Painting From the Ground Up!

I will often have elementary teachers ask me why I paint on coloured construction paper rather than white paper or manilla coloured paper.  First off…let’s talk about a ground.

ground or primer is the background surface on which you paint. It is usually a coating such as a gesso primer, which physically separates your painting from the support. It is the foundation of a painting, applied onto the raw canvas, paper, or other support.

When it comes to elementary children, the teacher can provide the foundation for any painting and drive her/his own chosen outcome, in a way, by selecting the colour of the ground.  I always recommend construction paper.  It is reasonably priced, compared to the cost of bond paper and it has tooth!  Just like the teeth in our heads, paper has tooth.  The more tooth, the more easily it is for oil pastels, chalk pastels and tempera paint to adhere.  This is something to think about as you choose your activities and this is something they don’t always teach YOU in your methods classes.  Believe me, the learning never ends.

I thought that this week I might try painting the same subject (Valentines) with Division I students, but provide different coloured grounds.  What happens when you create a ground other than white, is that you highly energize the surface before you even begin.  It feels exciting and fun to go ahead with a project.  Next, a coloured ground will do something to colour, in this case, tempera paint.  Sometimes the effect is NOT desired…you will learn what works by experimenting with what is stock piled in your storage spaces.  Let the students leave little bits of their paper ‘shining’ through in places.  Notice how delightful these are compared to white paper coming through in places.

This week, with grades one, two and three, I reinforced the techniques of using a flat brush to make wide lines and the same brush to make thin lines.  Demonstrate, initially, to show the students how to pivot their brush to create thin lines.  They are actually surprised by this simple tip.  Now…for the grounds.




The paint colours you provide the children with are also important considerations.  For a class of 26, you want to mix up 15 buckets (two brushes in a bucket) (only 1/4 full) of mixed tempera.  In the three projects above, red and white are pure and out of the bottles.  Every other colour has a little something else mixed in.  You can do it!  For tints, pour in the white to fill the bottom of the bucket and add a drip of another colour.  See what happens.  You’ve done those colour mixing experiments with your students in science…you can make lovely tints of orange and add a bit of red and see how it changes.  No!  Don’t add black to red to make dark red!  Instead, add a little titch of blue and see what happens!

So, take a look at the paintings above and ask yourself how each ground changed the experience of very similar colours.  The paintings on yellow, were painted with an analogous colour scheme…red, yellow and white.

The other two sets of paintings included blue and so they were painted using a primary colour scheme….red, yellow, blue and white.

There’s a song out there, “I Hope You’ll Dance!”  My motto is, “I Hope You’ll Paint!”

Have fun!  And happy Valentine’s next week!

Anakin Skywalker and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day…and all it entailed.

Wednesday night at Gorilla House, Andy gave me my only Valentine card…well, that is if I don’t include the few I received from students at school the day before…green suckers attached…a melted and squishy chocolate kiss wrapped in foil.  But this…this was a real valentine!  Hmmm…the image…Anakin Skywalker (Ani).  (Does he become Darth Vader?) Does this mean something?  Andy tried convincing me that “No…no…he wasn’t the bad guy…do you know the story?  The reference isn’t bad.”  Sad to say, I have no recollection of the Star Wars story.  Time to get the PACK out and watch them again…now, that will be a way to spend Family Day!  Let me know if you wish to join me.  I’m one of the few people around who still has a VCR plugged in.

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I attended Teacher’s Convention…and there, met Margaret Atwood.  This was a profoundly moving experience, as I’ve written. (A second valentine.)   I attended Off the Beaten Path at the Art Gallery of Calgary.  There, I wept…and yes, thought a great deal about love and what love means.  Love means, above all things, safety…and freedom…freedom to be true to yourself, to have your own ideas and to be able to speak.  (A third valentine.)

I ate a sandwich in the shop directly across from City Hall and situated myself so that I was looking out on the street, an opportunity to people-watch. The sandwich was wonderful…grainy bread, ham, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, mustard.  I drank cold lemonade.  As Valentine lunches go, it was yummy.

A group of smiley people were directly across the intersection…waiting on the other side for pedestrians to fall into their arms, surrounded by red shirt greetings, FREE HUGS!  The pedestrians lined up on the far side of the walk, shielding themselves behind one another, strategies floating around in their heads. “How can I avoid hugging these happy people?”  Refusals to hug just seem like such defiant, unwilling refusals.  I watched with interest and in the coffee shop, we began to share our observations.  A lady sitting some distance from me at the bar, got up from her stool and came over and hugged me. ( A fourth valentine.) Five people from one table, having sipped their last bits of coffee, announced that they were going to cross as a group and give every FREE HUG candidate a hug…and they did.

After lunch, and on my way to the train, I stopped and hugged each one as well.  One young lady passed me a peace rock wrapped in cellophane.  (A fifth valentine.)

At home, I was greeted by my pooch and enjoyed the mild weather while I walked him.  I looked forward to my skype date with my parents…always at 5:00.  At 4:30 the doorbell rang and Max barked furiously.  On my step, a box.  There were those few minutes where I imagined all sorts of things and from all sorts of people…it’s so easy to fantasize yourself into a scenario of any kind.  I’m particularly good at that.  In fact, my father insists that my childhood memories are so vivid as I write them, that they can not possibly be true.  I disagree.  As I dug through the box of flowers and wrapping and vase, I finally came upon the message from Mom and Dad, computer generated on a packing slip.   I stood at the kitchen counter and cried.  (A sixth valentine.) The kitchen filled with that “fresh from the florist smell” as I clipped the ends of the flowers and arranged them in one of my blue pieces of glass.

P1090560P1090578My mother was dressed in her white long sleeved top, the one with the sparkling three snowflakes on the front,  when finally we had some connection on Skype.  I had the flowers sitting on the desk in front of me.  I told her I loved her.  Moments later, Skype failed and we stared blankly at the dark screen…her in Belleville…me in Calgary.  I phoned her three times, but she could not pick up.  My mother has Alzheimer’s disease.

My father passed the telephone to her when he called back.  We visited.  Her voice felt so small.  I missed them both.

Sitting at the computer anyway, I checked Facebook for messages…a message from my daughter in Vancouver.

“Happy Valentines Mummy! You always did such nice goodies for us in the morning. Feelin the love! Xoxoxo” (A seventh valentine.)

I thought to message my son and daughter…shortly after…

“Love you too mom, merry vday.” My son. (An eighth valentine.)

“How are the wee bubbies?  We were imagining their faces when the food thing spun round at 5pm and there was no food!  Happy Valentine’s mom, we love you! (A ninth valentine.)  I opened the gift bag my cousin had left and said an audible ‘awe’.  (A tenth valentine.)

It was getting dark as I headed out the door for my dentist’s office and my hygienist appointment.  YES!  You read that correctly!  I booked a teeth cleaning appointment on Valentine’s Day!  Who does that?  I have extreme anxiety over dentists in general…cleaning, worse.  I had packed my camera in order that I have a photograph…but the fear dissolved the possibility and you need to just trust me…I spent an hour listening to tooth picking, tooth scaping and tooth polishing and left, breathing a huge sigh of relief that once again, this procedure had passed. (An eleventh valentine.)

On the way home, I stopped into my daughter and son-in-law’s place to feed their cats.  Gabby and Mason immediately circled my legs…meowing incessantly…rubbing their slick bodies again and again, against my legs.  I felt warm.  I felt needed.  Their food was essentially inhaled and then I got to hear the sound of my own voice as I spoke to them and for them for as long as I remained in the house.  It was good to hear my voice.

I turned off the lights, locked up and headed for home…my Max-man and Peanut-meister…warm bed and good book.  Valentine’s Day 2013.