Robert Indiana: LOVE!

As we approach the month of red and pink and doilies, I thought that I’d try something new and chat with the grade fours about Robert Indiana and his hard edged Pop Art, particularly his LOVE sculpture.

Love in NYC

I showed the students this little interview that included a number of slides about the well known sculpture and I spent a bit of time showing them the negative spaces and talking about the colours that were used.

In retrospect, I would have used a smaller format and had the children use only wide and flat tipped marker pens on white bond paper.  I realized, much too late that it was a challenging enterprise to paint such hard edges at this level.  The students went ahead like gang busters, however, and took on the challenge.  Once again, I showed them how to use the edge of their brushes to paint very long strokes and thin lines.  I try to teach this whenever I mix paint.

We began by looking at the Clarendon Black or Bold Font.  I talked to the students about serifs and about the sorts of fonts that we use when we open up a Word Document.


Their first depiction was made while making observations of the Calendon style, looking closely at the shape of the negative spaces, as much as the positive, the letters.

The students folded their bond paper in such a way that they created a square.

After that they created a + sign by folding edge to edge both directions.  These left them the template where they practiced drawing their LOVE, remembering to leave their O on a diagonal.  This is when we ended up giving the negative shapes names such as Arrow Head.

folded paper plus sign

Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 008 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 007

Remember, also, that a whole number of four letter words can be used in this study of Robert Indiana’s approach to text and language.

I then gave the students squared construction paper for their larger composition and they created their text, using chalk.

Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 013 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 012 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 011 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 010

I first mixed up a number of tints of red for the painting of the font.  I decided that contrary to Indiana’s pieces, I would not work with Complementary Colours as wet edge to wet edge, this would most certainly create mud once the children got busy painting.  I mixed a whole palette of related colours, almost an Analogous palette and these are the resulting compositions.

Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 036 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 034 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 033 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 032 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 030 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 029 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 028 Kath's Canon, Love Paintings, Frank's 027


Have fun with some version of this.  I’ve since taken a peak on the web and their are a number of different approaches.  It’s possible that you could outline the letters in oil pastel or sharpie pens.  The students and I talked about that, waited for the pieces to dry and decided that from a distance the words popped out successfully.

Thanks, Jess, for your class!



1937 Roslyn Photo Got Noticed

The Westmount Independent, a local paper in a Montreal suburb,  ran a wee article on Tuesday, seeking out a boy in this photograph.

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Roslyn and Kath

It turns out that a friend of one of the Walls boys, might just be the candidate!  She is taking the article to Mr. Walls, who is reported as in good health, to view the image today and will get back to me. :0)  I’m pretty happy that we may have made a connection here.  Stay tuned!

Here is a link to the original blog post, written on January 2, 2016.

My other searches include the links found on my Page, Where Are You?


The Postman by David Brin

I saw the movie, The Postman, ages ago and I liked it. It was first released December of 1997. Since then, any time I mentioned it or tried to get a conversation going about it, friends rolled their eyes.  Evidently, I saw something in it that no one else did.  In fact, I remember making an old boyfriend sit and watch it with me.  I’ve tried to make my daughter watch it with me.  Regardless of my positive outlook on the work, I couldn’t find any one else who liked it.

It might be as simple as people don’t like Kevin Costner.  The movie is quite different from the book, which has it’s own problems.  The film deals with a faction of post-apocalyptic AMERICA (Why all caps?  It is very nationalistic in the stars and stripes sensibility.) struggling against another faction.  In comparison, the book deals more with the power a single individual can have to create change for the positive.

Over the Christmas holiday, I enjoyed a family dinner with friends and during our post-dinner conversation, Peggy, mentioned the book, The Postman.  She was the first person that I’ve ever bumped into who showed any appreciation for this piece.  I borrowed her second copy of The Postman by David Brin and took it home to read in three evenings.

All this aside, I wanted to write about why I enjoyed both the book and the film.  I like the idea that written letters become, especially in the movie, the thread that bonds the survivors together.  I liked the exploration of the fact that letters create hope for the citizens and that a postal network rises out of the chaos and violence of the time.

This concept raises up the concept of resilience and hope for humanity.  It talks about the power of word.



Room by Emma Donoghue

Spoiler Alert, I suppose, especially if you read the review link below.


This is a single-night (maybe you can stretch it to two nights) read.  I haven’t seen the movie, but thought that I would read this, for the purpose of sharing a teachers’ book club night.  Now, it turns out that the evening set aside for the book club recently, was already booked on my calendar.  Such are the busy lives that we all carefully negotiate. I thought I’d jot a few notes on my thoughts on the book.

It takes about four pages to get a sense of ‘the voice’ of the book.  Intimate conversation is shared by the protagonists, Jack and Ma, victims of the violent and isolating experience of being held captive in a room.  Jack has been born into this captivity, as a result of the horrible and redundant rape of his mother, at the hands of her kidnapper.  One would think, by this description, that the book would be an extremely sad piece of work, but what I found intriguing were the many sorts of activities and pretend games that the mother created for her son and how they, indeed, survived this bleak situation.

I felt empathy for Ma throughout.  Given even ideal circumstances, I know that I ache for my own children when they confront conflict or struggle, so I can’t imagine the obstacles that would be mine emotionally in such a crisis.  The reader sees the internal struggle of both mother and son, and also sees their vulnerability, but at the same time, can not help but experience amazement at their strength of character and gut.

I raise up a prayer for all of those victims of traumatic experiences such as this one. I pray for ‘the missing’ and for those family members who know this story intimately.

I recommend this one, but don’t know that I will go out to see the movie.  This might be a ‘wait until Netflix’ title.

A Thorough Review


Inspiration in Courtney’s Classroom

Some days, when I have low energy, I don’t feel up to mixing buckets of paint, although I believe strongly that the more our kids enjoy the tactile/sensory/exquisitely beautiful experience of paint, the better.  Last night I tossed around and couldn’t get myself to sleep.  I did warm milk and read way too many pages in that book over there.

So, this morning, early, I decided that I would focus on some drawing skills with Courtney’s grade threes.

I stepped into Courtney’s classroom and was in love.  I felt that the space said immediately, “Welcome.  You are here.  You are safe.  This is how we have a lovely time learning.”  Thanks for that feeling, Courtney.  While I’m still waiting for permission to post these photos, I’m going to go ahead anyway…always good to share generously with our colleagues, in the case that they can pick up some ideas for another year.

Chalk board and chalk…two wee chairs…love this!  Students can play school and practice their math facts and making words.  Coo-ell!

Kath's Canon Grade 3 Ott Zentangle chickadee 032

Word walls!  They never go out of fashion!  I like that the children’s script is present and that these are not stylishly created by the teacher or an assistant.  Ownership!  Whoot!

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Oh my goodness!  Art created based on a book I’ve never connected with!  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt Pictures by Oliver Jeffers.  I like the book!  I like the follow-up art work!


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The seven habits…we all need to check in with these.

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Set the students up to go into role!  Group drama, even if it is simple as the labels we use, can make the difference in engagement that we want.  I always refer to the students as artists during art class.  Confidence forming…I like this chart and reminder.

Kath's Canon Grade 3 Ott Zentangle chickadee 009

Way to curb some situational drama.  It’s good for kids to check in before speaking.  But, it’s just as important for adults.  Love this!

Kath's Canon Grade 3 Ott Zentangle chickadee 008

One of the best Hall Pass systems out there!  I’ve never seen this done before! When the student leaves the classroom, they leave the hand sanitizer on their desks…when they return, voila! (just in case they forgot)

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Look at that voice level chart…yummy!

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Who doesn’t enjoy words to live by?  I live by them!

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Our morning art lesson began after greetings and opening exercises.

Recently, I’ve connected with a friend-blogger, Miriam Paternoster, who teaches middle school art in North Italy, and in perusing her lesson ideas, I decided that I’d try out something with my grade threes.

In the grade three social studies curriculum, the students explore Peru, Ukraine, India and Tunisia.  I remembered the rich tiling and mosaic motifs that come out of all of these regions and so decided to focus the children on creating tiles that can be linked together for display purposes.  In order to inspire pattern-making for the ‘doodled’ sections, it’s good to give many exemplars.  When the question, “What is a tile?”  came up, there was a lot of discussion about the tiles in our homes.

Traditional Indian Design Motifs23.png

New vocabulary: tiling and motifs.

I printed off templates on large white paper before coming down to the classroom in the morning.  I ticked off six dots on each side of a measured square/ 11 x 17 paper through the copy machine…so, 11″ squares.  These templates provided markers for the grade three students to draw their six woven strands of ribbon.  (dot-to dot across from one another)  Where things had to be thoughtfully done was deciding what particular lines needed to be erased so that the ribbons wove through the piece…I referred to them as ‘unders’ and ‘on tops’.

Once blocked in, the ribbons were shaded at all the ‘unders’.  I taught the grade threes how to apply different pressure with their pencils to go ‘dark and lighter and lighter and lighter’.  I also taught them how to avoid making ‘hairy’ edges, but turning their pencil sideways and making marks along a line edge.  Did I think they would do this?  I wondered.  And yet, there was barely a peep as they invested their energy in creating these drawings.

The expressive component of the lesson was to choose a single coloured thin marker to create repeating and varied motifs in all of the remaining white negative spaces.  We worked on a community piece on the white board as the independent work was happening. “If you invent a pattern that you want to share, you can add it at the white board.”  This is what they created.

The list of statements to the right side of the white board are questions that students might ask instead of, “Is this good?”

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Here are some of the resulting projects.

Students who are older would not require a template for the woven ribbons.

From Miriam’s website…when displaying these, connect the dots and create a collection of tiles.


Thank you for your class today, Courtney!

Pieter Bruegel’s Children’s Games

Yesterday I had the opportunity to teach a beautiful grade six class.  I bit off more than I could chew, however, because we did not completely move through to the end result that I had in mind in this exploration of Pieter Bruegel and the study of two pieces, Children’s Games and The Hunters in the Snow.

Before the lesson began, I had the children sketch in their visual journals (every kid should have one…just love these!) a scene where children are playing winter games outdoors…recess, skiing and snowboarding, skating, building forts or any other activity.  This student added the smaller figures into her original plan, after we began to practice doing mini figure plans in our journals…I loved that the cross over had happened in learning, just naturally.

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Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 022

The reflection section of the lesson was more engaging than I thought it would be and the students needed to become familiar with the handling of a paintbrush.  It’s all good and we need to be flexible with our expectations.  Lessons are more exciting when they are left open-ended.

Here are the two pieces and a very good analysis of Hunters in the Snow.  I did not use this in my class, but thought it might be of interest to teachers who want a quick background on how to talk about art.  The resource I used with the students is a short power point and I’ve provided the link below.





Atmospheric perspective for 3-6 (St. Mary’s Lake at Glacier National Park):

As we spoke about winter landscapes, we talked about how to achieve atmospheric perspective.  We talked about the mountains and what they look like on the west horizon.  I talked about my walks around the pond and what I see daily.  I talked about the different colours on the pond.  We looked at Bruegel’s piece and discovered that ice on a river/canal/pond is not necessarily white and sometimes is a very dark colour.  We talked about the figures and their gestures and activities and how indistinct they become as they get further back in the picture plane.

I realized as I was teaching that there were some terms that the students were not aware of and so I had to back step a little, so very quickly, they learned the terms background, middleground and foreground.  It is easier to speak of art when the vocabulary is there and you are just not always pointing.

At some point there was a conversation about emoticons…a term that I didn’t know. :0)  Here they are.  If this hadn’t been grade six, this conversation wouldn’t have come up and it was fun for me. I always use the example of ‘Pictionary’ when I talk about symbols, but because we became interested in the facial expressions of Bruegel’s figures, this was so appropriate.  Go KIDS!

We discussed the fact that none of the figures in Bruegel’s piece have emoticon faces, nor do the snowmen.  I suggested the idea of just indicating the face with small marks, instead of distinct smiley faces and that whenever insecure, as I would be, turn the figure so that its back is to the viewer.


I talked about the fact that we were going to create our own landscapes in the spirit of Bruegel so that we would all choose, for this piece, a horizontal profile.

This is what my board space looked like by the time we had finished our chat…Glory be for projectors.  In my day, I used to hold up little prints.

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 002Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 001

With chalk, the students blocked in three or four horizon lines, depicting their foreground, middle ground and background, depending on what activity they chose.  I told them about being stuck on a black diamond ski run, as a beginner skiier at one time.  I told them what it looked like in my foreground…but, as I skied toward the edge, what I saw before me.  The boarders in the crowd laughed.

Here are some examples of the chalk drawings.

When we began to paint, I had buckets of white and sky colour prepared so that students could begin with some fill in.  In progress…

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 015

From there, the children told me what colours they wanted as middle tints and I was able to just add to the buckets of white and we avoided waste.  Here are their paintings with colour.


Don’t forget that the day was flowing like all days will…the students began with math.  At some point in the morning, they exchanged their books at the library and they enjoyed the wonderful stories of Jeff Stockton, an artist in residence.  We completed our landscape paintings and cleaned up before our science lesson about rotation and revolution.

I realized that the second part of the lesson and the insertion of the figures into our Bruegel landscapes would have to wait as a follow up to the lesson with their art teacher.  I gave them all of the prep work, however and they created fanciful plans in their visual journals.

Here are some of their mini-mes.  We made distinctions about stick figures and these mini action figures by studying some of Bruegel’s.

After sketching these, the students can then go into their tempera paintings with pencil (a nice tooth is provided by the dried paint) and the figures can later be coloured in with pencil crayon or fine tipped marker.  Earlier, the students and I observed how Bruegel used red on the figures in most of his compositions in order to carry the viewer’s eye throughout the composition, so red should appear throughout the student works, in scarves/hats, coats, ski equipment in order to imitate this compositional device.  We shared a lot of laughter as we pretended a one inch figure would be skiing down a mountain in the background.  One students said, when I likened it to Godzilla skiing, “Either the person is too big or the mountain is way to small!” :0)

Kath's Canon, Grade six Bruegel 043

The following images show the Bruegel figures incorporated, with some thoughtful consideration about scale and gesture, into the winter landscape spaces.

I’m including this lesson for my readers in case they want to do something different with white plus one hue.  Thanks to Jenn, for her class.

Trees in Gradation

Family Bake Off

Oh, what the heck!  It’s a blustery winter afternoon…-16 here in Calgary, not factoring in the wind chill.

Dad left a voice mail this morning saying that he was making Mom’s Peanut Butter Cookies and that I should be jealous that I’m not in Belleville, Ontario to share them.

I started making my own batch after he e mailed me this recipe.

Kay’s Peanut Butter Cookies

1/3 Cup shortening

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

1 Egg slightly beaten

1 Cup Flour

1 Tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp Salt

Sugar for coating

Cream together shortening and sugars, add peanut butter.
Mix in egg.
Add dry ingredients.
Roll into balls, then roll in sugar.

greased cookie sheet , press flat with a fork.

350 oven for 10 minutes.


(True confession…after doing a mass message out to the family, with this recipe, Dad revealed that this is, in fact, my sister-in-law, Ann-Marie’s recipe…that Mom always used butter instead of shortening…but, regardless, these cookies are delicious!)

I’m including any participant photographs here…and giving credit!

The first dozen of my cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookies Kath

I got two and a half dozen, in the end.  I used dark brown sugar.Peanut Butter Cookies 2 001Cliff and Grace used three eggs…this is how they turned out.  No fork?

Peanut Butter Cookies Grace and CliffMy cousin Anne,  living in Kansas, made a lovely batch.  And…it turns out that her mother used to criss-cross the fork marks while flattening. :0)

Peanut Butter Cookies Anne

I’m waiting for the rest of the photos to come in and will post here…thanks for participating! I love you all…on warm days and cold days and in-between-days!

A Reality Tour

It was January 21, 2004 and I found myself sitting next to my daughter, Cayley, at the Dome, somewhere up in the nosebleeds awaiting  the entrance of Macy Gray.  Her set leading up to David Bowie was short but so overwhelmingly energetic that the distance between us and her was not existent.  I’ll always remember the power of her vocals and her entertainment factor.  Gritty, joyful, her performance was spirited and authentic.

Tonight I had intended to drive to the core to attend an event at the National Music Center, but am I just becoming a home body, when on a Thursday evening, I don’t want to go back out onto the roads?  I just want to stay home.

I decided to pull out one of my journals labeled Winter 2004 2 and to skim through until I found my notes on David Bowie and his performance.  With today’s news of the passing of Alan Rickman and a key historical player of the Stratford Festival, Brian Bedford, both from cancer, it causes me to take pause.  I think that Bowie’s 2004 concert was well-named.  I think it’s important to check in with ourselves over the course of this New Year and decide what it is in life that truly feeds the soul. What is this state that we refer to as REALITY?

There was a break as the stage was shuffled about and prepared for David Bowie.  Cayley and I sipped on our traditional two DOME cold beers and chatted.   Some time during that intermission, a woman with a huge roll of tickets came up to us and gave us two new tickets.  She said only, “David does not want any one sitting this far away.  He’s moving you up.”  Well…was that ever a blessing!  We had ideal seats one section above the stage on the left.  And so the music began to fly.  That night was a healing-night for me…hard to explain here, but it’s true.

I’ve taken photographs of my archives and while I wrote a lot about the music, I’m just going to post the visuals and maybe a video of the song that really moved me that night.

Eternal rest grant unto them , O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them .
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Live rightly.  Live justly.  Give to those in need.  Respect your body. Cherish your loved ones.  And…dance.

Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 021Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 020Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 019Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 018Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 016Kath's Canon, January 14, 2016 Bowie and Memorabilia 015

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Always buy the t-shirt!


Wrapping Up the Christmas Season

It’s 10:59 p.m. and you’ve had enough of Netflix on a Friday night.  You shuffle to the bathroom and brush your teeth.  You’re thinking it’s nice that you’ll be in bed before midnight.  ‘Time for a little read,’ you say to yourself.

Upstairs, you swallow your glass of water.  After that, you feel that little bit of energy that, if not expressed, will keep your legs jumping and send you to tossing when you hit the sack.  You see the bag of ornaments that you had collected off the bush at the flats and decide that this is when they need to be tucked away.

Kath's Canon, December 29, 2015 Mostly Max and Bush 002

The ornaments have been waiting there at the front hall bench for almost a week.  You really hope to avoid procrastination and take care of these sorts of matters so as to eliminate a collection of clutter.  Immediately you see the loose end of the garland, still smacking of Christmas sparkle as you set yourself to rolling.  Feeling a burst of joy and contentment, you roll for miles before you look down to see the cascade of red glitter, like fairy dust, creating a dazzle…everywhere.  Your heart drops.

Max comes to see what you are doing…….  Yes!

Your first insight is to vacuum through the entire house.  You ask yourself, “Is that actually picking up the glitter?  It seems I just cleared up that very spot.”  Max follows you, curious…it seems a strange thing that all of the lights would be on full throughout the house and you should be vacuuming?  He goes to his toy box and dutifully drops ‘Greenie’ in front of you.  He smiles. (You are silently knowing that he is carrying fairy dust wherever he chooses to go, but decide to remain calm, wondering “Who was that teacher who loved glitter so much at school?”) You consider the absolute ridiculous nature of the events that are unfolding, tilting your head this way and that, each time, a greater reveal of the sparkling stuff.  You notice that the shoulder you had rested all evening, was again, aching.

The lint roller is on sideboard.  You grab it and in some sort of ‘light bulb’ moment, start rolling your hardwood, a board at a time.  The roll of garland sits, benignly, on the kitchen table.  You scowl.  If someone could see this.  This is the stuff of comedy.  But, as is the truth about comedy, you just aren’t feeling ‘it’ at the moment.

The lint roller sheets come to an end and you are almost grateful.  As it shrinks in size your knuckles keep on thump thumping with each roll.  But ANYTHING, just to capture that flicker that fell between the boards!

You begin wrapping packing tape backwards around an insect spray bottle. No…the truth is, you begin by wrapping the entire length of your mother’s treasured rolling pin.  Max continues to sniff you and then affectionately licks your face as the perspiration collects and you pause to remove the first layer of clothing.  You wonder what it is that could have possibly brought you to this moment where you are found on hands and knees, rolling the surface of your home.  And yes…next, the insect bottle.  It just felt too uncomfortable using the baking utensil for such an exercise in futility.

You decide to stop.

You sit yourself down and you write.