february’s artist: faith ringgold

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Faith Ringgold was born Faith Willi Jones in 1930 in the Harlem area of Manhattan. Her mother, a fashion designer and seamstress, encouraged Faith’s creative pursuits from a young age. Ringgold earned a bachelor’s degree from the City University of New York in 1955. She then taught art in New York City public schools and worked on a master’s degree at City College, which she completed in 1959.

Ringgold’s oil paintings and posters, begun in the mid-to-late 1960s, carried strong political messages in support of the civil-rights movement. She was an avid fighter for the right for black artists to show their work in New York’s museums and co-founded Where We At, a group for African-American female artists, in 1971.


In 1973 she quit teaching in New York City public schools to devote more time to her art. In the early 1970s she abandoned traditional painting. Instead, Ringgold began making unstretched acrylic paintings on canvas with lush fabric borders like those of Tibetan thangkas. She worked with her mother, Willi Posey, to fashion elaborate hooded masks of fabric, beads, and raffia, which were inspired by African tribal costume. She also began making fabric “dolls” and larger stuffed figures, many of which resembled real individuals. Ringgold used some of these works in Performance pieces—the earliest of which, Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro, was first performed in 1976 by students using her masks, life-size figures, and thangkas, along with voice, music, and dance.


Later, she expanded the format of her thangka paintings to quilt size. Her mother pieced and quilted the first of these new works, Echoes of Harlem (1980), before dying in 1981. It was in 1983 that Ringgold began to combine image and handwritten text in her painted “story quilts,” which convey imaginative, open-ended narratives; in the first one, Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (1983), the familiar advertising character is turned into a savvy businesswoman. Ringgold’s use of craft techniques ignored the traditional distinction between fine art and craft, while demonstrating the importance of family, roots, and artistic collaboration.

From 1984 to 2002, Ringgold was a professor at the University of California, San Diego. During this time, she adapted the story quilt Tar Beach into a picture book. The success of Tar Beach led to several other books. Her talent in many different media allowed her to be a powerful voice during the civil rights movement. Today, she continues to paint, quilt, sculpt and publish in her homes in California and New Jersey. Her work now often celebrates black heroes from history.

*Take a look through Faith Ringgold’s book and if you have time, read one or two, they are fantastic!


One of the most impressive thing about Ringgold’s work is that she adapted something that many of us have in our homes ( a utilitarian object) to create art. However, story quilts have been sewn for hundreds of years, with varying amounts of detail and consideration. This brings up the question of the difference between craft and art. Take a minute to discuss the 3 main levels of people who create, Artists, Artisans, and Craftsmen. It is said that “A craftsman works with his hands, an artisan works with his head and his hands, and an artist works with his heart, his head and his hands.” Ask the students what they think that means. What is the difference between the three categories? Honestly, it is a blurry and hard to define line. However, we can generally agree with this statement:

Artists are there to provoke you to think or feel in any way shape or form. If your reaction is positive or negative it makes no difference. The object is to get a reaction from the beholder.

Artisans are masters of their craft and able to design pleasing objects that the public would love to posses.

The Craftsman has mastered his craft and can fabricate the artists or artisans vision.”

Today we will make our own story quilts. For the sake of time, you will want to keep your story or image fairly simple. Maybe a really great day or a special memory; or possibly a scene from one of your favorite stories. Use the fabric scraps to create blocks of color and add detail with crayon. Cut pieces of fabric from the strips in the bin. Put your scraps back in the bin for others to use. Add in text to help convey the story if desired; try to find unusual locations for the text! There aren’t any rules, just have fun!


 Whose Afraid of Aunt Jemima

december’s artist: claude monet

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Oscar-Claude Monet is widely considered the driving force behind the Impressionist movement. His paintings are still beloved and highly reproduced today. He was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris, France into a middle class family. His mother was a singer. His father wanted Claude to join him in the family grocery business, but Monet wanted to become an artist. He enrolled in art school at age 11 and was well known in Le Havre (in Normandy, where the family settled later) for his charcoal caricatures which he sold at the beach.

His 1872 painting, “Impression Sunrise” (which depicted sunlight dancing and shimmering on water), gave the name to the entire Impressionist movement. A critic coined the term in a harsh review of the painting, but theImpressionist painters took it up, refusing to be subject to the established art community. They stopped submitting their work to the Paris Salon (the only place for artists to show their art at the time) and created their own galleries after being rejected. They refused to let the critics deter them. And interestingly, these artists have continued to be popular over one hundred years later. (Consider that most people know who Monet and Degas are, but not many (average, non-art loving) people can tell you who Constable and Turner are.)

Monet felt that “…nature knows no black or white and nature knows no line” which led to beautifully colorful and energetic pieces of work. He began to think in terms of colors and shapes rather than scenes and objects.Impressionists strived to capture the many colors reflected in light, meticulously representing the colors seen in highlights and shadows. They used quick distinct brush strokes that give the painting a feel for a fleeting moment captured on canvas; rather than well blended, invisible strokes.

Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. These began to evolve into series of pictures in which he showed the same scene many times in order to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. He was said to take several canvases out with him on a plein air (or outdoor) painting session and work quickly on one canvas until the light changes, then move to the next canvas to get the specific quality of light at different times of day.

At the beginning of May 1883, Monet and his large family rented, then bought a house and 2 acres on which he planted elaborate gardens. Here he painted and lived out the rest of his life. Creating many of his most famous series, such as his waterlilies. Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926 at the age of 86

Today we will try out the impressionist style by painting a landscape. Think of one of your favorite places. Quickly sketch in the very biggest features in a basic way. No details! Here are a few tips that will help you out as you start to paint:

  • Keep in mind the name of this movement! We are just giving an impression of a scene here. Don’t get too caught up in the details. Try squinting your eyes and looking around at different objects in the classroom; see how this blurs the details. Try to make your landscape similar. (Rather than individual leaves or flowers, you would use dabs of paint.)
  • Apply the paint somewhat thickly (impasto), use bold strokes and don’t blend the colors completely.
  • Use complementary colors (across from each other on the color wheel) to show the shadows and highlights.
  • Mix color right on the canvas/board. Let them remain a bit separate, work quickly and loosely.

1. Start with a very loose watery wash from the bottom to the top of the sky. Add a bit more blue at the top so that the sky is lighter towards the horizon.

2. Now start to add in details in the background of the landscape, add a little more color to your brush to create a thicker mix than the sky. Use short strokes to apply the paint slightly more impasto (thicker) than the initial wash in we used for the sky.

These dabs of color help to move the viewers eye around the painting. Keep in mind the tips from above. Don’t get too caught up in the details….we are just giving an impression.


november’s artist: andy warhol


Andy Warhol (originally Andrew Warhola, Jr.) was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents came from a village in the Carpathian Mountains, in what is now Slovakia. Warhol’s father was a coal miner who died of peritonitis when Andy was thirteen. In third grade, Warhol had Sydenham’s chorea (a nervous system disease that causes involuntary movements of the extremities..) He became a hypochondriac, developing a fear of hospitals and doctors. Often bedridden as a child, he became an outcast at school and bonded with his mother. At times when he was confined to bed, he drew, listened to the radio and collected pictures of movie stars around his bed. Warhol later described this period as very important in the development of his personality and style.

At the beginning of his career in the 1950s, Warhol gained fame for his whimsical ink drawings for shoe advertisements. He also illustrated many record covers for RCA. As me moved from commercial illustration to fine art, Warhol began using a silk screen printmaking process to make his paintings. Initially, he used hand-drawn images but later evolved into a process of silkscreening photographs on the canvas, then painting over the top. He liked to create a series of one image with different variations. From his illustrations to his fine art, Warhol had a very casual and loose style, he embraced mistakes, saying “When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something.”

His most famous works centered around easily recognizable, everyday subjects. (This is a key aspect of Pop art, which challenged the traditions of fine art by including images from popular culture such as advertising, celebrities and news.) For his first first major exhibition Warhol painted cans of Campbell’s Soup, which he said he had for lunch for most of his life. Andy was always coy with how he felt about his art and it’s meaning. Of his coke cans and bottles he said:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

Critics were scandalized by Warhol’s open embrace of market culture. His work was controversial because it was so openly driven by consumerism. Especially later in his career, he was heavily criticized for becoming merely a “business artist” He said “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art” Warhol’s art used many types of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art. He lived a crazy and glamorous life, surrounded in his studio by artists, actors, and celebrities that jockeyed for his attention.

In 1968, Warhol was shot by a fan with mental disease and almost died, afterward his life and work became much quieter and less public. Warhol devoted much of his time to rounding up new, rich patrons for portrait commissions. His health never improved significantly and on February 22, 1987, he died from complications from a surgery. He left his considerable wealth to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts with the goal of supporting work of a challenging and often experimental nature. He also has the largest museum devoted to one artist in the US in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

What do you think? Is his art genius or empty? Did he paint because he thought it was great or because he thought it was junk? Is his work a commentary on the shallowness, repetitiveness, and commercialism of consumer culture, or is it a celebration of supermarkets and Hollywood?


Today we are going to experiment with some Warhol-style art. We have several copies of poplar images or draw a set of your own. Then experiment with different styles and techniques to create variations on the image. You can use different colors or manipulate the image to change it. Have fun and don’t worry about mistakes, Andy didn’t!

After you have made 6 variations on your image you can mount them (with glue stick) to a sheet of colored paper to create your final piece. You can use crayons, colored pencils or markers to give each image a different feel. Also feel free to cut and put the image back together.

october’s artist: frida kahlo

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I am excited for this first project, I think the students will really enjoy the chance to do a bit more serious self portrait and Frida Kahlo is a fascinating artist! The art cart should be stocked to last the month. I set out the paints that were left over from last year. Please throw them away when they are used up and feel free to open a box of new ones when they start to run low. There are cups for water as well on the cart, I usually put one cup per 2 students, then just rinse them out and stack them on the cart for a few more uses. Please rinse out the brushes and put them brush tip up in the containers. Thanks again, I hope you have a great experience with the students! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything!

 Frida Kahlo de Rivera was born on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City. She was a larger than life personality, but had to overcome many obstacles in her life. The Mexican Revolution began during 1910, when Kahlo was three years old. She later gave her birth date as July 7, 1910, allegedly wanting her birth to coincide with the beginning of the revolution so her life would begin with the birth of modern Mexico. In her writings, she recalled that her mother would usher her and her sisters inside the house as gunfire echoed in the streets of her hometown. In her home, Kahlo was the third of four sisters. Her parents had miserable relationship and her mother was documented to be a depressed and domineering woman. Frida had a difficult relationship with her; but loved her father who was gentle and affectionate.

Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left; she was self-conscious about it and disguised this later in life by wearing long skirts or trousers. To help her regain her strength, her father encouraged her to exercise and play sports. She took up bicycling, roller skating, swimming, boxing, and wrestling, despite the fact that many of these activities were then reserved for boys. She may have also been born with spina bifida, which would have affected both spinal and leg development.

In 1925, she was attending a premier school and studying to be a doctor when the bus she was riding in collided with a trolley, leaving her near dead. After 35 operations (mainly on her back and legs), she survived, but was left in a great deal of pain, and she spent three months recovering in a full body cast. Although she recovered from her injuries and eventually regained her ability to walk, she would deal with relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life. Often it left her confined to a hospital or bedridden for months at a time. The medical complications and permanent damage also prevented Kahlo from having a children later in life.

After her accident, Kahlo abandoned the study of medicine and began to paint to occupy herself during her three-month immobilization. Self-portraits were a dominant motif then. Kahlo once said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. She insisted, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

Kahlo was heavily influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism and primitive style. Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work. She combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings. Even though some critics classify her as a surrealist, she rejected the label and the movement. Surrealism showed dreamlike, improbable subjects with photo-realistic accuracy. Kahlo said that she didn’t paint her dreams, but her reality, therefore she wasn’t surrealist.

As a young artist, Kahlo communicated with the celebrated Mexican painter Diego Rivera whose work she admired, asking him for advice about pursuing art as a career. He recognized her talent and encouraged her artistic development. They began an intimate relationship and were married in 1929, despite the disapproval of Kahlo’s mother. Frida and Diego had a tempestuous relationship. Both artists enjoyed much fame and interest in their lives in both Mexico and the United States. They were active Communists and did a lot of work to promote the political party. Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, soon after turning 47

Project: Self Portraits:

As you look at Frida Kahlo’s self portraits, there is a good physical likeness, but she also conveyed a lot of information about her thoughts and feelings. Today we are going to paint self portraits. Use the mirrors to observe the little details about your face, but also try to add information that will help the viewer understand your heart and mind as well.

  • Give each student and mirror and ask them to wait to start drawing, talk them through observing aspects of their face.
  • Point out the basic shape of their features and ask them to notice what makes unique, talk about the textures and colors you see.

Now guide them through a few basics for proportions, etc.

  • Your face is about the same size as your hand! Ask the students to put their hands on their faces. Then put their hands on the paper and make a little mark at the top of their middle finger and the base of their hand by their wrist. Then they can make the shape of their face as they look in the mirror.
  • Now lightly divide the face into fourths. They eyes should go just above that midline. (I like to tell the students that they need to leave room for their brains. Then point out the hairline and how we can see past it…that is where their brains go!)
  • The nose can be made by making a shallow “u” along the middle line, about halfway between the eyes and chin, then filling in nostrils. The rest can follow. Don’t forget eyebrows and the chin!
  • Finally, ask them to notice colors and textures and try to convey that. (ie. Hair is never just one color, notice the shadows and the pinkness of your checks, etc.)
  • Hopefully they have been thinking about other features of the portrait that will give information about their insides. Now that we have their outsides sketched in, add those things! 

summer day camps are here!


Fine Art Day Camps

Each camp will run from 11:00am to 3:00pm and will Include

lunch. (Please specify if your child has a food allergy.) All supplies will be included.

Cost is $45.00 per child per class.

A $5.00 discount will be given for enrollment in multiple classes.

Class sizes are limited and subject to cancellation for lack of enrollment.

Observers (ages 5-9)

Sculpture June 23rd 

Jewelry July 7th

Color Theory July 28th

Masters (ages 10+)

Sculpture June 25th

Jewelry July 9th

Color Theory July 30th


We will explore the basics of using clay as well as discover tricks used by masters to create a sculpture. We will study the works of several great sculptors throughout history from Michelangelo to Alexander Calder. Then we will look into the work of artists like Vic Muniz, Harry Anderson, and Lina Fry to understand what it takes to make Found Object Art and then create a Found composition. If you have interestingly shaped objects we can use, please send them along!

Color Theory

We will work with several different mediums to explore the color wheel and how to mix and tint different colors. We will explore how color is used to set the tone and emotion of a painting by the work of color masters such as Caravagio and Van Gogh. We will then compose our own painting on Gesso board and finish the day with a fun (and delicious) project.

Introduction to the Masters

In this art history class, your child will discover the techniques that the masters used in their own works. We will explore the Greek painters, up through the Renaissance, Impressionism and beyond to understand the skill and nuance in great painting. Then students will put this knowledge to work creating their own canvass en plein air.


We will explore the different methods used to make jewelry and create our own pieces; working with wire, clay, leather, and beads and paper.

Click here to send me your child’s name, age, which class(es) they would like to attend and phone number and I will get back to you to register!

may’s artist: alexander calder

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Here is a link to the documentary on Alexander Calder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfIts49YtC0

Alexander Calder


Alexander or “Sandy” Calder was born in 1898, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania to a family of artists. His father Alexander Stirling Calder was a prominent sculptor who created many public sculptures in the Philadelphia area. Calder’s mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a professional portrait painter who studied art in Paris before moving to Philadelphia where she met and married Calder.

In 1902, at the age of four, Alexander completed his first sculpture–a clay elephant. In 1909, when he was in the fourth grade, Sandy sculpted a dog and a duck from a sheet of brass. The duck, which could rock back and forth, is one of his earliest examples of his interest in kinetic (moving) sculpture.

Although Calder’s parents were always very supportive of Alexander’s creativity, they discouraged their children from becoming artists, as the life of an artist is often uncertain and financially difficult. In 1915, following his parents advice, Calder decided to study mechanical engineering, and enrolled in the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Four years later he received his degree. However his interest in art never left him. Though he had tried to please his parents by becoming an engineer, he ultimately decided to pursue a career in art instead.

In 1923 Calder began attending the Art Students’ League in New York. While attending this school he also worked as a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette. For one of his assignments he spent two weeks sketching scenes from the Ringling Brother’s and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This project marked the beginning of his fascination with the circus.

In 1926 Calder moved to Paris where he began to build toys that moved. Eventually his collection of toys became a miniature circus which performed in the USA and Europe. He created his Cirque Calder from wire, string, rubber, cloth, and other found objects. He designed it to fit into a suitcase (eventually growing to 5 suitcases) that could be taken anywhere for impromptu performances.

Through his circus, he developed an interesting medium, using wire to create 3 dimensional portraits and other pictures. In 1929, Calder had his first solo show of wire sculpture, in Paris at Galerie Billiet. There are several anecdotes of Alexander always walking around with pliers and a roll of wire in his pocket. He would make portraits for guests at a party and once showed up to a gallery showing with nothing ready, but his pliers and wire in tow. He then made the works to cover the walls and start the show.

Calder’s interest in kinetic art led him to create the first mobiles. By the end of 1931, he moved on to more delicate sculptures which derived their motion from the air currents in the room, using cutout shapes reminiscent of natural forms (birds, fish, falling leaves). He also created giant scale “stabiles” (sculptures that don’t move) that can be found across the country, most are giant, many several stories tall. He created these out of steel sheeting and hand painted them in bright primary colors. Almost all of his work is done in limited colors: red, black, white, yellow, and blue.

Alexander Calder died on November 11, 1976 in New York. While he is most remembered for inventing the mobile, Calder was an incredibly diverse artist. From toys and wire and painting on canvas, to his most famous works of delicate mobiles and massive stabiles, his vision was clear and distinct even though the medium varied greatly.

Today we will create our own mobiles and stabiles. Use the pipe cleaners as the structural support and add interest with the fun foam and beads. There will be an example on the cart that draws inspiration from Calder’s work, balancing a larger object on one side of the mobile with several smaller ones. Show them how they balance and can move around with the air currents. Mobiles are common today, but imagine seeing these for the first time in the 1930’s when Alexander Calder first started creating them! There aren’t a lot of instructions. This project is very much up to the students! Just experiment and have fun!

Also for fun, I will have a few wire sculpture on the cart similar to Calder’s. I think they make much more of an impression than pictures of his actual wire sculptures do. Enjoy! Calder is one of my very favorite artists, I think he is so fun and unique!

april’s artists: constable & turner

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I think I have been in denial that we are already to April. 😀 Our lesson for this month is on two amazing painters who were very different men, but had very similar (and vital) contributions to the art world. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do to help your lesson go smoothly! What you are doing is so appreciated by the students and teachers!
Many thanks!
John Constable and JMW Turner

This month we will take a look at two of England’s most famous painters. Interestingly, they were both contemporaries (lived at the same time and both members of the Royal Academy). However, they are said to have disliked each other at least and many scholars feel that they were rivals with a heated hatred for the their fellow painter. JMW Turner and John Constable were both painters in the Romantic movement and their works highly influenced and lead to the Impressionist movement. (Which we talked about briefly last month when we learned about Cezanne.) The Romantic movement doesn’t refer to hearts and flowers and love, but to glorification. The artists of this era stood against science and cold reason which (were dominant in this time of the industrial revolution) and glorified concepts such as liberty, ideals, heroism, despair, and the various sensations that nature evokes in humans. The focus was on what we feel in an individual, highly subjective way. To get a feel for these two artists, let’s make a quick comparison:

*The two artists were said to be opposites in birth, looks and temperament.

*Both were born in southern England in mid-1770s.

*Turner remained a bachelor and lived with the father he called ‘Daddy’ into middle age.

*Constable fathered seven children and was very happily married to wife Maria Bicknell.

*Turner was just 15 when he first exhibited at the Academy, Constable was nearly 40

With all of these differences, why do we talk about them together? The rivals had something very special in common, an astonishingly vivid new way of looking at landscape. While artists of the previous generation had set out to paint the landscape with photographical accuracy, Turner and Constable wished to capture its spirit.

Turner painted tumultuous storms over harbors, blazing fires, and the smoke and steam of the new industrial age. He thrilled to weather at its wildest and most violent.

This recklessness is illustrated in an account given by a Cornish newspaper editor of a boat trip with Turner off the coast of Plymouth. While the other passengers suffered crippling sea-sickness in the ‘boisterous’ waters, Turner sat in the stern muttering admiringly: ‘That’s fine! Fine!’

Constable was intensely interested in the quality of light: the way clouds cast shadows over fields, the haze after a downpour, late afternoon sun on a riverbank. He proudly wrote of his delight in decay and neglect: ‘Old rotten banks, slimy posts and brickwork — I love such things.’

John Constable was born on June 11, 1776 in Suffolk, England. His father was a prosperous miller and corn merchant. Much like Paul Cezanne, his father hoped he would take over the family business eventually. John had an early interest in art, but was largely self taught. This made for slow development as an artist, he was middle aged before he entered the Royal Acadamy.

Constable quietly rebelled against the artistic culture that taught artists to use their imagination to compose their pictures rather than nature itself. He told Leslie, “When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture”. Constable is famous for his landscapes, which are mostly of the Suffolk countryside, where he was born and lived. He made many open-air sketches, using these as a basis for his large (6 ft) exhibition paintings, which were worked on in his studio. His pictures are extremely popular today, but they were not particularly well received in England during his lifetime. He did, however, have considerable success in Paris. However, he refused to leave the England he loved to exhibit there. He said he would rather be a poor painter in England than a rich one abroad. He was much studied and admired for his use of color, especially in showing the varying greens found in a landscape. He loved light and clouds and the shadows that were cast on the earth below. It is all of these elements that combine to make his paintings fresh and invigorating.

Constable married Maria Bicknell, the granddaughter of a Suffolk neighbor. He fervently believed his artistic success depended on her love. ‘All my hopes and prospects in life,’ he wrote to her, ‘are included in my attachment to you.’ They had seven children, and Constable’s friend and biographer C.R. Leslie wrote that the babies were as often in their father’s arms as their mother’s.

Joseph Mallord William Turner had a much different life. He was born in Covent Garden in London in 1775 to a father who had a wig-trimming and barber’s business, his mother suffered from mental disease and was institutionalized when Turner was a boy. He was known to be an eccentric character; preferring to be alone with his work over socializing with others. A Miss Dart, who knew Turner in his youth, described him as ‘singular and silent…mean and ungrateful…careless and slovenly in his dress…anything but a nice-looking young man.’

His father was immensely proud of his son, often boasting that his he was going to be a painter. As a young man, he produced many architectural drawings and watercolors and entered the Royal Academy as a teen. Turner travelled widely in Europe, starting with France and Switzerland in 1802 and studying in the Louvre in Paris in the same year.

As he grew older, he became more eccentric. He had few close friends except for his father, who lived with him for 30 years and worked as his studio assistant. His father’s death in 1829 had a profound effect on him and left him dealing with boughts of depression. He never married but had a relationship with an older widow, Sarah Danby. He is believed to have been the father of her two daughters born in 1801 and 1811.

As he matured, turner favored dramatic seascapes and scenes. To Turner, light was the emanation of God’s spirit and this was why he focused the subject matter of his later paintings by leaving out distractions such as solid objects and detail, concentrating on the play of light on water, the radiance of skies and fires. Although these later paintings appear to be part of the impressionist movement, Turner was striving for expression of spirituality in the world, rather than responding primarily to optical phenomena. Claude Monet carefully studied Turner, we can see in his later work the beginning of this next and very unique movement.

For our project we will be creating our own landscapes (picture of a place). We will start with pastels, roughing in where we want things and adding smaller details. Then fill in with watercolors.  Try to emphasize the romantic sweeping landscapes of Constable and Turner. Show the students how to mix colors and feel free to go back in with the pastels  to add in other details. (Like the whitecaps on the seascape.)

Have fun!

march’s artist: paul cézanne

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Hello, fantastic art parents!
I am so excited for our project this month. I think the students will really enjoy painting their own small canvas. One thing that is great about canvas board is that it fits well into standard frames and can be something special to take home and hang for years to come. Here is our lesson on the incomparable Cézanne:

Paul Cézanne was an influential French painter who lived from 1839–1906. He was a Post-Impressionist, meaning his work transitioned the art world from the Impressionists, such as Degas, Monet, Manet, and Renoir to the cubists, like Picasso, Brach and Gris. (Cubism is considered to be the first of the truly modern art movements.) Cézanne is often said to form the bridge between late 19th-century art and the early 20th century. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.”

Paul Cézanne was born on 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France. His father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne (1798–1886), was a prosperous banker, which gave Cézanne financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries. Initially, his father did not support his choice to pursue art and he left Aix for Paris in 1861 against his father’s wishes. Eventually though, his father reconciled with Cézanne and supported his choice of career.

Later in his career, he became more interested in working from direct observation and gradually developed a light, airy painting style. Nevertheless, in Cézanne’s mature work there is the development of a solidified, almost architectural style of painting. Throughout his life he struggled to authentically observe and represent his subjects. This lead to highly structured style which simplified naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials: he wanted to “treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone”

The Paris Salon rejected Cézanne’s submissions every year from 1864 to 1869. He continued to submit works until 1882. The Salon was the major art exhibition at the time—essentially we could say he was shunned by the critics for much of his career. However, Cézanne was considered a master by younger artists who visited his studio in Aix.

Cézanne concentrated on a few subjects and was equally proficient in still lifes, portraits, landscapes and studies of bathers. He gave up classic artistic elements such as pictorial arrangements, single view perspectives, and outlines that enclosed color in an attempt to get a “lived perspective” by capturing all the complexities that an eye observes. This created pictures that did more than merely copy what the artist saw, but recreated it in a more sculptural dimension, taking into consideration more than one angle. This greatly influence the younger generation of artists and was carried further by the cubists who distinctly showed those differing viewpoints in their works. This is why he is often said to be “one of the greatest of those who changed the course of art history.”

Today we will closely observe some everyday objects, break them down into their basic shapes and recreate them on our canvases.

1. Place a few items on each bank of desks or tables. (If a student wants to change seats for a better view of a particular object, allow it.)

2. Guide the students through looking at the items. Talk about the shapes, colors, textures you see. Point out the highlights and shadows that show the dimension.

3. Pass out canvases, have the students write their names on the back. Show them how to “rough in” where they want the objects on their canvas. Remind them to press very lightly with their pencils. So that they can barely see the marks. They don’t want the pencil to show through on their final paints.

4. Pass out paint wells and add small dots of color. Remind them that the paint goes a long way, they can have more if they need it, but you are only going to give a small amount to start so we don’t waste it.

5. Before you get started remind students how to properly treat their brushes. (We only dip the tip in the paint, that is the only part that can apply it; try not to get paint up into the barrel. Use gentle strokes, going in one direction (vs. scribbling back and forth) Gently rinse the brush when changing colors by lightly scrubbing the brush back and forth on the bottom of the water cup.)

6. Please wash the brushes after you are finished and leave them on the paper towels on the cart to dry for the next class to use. Students may want more than one size of brush, that is totally fine!

december’s artist: vermeer


Today, we are learning about Johannes Vermeer. He was a painter in the Dutch Golden Age. Let’s talk a little about this to understand his art.


The Dutch region (Which is approximately where the Netherlands are today) was in a unique position for an art revolution. This came to be called the Dutch Golden Age or Dutch Renaissance. It was the North’s answer to the art changes of the Renaissance that we talked about with Botticelli (Who lived about 100 years earlier).
Because the area was already protestant, there wasn’t the strong church influence that we saw in other European art. The area was a new leader in trade and industry, making a much a bigger and more wealthy middle class. These people commissioned art for their homes and to decorate local businesses. The art of this period was very realistic. It was also a time that the many painters started to specialize in genres: (These genres were ranked in order of prestige. History painting was thought to be the highest subject, but was also the hardest to sell, there was much more demand for genre painting. Still life was thought to be the easiest or lowest subject.)

-history painting, including allegories and popular religious subjects.
-Portrait painting, (individuals and groups)
-“genre painting” or scenes of everyday life
-landscape, including seascapes, battle scenes, cityscapes, and ruins.
-still life
Vermeer was a genre painter. He painted many detailed and realistic scenes from everyday life. He was moderately successful during his lifetime, and received recognition from critics and the art world. However, because art was so plentiful during this time, he was never financially comfortable. (For older grades, mention supply and demand.)

Vermeer was born on Oct. 31, 1632 in Delft, Denmark. Not much is known about his personal life. He never left Delft and was thought to have devoted a great deal of his time to his work. He was later called the Sphinx of Delft because his work became popular again in the 1900s, but there isn’t much information to tell us about the painter.

His father was an art dealer and inn owner, and Johannes inherited this business when he died. He married Catharina Bolenes and converted to Catholicism, which influenced his art. (For older: as mentioned before, the Netherlands were protestant. Religiously, Catholicism had much more symbolism and pomp. Think back to Botticelli.) They had 15 children, 11 surviving past childhood. None of them were artists.


Due to the Dutch Revolution, economic crisis hit his city of Delft. Over 5 years passed before circumstances improved. Vermeer died in December 1675. His wife, Catharina blamed his death, the war with France, not being able sell any paintings and being in debt. “He had fallen into a frenzy, in a day and a half he went from being healthy to being dead.” Modern scholars believe he had a stroke.

Vermeer did not have formal training that we know of. (This is a subject of debate for experts, but no one has definitively traced his style to another master in the area.) There is limited evidence that Vermeer used preparatory sketches or tracings in his paintings. Vermeer is known for his use of light, his paintings have direct light sources and intricately detailed shadows. He was very interested in the camera obscura that had recently been invented. And his interest in photography influenced his work.

He is also known for his preference for using the colors Lapis Lazuli and Indian yellow. Painters could not buy colors in tubes at the art store. They had to make the colors by blending pigments with oils. The most easy to blend and least expensive were the earth derived colors, making them far more common. (Which is why many older paintings tend to be dark and have less color.) The bright pigments Vermeer used, were much harder to come by. (Indian yellow pigment is claimed to have been originally manufactured in rural India from the urine of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water. The urine would be collected and dried, producing smelly hard dirty yellow balls of the raw pigment. This would have been purchased, crushed and added to a medium, such as linseed oil. Lapis Lazuli comes from a deep blue semi-precious stone. That is ground and added to medium. It is the most expensive pigment. Even today, quality oil paints vary greatly in price based on the pigment. Some of the expensive pigments cost hundreds of dollars for a tube. However, they are worth it. They give a color that synthetics can’t duplicate.)

These details are what make Vermeer’s work as compelling today as it was in his time. Take a look at the detail of his paintings and the expressions of his models.<Look at paintings> Girl with a pearl earring has inspired a handful of fictional stories and novels, it is interesting to imagine what she was thinking. The model in woman holding a balance is Catharina; Vermeer used his wife and children in many of his paintings. What do you think about these scenes? What do they tell you about life in the Netherlands in the 1600s? Would you like to be in one of these scenes? Etc.


Today we will work on tag board. This has more texture to it, which shows through and changes the look of your art a little. Like Vermeer, we will do a genre painting. However, think back to Norman Rockwell and compare his detailed illustrations to these paintings. We will want to keep our scenes more simple. When you are painting, often simpler is better. Here are a few tips about how artists use paints.

>First you will lightly sketch your subject. Do not put all of the details. We are “roughing it in” like we did on our Botticelli tando.

>These are acrylics. They are very versatile, they can look like watercolors or more opaque, like oils. Today, we will “paint dry” which means we will be using less water. This will let the texture of the tag board show through a bit.

>Dip your brush in the water, then gently wipe the excess water on the rim.

>Dip the brush into the paint, but only on the tip! Brushes are meant to be used softly on the page, if you get paint up on the top of the brush or the barrel, it won’t be usable and can make the brushes loose their shape.

>When you are ready to change colors, lightly scribble on the bottom of the cup to clean the brush. (If needed, you can wipe the brush on your napkin and then clean again.)

>As always, work from the background up. Remind them that this lets you build up the details. Put in the sky, then your trees, then people, then faces etc.

*We are limited on tag board so please encourage kids to keep working on their piece instead of starting again.

november’s artist: norman rockwell

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~Norman Rockwell was a prolific artist, producing over 4,000 original works in his lifetime.
~Norman Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, in New York City to Jarvis Waring Rockwell and Anne Mary "Nancy" Rockwell
~In 1912, at age 18, Norman Rockwell was hired as a staff artist for Boys' Life magazine (which was published by the Boy Scouts of America). He received fifty dollars compensation each month for one completed cover and a set of story illustrations. It is said to have been his first paying job as an artist.
~He sold his first successful cover painting to the Saturday Evening Post in May of 1916, Mother's Day Off
~Norman Rockwell published a total of 323 original covers for The Post over 47 years. He also did work for several other magazines, such as The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, and Life Magazine.
~He enlisted during World War I and was given the post of a military artist.
~In 1943, during World War II, Rockwell was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he described four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of
Worship, and Freedom from Fear. This lead to a series of paintings that were published in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post and later displayed around the country to sell war bonds. Some feel that this series was the masterpiece of his work. He felt Freedom of Speech was his best.
~For "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country," Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America's highest civilian honor, in 1977.
~Rockwell died November 8, 1978, of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
~Rockwell's work was dismissed by serious art critics in his lifetime. Many of his works appear overly sweet in modern critics' eyes, especially the Saturday Evening Post covers, which tend toward idealistic or sentimentalized portrayals of American life – this has led to adjective "Rockwellesque"
~However in later years, he was given more critical praise for the more serious pieces he painted. Such as his paintings dealing with segregation and civil rights in the 1950-60s.
~Whatever your view on Norman Rockwell's subjects, he is clearly one of the most widely know and influential artists of the 20th century. This may be because he illustrated American life in its most idealistic form.
~Rockwell is an artist that is popularly enjoyed because people can
relate to his pictures. They find stories and experiences that they have
had in his detailed scenes.

>>Look at and discuss the pictures with students. Make sure to point out the rich detail; ask how the pictures make them feel and if they can see a story in them.
Today we are going to create our own pictures that tell a story. Remind them that it is important to visualize what story they want to tell, then include details that will help the view put the story together. Go back to the pictures, if necessary and point out little details that give the view clues into what Rockwell wanted to show.
Excuse students to their desks and let them get started. We will be working in crayon, they can use their own or share one of the boxes on the cart (There should be enough to have partners share.)
As you walk around and observe them working, stop to ask questions that will help them to flesh out their stories or provide more detail. Fast finishers can draw another picture. Encourage them by asking what could happen next in their story or what is another view they could try, etc.
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