Posts Tagged ‘art’

Watercolors Suitable for Framing

January 12, 2010

Although I usually encourage you to use what you have around the house for craft project, once in a while it’s fun to capture your child’s artwork on good, acid-free paper that will still look great in 10 or 20 years.  I was in a friend’s house the other day and complimented her on a beautiful, framed painting hanging by the door.  It turns out her 8-year old son was the artist and did the painting at a class at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  We decided to try the project at home, and I love the results so far.  We’re still working on our paintings and I’ll post what they look like when they’re complete!

For this project, you’ll need watercolor paper, watercolor paints, masking or drafting tape and brushes (the bigger the better.)  I’d recommend visiting a craft store, or an art store like Dick Blick to buy your watercolor paper.  I bought #140 pound cold press watercolor paper, which is medium-weight and textured, but you can choose whatever you want.  I wouldn’t spend more than three or four dollars for a 22×30 inch piece of paper.  (The ones we got were on sale for 99cents.)  You can order paper online at  I’d also invest in some inexpensive watercolor brushes that are bigger than the ones that come with dry paints.  It will allow your kids to cover more area with paint with less effort.  It’s fun to different shape brushes too and let them experiment with making different brush strokes.  For not much money, you can buy wide brushes with bamboo or wooden handles.   The watercolor paints that come in tubes are more fun to work with than the pancake ones, since they make it easy to get lots of paint and water on your brush.  Once again, don’t buy expensive paints, unless you’re buying them for yourself. 

Tape your paper to a table or the floor with masking or drafting tape.  Then, using a ruler or eyeballing it, divide the paper into six even sections with your tape.  (In this picture, I have four pieces of paper taped next to one another.)


Have your child draw the same, or similar designs on each panel of their painting.  Then, ask them to paint each panel with different colors.  Tell them to experiment with mixing colors.  A large plate works well for mixing paint. Fill up a large container with water.  A big yogurt container or plastic bucket would work well and be sure to have paper towels on hand for blotting and cleaning up. 

Completing their masterpieces may take more than one sitting!  Your child can embellish the paintings with crayons or pastels or chalk to make them look even more interesting.  When they’re finished, peel the tape off and you’ll have a great, colorful work of art. 

As usual, my four-year old did her own thing, which I love.  (I’d definitely recommend doing your own painting alongside your kids.  Why should they have all the fun? I did the one at the top of this post.)

Spicy Layered Bottles

June 1, 2009


We go through a lot of olive oil at our house.  It kills me to throw the pretty glass bottles into the recycling, so I decided to save a few of them for this fun, pretty project inspired by a similar method I’ve seen used to make trays and bowls in Provence.  It would be a great craft for a birthday party or just for a rainy day.  All my kids loved it, from my three year old daughter to my eight year old son.

First, you’ll need an empty glass bottle or bottles with the labels scraped off.  I had to use rubbing alcohol to help me get the glue off mine.  (Please try not to curse me as you do this part of the project!)  Then, scour your kitchen cabinets for small pasta, peppercorns, herbs, beans, popcorn, lentils,couscous, rice, wild rice, poppy seeds, or anything else that would make a pretty layer in your child’s bottle.   I wished I had some lavender to throw in.  Maybe you do.

You could also do the project with very small bottles and layer only spices and sugar! Another option would be to dye some pasta for your bottle (see my art project archives.)


Have your child pour or scoop one thing at a time into the bottle, creating layers.  We found that it worked best to put the finer grains and spices on the bottom of the bottle and use courser, larger grains, beans and pastas toward the top, so things don’t sift down.  It also looks pretty if you alternate dark and light layers, but let your child be the artist! 


Since you already have everything out, make one yourself!  Why should kids have all the fun?

Picture yourself………………….

March 10, 2009

The digital age is amazing.  Remember when you’d have to drive to the store, drop off your film and wait for days to pick it up?  Now, you take pictures, choose the best ones, go to your computer and print them off on photo paper in minutes.  Amazing!


This morning, we did a great project similar to something I saw in Family Fun magazine.  We had friends over and I had each child stand in front of the door and do a crazy pose.  Most of them chose to jump and I got great shots of them suspended in the air with thier hair standing on end.  We printed the photos out, cut out around their bodies, and glued them onto some paper.

Then, each child drew a background for their picture of some place they imagined they’d like to be.  My three year old drew a “house” around her photo. Another child drew an underwater cave around herself.  Our two year old friend surrounded his photo with dot paints.  When my older two children get home from school I know they’ll want to have me take their pictures so they can do the project.  If you don’t have a digital camera, just use a school picture or a photo of your child that you don’t mind cutting up!

Maybe I’ll do one of myself at the cabin.  I only want to imagine that it’s summer on this snowy March day.

Dishtowel and Glue Batik

December 9, 2008

This year, I have been reminded of how much fun it is to make Christmas gifts.  With three small children, I have to admit that it’s not something that I’ve been anxious to do.  However, my kids had a wonderful time making gifts for their grandmas and grandpas this weekend and I think that they will enjoy them for years to come.  There are few things more cheerful and beautiful than the bright, expressive art of children. 


Batik is an ancient art which usually involves applying hot wax to fabric, dying the fabric and then removing the glue to expose the design.  When our friend Maggie told us that she had done Batik in her art class at school using glue and tempera paint, I couldn’t wait to try it.

My first attempt using washable tempera paint was not successful.  At this point the project became more of a pain than most of them that I post, but I loved the results so much that I decided to post it anyway.  I went online and found good directions on  As a result, I ended up going to their store to get higher quality tempera paint, which is not expensive, but stains the fabric better (and your kids clothes too, so be warned!).  They recommend using muslin as the fabric, but I just bought a 6-pk of flour sack dish clothes from Target for about $5.oo.

So, you will need: see-through cotton fabric, non-washable tempura paint, washable glue (like Elmers), a pencil and white paper.

First, I had my children draw designs with dark pencil on white paper the size that I wanted to frame, but you can do any size.  Remember, have them draw large designs.  The glue will spread and you will lose small lines and details.  Remind your child that the final result will not look exactly like their drawing.


Next, cut the fabric to about the same size as the paper and tape it to the paper.  I first taped the paper to a large piece of flat plastic, and then taped the cloth on, but that is not necessary.  You could probably tape the the paper to a cutting board  or counter top with similar results.  You will be able to faintly see the design through the fabric.  I think Muslin would be more transparent than the dishtowel, but I could see well enough.


Use glue to trace the drawing onto the fabric.  I did this step for my kids since it’s a little tricky and I didn’t want them to get too frustrated.  I squeezed the glue directly onto the fabric, but you could also put some in a dish and use a toothpick to apply it more finely.  Older children might enjoy doing it themselves!


Let the glue dry completely (we let it sit for about six hours.) 

Mix one part water with three parts tempera paint for best results.  Then, lay down lots of newspaper, have your child put old clothes on and let them paint their designs.  I think it looks the best when they completely cover the fabric with paint up to and even over glue lines.  My two-year old needed a little guidance so that she didn’t mix the colors together on the fabric too much and muddy them.  It’s fine to let the colors mix a little though.


Now, let the paint dry completely (overnight did the trick.)  Pull as much of the paper as possible off of the fabric.  Put on gloves to rinse the fabric in the sink.  Use your fingers or a soft rag to remove all of the glue and paper.  (The glue will feel slick and as you remove it you will feel the fabric and the paint will come off of where the glue was.)  It took me several minutes to remove all the glue.  The color will fade a little, but the fabric will soften as you remove the paint.  Do not wring the fabric, but blot it with rags or paper towels.  Then, hang it or lay it flat to dry.


You can iron the fabric between rags when it is dry.  The edges may be left frayed, or you can secure a small, ironed hem with glue or fabric adhesive.  I just left ours and taped them onto white paper and put them into inexpensive photo frames from Target. 

Each of my kids made one 5×7 batik for each set of grandparents.  They enjoyed the project and so did I!  In fact, one of these days, I’m going to help the kids each make a big Batik to frame for their rooms!  I can’t wait to see the snow leopard my son will do! 

If my directions aren’t clear enough, go to and look up “Easy Fabric Batik.”

Watercolor for kids (and parents)

November 10, 2008


Try painting with your kids.  They will love it and you may too!  Find your inner artist.  Grab a bowl of fruit, or just an apple, and paint it.  Add a little shadow.  Use unconventional colors.  How many famous artists draw brown and green trees?  None!  Grab that photo you’ve always wanted to have painted and give it a shot. 

You may surprise yourself!  The more you paint with your kids, the better you’ll get.  Like anything, drawing and painting just take a little practice.  We all need a little more art in our lives (especially those of us who spend our days carpooling and serving food to less-than-appreciative audiences.) 

Usually, my children do thier drawing and painting on recycled printer paper or construction paper, but they absolutely love it when I let them use my “real” watercolor paper to paint on. Since my paper is pricey,  I recently invested in some kids’ watercolor paper.  It has been a huge hit at my house!  You can find it almost anywhere.  I ordered some large pads of the paper from the Dick Blick (art supplies) website.  Don’t buy expensive paper- it should just be “watercolor paper”, which is thicker than notebook paper and may have a little texture.


Let them experiment with it.  We just use the washable watercolor palettes that you buy your kids for school.  I do love to have a few bigger brushes around for them to play with.  It’s hard to put lots of paint on the tiny brushes that come with the paint.  Most craft stores carry watercolor brushes.  Once again, don’t buy really expensive ones unless you want to use them yourself!  I love the brushes that are medium sized and have a tapered end, so you can paint big or small and do artsy-looking strokes!  Buy one huge brush for wetting the whole page with water so you can play with painting wet-on-wet!

Have them paint different color spots or lines right next to each other and then load their brushes with clear water.  When they paint the water between the colors, they can watch the colors bleed together and make new colors and pretty designs.  Some kids I had at my house the other day let their paintings dry, cut them up and glued them onto another piece of paper to make a collage.  They were suitable for framing!


Have fun and watch what evolves.  Paintings have a way of changing into something unexpected. Enjoy the process! 

I’m working on some great Thanksgiving craft ideas, so keep posted!

Watercolor leaves

October 9, 2008

In my opinion, you should hang your children’s favorite creations up, at least for a while.  It will show them that you love what they’ve done!  There are plenty of years to have a pristine house, but only a few to have your kitchen “cluttered” with their beautiful work.  Picasso once said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Using only white cone coffee filters and children’s watercolor paints, your kids can have fun creating beautiful leaves to hang on your windows this October!  My mother-in-law, an early childhood educator, gave me this great idea. 

We simply put a little water in the bottom of some small cups and made our fall colors: red, yellow, orange and green.  Brown would look great too!  The kids got their watercolor brushes wet, rubbed lots of paint into them and added it to the appropriate cup.  The more paint you add, the more intense the color will be!  Then, they simply splattered or painted the watercolors onto the filters.  We used a different brush for each color, so the lighter colors wouldn’t get muddy.  For really beautiful, intense splatters, have your kids just use the paint directly from the palette, adding just enough water to work with. 

Let the filters dry and cut, or let your children cut, leaf shapes from the filters.  You might want to draw the leaf shape for younger kids so they don’t get too frustrated.  Then they can simply cut on the lines.

I think the leaves look beautiful hanging on my kitchen windows!

Creepy Compost Creatures

October 4, 2008


Uneaten, brown bananas are a source of guilt for me.  I always plan to make banana bread, but rarely do and the spotty bananas go straight into my organic recycling bin. 

A few weeks ago, I pulled out some toothpicks, raisins, mini-marshmallows, cloves and bay leaves and let my kids create creatures using bananas and apples as bodies.  They loved the project and I loved seeing the results.

Your creatures will not last long before you have to throw them in the compost, but this is a project that is all about the creative process!  Grapes would be fun to use as well and there are lots of interesting, spiky, funky fruits available at the grocery store these days.  To prolong their “creatures'” existence, have your kids draw them or take a picture of what they created!

This would be a great Halloween project!  Friends of mine have even done it on a larger scale, decorating pumpkins with greens and other vegetables, anchoring them with toothpicks and wooden skewers.  It’s a great excuse to visit your local farmer’s market!