Summer is coming to a close so fast, I have to take a minute and share our art adventures before school starts and summer is gone. This summer marks the 5th year of Backyard Art, it truly is an amazing milestone for me. With each passing year it gets harder and harder to create the cirriculum because most of the kids have been with Backyard Art for multiple years and I can't repeat projects. Although I spend all year filing ideas away for Backyard Art, when June rolls around and I have to firm up the schedule I always get a little sliver of anxiety. There are so many important factors that determine the success of an art project and I get a little stressed worrying about how the kids will feel about the projects. But I should learn to trust my insticts because we had another fantastic summer.
Marbled birds, butterflies & bugs
I have a few traditions with backyard Art, the first is day is always paper marbling. We have always done shaving cream marbling because it packs such a wow factor but this year we tried something new and did marbling with finger nail polish.
This project required 3 different techniques. For the background paper the kids did a water wash and then used small squirt bottles with liqud water colors to spray the paper. The aspen trees were created by dragging cardboard dipped in black paint. Then the kids had to cut out and glue on their trees. The birds, butterflies & bugs were cut from paper the kids marbled with cheap nail polish. The colors were so rich! Using the Ed Emberly method we cut circles from the marble paper and created our creatures.
The return of Jackson Pollock
We have taken a break from Pollock for the last couple years even though he is always a favorite for kids. I finally found a new way to do Action Jackson and it sure was unusual. This project is as much science project as it is art. First, the kids started by painted a 16x20 canvas with 3 colors, trying their best to blend them. Once the paint was dry the kids quickly drip and dribble liquid dish soap over the canvas. They immediately sprayed the entire canvas and soap with spray paint in contrasting color. After waiting only 5 minutes for spray paint to dry, very gentle wash the soap off the canvas to reveal the crazy squiggle left from the soap. Some kids finsihed them off my adding their monogram to the Jackson Pollock.
Flying Fish (Koinobori)
I have been wanting to do japanese fish kites for years but only barely stumbled onto a method to create them quickly. I admit this project took a ton or prep work but the results were well worth it. This also was one of the most favorite projects of the summer. I was concerned it would be too hard but the kids LOVED the process as much as the finished product. The kites started with Smart Fab which I cut and sewed a casing into the mouth. This was a lesson on print making. The kids put adhesive foamies onto a scale shape piece of cardboard to make their stamp. Then they carefully printed the scale in rows across their fish. Once the black acrylic was dry I had some acrylic paint markers for them to add detail and a little color pop. When it was dry the kids brushed the scale section of their fish with sparkle mod podge to give it the fishy shimmer. We glued the sides together and added a tail then used thick wire in the casing to give the fish its shape. These were very weather proof and have cheered up my deck all summer.
Monet is such an accessible artist for kids. If you have ever seen one of his original paintings, especially from his Giverny years, it is hard not to be impressed. He is also a family man which is unusual by early painter standards. This project focused on perspective and shadowing using oil pastels and liquid water colors.
I always like to throw something at the kids that gets them thinking in 3D.. and off paper. This suncatcher design was super unique since the bottom pieces were made from melted plastic sups. First I had the kids use sharpies and color cheap plastic drinking cups. Then the cups were melted in the oven into flat disks like shrink dinks. The kids used wire to string the glass beads. I tried to encourage the kids to create a family collaborative piece but only some were willing to share.
For some reason this project had me worried. There were a lot of obsticles I had to mentally work through before presenting it to the kids. I have to say, this was the project where the kids knocked my socks off. They elevated my projected to new levels with their creations. I wanted this to also teach about texture but I was having the craziest time finding affordable, obtainable clay texture matts. Inspiration finally hit the day before.... I bought several different shaped pastas and let the kids use them to create the texture. This kids were so deeply engrossed in this creative process it took them about twice as long as I would have expected... but how can you interupt when kids are so focused.
Tie Dye is another Backyard Art tradition but this year was a whole new experience. Prepping for a large group of tie dye takes a ton of work. Luckily, my oldest has become my dye mixing buddy and we have the system down. It took an hour and a half to mix 30 bottles of dye. I stood at my kitchen window and watched as the biggest darkest storm rolled over the mountain and straight toward my house. I started laughing as the rain came down because there was no way we were moving tie-dye inside. The rain started about 10 minutes before art and didn't stop for 3 days. Being that Utah is a desert, a 3 day rain storm is very unusual. It was the fasted tie-dye event in history and we were absolutely soaked to the bone and we laughed the whole way through it. We were a level of cold and wet that will not be forgotten, but also fun in the most bonding kind of way.
These 3 cuties are sporting their new jammies. The headbands were new this year and I am jealous I don't have one. Sasha loves hers!
Kids are so funny because they like a certain color scheme and they stick with it consistently. This is Jonas with his matching owl and tie-dye. If you look back at the owl photos you can also see how the same colors seem to carry thru from owl to tie-dye.
On the last day of art I try to create a lucky charm so the kids can hang it up for the school year and remember their summer time friends. By the end of July these kids have an amazing bond and they are a little sad to have it end. I adapted this last project for the kids and was scared that it would be too difficult for the littler ones..... boy was I wrong. Because "how to Train Your Dragon 2" had just been released the kids created their own dream pet dragon complete with names and special features. This project focuses on lines, patterns and shapes to create their creature. The little kids got so wrapped up in the story of their dragon you would have thought this was a creative writing project.
These guys are showing off their tie-dye and dragons.
Looking back over our summer art adventures I feel like we truly have something to be proud of. It is harder for me to design the projects year after year, but it also makes them better because they are more unique. Watching these kids grow and have confidence in their own ability to create is why I keep going. Creating art is about learning to enjoy the process, trusting your instincts, expressing your personality, problem solving, critical thinking and a ton of other skills that get pushed to the side during the school year. When we bring art outside into nature it integrates a whole other level of brain stimulation that doesn't happen unless kids are outside. Yes, we do art outside because it is messy but more importantly we do it outside because kids spend too much time indoors and they need the balance that only nature can provide.
A huge heart felt thank you to those that became my Backyard Art family this summer. There really is something special, that is completely intangible, created by the bond of Backyard Art. I will miss you during the school year. Hopefully the Lucky Dragons will do their job and keep you company during another scool year!