Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaching the Teachers...

So, I find myself in a classroom with a bunch of adults looking back at me, and feel, well, a little self-conscious. I'm kinda used to looking at little faces, with kids asking kid-like questions, like "how old are you?", "what's your favourite colour?" and "what's your dog's name?" Instead, the questions were more mature, requiring more sophisticated answers from the instructor.

This was my first time planning a session for grown-ups -- a PD** session, to be specific . Since we only had half-a-day, I wanted to cram as many transferable techniques as possible into our short time frame. I decided I have them work with the grid method (they each had a nice picture of a tree, see red tree over there), which they'd transfer with graphite to a sheet of watercolour paper.

You know the grid method, I'm sure -- you draw a grid overtop of your original image -- in our case, the little red tree -- , and then a corresponding grid on a clean sheet. The corresponding grid can be either larger, smaller or the exact same size, depending on what you want -- do you want to enlarge your image? Smallen it (yes, that's a word)? OR, instead of drawing straight lines, make them all wobbly and uneven-- the end result can be pretty neat. You just want to make sure that each grid has the same number of squares. Then, start drawing, square by square, and watch your drawing come to life.

Once the tree was all drawn in pencil, we outlined the tree in ink -- I'd have preferred India Ink with a dip pen, but Sharpies did the trick. Then, after erasing all the graphite lines and smears, and letting the black ink dry, we moved into the watercolours. Lots of talk about the colour wheel, colour saturation, that sort of thing, et voila!, some fantastic looking pieces were the end result.

The teachers could then take what they'd learned that day and try it with their kids -- the grid method could be linked to the math curriculum, the other stuff to, well, the fine arts curriculum.
** Professional Development

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to School...

I've started my artist-in-residency at Almadina Language Charter School in southeast Calgary, and have about 15 classes of grades 1 - 3. Our project over the next month is to illustrate stories the kids have written, either as a class or on an individual basis. My first visit was an introduction to the world of book illustration, about how I work, the process I follow, with lots of fun examples to show.

I've asked that the teachers have their stories written and ready to go -- no more than 150 words long -- and divided nicely into six pages. I devised a thumbnail sketch sheet for teachers to use with the kids prior to my return. Then, when I'm on the scene, I'll work one-on-one with the kids on their artwork.

A picture's worth a thousand words...
Once the copy is separated into pages and paired with the kids' drafty drawings, I want them to trade their thumbnails with a partner and have them read -- sort of a critiquing process. Does the story make sense? Are all those words really necessary? Do the pictures help move the story forward? Or are they just redundant (don't worry -- I'll find a better word than redundant...)?

More soon...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Another year...

and here I'm writing again. Ya, I know -- it's about time.

Anyway, my latest children's book has now arrived on the scene, and it's called "Where Does Your Dog Sleep?" (published by Your Nickel's Worth Press). It's not a difficult book to read -- the fog index is set at about ages 1 - 5 -- so you needn't be intimidated. You can either buy it online at, or ask your local bookstore to bring it in.

My author is Jean Freeman (interesting aside, this is the second Freeman I've teamed up with -- no relation to one another), who plays Fitzi's Grandma on the CTV comedy, Corner Gas.

What else am I doing? Well, this month I'm artist-in-residence at Calgary's Almadina Language Charter Academy -- should be fun!