Thursday, April 13, 2023

Build Your Own Board Game!

Escape! board game 
If you are a board game enthusiast (like I am), have you ever had ideas for your own unique board game? 

Instead of just thinking about it, why not construct your own personally designed board game for family and friends to enjoy?  This is an exciting project for young artists - they have ideas! It's also an enjoyable project for adults (myself included!)

The theme of this game is animals. The object is to help them to escape the Zoo and make their way to animal Paradise! This aptly named Escape! game utilizes cards, handmade dice, and animal toy playing pieces on a folding pathway gameboard.  The 11-year-old game maker also designed a logo and a storage box for the pieces. Best of all, Escape! has already proven to be a family favorite!

Where is Blue Dog? The Game

I created this travel-themed card game based on Cajun artist George Rodrigue's Blue Dog series. 

Okay, I'll admit it. I trickily infused art history, social studies, and geography into my game. And it was a hit with my young game testers!

Building a board game is a lot of fun - but it takes time. There are several steps involved, including planning and then more planning. 

Here is a list of planning questions to help you create a successful board game: 

1) What type of game will it be: strategy game, word game, skill game, grid game, math game, card game, drawing game, or a start to finish (pathway) game?
2) What will be the theme of your game? Dogs? Golf? Bright shapes and colors? This will affect the artistic design of your game.
3) What will be the layout of your game? A board (folding?), a grid, a card game, a 3D maze? Will you need tokens or game pieces or a spinner or dice?
4) If a card game, what will the cards look like? What will they say (front and back)?
5) What will be the object of the game? How will it start and end? Who wins?
6) What are the rules for your game? (Remember to test the rules for playability!)

Use my (pdf) board game planning guide, Game Planwhich you can download and print to help you with your own board game plans.
Wizards & Dragons chess set

This is a hand-crafted Wizards & Dragons themed chess game. It features a carefully painted chessboard of worn stones, tangled vines, and various grasses and flowers growing through the cracks. 

The chess pieces are tiny clay figures, each an intricately hand-crafted character and the pawns are miniature wizard hats!

The designer and creator of this chess set (age 14) painted her chess pieces silver and gold.

SWAP an equation game for any age

The game of SWAP consists of colorful dots and squares glued to cards and strips of black cardstock.  It's easy to learn and easy to play, even for younger kids.

The rules are shown in the picture so you can make your own version of this game too!

Itten's Kittens board game
I made this board game (my first) for a college Color Theory art class assignment. I called it Itten's Kittens after Johannes Itten, an important 20th century Swiss painter, author, teacher, and color theorist.

I included a printout about the artist, but my young students simply want to get their pieces from the cat bed to Dad's chair first! 

Take Two word-building game
This game, Take Two, looks deceptively like an ordinary tubful of Scrabble tiles, but it is soooo much more! Take Two is our favorite family game, even to this day. Invented by my children as teenagers, we still play it whenever we get together and on camping trips and any other time. You need old Scrabble pieces (from games found at thrift stores and garage sales) and a container to keep them in.  

Learn more about Take Two and how to play on my Homeschooling Helper weblog: Better Than Scrabble?

Now it's your turn! Build a board game of your own!

Friday, March 31, 2023

Let's Draw Toys!

Drawing is a fundamental art skill. Learning to draw starts with learning to observe one's surroundings and draw what one sees: otherwise called "drawing from life." Observational skills can be practiced and strengthened by keeping a sketchbook and drawing what you see whenever the mood strikes.  

One of my favorite subjects to encourage observational drawing is (da-ta-ta-da!) toys! Kids love toys and get excited about the idea of drawing them. Toys are a fun subject that can be simple or complex. Young artists can start with simple toy shapes first and move (often in one drawing session) to more complex toys. Drawings of toys can be colored in if desired, which adds to the fun!

Here's how we did it:

We started with a big table covered with a plain tablecloth and lots of small toys. I collected a huge variety of toys that differed in size, shape, color, etc. Young artists could spend some time observing the table and thinking about what they would like to draw. I suggested that they may want to 'warm up' with simpler shapes first, then move on to the 'harder' ones as they go along. We also set up a shelf full of plushies. Artists select one toy at a time and place it on the table in front of them to draw. When the drawing is complete, they return the toy to the table and select another one. 

There are rules to be followed during drawing time:

Ink only. We used Sharpies. No pencils. Ink eliminates the constant 'need' to erase in pursuit of perfection. It emboldens the artist to just draw. Perfection is not our goal. Depicting a recognizable toy is all we are doing.

No tracing. Without this rule, some will try to trace the toy. So, instead, the rule is that the drawing of the toy should be a bit larger or a bit smaller than the model (depending upon its actual size).

Include at least one plushie.

Fill the paper. A large sheet of paper (12" x 18") can hold a lot of toy drawings! I asked  them to draw at least five toys on paper of this size. Or more if there is room. 

Color in the toy drawings. Any media may be used to add color. This is where it gets really fun. The ink drawings are almost like a self-designed coloring book, so the kids love coloring them in. We used markers, colored pencils, soft pastels, and a combination of any of the above. (Crayons could be used too, but we don't use them very often.)

Background. Leave it white or use soft pastel for an easy background of beautiful blended
colors. Also (as a bonus) this solution is useful for covering accidental smudges around the toy drawings. They simply apply pastels to various areas around the drawings and smear/blend together with their fingers.

Here is post about a previous observational toy drawing session. Always FUN!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Rabbits, Bunnies, and Hares - Oh My!

It's SPRING... 

and... we have a snowstorm happening here today. So we decided to PAINT spring and maybe the weather will follow. 

Our favorite "springy" subject is a hungry rabbit happily chomping on wild flowers in a sunny green meadow.

These wild bunnies were painted with tempera on 14" x 20" sheets of white poster board. We first sketched in the basic shape of our rabbit (no ears yet). Then we painted the background in a variety of spring-like colors, impressionist-style!

Next, we painted in the bunnies, adding the ears right over the background, leaving the whiskers and facial details until later.  

Now it was time to add the grass, wildflowers, and dandelion seedpods floating through the air!

When the paint was dry, we added the whiskers and facial details with paint or Sharpies.

For more dandelion bunnies, take a look at these Wild Rabbits and these Wild Rabbits and Wildflowers. Also, check out these Dandelion Bunnies to find a special poem about our adorable wild rabbits.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Say it with Style!

How can you say something with style? 

Why not add what you want to say to your artwork? 

It's a great way to personalize a painting or a piece of artwork for yourself or for someone else. 

We created our own personalized art by first painting with acrylics on canvas boards and also stamping and scraping with tools like combs and bubble wrap.

Then we added a bit of mixed media collage to our paintings by attaching various paper elements with clear acrylic gloss medium.  Some artists outlined with Sharpies too.

Once the painting was dry, we printed out our quotes, which could be a familiar saying or a special quote (even your own!) using any font. The quotes are then cut into strips and can be cut apart in phrases or sections, or even word by word. We laid them out over our dried paintings and rearranged them until they fit well in the overall composition. They are then attached, one by one, using the clear acrylic medium, being sure to brush medium over the word strips to seal them. 

After the canvas is completely dry, the last step is to loosely (even sloppily) outline each word or section with a Sharpie. I like to outline in black, then again in white for a cool double outline. 

This garden birdhouse has been a popular subject for Saying it with Style!

I created this painting for a high school graduate. 

As you can see (besides being cute!) it contains all of the knowledge, wisdom, and advice that a young person needs in life. 

Sunday, March 05, 2023

It's a Blizzard!

We've had yet another snowstorm here in Idaho - and another is on the way!

We decided to illustrate our winter weather with this mixed media painted collage. These Downtown Snowstorms were a lot of fun to make, too! 

The first step is to sketch the basic shapes of  your tall downtown buildings on a sheet of 18" x 12" heavy white drawing paper. Draw shorter tall buildings first, starting at the bottom of the page. Then place the taller buildings behind them, leaving a little space at the top for details on the roof. (We'll add them later.) Don't worry about windows or doors or other details yet.

The next step is to paint each building a different color. Use bright colors! We painted with cake temperas, which are like big giant watercolor paints, but thicker!

Now add windows using black paint on a flat brush. Just press the tip of the brush in rows along the sides of the buildings to create patterns. 

Next, simply dry your painting (we use blow driers) and cut them out. 

Now you will glue the buildings to a piece of blue sulfite or construction paper. We used royal blue; navy blue works well too. Go ahead and add details now, such as chimneys, antennas, fancy rooftops, satellite dishes, etc. Use paint or markers.

Add one or more trees with dark brown paint in front of the buildings. We used
liquid temperas. You can paint deciduous
 trees (no leaves) or conifers (evergreen trees - just add some dark green needles). 

After all of your paint is dry, it's time to add SNOW! Cut and glue snow and icicles (from your white paper scraps) to the tops of the buildings. Then simply paint snow on everything else using thick liquid white tempera paint. 

Last step: splatter! Using thinned liquid white tempera paint and an old toothbrush, splatter snow all over your painting. You can also try tap-splatting, by tapping a long-handled brush loaded with paint against another one. Tap it all over the painting for big splatters - go ahead and make a blizzard!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Aurora Borealis

If you have a bucket list, seeing the Aurora Borealis might very well be on it. 

Unlike many other bucket list items, the northern lights are known to be challenging to photograph. You need to be at the right place, at the right time of year, at the right time of day, on a good day, and have skills and knowledge about night sky photography. And you need luck

Another option is to paint the Aurora Borealis. We artists think like that. 

Here's a polar bear that lives under the northern lights! 

These auroras were created with soft pastels. The sky was then splattered, and tempera snow and trees were added. The bear was drawn (pencil, pastels, ink), cut out, and glued into the snowy scene.

This lively northern lights show is reflected in a frozen river.

The artwork was created in tempera paint on black 12" x 18" sulfite paper. 

These colorful auroras look like ribbons of light! This is an acrylic painting on a 12" x 16" canvas panel. The artist is 11 years old. 

The painting at the top of this post is also acrylics on canvas, 16" x 20" in size. Shadows and highlights created by the brightly lit sky are nicely depicted, as well as colorful reflections in the frozen river. This painting was created by a teen artist, age 13. 

Here is another polar bear wandering the arctic circle in the light of the Aurora Borealis! This is a mixed media painting of soft pastels, ink, and tempera paint.

Did you know that February 27 is International Polar Bear Day?

These Northern Lights are painted over a large body of water. Wow!
(The artist is age 14.)

Thursday, February 23, 2023

DIY Cat Toys

One of our young artists suggested we make cat toys. 

So I did a little research and came up with some kitty toy ideas we could make using recycled materials and studio supplies that we have on hand.

We made feather wands, jingly balls, catnip toys, crazy springs, a reversible hide-&-seek box, a bouncy pom, and pipe cleaner toys that resemble bugs or who-knows-what!

The kids had a blast designing and building these cat toys. I gave them a few basic ideas, then they took off with their own amazing cat toy ideas!

There once was a cat named The Cat

Who got a bit lazy and fat.

So we made some fun toys

That smelled good and make noise,

And The Cat was quite happy  

with that!

If you want to make some cat toys for your kitty, here is a list of the supplies we used to make ours:

Recyclables: cardboard tubes, twine, chop sticks, and cardboard scraps/boxes.

Studio supplies: felt scraps, pipe cleaners, duct tape, washi tape, feathers, bells, and yarn. 

(We also used beads, but be careful to string and attach them securely so your cat won't swallow them.)

Tools: scissors, adult assistant with a craft knife or box cutter, darning needle and embroidery floss, hot glue (to secure feathers together), pencils and pens (to wrap pipe cleaners around to make crazy springs), and so forth. 

Don't forget catnip! Sprinkle a bit inside felt shapes that are sewn together. Also try taping some inside your cardboard tube toys!

This reversible hide-and-seek box can be used two ways: 

You can hide various fun objects (feathers, jingle balls) and interesting (catnip) toys in it for the cat to find through the holes.

You can turn the box upside down (holes down) leaving a side flap opening. Now your cat has a hiding box!

Have fun making your own cat toys!

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Snowman Art!


At this time of year we just can't resist making Snowman Art!

Ours was not the usual snowman art, however. We put a fun little spin on our all of snowmen!

For example, meet Snowman Scoops!

(Can you guess where he got his name?) 

This is tempera paint on colored sulfite paper.  We worked on depicting volume by adding shadows and highlights. Then we used markers to add the details. 

We also made these adorable paper Snow Globes! 

Again, we used shadows to create volume, this time with oil pastels.

We also made stands with fancy gold name plates for our Snow Globes. The above snowman's name is Twinkle Nose.

This is Jolly.

Have you ever wondered what a snowman would look like if you were lying beneath it (while making a snow angel)?

Probably like this.

We painted our backgrounds in wet-on-wet watercolor, and completed the details with oil pastel - all while learning a bit about perspective. 

Here we have a more traditional snowman painting, only with a spin on it as well. This snowman was painted on wood!

The teen artist created this decorative winter artwork with acrylic paint on a weathered wooden plank (from an old fence).

Do you see the little bluebird?

Friday, January 27, 2023

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Fact: Squirrels are among the cutest creatures in existence. 

(Ask any child. They'll tell you.)

And did you know that January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day?

So, of course, we had no choice but to create these Little Squirrel  Portraits in celebration of our cute little squirrel friends.

We started by creating a background that shows the squirrel's tree home - from his point of view at the base of the tree. This was a great way to learn about perspective!

We also had to decide what kind of tree our squirrel lives in - is it an evergreen or a deciduous tree? The tree was drawn and completed with oil pastel.

Next, we needed to decide the season so that we could complete the sky and the background. Would we use warm summer colors or golden fall colors, or would the background be wintery and cold? The chosen colors were painted over the entire background with liquid watercolor.  If a snowy background was chosen, we also splattered it with thinned white tempera paint using a toothbrush.

We drew our little squirrel on a 1/2 sheet of brown construction paper (or sulfite paper).  The furry details and a cute little squirrel face were added with oil pastels, and the squirrel was cut out.

The tail was drawn on another 1/2 sheet of brown paper and lots of fur was added. It was cut out as well.

Then the squirrel was glued into the scene right over the tree, tail first. Note: As a fun option, you can glue a piece of foam (packing material?) between the squirrel's head and the background for 3D look!

"Tree Squirrel," by a teen artist
Acrylics on Canvas

These talented wildlife artists ranged in age from 6 to 13 years.