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Color is Overrated – People Have Forgotten Their Values! Or Have They?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

You may be used to the new “3-D” look of the latest Disney films, but what happened to the old line art that you can see in older Pixar movies, such as ‘Mulan’ and ‘Cinderella’? Well, Pixar is bringing back that look with their new animated short, ‘Paperman’, which is scheduled to be run before their new feature film, ‘Wreck-it Ralph’, in November. It’s not unusual for a short to be attached to another film; Disney and Pixar have been doing the same thing with movies such as ‘Brave’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’.

The line art look that is going to be used in ‘Paperman’ will combine both the “old” and “new” Disney visual art, using shading to make some things look like forms, but still using traditional hand-drawn animation that will be transferred to their art software. They will also use only values of black and white, so color will not be used at all in this short! This makes value a very important feature, and the animators have to pay close attention to how dark they make the shadows. If one area is too light, it might clash with where the light source is coming from, making it look unrealistic. The irony in the color scheme is that the title of the short is ‘Paperman’ – usually we associate paper with being black and white. Since Disney and Pixar are going back to the basics; maybe you can draw some inspiration from them and get some ideas for artwork! Try using only shades of black and white to draw something; make sure you add in some shadows and shades of grey, not just black and white.

Spring into Art!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

 “Spring refreshes the soul, then refreshes the creative self.” – Anonymous

 New perspectives of young learners can provide essential energy for learning. For example, look up: an ever-unfolding canopy of trees spreads across the landscape. Sometimes, in an indoor learning setting kids get used to looking across rather than up or down.

 Outside, when we look up, there are the spreading spring leaves, and when we look down, there are bountiful floral surprises.

Sometimes, quite unbelievably, when one finds a tree or plant that does not seem to fit in a particular geographical place, it is especially interesting—like a magnolia tree on a campus in the Colorado Front Range! But I found one, and passers-by can hardly believe that—in late spring—it is really a blooming magnolia tree.

To learn more about trees, why not take the kids on a tree tour? This site is in Boulder, but tree tours can be found elsewhere as well.Or, perhaps take a Denver Botanic Gardens tour so that students can learn more about plant growth, research, and perhaps conservation alongside the arts by visiting the exhibits and perhaps attending an event at the Gardens?

What about seeing spring from the perspective of a plant or tree? OK, so I am a tree. What kind of a tree am I? What kind of leaves do I have? Am I a tree that grows locally or a tree that you saw on last year’s vacation with your parents or relatives? What if I am a magnolia flower? Where do I usually grow? When I grow in an unusual place, how might I survive? What kinds of supports (perhaps protection from the winds?) would I need?

 Then again, what if I were a 200-year-old cottonwood tree and one of my friends—call him Jerry or Mary, Joshua or Laura—wanted to build a tree-house in me?

Would I be strong enough to hold a little tree-house? What if the kids in your class thought so and wanted to design a tree-house that would suit a 200-year-old tree? How big is it? How do you build a tree-house without harming the tree? Will it have enough shade to keep you cool in my tree-house in the hottest months?

 Developmental skills kids could be working on with these activities could include observation, team-building, note-taking, guided question identification, “research,” and presentation skills. If you want to add another layer in class, play Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring;” spring does indeed bring gifts! So, let’s spring into spring and let nature guide our art and our perspectives!

 Arts are us!

Children in the Virtual Art Museum

Monday, March 9th, 2009

We all know that the Internet is not an adequate replacement for the real experience of visiting the art museum. However, sometimes it’s just not possible to make the trip. Thankfully there are many resources on museum websites that provide ways of seeing into a museum, as well as offer many art-based activities and games for children. It’s also a great way to prepare your children for a visit to the art museum.

First, check out web resources for your local art museums. Then, check the website of any art museums you know of and see what they have to offer. When searching art museum websites, keep in mind that they sometimes hide these fun things under a tab called “Education” or “Programs.” It may take some searching but it will be worth it once you find the activity. Here are a few of my favorite sites but a word of warning for the adults – you may find yourself crowding the computer to do these yourself!

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has a variety of online activities for adults, teens, and young children. If modern art puzzles or delights you, this is the place to go.

TATE Online is a delightful website of fun activities with a Brit sense of humor. In the games section I enjoyed the street art activity. Find your favorite!

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has The Art Zone: Interactive Art You Can Make Online. The Photo Op activity introduces the basics of digital photography and how to manipulate images in a variety of ways. If you don’t already have it, the site will ask you to download the Adobe Shockwave Player. It takes a few minutes but it’s worth it.

Another activity is to make your own exhibition. To give you some ideas, the James A Michener Art Museum has a “Create an Exhibition” activity, along with many other activities.

Or go all out and make the whole museum and name it after your family or school.  Take a look at some interesting museum buildings and decide what you would like yours to look like.

Think about what materials you might use to make a model of your museum.  For example, when I think about making a model like a Frank Gehry building, I think of using curled paper or ribbon to get those curves. What would you use to make a model of a building like that?

Take your artist out for a ride on the Net! You will be amazed what you’ll find out there (and in yourself!)

Thanks for the great pictures from Xavier Fargas and nick.garrod

Art: An Artifact with Many Purposes

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Early universities established what faculty considered the four major areas of study: arts, law, medicine, and theology.

Over time, the “arts” evolved to mean more of some things (storytelling, finger-painting) and less of others (stained glass work, cathedral wood carvings), the Latin root for the word “art,” ars, is a base meaning “put together, join, fit.” In any case, the arts are here to stay.

Art can turn the routine of daily life into refreshing adventures in many ways, but three of them are by expressing art as immersion through the imagination or fantasy, art as therapy for healing, and art as community-building engagement in social change. Art can teach us lessons, provoke questions, and help us experience cultures through the lenses of artful eyes.

From the Hogwart Express of Rowling’s Harry Potter to the science fiction of StarTrek to the hobbits’ adventures of J. R. R. Tolkein, it is clear to children (and to the adult’s inner child) that art and fantasy easily partner. In these cases, a continuous thread of stories provided an imersive “reality” that captured millions’ imaginations. However, a child can express one great little story into a singular work of art as well.

Sometimes art is most helpful as a way to heal. Remember the thousands of drawings posted on fences and on Web sites after 9/11? Or children’s drawings from around the world after Princess Diana passed away? Art—storytelling, poetry, music, dance, visual arts, painting, sculpture or other forms of creativity—can serve to help us transform from a difficult experience to a more peaceful one. How? Scientists tell us that art can reduce the experience of stress to one of relaxation. Especially when guided, it can help transform pain into acceptance, sometimes into a work of art.

Art can also be used to build community and, in so doing, help socialize us. As with events around 9/11 or those around Princess Diana, communities came together to share stories, remembrances, and to share their common experience of loss. The art created around these events served as powerful reminders not only of the lost ones but also of possible futures for the surviving ones.

Art can represent evolutionary social issues also.  An example would be the emergence

of art communities around a new social issue—that of  “going green”.

In this case, green art can serve to inspire us about a cleaner future, remind us to

conserve resources, and allow us to understand that we are not alone, that we are one

of many concerned and committed to bring children a cleaner future.

Whether art serves purposes of delightful fantasy, healing, or community engagement,

or just fun, it is one of the elements of a core curriculum that exhibits

individuals’ humanity and talents.  In what way will you use art to move you through

the day today?

Learning from the Artist’s Process

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Science and language arts educators increasingly advocate that instruction should reflect the way real scientists and writers work. For example, instead of dry lectures on scientific principles, teachers suggest engaging children in genuine scientific inquiry,  experimenting, and learning content as they solve real problems. Similarly, writing teachers ask students to generate many ideas, select and organize those ideas, then undergo a series of revisions, often keep process portfolios of their work. Admittedly, this is a more difficult way to teach but ultimately more meaningful for students.

In the visual arts, while there are many wonderfully creative ideas for children’s art making, in books and on the internet, these lessons rarely mirror the way real artists work. So why is it important that, when making art, children reflect the ways artists work? Primarily because children can come away from an arts experience misunderstanding artists and the creative process or, worse, feel like failures and ultimately shut out the arts from their lives.

I first noticed this phenomenon when working with emotionally disturbed elementary-aged children. Naively, I thought that art projects would make them happy and relieve stress. Wrong, so wrong. When art materials were scattered onto the floor, chairs flew across the room, and fights broke out, I questioned my premise and became curious.

Here is what I came up with…..A typical art lesson gives children one piece of paper, for example, and one chance to “get it right.” Most art lessons are designed

to be completed in one 45-60 minute class period. Certainly, this is a practical consideration as school art teachers often have an extremely large number of students to serve. However, it is so foreign to the way most artists work.Like writers, artists spend time making sketches or models around an idea that interests them. They try different materials to find the ones that best accomplish their idea before settling on one approach. While children can be resistant to multiple revisions in writing they often like such “do-overs” in art.

It’s about the process.  Like scientists who conduct many experiments around a single problem, artists often work in series, completing variations around a theme until the artists feels she has exhausted the idea for a while. Revisiting, revising and rethinking is part of an authentic creative experience, as is generating many ideas then choosing among competing priorities.

In the end, working like a real artist not only allows children to have an authentic experience, it also teaches them intellectual discipline, perseverance, and creative problem-solving.  These qualities transcend all subjects creating well-rounded individuals for our communities and better learners over all!

Make art like an artist!

Thanks to pmorgan, and ElvertBarnes for the great images!!

How Artists See

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Colleen Carroll knows the value of visual literacy. The mother of three girls and an educator found herself creating the art book that didn’t exist. Actually a series of them.

How Artists See, a popular 12-volume series of art books, was written and designed to teach children about art. But not at all like the boring dusty volumes filled with dates and facts.  Each of these simple books take children through a familiar subject, animals, heroes, feelings, weather, etc. Young readers are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and responses, prompted by everything from cave paintings to contemporary art. The open-ended questions in the book stress individuality, and encourage one’s own. Children relate to various artists, empathize with their feelings, culture, tools, times.  Through this lens, they see how the work came to be.

Carroll, who started college as a photography major, soonwent on to Art History.  She eventually taught sixth-graders in Southern California, and found no visual arts instruction (or music, dance, and drama). That led her to develop an art appreciation curriculum that dovetailed with the world cultures social studies curriculum. The kids loved it.

 But how did all this start?

“One of my earliest memories of art is looking through a monograph on the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci. The book was a tome: it was absolutely huge and must have weighed 20 pounds. Every so often my father would hoist it off the shelf and let me flip through the pages. While I was too young to read the text, the plates captivated and mesmerized me. The power of the artwork spoke to me and touched my spirit. Even though I didn’t know who made the beautiful pictures, somewhere deep down I knew I was communicating with a genius.”

By creating the series Carroll makes Da Vinci, and other geniuses accessible to the young. As an art educator, Carroll knows firsthand, the importance of the arts.

“Great art is a powerful visual tool that stretches across many barriers: language, class, race, and literacy, to name a few particularly wide ones. Exposing young children to art sparks the imagination, and when shared with a parent, teacher, caregiver or even a peer, promotes dialogue, vocabulary growth, and critical thinking. Introducing young children to art from a broad range of cultures and time periods builds background knowledge and teaches them that there is a bigger world beyond the one that they know. Interacting with art can help young children grasp abstract concepts, such as hope, justice, and courage. In an increasingly visual world, early experiences with looking and talking about art build visual literacy and analytical skills: skills that are becoming more and more important to possess.”

 Sharing art with children is so simple, yet rich. Carroll lives her life like she teaches it.

“When I was completing the research for my new book series, How Artists See, Jr., the time had come to choose the final images for the volume which looks at dogs in art. I had already done the first cut, but was having difficulty selecting from the fifty or so images left on my list. My kindergarten daughter happened to be home from school with a tummy ache, so I asked her to help me. Spreading the prints out on the living room floor I said, ‘Honey, come on down here and pick out your favorite pictures.’ Within minutes she had the prints in a neat stack, her favorites at the top and least favorites at the bottom. Without prompting, she began to tell me why she liked some dogs better than others, and what certain ones looked like to her (critical thinking and evaluation, expressive language). I share this anecdote to illustrate how fun, educational, and easy it is to share art with young children. Their innate curiosity and imagination, paired with rich imagery is, indeed, a potent learning tonic.”

Lucky girls, Carroll’s three.

 “That Leonardo book? It’s now on my bookshelf within arm’s reach of my own children.”

Maybe this holiday is a good time to gift your own family with a special art book. Visit the art section of a local bookstore and let your children explore. See what they find interesting. You might just be surprised.

Design is Everywhere

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Check out that monitor you’re looking at? Ever wonder who designed it? Or how about that mouse you’re clicking? The pen sitting on your desk. The desk itself. The clothes you’re wearing, the car you’re driving. Or even still—the seats in your car, all the way down to the springs, in the seat, in the car you’re driving. All designed by someone.

Design is everywhere—we just tend to take it for granted. We really don’t notice how everything is designed, but we’re drawn to the design—either consciously, or subconsciously. We don’t really know why we want the cool new cell phone, or the latest fashions. We just do. It’s all about the design.

Try this test. Take a minute out of your day to pick an object—could be anything, a radio, tv, shampoo bottle, coffee cup, a spoon, a fork—anything. Then consider the design. The shape/contour/materials/color, etc. Then, think about how design ties into that object on multiple levels.

Example: a designer designed the plastic earpiece from the phone on my desk, which required a mold (which required a designer), made by a machine (which required a designer), which has a bunch of crazy parts (which required a designer)…. you get my point. The links become nearly infinite.

Now, consider the power of design, how it influences your life and how it ties in to creativity. Design is everywhere.

Chris Stevenson
Madcap Logic Graphic Designer

Meet the Players….Randy Parker

Thursday, November 13th, 2008


Randy Parker, Founder Madcap Logic

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”
Pablo Picasso

How many of us start out as creative little beans, slapping colors around, mucking with clay, paste, crayons? Happy. Yet at some point, we start to feel inadequate. Maybe someone said something unkind. Maybe no one said anything at all.

This is one of the reasons Parker created Creativity Express.

“My main goal was to open that back up. Kids are wild, fearless at a young age. Yet at some point, that shuts down.” By using the animated software, kids get to learn about artists, their techniques, their tools, and become artists themselves.
“I contend that everyone has artistic abilities.”

The whole idea started as a museum guide for kids. Parker wanted to create a bridge between museums and schools, he worked with the staff at The National Gallery of Art to develop the program. . Kids would learn about the art in advance, then walk the great halls with enhanced perspective and information. However, the teachers noted the value of the software, in and of itself.  Nothing like it existed, so the project grew into a more structured tool, with a full curriculum. Parker and team brought in the Institute for Learning Innovation. Full on art 101.”I didn’t even know what the word pedagogy meant.” says Parker.
Together they built a fun tool that teaches kids everything art, from Anasazi culture to wax resist technique.
The program also encourages creativity through games and activities.
Everyone should express their inner artist, we are now finding important links between expression and the brain. Yet kids either don’t have opportunities to be creative, or feel like they have to excel, in this go go age.

“We stigmatize ourselves,” says Parker.  “Yet we all have the capability to be creative.”
Parker knows creative. At the helm of Disney’s famed computer animation department, he worked with teams of gifted graphic artists for twelve years. Although his own background was film study, he was immersed in a world of visual literacy.
The studio is known for intense preparation, each film undergoes a 3-4 year process of detailed research. For the film, Mulan, several dozen artists went to China to absorb firsthand, cultural traditions, the landscape, color palettes, quality of light. This depth of experience informs Creativity Express. Parker seeks to hone a child’s senses of observation and context through the software program. One theme running throughout is artists observing other artists, techniques, cultures and emotional states.

The current trend towards arts integrative learning is being welcome by many champions of the whole brain.
“Our education system doesn’t encourage right brain thinking, and that’s a shame.,” says Parker. Think Pink.
“However, I do think there is a wave picking up here,”says Parker, who has witnessed the teachers’ enthusiasm for early creativity.
“I have heard teachers say ‘If we don’t teach kids art in second grade, we’re going to have a really hard time teaching them physics in eleventh grade.’”
Parker agrees –our brains work holistically – the challenge for parents and teachers is how to bring these two capacities back together.
“They are both important, the left brain holds the factoids, the right brain tells it what to do with all that.” says Parker.  “Imagination, it’s more important than knowledge.”

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