Snow, Wind and Cold Colours

I really get excited about mixing up amazing colours of paint!   It doesn’t matter where I teach, there is a limited number of pure hues (hmmm…don’t know about my use of singular/plural there) sitting in bottles on the storage room shelves.  But with NO FEAR and a little bit of time (10 minutes), I can change those six colours into an endless selection and SO CAN YOU!

Today, I used 17 yogurt containers (the large size). I moved my desks, to create five pods of four students (class of 20).  So, to begin, I wanted five pots of white tempera and 12 pots of various tints of blue/turquoise/purple and such.  When I say tints and shades…do you know what I’m saying?  This is where art teachers sometimes diminish the possibilities for awesomeness in painting experiences.  Tints are created when we add a hue (pure colour off of the shelf in your art storage room) to white.   Mix new colours (in this case, tints) by throwing in a little-of-this and a little-of-that into about a half cup of white, poured into the bottom of all 17 containers. If you add white to the hue, you might get way more than you bargained for. Today, I used Violet, Blue, Turquoise and combinations of those to create my 12 colour choices.

tints cool tints of blue Tints of violetThe notes above are just some swatches that I collected off the internet to illustrate some possible mixed colours…not what I did today!  Goodness!

The palette (the 17 buckets) was placed on a side table with easy access and good traffic paths.

I always place two brushes in each bucket, later reminding students not to take those brushes out of that particular bucket, but rather, return the bucket to the paint center and choose the next colour.  This is like working off a palette.  Students make choices with one other person and have to commit to using the colour until both people agree that they are finished.  I dunno…call me hyper organized…but this way, you can have a whole class of students sharing a beautiful colour palette in a manageable way, leaving clean-up realistic as well.  If I had my very own class, I would place all of the buckets, at the end of the day, into a large plastic storage container, with lid on, just taking the time to clean brushes.  The paint keeps for up to two weeks this way and students can work on painting when their other work is done.

First…reflection and depiction.  A conversation took place about snow flakes.  You can show on-line video, images; there are even books written about the topic.  It can be as simple as asking the students if they know how many points are on a snowflake?  Six!  Hmmm…this is where things get tricky!  It’s easy to draw an eight pointed snow flake!  Try it!  Not so easy to do six, is it?  I’m laughing here.  The tendency is to draw four lines directly across a central point…this way they end up even steven.  But…try to draw the central point first and then draw six equally spaced lines (radii) around that dot.  Time to pull out the scrap paper and to do some drawing.  “Do as many different snow flake patterns as you can…then see if you have three that you will want to add to your painting.”

OOPS!  How many points does THAT snowflake have?

??????????OH!  I GET IT NOW!

??????????“Five more minutes!  Okay…everyone!  YOO HOOO!  Pick out three studies that you like?”

On with paint…so, I always and forever demonstrate the use of the brush and describe it’s parts and how to best use it.  Flat…round…turn it sideways.  Dip. Wipe. Stroke. Difference between stroke and scrub.   I’ll save you that schpeel yet again on my blog.  The five buckets of white paint each have four brushes standing in them.

My little demo…

??????????“Yes…your large snowflake can go right off of the picture plane and be outside of your composition.  Do three…do five…oh yeah, sure…do six…it’s okay…yes, I know you did an eight pointed snowflake…it will still make a cool painting.  Is that your large snowflake?  REALLY?”  And the blah blah goes on and on…and yes, I was so busy teaching, I forgot to take photos at this stage.

Then…for the fun stuff.  “Go wild on your colours…no, we’re not just colouring the background one colour…we’re capturing wind…blustery wind…pattern…sky…all of it.  Have fun with the colour.”

This is what happened…amazing.  I like them!  Typically, I would prep construction paper by using masking tape along the edges of the back.  Just prevents curling, makes the surface a bit more yummy for the students and prevents rips and tears…but, in a crunch, just go for it!

These grade fours tolerated a lot of side-coaching today and they are angels because they kept the dance in their step throughout and managed to pull this off in one hour and thirty minutes…they had their desks/hands clean and had their library books tucked under their arms in time to head for library.  I am really proud of them.  I hope you teachers will mix yourselves up some colour and try.  You can accomplish this in three shorter class periods.  Thank you, Grade Four!  The fact that I’m not featuring all of them is a fact of my out of focus photography, not due to deficiencies in their amazing work.

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Grade Two Explores Emily Carr

I had a placement this afternoon where the class, in fact, the entire school, had opportunity to watch a morning theater performance, “Emily Carr – Small Wonders” performed by
Canadiana Musical Theatre. So, it only made sense that I follow that with an art extravaganza in the Grade 2 class. This class has been helping me with my french lately and this has been great fun.

The inspiration for this lesson comes from Hilary Inwood. I’ve been pouring over her stuff the past couple of weeks, absolutely in love with the types of small books, and works based on nature and ecology that she has been writing about and creating. She has a large publication list and I encourage my friend-educators to look her up. As my readers know, I’m quite big on picking up litter and being a steward of my environment. I harvested from my own recycle bin and cut up three cardboard boxes this morning to be used in this activity.

First, we got the projector warmed up and watched a couple of short movies about Emily Carr, the artist. While the children enjoyed the morning performance, they didn’t have opportunity to learn a lot about Emily’s art. As we looked at several tree and landscape images, we talked about the wind and about the blowing shapes, in the sky, on the land and in the trees. There was a bit of chat about British Columbia and the big tall evergreen trees and imagining walking through the woods there in the dark.

Before recess, we opened nine factories, most having two factory workers, but some, having three. I reused chart paper that was set aside in the art storage room, as factory place mats, deciding to use that for collage paper later on as well. Here, the students prepared a lot of collage papers in the approach of Henri Matisse, to be later selected and used for creating a personal landscape in the manner and energy of Emily Carr.

So, the factory workers went to work, using white, yellow, turquoise, green and blue tempera paint blocks and large brushes. A helpful tip is to keep paint blocks out of the individual cupped containers as those are very tricky to clean. Instead, I just set them out on palettes or margarine container lids. Much easier to wipe off afterwards. Reminders to the students: “Stroke, don’t scrub, your brushes.”







Time for recess! Over the fifteen minutes, the collage papers dried and I cleaned out the water containers, the brushes and the palettes. Ready for students to rumble!

The students entered, rosy cheeked and eager. I projected the following image for some sketching in their sketch books. I also demonstrated how when we draw evergreen trees, we don’t have to draw all of the individual branches, but can draw big clumps of branches all at one time. Among the Firs 1931

Among the Firs 1931











To begin our compositions, we sorted our papers into two big piles on the floor, like piles of leaves. We talked about the way the wind blows most of the time…side to side…this way and that…most of the time it’s not going up and down. So, I initially requested a vertical composition (up and down), with the wind motion being wavy, but side to side. “Mix up your papers, guys, to get lots of variety!” I had brought a long a bag full of cardboard cut to size (different sizes and shapes) for compositions and a variety of tree trunks, strips also cut out of boxes.

I showed them Above the Gravel Pit by Emily Carr.


The results…ta duh!

With advanced and Division II classes, you might add three layers of hills (foreground/middle ground and background)…and several trees. At all grade levels, given time, you might also want to add textures/shading/highlighting onto the tree forms with oil pastel, before gluing. Because this is a young group and I am a visiting teacher, one tree did the trick!

Thank you, Grade 2, for the magic of an afternoon making art!

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Night Skies and Bats

The evening air was so refreshing tonight and the atmosphere very mystical.  Tree branches were being blown by a bluster of wind.  The sky was still slowly turning from blue to black, with a waxing crescent moon to the southwest.  Stars were visible in each of the windows between the clouds.  With such a bright backdrop, light etched the edges of the surrounding clouds.  In the wide open field I stood, gazing upward, taking it all in.  Every now and then, lightning flashed…but tonight, no bats.

For about a week, I was taking Max out to this open field in the dark of night. My head seemed to be dive-bombed by bats on each of these occasions.  It was so mysterious to me.  Darting away, again and again, I’d hear that distinctive call, and as if to be on roller coasters, they would speed across the navy sky, changing direction at will.  Amazing stuff.  On the first night of this phenomena, I didn’t feel at ease with the experience, but on following nights I took it all in.  Nature provides many gifts if we are present to her.

This short video shows the type of experience I enjoyed.

This next one helps to identify a bat’s sounds.  When there are several around you at once, the sound, of course, is amplified.

I was thinking that, as well as all of the other action we need to take to be good stewards of our communities and the world, we might also make the effort to be conscious of light trespassing…more and more there is a horrendous amount of light pollution.  It would be an awesome thing to do to think about your neighbours and turn off your lights.


An astronomy update for August can be heard on Calgary Eye-Opener, here.

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

March 13, 2012 5:00 p.m. Weather: 2 degrees and extremely windy.  Today a sign flew off of the top of the Husky Tower…another powerful wind!  A blizzard blew in, and looking out the front window, it was difficult to see; so much snow was flying west to east.  When all settled down, Max and I headed out.  The blessing of today’s excursion was that, as we approached the parking lot, I saw a gentleman with a broom, a pan and a garbage bag, sweeping up the lot.  I thought to myself, “There’s the guy to take our photograph today!”  It turns out that it was Brian Ross, a young man who I had taught in 1995!  We were able to chat for a short while.  He works a daytime job and moonlights in this particular job so his wife can stay home with his two young children.  I feel so proud of him.

Parking Lot Talk: Photograph Taken By Brian March 13, 2012

We spoke to one another for a while about the irresponsibility of people to their environment.  Each choice that one person makes to drop a container onto the ground, creates an impact on the larger picture.  Brian said that he picks up between four and six bags full of similar litter from the parking lot alone each week.  He pointed out the hedge bushes that were covered in packaging of every variety.  I appreciate his efforts, but so wish that we might change the public consciousness.  I feel as though people are living in a fog.  They are just too busy and distracted to take pause in such concerns as this.

Thank You, Brian

Beach Day: Cavendish

Sunshine at 6:30 this morning…so the laundry got out on the line early!

A Line Full of Clothes in PEI

I spent the early afternoon picking up wee pebbles off of Cavendish beach…a heavenly place to be saying my good-byes to PEI and taking in the sunshine.  I came home and looked at my photographs, but didn’t feel as though I captured the seascape at all…would have been so much better in juicy oil paint…the atmosphere was so charged with wind, sunshine and water that a photograph just flattens it all out.

East Cavendish Beach, heading toward the White Sands of the West

Presently, A Program in Place to Protect the Dunes (Alliteration!)


Good-bye Pounding Wave of Cavendish Beach!

Thinkin' About the Footprints Prayer While Walking & Pebble-pickin'