Sunday, January 15, 2017

Penguin March

This week the Calgary Zoo announced they would start up their very popular Penguin walk, where the King penguins get to go out for a walk around the zoo. That was the inspiration for this project.

I did 2 versions. A large 12"x18" (bulletin board size) and then a smaller 9"x12". (art journal size)


- background paper, use good heavy painting paper or wc paper
- blue disk tempera
- grey (black and white) liquid or disk tempera
- white paper
- black paper
- scrap of orange paper
- glue
- oil pastels, you need orange, yellow, black and white
- Kleenex
- some textures for printmaking, I used some bubble wrap and bumpy foam
- glue
- glitter glue, optional
- text, optional


Place your paper on your art board.  I like to tape my sides to hold it down and to get that nice white border.

With a pencil draw a path.

Paint with blue tempera along the sides of the path.  Get nice bright colour so make sure the students swirl that paintbrush on the disk well.

I wanted a snow effect so while the paint was still wet I used a Kleenex to lift some of that paint.  Similar to what we do when lifting clouds.

For the small one I concentrated where my lifting was like a snowbank.

For the large one I kinda did it all over.  It's up to you but I wanted you to see both results.

I then painted the path.  You can use disk tempera or liquid.  I used acrylic as that was what I had on hand in the studio.

To get grey you mix mostly white and a touch of black.

To add some texture to the path I mixed a darker grey, (just added some more black) and painted some bubble wrap and bumpy foam.

I then turned them over onto path and pressed to get that texture.

For the small version I didn't even paint the path just added the dark grey texture onto the white path.

While your background is drying let's make the penguins.

You start with the bellies. They are a rounded triangular shape. You want one large one and 2 smaller ones for perspective.

For the large version you can get 3 out of a 8.5x11 piece of paper.  For the smaller just cut the paper in half and set it up the same way.

Once the bellies are cut out use them to draw out your head and wings.

I call them wishbones you'll see what I mean in a moment.

I traced them in white so you could see them.  Use a white pencil crayon if the kids have a hard time seeing their pencil lines on the black paper.

See what I mean they look like wishbones.

For the large one you are going to need 1 and 1/4 pieces of black paper.  For the small just 1 sheet.

Glue the bellies onto the wishbones.

These are King penguins so we are going to add some colour with the oil pastels.

Put some orange right at the top of the white and then some yellow underneath.  Use a Kleenex and smudge it a bit.  Kleenex smudges better that your finger with oil pastels.
You can also add a touch or orange to the side of the head.

You can put some white pastel under the wings.

And I would add just a touch of black to sides and bottom to show the roundness of the penguin body.

Do it now as it is easier than waiting like I did.

Glue your penguins onto your path.

Add eyes (white circles and hole punched black circles out of scraps) or you could use googly eyes.

Cut out beaks from orange paper and feet.

I added some snowflakes.  I have this great Martha Stewart snowflake punch that I use constantly during the winter. Kids love punching snowflakes.

You can add a touch of glitter glue to snow for that sparkle.

Finally I added some text to finish the project.

That's it.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Clay Landscapes

Prior to Christmas I did these clay landscape plaques with Grade 5.

They had to choose one of the six geographical regions of Canada.

I was quite impressed with their work.


- clay
- fabric placemat
- nail, wooden skewer, small cup of water
- rolling pin
- reference photos if needed
- ceramic glaze
- kiln


Roll out your clay to a good sized rectangle, 8x10 or so.

My slab is about a pinky finger thickness.

Before I cut the plaque out I figure out the shape.

I draw into the clay with my finger.  I usually draw it with less pressure but I wanted you to see it here.

If you don't like it just erase it with a swipe of some water on your finger.

Using the nail cut your shape out and lift away the excess.

I tell the kids to make sure they push the nail down to the fabric, "you should feel the fabric on the end of the nail".

Before I forget I make the hole for hanging with the head of the nail pushed all the way thru.

Now it's time to start our design.  I have reference photos for the kids of the 6 geographical regions.  They pick one and create their scene.

With the leftover clay from the slab they begin cutting pieces out for the landscape.  We want to stay flat like a cookie for these pieces.

I don't use slip in my art classes, I move around too much from school to school.
I use the good old "scratch, scratch, water, water".  I teach the kids that chant before we start.  To 'glue' our clay pieces together we first make surface scratches in the base where our pieces are to go.  I use my finger dipped in water to rub water over these scratches.

I then repeat the process on the back of my landscape pieces.

I then tell the kids the scratches have to kiss. They usually groan at this idea but it gets the point across and clay gets attached correctly.

If you have extra scratches in your base just erase them with a swipe of water from your finger.

Continue to add pieces to your landscape keeping them flat so your plaque doesn't get too thick.

"Scratch, scratch, water, water"

You can some texture marks to enhance your landscape.

Scratch your name into the back of the plaque, have a partner hold it while you do this.

The landscapes then get put away to dry out for 1 to 2 weeks.  I utilize the library for this, placing them on newspaper on top of the bookshelves.

When fully dry, do the cheek test: place clay piece on your cheek if it is cold it is not dry.  I find in Calgary it usually is always a bit cold even when dry but it won't feel damp.

When the clay is dry do a bisque fire in the kiln.

After the landscapes have cooled you can glaze.

Fire again in the kiln.

That's it.

Love this prairie one.

Great flower details.

Although not a geographical region the students were allowed to do Calgary.
This student took her time and made a terrific cityscape.

See you next time.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Modern Clay Nativity

This year Grade 6 did a modern clay nativity.  I'm still firing them but my sample is done so I can show you.

The original inspiration was a picture on Pinterest that was unglazed and with no instructions so this my adapted version for school.

It comes in 3 pieces that nest together.  That way you can put Mary and Joseph out early and then add baby Jesus on Christmas Day.


- clay, I have a kiln at school so I use a low fire buffstone.  You could try this with an air dry clay just make sure to seal it with a good sealer to help protect it.
- fabric mat, nail, skewer, rolling pin, little cup of water
- small star cookie cutters
- ceramic glaze in brown, yellow, blue, and pink or tan


Each student gets a fabric mat for their desk.

They also get a nail and a wooden skewer.  They work in groups of 4-5 and share a large rolling pin and a star cutter.

Every 2 students share a little cup of water.

I give each student some clay.  They roll a slab about 1 inch thick.

With their finger they gently trace out a triangle shape.  Round the sides of the triangle. No taller than the size of their hand.

Using the nail the cut out this shape.  Here you can see the thickness of the clay.  I use the width of my finger as a guide.

Now I fold the sides in a bit for a nice curve and then I tap the bottom on the fabric.

I'm making the base wider and flat.

If I turn it over you can see the base has become wider and by tapping I get that nice flat bottom for stability.

I spent a little time smoothing the clay so I don't have any creases on the inside of my Joseph body from where it goes from thin to thick at the bottom.

Now I make his head.  Roll a small ball out of clay.  Tap on the bottom to flatten it.  I make an indentation at the top of Joseph's body where the head will attach.  The students and I review the "scratch, scratch, water,water" chant for attaching 2 pieces of clay together.  Surface scratches with the skewer on the 2 parts that go together.

....and then a brush of water using our finger over the scratches.  Then the scratches have "to kiss".

When I explain it this way the kids always understand.

Attach Joseph's head.

On the back of Joseph we added a star or 2-3 cut from clay with our little cookie cutters.

Make sure to "scratch,scratch,water,water".

Now it's time to make Mary.  Roll a ball about the size of a small mandarin orange.

Pinch a pot using your thumbs.

Pinch about 2 inches from one side of your pot in and tap the other end on the mat to create a flat bottom.

Check size to that of your Joseph so it will nest in nicely.

Roll a small head and attach to the pinched end.

It should look something like this now.

Roll a small ball about ping pong size.

Pinch a cradle and then add small head and body for baby Jesus.

The pieces should all nest together but for drying leave them apart.

Set aside to dry for about  1-2 weeks depending on how dry and warm your location is.

When the clay has dried out, put the piece on your cheek to test.

I find here in Calgary it always feels a bit cold but it should not feel damp or clammy.

Bisque fire in the kiln.

Now it's time for glazing.  I have about a million of these little plastic containers with lids holding my glaze in multiplies of 8-10.

The may eventually dry out (over the summer)  but I just add more of the same colour and a touch water and reconstitute them.

Have the students glaze their pieces using 2-3 coats of colour.

Before glazing I brush some wax resist on the bottom of all 3 pieces.  This prevents the glaze from staying there so we don't get any stuck on pieces on our kiln shelves.

Some of the Joseph's have hair some don't but we stayed away from adding faces.

When the glaze is dry you can fire them again.

That's it.

I can see this becoming a very popular project for my Oct and Nov residencies!