Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Magical Beasts and Ancient Archaeology

This morning, as I was pedaling an exercise bike at the gym, I watched a show about ancient paleontology. The program pointed out that the ancient Greeks and Romans collected and displayed fossils of Pleistocene mammals. Certain historians have speculated that some mythical creatures could actually be theoretical reconstructions by the ancients, based on these bones.

This program reminded me of an exercise we did at the workshop on Saturday. For those who were not there, we combined parts of three different animals to create a new beast. Familiar animal combinations include
  • dragons
  • unicorns
  • griffins
  • fairies
  • Pegasus
  • the Phoenix
  • mermaids
  • mermen

If you were not with us, try it now. Draw two different original creatures. Make one mean and ugly. Make the other beautiful. The ugly one will drive away the inner critic who tells you that your work stinks. The beautiful one will bring you new, wonderful ideas. Add a picture of one of your beasts to the comments section of this post, if you like. Don't forget to include a link to your website so everyone can see the rest of your work!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Easy-Does-It Art

For those of you who attended my workshop on Saturday, and for those who were not able to come, here's a book you might want to pick up. It contains more than a hundred ideas for classroom teachers who want to teach art, but who have little time and few materials. Many of the ideas can inspire adult artists, too.

Poems to Inspire Paintings

During the Saturday workshop (see previous post), members of our group made quick sketches inspired by poetry. The poems I read were from "Talking to the Sun" (see the picture link on the right for more information, or to purchase), but the internet is a wonderful source for poetry, too.

Try it! Read the following poem. Without referring to the text, do a sketch based on any impressions that "catch" in your mind. Develop the drawing into a painting. It will not be an illustration of the poem. It will be like the perfume of an orchard in bloom--not at all the same as the flowering trees.

For hundreds of additional poems online, click the title of this post.

Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry. 1919

Pear Tree

lifted from the earth,
higher than my arms reach,
you have mounted.
O silver,
higher than my arms reach
you front us with great mass;
no flower ever opened
so staunch a white leaf,
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;
O white pear,
your flower-tufts,
thick on the branch,
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.

by H. D.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Out of a Rut and Into Your Groove!

Are you stuck? Here is the first in a series of posts based on activities I tried out on a bunch of great sports, and terrific artists at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts yesterday.

Our first activity, very loosely inspired by Japanese Calligraphic paintings and the exciting works of Franz Kline, was string painting. We used black tempera and jute package twine, but you can also try black ink with yarn, string, or even rope.

1. Pour the paint or ink into a cup.
2. Dip the string into it.
3. Quiet your mind. Close your eyes. Loosen your shoulders and let tensions go.
4. Open your eyes. Pick up the string and draw it across the paper once, or several times.
5. Put the finished work aside and repeat on another piece of paper.
6. Let the works dry and keep them in a folder for a week or two.
7. Spread them out on a table and pretend someone else did them. What do they have in common?
8. Assume they are all expressing different aspects of the same thing. What is that thing and how does it relate to your work?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Endlessly Flowing Vessel

An excerpt from the free online ebook "All at Once: A Practically Instant Guide to Creativity"

Any experienced teacher will tell you that the most valuable lessons are learned from students.

Find a place to share your interest in art.

•Ask at your local elementary school. There are probably several teachers who would schedule art sessions more often if they had an extra adult to help.

•Work with a youth organization such as 4-H or start an after school art club at your local church. Ask hobby shops and office supply stores for donations of materials.

•Volunteer to help with art activities for older or handicapped adults.

•Check your local newspaper for opportunities to share your art-related skills.


1.Make a list of everything you already know about any art or craft.

2.Make a list of the kinds of people in your town who might like to learn what you know. Children? Seniors? Working mothers? Harried executives with high blood pressure?

3.Make a list of places you might find these people.

4.Make a list of the things you would like to be able to teach.

5.Make a list of the ways you could learn to do those things better.

6.Write one thing you can do today to share your love of art.

7.Do the thing you wrote in number six before you go to bed tonight.