Nature’s Crayons

At the last set of parent-teacher conferences I listened to parents of a kindergarten student as they explained their son’s excitement over “nature’s crayons”, something they had done with him at home. I thought it sounded cool, and the parents offered to collect nature materials for their son’s class, so that perhaps everyone could experience “nature’s crayons”.

In case you’re not sure what nature’s crayons are, I’ll explain. If you take different things found in nature, like leaves, petals, sticks, stems, etc. and rub them onto paper, they make marks. Almost like the juice that colors them gets spread onto paper.


Also, in case you’re not sure how excited kindergarteners get over nature’s crayons, I’ll explain. They get VERY excited. It’s basically discovering that something you interact with on a daily basis has a secret power. Leaves and flowers can draw!


I apologize for the lack of photos, but we were all so engaged in our art making that I forgot to snap them – and then the students were so excited to take their pictures home that I didn’t have the courage to break their hearts.



If you’re looking for something awesome to do this summer, go pick some flowers and leaves in the park and make some art using nature’s crayons!

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Spring is Here and 89 Artists are (B)Looming!

Sometimes we picture our lives as if they were part of a Hollywood movie. This week my life was part of Fiddler on the Roof.

No, not the part where Tevye sings about tradition, and not the part where Golde sings about how fast children grow up – although at the end of the school year I can certainly relate to both of these.

I’m talking about the fabulous scene where newlyweds Tzeitel and Motel attract the attention of the villagers as they welcome their new arrival… a sewing machine! The humor is in the commotion, as the viewer is sure the fuss is about a baby, only to find out it’s about a piece of machinery.

Fiddler sewing machine

Similar commotion was made this past week by 89 students and staff alike, as the 89 Art Room welcomed our new arrival – the Friendly Loom. Passersby were poking their heads in and congratulating me, students were Ooohing and Aaahhhhing, and everyone wanted a piece of the action.


I don’t have any shots of students working yet, but after only a few days, this loom has been strung and unstrung, ribboned and de-ribboned,  sewn and unsewn, and brought lots of happiness to 89 artists.

As part of the 3rd grade weaving study, students will each have access to their own personal looms, as well as the Friendly loom, but I will also allow students in all of the grades the chance to work on this fabulous frame.

It will hopefully become a new 89 tradition! tevye-2

Color Theory & Andy Warhol

After completing their action-packed explosive Lichtenstein style paintings, second graders continued investigating Pop artists and created these colorful self portrait series’.


Students reviewed color families that they were already familiar with, like primary, secondary, warm and cool. Then, they learned about a few others like monochromatic, complimentary and neutral.

We read about the life and artwork of Andy Warhol, and then each student was asked to complete a series of prints, choosing a different color family for each photo.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow

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Kindergarten Patterns & Designs

I try not to have much of a hand in students’ work, but for this one kindergarten project I make an exception.

For these beautiful silhouette drawings I traced each student’s face onto paper. As a class, we discussed the difference between a pattern in math and a pattern in art. While both types of patterns are sets of things that repeat, in math patterns are usually several different things (a circle, square and triangle) that repeat themselves in a recognizable trend. In art, a pattern is often the same thing that repeats itself to fill up a space or create a design. We identified three main types of art patterns: line patterns, shape patterns and picture patterns. Lots of classmates were wearing clothing that was filled with stripe patterns or dot patterns or heart patterns. They were easy to identify. Here’s the result of our conversations:

Finally, students got to work filling their silhouettes in with various patterns.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow.

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Infinite Heartfelt Gratitude

As I stroll through the first floor hallway and admire the work that your children create, I am filled with overwhelming gratitude.

Thank you for raising children who are excited about making art.

Thank you for taking them to museums and galleries around the city (and the world).

Thank you for donating your money and supplies to the school art program.

Thank you for donating your precious time to our school and to the art room.

Thank you for looking at the work your child created and also the work that the rest of the school created.

Thank you for helping, and offering, and asking, and giving.

And, thank you for sharing your beautiful children with us. They create things that brighten our school.

Thank you.

Important Announcements from the Art room

I’m pleased to announce that after much planning and preparation, we will finally be hanging our 2014/2015…   Student art show banner Stroll through the halls of the first floor to see the beautiful artwork that all of the students here at 89 have been making during this school year. The artwork will be hung up later this week, and will be decorating our lovely school until the last week in March.

Please stop by before or after you pick up your little ones in the yard, or when you come to school for conferences next week.

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**And a small request… If anyone can donate some hand wipes and/or lysol wipes to the art room it would be much appreciated. We’re getting messy down here and need some help!! Thanks!!

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2nd Grade Leaf Drawings

There was a lovely cardinal in the tree outside of my classroom window this morning. Its lovely red color stood out so brightly against the bland white-ish gray-ish wash that our winter has become.

It reminded me of these beautiful leaf drawings the second graders made back in the fall, and, as I was trying to decide what to post next, thought this would be the perfect time for a bit of color.


Second graders created these observational drawings of leaves using fabric leaves that I have in the classroom. When drawing, they focused on the shape of the leaf in front of them, and the curves and angles of the leaf’s edges.  We discussed composition, and arrangement of their leaves, and how lining up the leaves gives a different feel to their artwork than placing them at various angles and spots around the paper.

When it came time to add color, we discussed the warm and cool color families. Since autumn leaves are primarily warm colors (reds, oranges and yellows), they would stand out best if the background was made of cool colors (blues, greens and purples).  So, using their best blending and shading techniques, color was added with colored pencils on the leaves, and watercolor pencils in the background.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:

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Paper Engineering with 3rd Grade

After spending time in their classrooms learning about bridge engineering, 3rd grade artists then come down to the art room to learning about a different kind of engineering – a kind that uses paper. A paper engineer is a person who creates movable parts and pop-ups for a card of a book, out of paper. Folding, cutting, twisting, gluing and constructing are all necessary to be a successful paper engineer, but the most important step is the planning step. Each student will be creating their own themed book. In the process, we have learned several methods of creating paper pop-ups and students have worked individually or in groups as I presented them with different paper engineering challenges. Though there is still much work to be done, here are a few in-progress shots of our pop-up books! Click on a photo to begin slideshow:

4th Grade Goldsworthy Sculptures

For the past few years I have introduced 4th graders to Andy Goldsworthy, since I believe his artwork creates a nice connection to their social studies curriculum. While they are busy studying different areas of the earth up in their classrooms, they are creating art using materials from nature down in the art room.

Andy Goldsworthy is a sculptor, a photographer and an environmentalist. He creates sculptures using the materials that are provided in the nature setting that he is in. He uses leaves, rocks, sticks, sand, dirt, thorns, ice, snow, berries, blades of grass and even his own spit (as we found out after reading a book on his process) to assemble his delicate sculptures. Here are a few examples of his work:

Since we lack the same access to cross-continent environments, I employed the “fake it til you make it!” attitude that led the students to success. Local craft stores offer a wonderful supply of fake, and sometimes real, nature. I brought in rocks, sand, beach glass, leaves, sticks, grass, shells, flowers and moss for the students to work with.


We discussed simplicity, balance, minimalism and impermanence – as they pertained to Goldsworthy’s artwork, and to their own.

Students had the opportunity to play with the materials for as long as they needed before composing their final sculpture.

Click on a photo to begin slideshow:


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Now you see me… Now you don’t!

Sometimes it seems as though we spend so much time finding that perfect balance between blending in and trying to stand out. This last project by our talented 5th graders toyed with that same struggle, in their artwork. leila After looking at one of my most favorite videos of artist Liu Bolin (The Invisible Man) and several photos of his work, we dove right in to creating our own camouflage artwork. Students looked through books and photos to find a background image they liked, and then painted it on a sheet of paper with acrylic paint. When the painting was complete, they laid their hand and arm over their paper and another layer of acrylic was applied to their skin, to mask it within the painting below it.

Please click on a photo to begin slideshow: