Tag Archives: kids art

Workin hard or hardly workin.

Learned an interesting lesson today by accident.

Merrick is home sick from school. He’s slightly head-achey but not dying, so I gave him a tiny cup of coffee and threw him some scrap paper and let him have at it. He diligently cut and stapled and ripped and folded and taped for about two solid hours, hard at work constructing first a house, then a car, and then an apartment building. He kept asking me to help him, and I honestly meant to do just that–but there was the laundry, and the dishes, and then of course my own art to attend to. I left him pretty much alone to his own devices there on the living room floor, despite his persistance in asking me to get all up in his posterboard koolaid. And you know what?

He built his own apartment building complete with doors and windows and support walls and a roof, all completely without my help.

The takeaway here? Sometimes us moms and dads just need to back the funk off, at least when it comes to art and creativity. Is it perfect? No. Did he figure it out on his own? Sure did. Is he proud of it? Yes indeedy. And I? Am proud of him.

Workin' hard, or hardly workin'.

My little engineer in the making.

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Art in the garage.

Art is over.

5 weeks–gone. This past month sucker-punched me and everything went by so fast. One minute we’re reading about the quiet talent of folk artist Horace Pippin, and the next minute I’m trying to convince the kids (and myself) that spray-painting on buildings is, in fact, bad. (We ended up working on black foamboard. It’s kind of like a wall, right?)

We covered Pippin, O’Keeffe, Chihuly, Van Gogh, and Banksy–yes, Banksy. My hope was to not only touch on the mystery artist himself but to explore the overall concept of street art–so often graffiti is used to express political or societal views. Sticking it to the man is always fun and sometimes called for, but I wanted the kids to see that they could use art to spread messages of hope and kindness all sorts of other good stuff and junk.

We barely scraped the surface, because of this:

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We took up too much time in art class doing art.

For this starter street art project:

  • I got some foamboard. Get this crap on sale or use a coupon because it is not cheap.
  • Then I took chalk and traced the kids laying in crazy positions. It doesn’t have to be a perfect trace because you’re just looking to have a general shape.
  • We got acrylic paint (the thick gooey kind, even though acrylic craft paint might work just as well) in all kinds of bright colors, and started filling up the shape inside the lines. Some kids went all b-a-n-a-n-a-s and some kids were all kinds of methodical and geometric. The idea was to make it look kind of like graffiti, but I am not in the business of shutting down creative genius in progress. If a little girl wants to draw herself with eyes and hair and a pretty pink dress, then by cracky that’s what I’m gonna let her do.
  • I let them use a number of objects to get the paint on–brushes, brayers, rollers, brooms, and this weird-looking thatched tape that I found in my garage that probably belonged to my husband and I wasn’t supposed to touch. Think texture and patterns and just overall awesome mess-making.
  • Then, if they wanted to, they wrote words in graffiti-style handwriting that described themselves (funny, cool, silly, awesome, etc.)

They came up with some pretty cool finished products.

Banksy wasn’t totally kid friendly. His art definitely carries a message and I only ended up showing them about 2 examples of his actual work.

I get it–freedom of expression–it’s a beautiful thing. But can we not use it to encourage and uplift? Just something that’s been on my mind. I wanted my students to see the potential in that, but we didn’t go as deep as I would have liked. So because there was so much left unsaid, my next session–Spring of 2014 (as long as I’m not in between homes)–will focus on street art: sculptures, murals, street performances, etc.

Should be awesome.


Oh The Messes We Will Make

I’d like to say I’m not totally obsessed with this fall’s art session; that I’m not excited about the thought of ordering canvasses in bulk; I’m not at all giddy about watching the kids break in new paintbrushes.

But I am all those things. This fall session is going to be awesome.

We’ll create. We’ll dream. We’ll get up close and personal with flowers and junk like Georgia O’Keeffe. We’ll learn from the courage and honor of Horace Pippin. We’ll cry over the heart breaks of Van Gogh. We’ll figure out what’s up with Dale Chihuly’s pirate eye. We’ll make our town smile with mystery art like Banksy’s.

We will have paintings and sculpture and heart. We will think outside the box and break out of our bubbles. We will do serious art and we will love every stinking minute of it.

And gallery night? Well I’m starting to wonder if our town’s local library will be big enough to display all the awesome stuff we’ll do.

All my students happen to fall in the kindergarten through 4th grade range. I think back to my public elementary school art days, and I’m not sure I had the opportunity to use much more than color pencils and construction paper. But these guys will be spoiled as far as supplies go. I’m so stoked.

They may not paint a realistic still-life of a bowl of fruit (they may not paint anything that looks like much of anything to anyone), but if I can get them to open up artistically; to love and appreciate a variety of works from all kinds of artists, both traditional and non-traditional; to bubble over with ideas and enthusiasm; and to take pride in their creations–then I will have met my goal.

I’m so excited.


Painting Mania

Ah, Monday. Approximately 3 weeks left until school starts. Cheyenne is back from Maryland. Mia and Merrick are taking swimming lessons. And I’m still muddling through a crazy phase. Though I must say–there are perks, such as the inevitable surge in creativity.

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Of course, it usually happens at night, and I either toss and turn in bed with my head spinning from ideas; or, I get up and paint/draw/write it out.

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Unfortunately, these late-night art sessions can get me going on a vicious cycle: early morning exhaustion leads to massive amounts of coffee; coffee fuels anxiety, anxiety wears me out, the extreme fatigue keeps me from my afternoon run, and the lack of afternoon run keeps me up at night. When will it end? And can I keep the imaginative part?

In other artsy news, sign-ups for my kids art classes were held last week. I had 13 spots filled within about a 24-hour period. I’m going to have to rent a U-Haul to pick up art supplies this season. It’s going to be amazing: we are of course covering Horace Pippin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Banksy, Dale Chihuly…

And Vincent Van Gogh, who was more than a little off his rocker, God love him. Now there was a man with a lot of good stuff to say. Did you guys know he was a preacher once? He taught about Jesus down in the dingy coal mines of Belgium. He actually sold everything he owned and gave it to the poor miners and their families. When he stopped preaching, he painted like it was his religion. Heart and soul into everything. And then he cut off his ear, shot himself, and died.

Sad stuff right there.

My July art classes have just about wrapped up. It’s been so much fun, working with so many different people and all their different preferences and styles. It’s fun to see some kids come in so rigid, afraid to even hold a paintbrush for the fear they’ll make a mistake–but when they leave, they’re loose and fluid and relaxed. Some kids seem like they’re born to paint and create.

One day I had a little girl who was determined to paint a soft, realistic picture of a butterfly. This sporty chica had a heavy hand; her strong softball arm would not make a “light” mark to save her life. I took this to mean we should try a different approach–we decided to go edgy with a pop-art style painting:

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Last week I had a mother/daughter/son class with some of the most laid-back, teachable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to do art with. Noah loved them so much, he got all dressed up for their session. Here are the final products of the mellow family:

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Why yes that IS my dog wearing a necktie.

And now that classes are almost over, I’m going to enjoy the last few weeks of summer before school starts–the calm before the storm. And calm means: running from swimming lessons to band camp to grocery shopping and back-to-school shopping and house-cleaning and bill-paying and painting and art-lesson-planning and anxiety attacks and ripping my hair out over stupid Disney channel songs called “I Know What Boys Like/Girls Like.”

Here is one more picture of our July in Oklahoma:

A Van Gogh-worthy field of sunflowers.

A Van Gogh-worthy field of sunflowers.


Brown Paper Bag Time.

Confession: I suffer from depression and anxiety. I suffer from it right now. I noticed a change in my breathing and my mindset on Wednesday. I could feel it coming on and I just couldn’t shake it. I don’t think my heart rate has slowed to a normal pace in the past 72 hours. I feel like someone is driving nails into my skull and there is something sharp scratching all over my brain. I can’t get a good deep breath and I can’t sleep. Being around large crowds of people makes my skin crawl. Being around small crowds of people makes my skin crawl. The thought of talking to anybody outside my immediate inner circle makes me feel all barfy and dizzy.

Other confession: it’s worse than it sounds.

I’m trying. I’m really, really trying. I talked it over with Caleb, who–after 12 years of dealing with me and my drama–was like: “how much coffee have you been drinking? Have you been exercising at all? Are you going to kill anyone, breathe deeply, drink ice water, and I’ll be home shortly.”

He’s so great, y’all.

I have prayed so hard about this. I try to joke about it. Somedays I can laugh at myself and other days I just want to rip my own head off and shove it onto something pointy like a stick.

Also some days I have absurdly violent thoughts.

Between driving–on the interstate–to downtown Oklahoma City to a house where I don’t know people in a neighborhood that’s scary, to listening to news stories about child trafficking and phony door-to-door salesmen, and people with guns, and home invasions, and race riots, and fighting and wars and global warming and also having an abnormally large amount of bugs in my house this summer, plus temporarily housing and caring for a friend’s pets (guinea pigs–Mia wants one for her birthday but I’d rather set myself on fire), my nerves are shot. Completely and utterly shot.

Like, raw. I feel raw. I cry so easily. I want the calming effect of alcohol–except I can’t drink just one drink, because one turns into 13 and before I know it, I’m throwing a chair through the wall. So no alcohol.

I just want to be in my house, with my family, doors locked and bolted, with guns at the ready. And I don’t have a gun, but it would be at the ready if I did.

Is it just me or is the world such a dangerous place? Aren’t people so effing scary lately? Kidnappings at ballparks and grocery store parking lots? How am I supposed to let my children outside at all ever?

I have an apocalypse theory, only instead of zombies, it involves mean people of the meanest kind. They will infect everyone and eventually take over the whole world, roaming in evil hordes across the country, banging on the walls of my house…

Aaaaaaand now I can’t breathe again.

I got to thinking, though: Wouldn’t the devil just love for me to curl up in the fetal position, especially at a time like now when there’s just so many people to help and there’s so much art to be done?

My anxiety attacks began on Wednesday–the very same day of the first art party downtown. Coincidence?

Jesus said a lot of cool things, including this encouraging gem in Matthew chapter 5:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

What the devil tempts me to do is easy–in this case give into my fears and my worries and my dizzy spells and my headaches, and just stop in my tracks. But God is all the time asking me to do the hard things, like breathe and take tylenol and suck up and just keep moving. No pity party over herrrrre, baby. My husband seems to have picked up on God’s attitude and for that I am thankful.

Please continue to pray for this project and that God will show us other places and people that we can help…and that I can remain calm enough to follow through with His marching orders.


Fear: Can I Be Honest?

Today was our big art day downtown. It was cool.

If by “cool”, you mean being so worried about getting lost in downtown Oklahoma City that the second you drive north of the Hwy 37 exit, you get a killer migraine. Cool, as in your anxiety disorder kicks back in with a vengeance, and suddenly your car is closing in on you, and giant 18-wheelers are for sure trying to run you off the road and you feel like you’re going to vomit.

And when you actually get where you’re going, you really do worry that that’s exactly what will happen: you have to breathe in slowly through your nose in order to keep from literally barfing, because here you are: out of your element and waaaaay out of your comfort zone, with folks you don’t know, in a place that–you’ve been told by dozens of people–is unsafe.

Did I mention my previous dealings with anxiety? It gets to me sometimes.

I’m ashamed of this. I am ashamed of my fear, however rational it may be.

It’s not like I’ve never been in neighborhoods like this before. Having kids, though, has changed my perspective on, well…everything.

The place looked pretty happy and wonderful, to be honest. Sunny little house on a quaint little street on a bright and beautiful morning. Painting with the world’s most adorable children in a shady and spacious backyard. Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches all around.

It’s no different from my everyday.

But what about the kids? Is it their everyday? Who paints with them? Who jump-ropes with them? Who sings and plays and makes lunch with a complete serving of vegetables, everyday, for them? Surely their parents, or a kind grandma, or babysitter?

Right?

And what about their moms and dads? Who invites them over for chit-chat and coffee, and who brings them casseroles when everyone in the family has the flu? Who comes over to their house and prays in their driveway after they’ve had a miscarriage? Who can they trust to watch their children in emergencies and who do they turn to in times of tragedy?

I don’t know.

I do know that the people who put on this week-long day-camp for the kids in this area did it for a reason. A block away from where we played, women walk the streets, selling their bodies. You can see them at any given time of day. There’s trash, and bars, and hypodermic needles, gangs and violence and abuse.

There are predators. There are people who would seek to “groom” some of the beautiful 10-year-old girls that were painting smiley owls with me today.

And it makes me sick to my stomach. It brings tears to my eyes. I can paint and play and eat lunch and leave it all behind. I will go back to my “lily-white world” 30 minutes away. But what about the people who live in the other houses on that same street? What about the children? What happens to them, when the sun goes down? Where is their retreat? How do they live in fear?

I have to wonder this: They are either 1. miserable, or 2. not afraid.

And if they are not afraid, I wonder if 1. they are distributors of fear, or 2. they have taken every precaution necessary against those that would hurt them, or 3. They are at peace with God and they believe that they are right where they need to be. Or two of those. Or all of them.

I prayed hard on the drive in. I wanted to be calm, cool, and collected. I wanted to be. But I was scared, I really was. I’m about as maniacal as a box of kittens. My street cred is so low that a hardened thug would probably bless my heart and give me a sticker. (I’m counting on that, in fact.)

I didn’t want to drive down a street where mean, haughty eyes stared me down. I didn’t want my hands to shake. I didn’t want to feel like I was an outsider, or worse–an intruder, an easy target. I tried to call to mind a verse that I love, and was surprised when I actually remembered it–and even more surprised when it actually comforted me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

If God told me to paint with these kids, then He was in my car with me today, warding off evil semis and vanquishing my highway enemies. His hand was on my shoulder as I navigated those city streets and He opened the door to the house just as I was about to faint on the front steps.

And if He called these other people to minister to the men, women, and children of this neighborhood every other day of the year, then He is with them when they put on their tennis shoes and hit the streets. He passes out nail polish and encouraging Bible verses and He hugs the prostitutes. And He has the strength to do it all again the next day.

If you couldn’t already tell, today was the first real day I stepped outside of my comfort zone for Jesus. (I should mention that my comfort zone consists of…my house, and maybe the church as long as I’m surrounded by people who I’m used to, and maybe Target–but only the new one, in Norman.)

But I pray that it won’t be the last. I hope they’ll have me back despite my awkwardness and my utter lack of leadership during the painting session.

I also pray it won’t be the hardest place I go. My sister had this to say in response to my idea of one day doing an art camp in Africa or South America with my friends: “What about those people on ‘Locked Up Abroad’ ? You know, you just can’t go to a place that’s not safe.”

(Honestly, I was more concerned with the zombie apocalypse breaking out on the plane ride over the ocean.)

I get it, I do. But I can–I can go. I might be meant to do just that. And when are we truly safe? We could be killed anytime, any place. No one knows what tomorrow brings.

It won’t matter to God in Heaven that we were super smart and graduated from really good colleges. It won’t matter that we stayed away from gluten and drove cars with high safety ratings. It won’t matter what the balance was in our savings account, and God won’t care about our chevron-patterned throw pillows. God will say: “I made you strong–did you help people who were weak? I gave you the ability to speak and write–did you tell people about Me? I put a sadness in your heart for orphans–did you adopt? I made you creative–did you share that gift with others?”

I so often waste my gifts and blessings and strengths. But today, I was right where I needed to be. We sang songs. We played games. We ate lunch and painted pictures, and we hunted eggs. Mia and Merrick popped confetti all over themselves and me and the other kids. People were smiling, laughing. It was a good day.

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We'll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

We’ll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

Today I finally met the kids that I have been thinking about and praying for since March. Only now I will be praying for them by name, with their beautiful faces in mind.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this painting party possible by participating in art lessons this month. We earned enough to buy supplies for today and for Friday, with some canvasses and paints left over for the community center to keep on hand. Art for you=art for them. Great job!


My Dog and Art Students and A Visitor

Today Merrick stood at the back door yelling out Darcy’s name about 3 times before he realized she wasn’t out there. When it him, his shoulders slumped and his eyes filled with tears, and we’re going on day 3, folks.

We had to put sweet Darcy down. In the 5 days it took for the vet to get back to us with her initial test results, Darcy went from a vague health issue, to complete and total shutdown mode. Her lymph nodes were rock-hard and ridiculously swollen. Poor little thing couldn’t bark, couldn’t eat, couldn’t go to the bathroom. She didn’t feel like moving much and it was getting tougher and tougher for her to breathe. Her cancer just ate her up. I was doubtful that she’d make it through the weekend. So we took pictures:

Our best friend.

Our best friend.

The sweetest dog in the world.

The sweetest dog in the world.

Our family dog.

Part of our family.

So fluffy and beautiful! So loving and wise!

So fluffy and beautiful! So loving and wise!

Definitive proof that Noah came from outer space.

Also, definitive proof that Noah is a freaking alien.

And we said our good-byes.

Darcy, in happier, healthier times--in front of the house that didn't exist yet.

Darcy, in happier, healthier times–in front of the house that didn’t exist yet.

Wednesday night was hellacious. Merrick was beside himself: “I can’t sleep when Darcy’s not alive!” This morning he insisted on paying tribute to Darcy, in the form of vocalized song. “Okay,” I said. “What song shall we sing?” thinking he’d choose something amazing, like Kenny Loggin’s “Meet Me Halfway”, his current favorite.

Instead we sang 50 choruses of “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” to our dead dog.

It was less than epic.

Other than us adjusting to life without Darcy, things around here are good. Caleb and Mia are at camp. Cheyenne is still in Maryland. And I am giving art lessons like a fiend:

This little thunderbolt forced me to learn how to draw sharks.

This little thunderbolt forced me to learn how to draw sharks.

IMG_1387 These cousins were dead set on trees and sunsets.

And I’m having a blast. I hope the kids are, too. My Thursday girls went home and put on an impromptu painting party of their own:

Behold these gems: the kids in my town are going to put me out of business.

Just look at these gems. The kids in my town are going to put me out of business.

I love it. This was my wildest dream: kids spreading art around. They did it! It happened! It worked!

Shut up.

Nobody will ever know how much these children bless me.

And speaking of being blessed, I had the privilege of spending time with a beautiful young woman who came to stay with me yesterday. This girl had a sparkle in her eye and a permanent smile on her face, even though this year has been so tough for her. We talked about loneliness and making mistakes and helping others and loving God. Her take on these things brought tears to my eyes; I tried to come up with advice but everything I said felt miserably short of anything remotely wise. I searched for words of encouragement, but my mind mostly drew blanks. I had paid my dues in high school, but maybe I was just too old and too far removed from the life of a modern teenage girl to be able to relate much.

Last night, I read this in Angie Smith’s I Will Carry You:

“We aren’t going to feel whole in this life, and we will long for something we don’t have. Something that will fill the nagging void that intermittently stings and knocks us to our knees. And all the while, Satan taunts us, telling us our faith is small. To hurt so deeply is a sign that we live in a fallen world, not that we serve a small God.”

…and I almost leaped out of bed at 11:30 p.m. to share it with her. But I didn’t because I am restrained like that, so I’m sharing it now.

I’m still reading books about miscarriage and death. That’s my pain right now. I am so, so lonely for my baby and it still hurts. I have so many questions. I doubt myself. But I do serve a God who is big and in charge; I’ve got to remember to turn to Him in my loneliness.

We might think we’re oddly matched up with random people for no apparent reason, but there’s always a purpose. This sweet girl did much for me yesterday, and I hope that she realizes how special she is and how much God loves her.


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