep the original digital file, nor if an image only gets printed after a purchase is made, or if the photographers get their own prints. If you find out, make sure to let us know.

Photography Symbol for Wikipedia 20,  by Jasmina El Bouamraoui and Karabo Poppy Moletsane. Source: Wikimedia.org, 28 April 2021.

Collage graduate

Online shopping has sky rocketed in 2020. Craft minded people know what that means: Plenty of packaging and wrapping supplies ready to be re-used in mix media collages. Here are a few leads to help you dive into the world of collages and stick to it.

Prolific teachers and creative parents will enjoy Kathy Barbro‘s suggestions on her Art Projects for Kids website. It includes Kandinsky and Matisse inspired projects, among others. For the passionate makers who never have enough, try all of 70+ Paper Collage Ideas for Kids, collected by Shruti Acharya on her Artsy Craftsy Mom website. The 10 extra large collages are our favorites. If you are serious about it, you will want your collages to last. Choosing the Best Collage Glue becomes imperative, and that is where Sherri Osborn comes to the recue, with her articles on The Spruce Craft website.

Sure we like Matisse and Miro, but we adore contemporary artists and, when it comes to collages, Jonathan Talbot is our master. Get the wizard’s insights from his book Collage: A New Approach.

Below is our Collection’s oldest collage, from the 1940s. Is is a still life put together by Lisette, with a paper cut school kit. Bess Bruce Cleaveland (1876-1966) was a prolific artist and illustrator from that era.

Still Life, collage, c1945, by Lisette. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org.

Write down to write it up

Children draw, paint, assemble and build, but they also write a great deal. Primary school children are often given the opportunity to describe their drawings in writing. This can be the beginning of a long string of personal writings involving homemade comic strips, diary entries and poetry creation.

There are plenty of personal journal products on the market and it is a most significant and enduring present a young person can receive from parents. In fact, diary or personal writing is an activity proven to be beneficial for anyone. So, why not start early in life? Have a look at Dr Melissa Madeson‘s advices for Self-esteem journals, prompts, PDFs and ideas published by Positive Psychology. Her “8 Self-Love Journal Prompts” are sure to help anyone get through what feels like a bad day. If you want to dig a little deeper into the subject, see Dr. Christian Jarrett‘s well-referenced article To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life, published by the British Psychological Society.

Writing about or for oneself, however, might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So be it. Writing about anything that one cares about is always a good idea. Writing it on paper rather than on screen could make it more memorable and fun to go back to in latter life. We recently discovered the fantastic Canadian Science Fair Journal. A great place for kids to realize that they too can write about their science projects and discoveries!

A rabbit dreams of an eagle, by Mathieu, c2000. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org.

Twigs with a twist

Just last month on this very blog, we paid homage to the stickman figure. Many told us it was a good move. So, for the fun of it, let’s keep it moving with renowned British artist Chris Kenny. See his dancing twigs and other uplifting works. Next time you go for a nature walk, let us see what you find. We also liked his other works, particularly where he mixes text and images.

Twelve Twigs 2019, by Chris Kenny. Collection of Kalmthout Arboretum, Belgium. Source: ChrisKenny.co.uk, 23 February 2021.

All hail the stickman figure!

Quite frankly, it deserves its own world class museum. The stick man figure has been among us for probably thousands of years. This enduring symbol of both human simplicity and our communication skills is still ubiquitous today, in signage and publicity around the world.

Lately, its name was passed onto the heroic character of a popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The book’s success propelled animated films and even a musical (Freckle Productions). The stick man figure has never been ignored, but it is about time we celebrate its rightful place in History.

Seriously, isn’t the stick man figure the living proof that regression, mindful or unconscious, is not only a great defense mechanism readily available to all, but also part of our daily cognitive hygiene? That the stick man figure is and has always been part of children as well as adults’ lives is definitely good food for thoughts.

How to draw a stick figure, screen shot. Source: Wikihow.com, 26 January 2021.

A step at a time

A full year into the pandemic. Lockdown, social distancing, work and study from home, even maybe a curfew. Our discipline and patience are definitely being tested. What to do? Let the recent record snowfall (50 cm) in Madrid inspire us to go outside and draw with our feet in the snow or in the sand, one step at a time. It is good exercise and no art supply is required (a camera to preserve and share ephemeral art is optional).

You can even follow the foot steps of famous engineer-artist Simon Beck and do mathematics at the same time. Start with a small simple geometrical form and challenge yourself to go big and find proper location for you. Reflect on how you feel about your image fading away and how long it lasts. The pandemic will not last. How we will remember it is on us.

Screen capture, Instagram. Source: Instagram.com/simonbeck_snowart 10 December 2021.

Discover the Wordbank

CDIC is better known for its interest in images from children, be it drawings, collages, paintings or mix media. Keep in mind that we also have a passion for photographs and digital expressions by children. They can be digital drawings, video and audio files. The more items we collect and preserve, the more useful our collection can be to scholars and authors who wish to access it in the future.

We recently found out about a fantastic research project on language acquisition in infants and toddlers. Initiated by cognitive scientist and developmental psychologist Michael C. Frank, the Wordbank is an impressive database of audio files from over 75 000 children and 30 languages. Frank and his research team from Stanford and Chicago universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published the latest of their findings in a book available at Random House and MIT Press: Variability and Consistancy in Early Language Acquisition, the Wordbank Projet. The Language and Cognition Lab at Standford University made the document available on GitHub. This is valuable material for all early childhood specialists interested in language acquisition.

Stanford Magazine published a nice review by Deni Ellis Béchard, in its March 2020 online edition, What Kids Are Saying These Days. It gives an account of how Michael C. Frank came to developing his research and provides highlights from the book.

Wordbank website header. Source: Wordbank: An open database of children’s vocabulary development (stanford.edu) , 22 December 2020.

All ears

Anytime is a good time to celebrate music and drawing all at once. Let’s be thankful for music. It helps us going through the global pandemic and so many other dire experiences, or beautiful ones just the same. Put on your favorite or a completely unexplored playlist and draw lightheartedly while letting yourself transported by the sound of music.

For educators and homeschoolers, here are two nicely put together activity descriptions to explore with kids. The first one, Drawing to music, is from a quite interesting project called TeachRock, by the no less fascinating Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Make sure to go read who the founders are on their web site. Like most of us, many visual artists are inspired by music. It is quite fitting that they suggest Kandinsky’s bursting Composition VII for this activity.

The second one, Musical Art, was shared on KinderArt by Geoff Simpson, a teacher from the Greater Toronto Area, where our Collection is based. Go on and revisit Piet Mondrian and Serge Tousignant’s works, only two of the many great painters who could not do without their musical inspiration.

Composition VII, 1913, by Kandinsky. Source: TeachRock.org, 10 November 2020.