Tag Archives: art

cool felt picture fun for kiddos

Kids dig crafts. Want to hear that engrossed silence of kids making stuff? Here’s a quick and dirty project:

Get a stack of felt squares from a craft store and a bunch of scissors. Designate a few of the felts ‘backgrounds.’ You might be able to get a few stiff pieces for this. Set the kids to cutting things out from the other felt pieces, or, if your kiddos are a bit too small for that, let them tell you whatever they want, and cut it out for them. Sit down on the floor with them and get all into it, cutting things out, arranging bits, offering suggestions. The little felt bits stick to the felt backgrounds, allowing them to make pictures that they can be adjusted and changed endlessly.

Here, look:

Arrange and rearrange….

The kids adore being able to ask for whatever they want, and they’re so happy to get a YES to every request. “Mom, can you cut out a pig?” Yes. “Mom, I need a big orange fish.” No problem. “Hey, Mom, I want a spooky tree. Can you do a spooky tree?” Absolutely!

Here’s a portrait Sophie did. She was extremely pleased at her scissor-work here.

And pretty quickly, stories start to come out of the pictures, and the little felt people start to enact little felt dramas.

This picture became a whole saga about the lonely, spooky tree and the little person who lived across the river. After many misunderstandings, they became friends. That’s when the addition of the bridge was cut out. “Mom, they need a bridge so they can visit each other.” Got it. One bridge coming up.

Don’t be limited to the backgrounds: after making pictures for a while, the kids took various pieces and built up fancy ‘cakes,’ palm sized piles of elegant felt designs, for a dinosaur tea party. Perfect.

When they’re done, all the bits and backgrounds go into a bag, to be pulled out for new pictures next time. Ta Da!

I am endlessly amazed at how creative these small people are!

close up eyes…A-ha!

“Take on Me” has got to be the quintessential 80s pop song. I just ran across this very…literal…interpretation of A-ha!’s wildly popular (at the time) (at least among my friends) (hey, I was twelve!) music video. Remember when music videos were all still new and amazing? If you do, you will probably think this is hilarious. If you don’t, well, Sophie couldn’t figure out what I was going on about, either.

tux paint, kalidoscopes, and mazes, oh my!

I have mentioned before our love of the free, open source drawing program for kids, Tux Paint. Lately, Paul and Sophie invented a new game to play using Tux Paint: Supermaze!

But first, to give the non-initiated a quick tour of Tux Paint, here are some pictures, made by Luc, who is not yet three years old. He ADORES Tux Paint and plays it almost every day. I’m putting these here, not as, “Oh look at my amazing kid’s drawings” but rather, “Look at this amazing program that makes it so easy for little kids to express themselves by creating pictures that they really love.”

From his sea creature period:

From his barnyard series:

You can see that there is this awesome ‘stamp’ feature where you can select something from, I don’t know, maybe hundreds?, of images and click, click, click them anywhere you want, in any size, and then draw on the images, etc. Very cool.

Here are two picutres that Sophie, four and a half, has done.

First, another sea creature picture—she made this one for Luc when he was into sea life (it all started with a show on whales that we caught on the National Geographic channel that knocked all our socks off.)

And for something completely different:

Of course, you can just draw on the program, too. Here is a family portrait, by Sophie, of us all at the beach.

Okay. We’re getting to the mazes. But first I have to tell you about the kaleidoscope trick that Tux Paint can do, by taking a line and quadrupling it, in a kind of Turkish Rug pattern. Here are some of Sophie’s recent kaleidoscopes.

It’s computer art on acid!

Here’s one Paul did (yes, the grown ups play Tux Paint, too!):

And here is one I did:

It’s surprisingly satisfying! Like doodling.  On steroids.

Then, at some point, someone here had the idea that these fancy kaleidoscopes could easily become mazes, and poof, a new family pastime was born.


Here’s one Paul made for Sophie to solve:

She starts at the little dot and finds her way to the heart. Here is her on the way to solving the maze:

I don’t know if you can see it, but the ‘solving’ line is actually made up of running squirrels! When the curser changes direction, the squirrels change direction, too! Tux Paint is the bomb.

Here’s one Sophie made for Paul.

This one was solved by running white kittens!

A couple more:

And that’s Supermaze! Hours can pass, drawing, taking turns making mazes and solving them, making funny pictures….

I swear, it’s just about impossible not to have fun with this program. If only all software was this easy.

screen time for fun and profit

Kids and computers are an incredible combination. I remember the old Commodore 64 I had when I was a kid–I was just fascinated by it, and used to type in these pages and pages of number code to get some clunky, worthless game, and I just adored it. Remember those commercials with Bach Invention No. 13? I still feel excited about computers when I play that song.

I am so glad my mom never chose to put stupid limits on when or how much I was on the computer (or watching tv). But what I hear, over and over, in the mommy circles, is parents thinking they need to limit ‘screen time,’ by which they mean, reading, writing, making art, communicating with friends, watching stories, listening to music, making music, playing games, looking something up, being entertained, studying something, etc etc…if and when any of these activities includes a monitor. Which strikes me as about as idiotic as lumping all, similar, paper-related activities together and putting limits on ‘page time.’ How condescending to one’s kid is that?

Anyway, a month ago or so my 2 and a half year old, Luc, just *poof* started drawing images. It was so cool, like his little brain just flipped a switch. The same hand-eye-connection switch also gave him access to the computer because suddenly, he grokked how to use the mouse. Magic. He couldn’t–and then he could.

RIght now, one of his favorites is Poisson Rouge (french for ‘red fish’) or “Red Fiss,” as Luc calls it. This is about the coolest site, ever, with a bazillion little games, elegantly designed, all accessible and interesting to a very small person, partially because there is no reading involved. Smash glass bottles, light up constellations on a star map, take a submarine around an ocean full of creatures and games, move posable dolls around, play with optical illusions, find bugs in the leaves, it goes on and on.

His other favorite is Tux Paint , an open source, free, drawing program, that is incredibly intuitive. Just sit the kid down in front of it and a few minutes later they are engrossed in creating art. Luc calls it “Penguin” due to the Linux-inspired program mascot. “Mommy, can you set me up with Penguin?” he says. Only it sounds like ‘peen-dwin.’ One cool thing Peen-dwin can do is ‘stamps’ where you can choose from hundreds of images and stamp them anywhere in your drawing, in any size, making these cool collage-like pictures. Luc adores this, and has been working, lately on his frogs series, piles and piles of pictures of frogs in of all sizes, and colors, go figure.

The resources, fun, tools, and information available in our yurt, due to the computer/internet combo, is astonishing to me. I would sooner limit library access or ‘yard time’ then limit their time using such an amazing tool. Yesterday, I said, “I wonder what time Paul is coming home,” and Sophie said, “Let’s google it!” What we did, instead, was google-maps his office. And there it was, in satellite image. We waved. “Hi Daddy!”

Here is two year old Sophie playing “Moon Match.” Luc has just figured this game out. We walk around singing the song from it, which, oddly enough, goes, “I’m the maaaaan that you need, I’m the maaaaan that you need.” I think it is a Man in the Moon reference, but I could be wrong.

And, MAN, that old monitor was SO SMALL!  How did we ever stand it?  I say, don’t limit screen time–get a bigger monitor.

why does writing inspire so much more ambition than other hobbies?

I just love this quote:

What I find interesting is how many people think the only reason to write is to be published, and that publication legitimizes ones efforts somehow. Is there any other endeavor that carries such a load of assumptions?

Most of the people who run marathons know they aren’t going to come anywhere close to winning, but they run anyway. Most people who take up a musical instrument don’t expect to play at the local VFW Hall, let alone Carnegie Hall. Many people are very happy to paint watercolors that will hang on no one’s walls but their own, make beer that will never be served in a bar, or grow tomatoes that will never be for sale at the local supermarket.

No one thinks it odd that people have these hobbies and in fact, people usually speak respectfully of the gardeners, quilters, and other hobbyists in their midst without ever saying, “Well, Bob is just wasting his time restoring that GTO. He’s not a REAL mechanic because no one pays him to work in an auto repair shop.”

I wonder why writing is viewed by so many as something that’s not worth doing unless it results in a gloss-covered product on the shelf of Barnes & Noble?

Good point! This is from a comment made on literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog, which you can find here.

re-runs for art

When I was in my twenties, I had this whole thing about ‘life is short, repeat nothing.’ I felt like there was so much to experience, and so little time.  Watching a rerun, or re-reading a book, that was the same as flushing that time down the potty. And since I have always had a really good memory for stories (it’s kind of freaky, I can’t tell you what day it is, most times, but I can recall complicated plot lines, including lines of dialogue, from movies I saw a decade ago) it really seemed like there was no point in going over the same ground again. On to the next thing, that was my motto.

My Sophie, 4, has no such judgments. Fearlessly she lets herself love what she loves, in whatever way, for however long, she cares to. It’s part of her play, to repeat stories, over and over, watching, reading, drawing, acting portions of them out, until at some point, she’s done, and on to the next thing. I think this is so cool. She trusts her creative process. Unlike me, who constantly questions my process, wondering if I’m wasting my time, fiddle-faddling, and shouldn’t I get on with some more valuable use of my time?

Right now, she’s into the Pixar movie, Monster’s Inc. She has watched it every night for the past week. Before that it was Ratatouille. Here is a picture she drew, Sully the Scarer is in the middle, Mike the little, green, one-eyed guy, to the right, and the gal with the snakes for hair is on the left. I asked her about the orange creature and she said she would point him out to me next time she watches.

Is creative process the same thing, basically, as play? People say play is fun, but I don’t think it is, exactly, not all the time. Sometimes I see my kids really struggling in their play, trying to get it the way they want it, sometimes going through periods of hard work with intense focus, sometimes getting bored and giving up on something and moving on. Sometimes it flows and they’re having a great time, of course, but sometimes…not so much. Which pretty much perfectly describes what it is like to write a novel.

Following Sophie’s lead, I have been letting myself watch this movie-which-will-remain-unnamed over and over, because I like it, or I’m fascinated by parts of it, or maybe it’s just wanking off, I’m not sure, but watching it, taking notes, thinking about the bits that move me…it feels like I’m trying to metabolize something. So that, perhaps, those elements show up in a new Maya-fied shape in my current novel. I’ve been calling it “my research.” And maybe it is. Or maybe I’m just playing. Or maybe there isn’t a difference.  There doesn’t seem to be a difference for Sophie.

My twenty-something year old self wouldn’t approve. But some people’s creative process involves a bottle of alcohol every night, you know? I’ve just got all this angst, and right now, this movie watching thing. So maybe I’m just going to go with it and see where it takes me. I wish I could be as fearless as my four year old.

running the numbers

This is about the scariest thing I’ve seen in a while, a way of making the incredibly large numbers of our wasteful society more understandable. Art has the ability to get through to me in a way facts and sound bites can’t.  I think I’ve built up an immunity to the news.  Maybe they should make a vaccine.  Or no, maybe not, because then who would do anything about any of it?

seeing the familiar in a new way

My aunt Carroll Lassiter is a wonderful painter.  She has been working lately on local landscapes that make the usual intersections and fields look new and beautiful–which then make me see those old familiar places in a new way.  In the past she has done series of carpentry tools, gardening tools, fishing tools (like oars and lures), and always there have been lots of fish.  We went to an opening of hers last night at a local restaurant.  Here are a few of the paintings, as they looked on the lovely yellowy walls there.

This is a local intersection I drive by all the time.  Except now I see it as this peaceful, almost transcendent place.  A metaphorical cross-roads, not just something I pass getting from here to there.

Don’t you just want to eat this?

This is a field across the street from my Grandmother’s house.  It’s never looked so lovely.

doing crazy things in the name of art

Saturday we went to the Haw River Festival, an event set up to raise funds for the Haw River Assembly, which is trying to take care of the river and keep it clean. The whole experience was a great example of when to let go and surrender. For example, walking across the old bridge, the kids found large chunks of colored chalk and were instantly engrossed in drawing as we went. Luckily the view of the rocks and water below was lovely or Paul might have gone mad with our sudden deceleration. Walking across a bridge is just getting somewhere else when you are 37, but it becomes a huge adventure when you are 2 and 4.

When we finally arrived at the festival, we joined a Clyde Jones inspired art project of painting cut-out plywood fish and ducks, and Sophie was instantly, deeply engaged. That was cool to watch. Luc also liked it, so much that he insisted on doing two. Another chance to surrender. Glitter was had by all. (Two colorful ducks now live in our bathhouse.)

After that we wandered a bit, consumed some nitrates in the form of corn dogs with mustard, which were fantastic–I haven’t had a corn dog in probably ten years–and won a sunflower t-shirt in the raffle. Go, us!

The big moment, however, was when Paperhand Puppet Intervention finally did their parade across the old bridge. Sophie carried a fire puppet with something like grim determination. She would accept no help, shaking me off when I attempted to lift some of the weight. We walked behind several large white bird puppets and a giant green earth-spirit sort of thing that had a face like a temple sculpture. I couldn’t tell if she was enjoying it, but she was definitely committed to doing it. So we did.

When Luc woke up this morning, the first thing he said was, “Let’s go to the Haw River Festival and draw with the chalk.” So I think it was a success. For me, it was great to be around the musicians, the puppet people, the craft folk, the aging hippies and the bliss ninnies, the committed environmentalists and the kiddos. Sometimes it’s easy to let life come to me in my comfy little yurt. But sometimes it’s good to get out and connect with people doing crazy things in the name of art. And in the name of rivers.

Here are the ducks over the window in our bathhouse: