What sparks your creative mind to go racing?  Is it a photograph? An overheard conversation of a stranger? An art work in a museum? A small child’s innocent question?

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Photo: Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE from, Omaha World Herald

Why do certain things seem to flip a switch in my brain leading to so many other things?  A path that I didn’t know I was traveling down, a place I didn’t know I was going to, an artwork that I hadn’t planned on making.  I’m a big goal setter, but I’m cautious about leaving some wiggle room.  I want time to enjoy the journey, explore the process, taste the fruit, and laugh my way through life.

I’m lucky enough to work in an art museum.  Inspiration is all around me.  I can look at a visiting exhibition and get inspired by an artwork.  It could be the process or media that inspires me.  It could be the artist statement, or it could be a group of children’s comments.  Recently, the museum that I work at announced that it will offer free admission all the time.  I couldn’t be prouder to work at the Joslyn Art Museum and now I hope that other people will find some inspiration in the works found at the museum.

How do you plan to get inspired this summer?  Are any museums on your list?

Thoughts About Creativity

I came across an interesting article, Seven Myths About Creativity by Andrea Balt.  It made me reflect on my own creative process.  There are so many myths about being creative or even being an artist in our society.  I even have trouble getting over some of these ideas myself, but I strongly believe that the creative process can be taught and nurtured.  That’s why I am an art teacher.  I believe everyone can benefit from the arts and can benefit from a creative tune-up.

Read Seven Myths About Creativity, and let’s start a conversation by commenting below.

What myths do you encounter about creativity?  Do you consider yourself creative?  What is an artist?  Are we all artists?  How do we nurture creativity?

Monet Projects

Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer at my children’s school and we created some projects inspired by the artist Claude Monet in the kindergarten and second grade classrooms.


Kindergarten Project

For my son’s kindergarten class we looked at some of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings. We studied the colors and talked about how Monet used “blobs” of pure color to show the light.  We also talked about Monet’s garden and his pond.

It was a beautiful day outside, so I took half the class outside to finger paint a pond.  I put out trays of blues, violets, greens and white.  We talked about how these were cool colors on the color wheel and then got messy!  The kids loved to finger paint and watch the colors mix right under their fingers.


While the first group painted, another group created water lilies.  I made some templates for the kids to trace on construction paper and they practiced their cutting skills.  The students folded up the lily petals to make them three-dimensional.  For the center of the lilies, I had the students crumple a piece of tissue and glue it down.  We switched groups half way through the class, so that all students were able to create a water lily and finger paint.

The children’s individual water lilies were taped onto the painted pond when it was dry.  It made a lovely display and the project was a nice balance of collaboration (pond) and individual (water lily).

Second Grade Project

For my daughter’s second grade classroom we also looked at some of Monet’s work and briefly talked about Impressionism.  I pointed out how some of his paintings seem to shimmer with light and how Monet often liked to paint the same subject at different times of the day so he could capture the changing light.


For our art project, we did one of my favorite techniques to teach Impressionism to kids – White Tempera with Pastel.  The students choose to draw a flower or a landscape with pencil on paper.  I then had them paint a small portion of their paper with white tempera paint.  While the paint was still wet the kids made short strokes of dry (chalk) pastel.  They repeated this process until they had filled their page with shimmering color.  I love the results of this technique and the white tempera paint holds the pastel nicely.  It doesn’t smudge as much as traditional pastel techniques when it is finished.



I’m sure I will be posting more Impressionism projects this summer when a special exhibition on Impressionism visits the Joslyn Art Museum.  I can’t wait!  How do you like to teach Impressionism?  Do you have any favorite Impressionist style projects?

Inkodye Dreaming

Have you heard of Inkodye?

It is a photo-reactive fabric dye and the dyes are mixable.  It’s like doing a photogram on fabric! Their site is full of wonderful inspiration.  The dye works with silk, cotton, wood, and one blogger even tried it on unglazed ceramics!  It can also be used as a batik method or with negatives. My head is swimming with ideas!  I am busy planning some projects.  Have you tried this before?  Check it out and share your ideas!  This is a picture of a project from the Inkodye website.  I can’t wait to try it out!

Trashy Art

Earth day is coming up so I thought I would share a recycled art project I did with my 1st-3rd grade students at the museum.  At Joslyn, we currently have an exhibit of illustrator Dan Yaccarino‘s work.  I used his illustrations from the book Trashy Town as inspiration for our “trashy” collage.

In the book, Mr. Gilly is the trashman.  He goes throughout town picking up the trash.  There are two little mice hidden in each picture. Looking for the mice kept the kids engaged with the exhibit.

Before we headed into the galleries to see Mr. Gilly, I had each student take two or three colors of tempera paint and use a brayer to cover a piece of cardboard for their background. While the backgrounds dried, we looked at the illustrations of the book on display, then I played the DVD reading of Trashy Town for the students.  You can find this reading on the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom DVD by Scholastic.  It is a cute little reading and the kids responded well to the repetitive nature of the words.

Now back to the studio to create collages out of trash!

I gave each student a rectangular strip of paper from an old telephone book and instructed them to use it as the foreground.  Then I set out a big box of scrap paper and old magazines and they set to work creating their collages. How cute are these?

Do you have any links to art projects that use recycled materials?  Please share in the comments section!

The Creative Process

I have this nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough for my creative self lately.  My teaching schedule is light right now at the museum.  Some people might find the break from teaching a relief, but I find myself feeling lost without my classes and my students.  I need to find a way to rejuvenate my creative energy before a busy summer of teaching classes and camps picks up in June.  I’ve turned to a book called The Artistic Mother once again to try to jump-start my creativity.  I’ve turned to this book before and I like Shona Cole’s approach to the creative process and how she manages to fit art into her life while raising five children.

My book is on Amazon!

In Shona Cole’s section about the creative process she outlines 4 stages.

  • Stage 1: Imagining and Research
  • Stage 2: Preparation
  • Stage 3: Project Execution
  • Stage 4: Resolution

Even though I have studied the art making process at length I sometimes forget these important steps.  I have even taught these steps to my students, so why am I so hard on myself when I think I must be doing the project execution stage?  Maybe it’s because that the project execution stage looks the most productive, but it’s the first two stages that send my heart racing with anticipation.

Here’s a look at my creative process…

I love the imagining and research stage of the creative process.  My mind races with ideas. Maybe we could try this!  What would happen if we used this media?  Nothing right, nothing wrong.  Just glorious ideas racing through my head.  Possibilities…

Then on to the preparation stage.  A trip to the art supply store brings more ideas.  Crisp, beautiful white paper with a subtle texture practically begs me to take it home. Once I’m back home or in my classroom, I set out the supplies on the counter, all lined up just waiting to be made into something more.  Something that will transform them into art!

Then onto the project execution stage.  Time to create, time to get messy.  Feel the paints glide across the canvas.  Cut the papers into shape.  Draw the lines of the form.  Sometimes I get completely lost in this stage.  Someone can be talking to me and I won’t even know they are there.

The resolution stage requires the artwork to be finished.  Something inside of me knows its done.  Something is satisfied.  I would also add to this, a stage of reflection.  A time to think about what I made and why I made the choices I did.  I ask myself questions about what I would do differently.  Inevitably, this leads me back to new ideas and then it’s back to stage one again.  The beautiful circle of creativity.

What does your creative process look like?  Do you have a favorite stage?

Finished Hoop Weavings!


My art school students finished up their hoop weavings this week and they look fabulous! Most of my students are using these as small rugs, but they would also make great place-mats, wall hangings, or chair pads.  The finished rugs are about 2 feet in diameter.  Some students added on fringe while others tucked in the ends.  We used a mixture of t-shirts strips and yarn for the weaving.


I tried hard to get a few students to leave their weavings behind to display in our student art gallery at the museum, but they were so excited to take them home that only one agreed.  I guess I should be glad that they were so involved in their projects that they had a true sense of ownership.  One mom, even told me that her girls have been creating more rugs at home on their hula hoops.  She said they were using jean strips to weave.  Now I’m going to have to try that next time!  I am always happy to hear about work in the classroom inspiring work at home.  This is exactly what a teacher hopes to inspire.

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I loved doing this project with the kids and I will definitely be adding this to my weaving projects.  Here is a link to my earlier post when we just started our Hoop Weavings.


Clay Textured Landscapes

Do you need a clay project that doesn’t involve glazing?

clay landscape

Students created these clay landscapes during a week-long class at the museum.  I needed a clay project that could dry quickly and only needed to be fired once.  The class was only a week long, so I didn’t have time to run the pieces through the kiln again for a glaze firing.

I taught the students how to roll an even slab and how to incorporate texture into the clay.  My favorite found-objects for texture were a piece of lace and a piece of burlap.  They seemed to add just the right amount of texture.  We cut out a rectangle of clay using a template and then the students used the rest of their clay to create their landscapes.

After the pieces were fired once, I had the students paint them with bright acrylic paints. We let the paint dry completely, then I handed them some watered down black acrylic paint and told them to paint over their piece.  They weren’t so sure!  After the black was on and before it dried, we took it over to the sink to wash most of the black away with a sponge.  The black only stayed in the crevices and accented the textures of the clay.  The students were relieved that their landscapes weren’t all black!

clay landscape 2


Helping Art Students

When I create artwork, it is a deeply personal process and a window into my soul.  I always appreciate feedback and suggestions. That is one of the great things about art, it starts conversations.  However, I have never liked people working on my actual artwork unless I am doing a collaborative piece.

As a teacher, I try to offer the same courtesy to my students.  When faced with questions like, “How do I draw this?” or “Can you help me with this part?” I rarely draw on student work.  I usually show them on a separate piece of paper how I would do it.  I’ve found that there are students who will shut down once you make a mark on their work.  It no longer belongs to them and they give up.  I was one of those students.  If I do draw something on student work (this is rare), I always ask first.  I feel like I need to challenge them to find their own style and answers so they can learn from the process.

How do you handle this situation in your classrooms?  Do you draw on student work?  What are the best ways to help struggling students?

5 Must-Have Art Supplies for Preschoolers

Do you want to boost your kids creativity and problem solving skills?  Preschool is a magical age in a child’s life.  There are countless articles about how important the first 5 years are for brain development.  Here’s my top five art materials for building kids’ creativity, problem solving skills, and motor skills.

  1. Sidewalk Chalk.  This gets kids outside and using their whole bodies to draw.  It is great for fine and gross motor skills, and the possibilities are endless.  My own children have spent hours creating stores, houses, boats and mazes for their bikes.
  2. Crayons.  This childhood standby always makes the list because they are colorful, readily available, and easy for kids to maneuver.  Crayons have an ability to grab onto the paper and make children’s first attempts at writing and drawing successful.  Toddlers will begin with random marks and a huge smile on their face as they realize, “I made that!”.  From there, it progresses to circular scribbles and then circles with radial marks (think sun or a head with arms and legs coming out if it).  Before long, they will start to draw people and things.
  3. Scissors.  As an art teacher, I see a lot of kids who start school with a lack of cutting skills because their parents never gave them scissors.  Start by sitting with your child and some little scissors made for preschoolers (Fiskars has a nice version).  Give them a sheet of paper and let them cut randomly.  Once they have mastered that, give them an old magazine or catalog to cut up.  Finally, before they start elementary school, children should be able to follow a line and cut out a basic shape.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, the child should just demonstrate some control.
  4. Blocks.  Now, some people might qualify blocks as toys, but I think they are important in a child’s artistic development.  Blocks teach kids about stacking, balancing, and three-dimensional space.  Playing with blocks will help them with all areas of their development and might just inspire a future sculptor or architect.
  5. Sand Box.  Again, more of a toy, but let me tell you why I think playing in the sand is so important.  A sand box teaches kids how to change a material (just add water) and manipulate it.  Kids sculpt, shape, build, push and pour the sand.  All of these things are important to the development of a child’s brain and will not only help him with art, but also math.  Sand also exposes children to new textures and feelings.  If you keep kids locked inside and clean all the time, they never get a chance to learn and acclimate to the world around them.  Go ahead, get a little dirty.

There are so many great art supplies and toys to help your child grow and learn.  What makes your list? I’d love to hear about them!  Please share in the comments section.