Tuesday, December 29, 2009

River, age 21 months, loves to draw. Most of River's drawings to date have been lines. She's practicing making a mark on paper, exploring color and just beginning to control the marker or colored pencil. She usually names her drawings "moon", even when all I can see is straight lines. Only in the past few days has she started to make something resembling a circle. When she drew the orange lines ("Flower", bottom left), I told her I thought it looked like a flower, and colored in some of the petals. She then picked up the green marker and added the leaf. I think it's our best collaboration yet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

creating a character

Last Friday, Marj Watkins and I did an author/illustrator presentation for Family and Book Fair night at our local elementary school. The idea, based on needs expressed by a 5th grade teacher, was to do a mini-class on character development in writing. She suggested we teach children how to "show" a character's traits rather than "telling" about them when we write stories, i.e. " Laura sang as she helped her mother wash the dishes" rather than "Laura always did her chores cheerfully", or "Laura was a good girl. She always helped her mother."
My part was to support Marj, writer of the Rotaida books, and possibly to teach children a bit about how an illustrator approaches showing who a character is. We each spent two days preparing, in a very logical way, with illustrations and sample sentences. At the last minute, I created a penciled figure children could draw clothing on to illustrate a character of their own, and tossed in my runestone stamps, for some good old hands on activities. 
Of course, we didn't exactly get to do our mini-class. Neither of us works quite as logically as we were trying to teach, and the children went straight to the hands on activities. THEY didn't want something that smacked of academics once school was out! As I joined them in creating a character, I tossed aside the step by step instruction handout I had created and let my character just become who it would as I drew, just as the children were doing.
I think there is a place for both ways of working, depending on where you are in the project: from the inside (letting the character develop as you write or draw) or from the outside (determining the person's character traits and then deciding how to write about or draw the person).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

sarah's picture

This is by Sarah, age 5. Her sense of design and color, and her use of tinsel is just delightful. Sarah was one of my first students way back when I started Suzanna's School. She would be....15 years old now!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scribble art

Here is a fun art project I've done with both children and adults. I remember doing it with my mother when I was a child. The result is always beautiful and the process fun and relaxing. It's a wonderful way to get in touch with the joyful compassionate child in all of us. I recently did this with a group of caregivers who work hard and long taking care of elders and of very sick or terminally ill people. It was so gratifying to see careworn faces relax and smile!
Use a permanent marker for the lines. Just scribble anything! We used Crayola trademark washable markers to fill the spaces with color, then touched the marker with a brush dipped in water. The colors ran together beautifully! Texture was added when the piece was dry using crayon or marker to make dots and lines. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I got a kick out of Kolo and Kai at Strawberry festival on Vashon. These two youg men (maybe 6-8 years old) stopped by my booth on Saturday after the parade and wanted to know about the rune necklaces I was displaying. I explained that runes are an ancient form of writing, and each symbol stands for a sound--like in our alphabet--and also has a magical meaning. I showed them Kano, or Kenaz, the letter that would stand for the "k" sound in both their names. Oh, Yes! they each wanted a rune necklace, but --alas--had no money. I put one aside for them "for tomarrow".
A bit later, Kai came by, asking if I wanted to buy what looked like his mother's business card, for $1. I'm still kicking myself for saying no. Next, I heard him at the booth next door, offering "a long one for $1 or a short one for .50". I think he sold one of each!
An hour or so later, Kolo and Kai came by with enough to buy one necklace. They had decided to share it. I took their pictures as knight and princess.
A while later, they came by asking if I would sell them another necklace for $1.75, which was all the money they had left. I gave them Thurisaz, "breaking down barriers", to go with Kano, "creating your reality", because they had broken down the barrier of having no money to create the reality they wanted: a rune necklace for each. As Kai slipped the necklace with Thurisaz over his head, he turned to Kolo, wearing Kenaz, and said,"you create the reality and I break it down." I wonder how this will play out in later life?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dragon Lore

I taught Dragon Lore at the Library in Woodburn Oregon last month, with my sister Jeannie. After learning about Dragons all over the world including Mexico and the USA, the teens created their own dragons on silk. We talked of several ways to deal with dragons including:

dancing and singing them to sleep (Medea in Jason and the Golden Fleece)

feeding them milk (works well with some Chinese dragons)

and staring them down (If you see the two headed horror Sisiutl, do not turn and run, for if you do, you will be spinning the rest of your life. Instead, stand firm and face the two heads until they turn toward each other, and Sisiutl will see his own face, will see truth, and will bless you.)

I love dragons. They are so deeply symbolic not only of our terrors, but also of ancient wisdom, power, and creativity.

I am particularly indebted to Anne Cameron's story of Sisiutl in Daughters of Copper Woman. I highly recommend it for those of us facing the fears of terrorism and economic disaster in these times.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Monster Friends

This spring I had such fun doing an art project with first and second graders. We created a banner for the Parent Teachers Association Auction, with the title "Our Monster Friends". To get the children started, I showed them photos of some of the mythical creatures I saw on a recent trip in Thailand, and asked them to consider whether a monster could be friendly (Many of the Thai creatures seemed as though they could be). The kids were particularly interested in the many armed Shiva. We had some wonderful discussions.
The children then drew monsters of their own creation and transfered their drawings onto silk squares. They painted the squares with silk dye, a parent ironed them to set the dyes, and I assembled them into a banner. I worked with the children to write stories about their monsters, photographed their squares individually, and assembled photos and stories into a book. I believe monsters the children created and their stories expressed a new view of "monsters" as different, but not necessarily bad.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marjorie Watkins and I did our first school visits with her books, Rotaida and the Runestone, and Royal Spy (I illlustrated Royal Spy). That's me on the right saying, "RoTAI DA, RO TAI DA!" We look a little bind because we took our glasses off for the camera. 
The clothes we are wearing are from the era, Charlemagne's time in 800 A.D. We dyed them with onion skin and tumeric to imitate as closely as we could the dyes that would have been available at that time.
The kids seemed to enjoy our readings and our attempts to take them back before cell phones and Ipods, and their teachers smiled the whole time, so I think we were successful. The kids asked great questions and had interesting comments. One girl thought she couldn't live back then with out her cell phone, but her classmates reminded her that she wouldn't even know about cell phones, so she would be fine. We had discussions about herbal medicines, how our ideas of trolls might have come from people with birth defects being cast out from the community, about travel being easier on water than on land.
It was great fun, and we plan to do it again. And again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peek a Who?

River, my 13 month old grand daughter likes books, though she often "reads" them upside down or sideways. Her current favorite--at least at  my house--is Nina Laden's Peek a WHO?It has kept her attention longer than almost anything.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big Brother Mouse

I'm just back from a fantastic trip into Thailand and Laos. As always I had my eyes open for children and for things of interest to children. It seems that children in Laos love dinosaurs too! 
We drove the length of Laos from Namptha in the north to Pak Se in the south. In the north, we traveled narrow windy roads through mountains right out of a Chinese painting, with villages of houses on stilts with bamboos walls, people washing themselves and their clothing at the village spigot and cooking on charcoal fires on the ground. When we got to the capitol city of Vientiane, I found a book store with books in English and Lao--and discovered Big Brother Mouse.
Many of the children in the villages we passed have never read a book except for school textbooks, and some not even that. Books are
 rare, and even many adult Lao people don't think books can be enjoyable, or interesting, or add to their lives in any way. Big Brother Mouse is a project to bring the enjoyment of books even to villages far from roads. The project teaches local young people the computer, writing, and publishing skills to create the books. Even the illustrations are done by young people. Young people introduce books to children in the villages through games and demonstrations. They give every child a book to read, and leave more books with the teacher so that the children can trade their book for another when they are finished reading it.