Under the Bed Kid Curated Art

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Elaborate Lego imaginative play made by my daughter.

I have been reading a fascinating book called, How Children Make Art: Lessons in Creativity from Home to School by George Szekely. There is a fascinating section in the book about pre-service teachers making home visits to document and discuss their students’ collections in their bedrooms, as a way to help future teachers balance the study of adult and child art.

The author points out that all young children start off as artists and collectors, and that their bedrooms are the home to rich and varied, yet carefully curated collections. The author argues that children lose this passion and love of art when they come to school and find no connections between their home art and school art. So, as art educators, what do we do to encourage the connections? How do we as adults honor their playful and un-adult eye for design?

I started by looking at my own two children’s rooms for ideas on what I can do to encourage their collections.

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Objects from my childhood treasures.

This book has been a timely read, as I recently helped to take apart a childhood collection site of my own – a glass case shelf where many priceless treasures were stored.  I did not photograph this lovingly curated shelf, before taking it apart.  Items had been in certain locations for so long that I can still close my eyes and see the arrangements.

My children sat with me, in absolute amazement, picking up each object one by one, treating each thing as sacred and precious.  They asked question after question, cataloging my responses as insights to my own childhood experiences, making connections that their adult mother was once just as imaginative as they are are now.  Revelations to my little humans!

My 8-year old daughter has a more elaborate system of set-ups, comprised of animal figurines, dolls, dollhouses linked together, scarves, washi tape, rocks, glass beads, shells, wrappers, and prize bin items. There are constantly items all over the floor, which at first appearance may seem random and messy, but upon closer inspection, they are set up in a deliberate and playful manner. She HATES the weekly floor clean up, in order to avoid her precious collection from being vacuumed up.

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My son’s collections are housed in old cigar boxes.

My 5-year old son, on the other hand, likes to keep his collections stored in a series of boxes, which are then in turn put inside his nightstand drawers and on his book shelf. If given the opportunity, he will pass on letting friends play in his room, because he likes the floor clean and free of items.

Enter a solution that comes from my hybrid roles of mother and art teacher – under bed platforms for each child’s room.  They can hold train tracks, cars, Legos, fairies, ponies, dolls, furniture, or whatever is being curated at the time.

We just so happened to have two nice pieces of plywood in the garage, casters in the basement, and kids who wanted to help in this process.

Eric had both kids help him to measure, mark, and screw in caster wheels to the bottom.  We left the wood natural, knowing that at some point they may paint them, tape paper on, or layer their own playful surfaces.  Now their curated collections can be safely stowed away to be returned to again and again.

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Two recent thank you notes made by my children.

This book has been an on-going source of ah-has for me and has helped me to honor the creative ideas and art making of my own two children.  My next step is to find more authentic ways to bridge the home art and school art of my students.

Greta’s Butterfly Watercolor

Butterfly, watercolor on paper, 9×12″, 2014. 

This watercolor painting started off as a painting for another person having a baby.  Then, Greta discovered it and took it to her room so she could  hang it up.  She fell in love with it and said, “For my big girl room,” so many times that I caved and started another painting for the gift.  She is getting a big girl room soon, as we are moving her into the empty bedroom and turning her room into the nursery for her baby brother.  She is so excited for this change and this artwork just makes it all that more special for her.

 I started with taped off watercolor paper and a pencil sketch of a butterfly and flowers.

I used black India ink for all the black sections of the butterfly.  This way, I could use watercolor paint and watercolor pencils without fear of the black bleeding and smearing into the colors.

Lastly, I added color to the butterfly and flowers.  I used watercolor paints for the flowers and watercolor pencils for the wings of the butterfly.  My last step was to use gradations of a light blue-green for the background.

As always, prints and artwork are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop, which is currently empty.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well.  

Eric Carle App for Kids

This is an older photo I took of Greta when we were back in Greensboro.  The look on her face and the grip in her white little knuckles, made the determination palpable during this painting session.  She has always loved to paint and manages to make the most beautiful abstract artworks that I wish I were able to create myself.  How is it that children can make the most simply beautiful lines and smears of color, and yet, when I sit down with the intent to make an abstract image, I struggle?  Too much pressure and knowledge, I think.  I find myself referring to this Picasso quote more and more as I watch her grow, and as I have made the shift to teaching elementary art.  
(Our favorite finger paints!)
As her interests grow, she has discovered chalk, finger painting, gel window clings, stickers, and coloring books.  It’s funny, coloring books used to be the evil anti-art thing that I had very few of growing up.  In our shifting world the new evil anti-art thing tend to be screen time.  Eric and I limit Greta’s screen time to 10 minutes, at the most during any given day.  There a few art apps she really enjoys, but we still monitor her usage at all times.  I am still amazed that she can unlock my phone, activate the camera on my phone, and take photos.  You can probably guess what this mama uses her phone most for most often.  
Due to her savvy phone skills, I end up with a lot of selfies like this one.  Although many end up as just a smear of her skin color. 

Lately, Greta’s been busy making digital artworks with The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Sticker Book, which is based on the art and characters of Eric Carle.  At $1.99 it is a deal!  She made this illustration the other morning.  The fun part about this app is the ability to choose objects and characters and stick them onto a background.  There are 57 different stickers and 5 backgrounds to choose from.  Greta loves the different sounds that accompany each sticker and loves to do silly things like place frogs on top of cakes.