Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Painting Supplies

I was going to do a post on my favourite art supplies this week.  As I started to photograph them all I realized this was going be a book by the time I was done. :)  So I decided to focus on my favourite, painting supplies.

At school I use a lot of disk tempera.    It's washable, inexpensive, and responds like watercolour.

It can sometimes be a bit chalky. (less intense colour).   Look for disks that are bright and intensely coloured.

I keep colours in isolation and variety trays of 6.  Recycled yogurt containers and tuna cans work well. Note: I use a safety can opener, no sharp edges.   I use the individual containers when I am limiting what colours I want the kids to work with.

The easiest way to clean your trays is using a sponge.  Run the entire tray under the the tap and give it a quick scrub with the sponge. Drain out some of the water from the wells.  You won't get it all, tip it too much and all your paint disks will wind up in the sink.  Leave out to dry.

To clean an individual colour, moisten the disk with water and wipe with a sponge or paper towel. We use liquid tempera as well but I prefer acrylic.

I use a ton of acrylic paint.
I use acrylic because it's the most intense colour we can get and when dry it is permanent. (paper). That means we can layer colours without reactivating the bottom layer. (no smearing)

To protect their clothes, every student gets an art shirt, basically a large men's dress shirt with the sleeves cut short.  We wear them backwards for extra protection and we only button the top button for easy removal.

I have a little talk with the kids about acrylic paint before we start, how "we don't fool around with it as if gets on your clothes it will stay on your clothes".

I use craft smart from Michael's.  It's marketed as affordable craft paint but it is a really good acrylic.
The biggest issue with acrylic paint is opacity.  You only want to do 1 coat if you can.  There are times you want a transparent look (wash) but you can achieve that by adding water to your paint.
I like the bottle on the left with the squeeze top. To keep costs down I will buy the larger size and refill the squeeze bottle. Often I need to add a touch of water to thin it just a bit.  There is some clumping but I just remove the clot and keep going.

I use foam or plastic plates to hold my paint.

They are not good for the environment so I use them over and over.

I don't wash the plates.  At the end of the day I set them all out to dry and then I reuse them the next day.  During the day I stack them by placing one plate on top like a cover and place them in a safe area.

If I know we are going to be using the same colour with another class or later I keep them covered.  You can't do this indefinitely though as the paint eventually dries out or you run out of room. :)

With the plastic plates after several layers of paint I can peel the whole shebang off.  With thousands of kids I can reuse these plates all year long.


First off, you can always do more with a flat brush than a round.

Don't even bother ordering the large round brushes.

You want lots of large flat brushes, size 12.

A few sets of size 7 and some size 2.

I prefer nylon bristle as they keep their shape longer but they are more expensive than a natural bristle.

Natural bristle are the most common school brush.  They work fine but over time the bristle will start to wear out and break.

The flat develops a rounded edge.

Old natural bristle brushes make great scrubby brushes.  There are some effects that can only be achieved with an old scrubby brush so don't throw them out.

Every year I buy new sets of fine round brushes.

Kids are very hard on fine brushes so they don't last very long.

I move from school to school so I store my brushes in long plastic containers.

If the brushes are wet make sure to open those containers and let them dry out.

If you have a brush with a loose ferrule don't throw it out reattach it with a glue gun.

I also buy these cheap sealer brushes in the hardware store.
They are meant for one use only when you apply polyurethane/sealer but are great for kids.

They have a short handle and are  big so we get more paint down in a faster time.  Many techniques require wet paint....if you have a small brush it takes forever and the paint is dry long before you finish.

I also keep a set for podge/sealer.  I label them so there is no mix-up. If you use a regular brush you can get traces of paint staining your podge/sealer.
These brushes will last for years.  As they get beat up we tend to use them for basecoating or background painting.


I use a bucket system for washing. Any large brushes or brushes we used for acrylic painting will get a once over by me.

I have hundreds of brushes and I have to be pretty vigilant regarding their care.  I hold my dirty brushes, "hairstyle down" thru the day in a bucket with about 3 inches of water.  When I have a moment I wash them.

My secret weapon..... good old Ivory soap.  At school I can go thru 1 bar a day!  To keep brushes in good shape you should only brush them back and forth on the soap but I would be lying if I said I never used a circular motion....sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

When clean I put them "hairstyle up" in the bucket.

Never store brushes bristle down.
At home I sometimes use brush cleaner.  You can sometimes rescue a brush (dried up acrylic) by smearing brush cleaner on it and wrapping it in plastic wrap.  Let it sit for a couple days and then wash.  I have also used Murphy's oil soap to clean and rescue brushes.  Note: Do not use soap on your podge/sealer brushes. This causes the sealer to become foamy.

I always have a few water sprayers on me.

I use them to add water to paint on the palette in creating washes or just to thin it down a bit.

I also spray water on paint that we have painted if it is getting too dry. For example we want to lift some clouds but our sky has dried or we want to mingle some acrylics and they are drying too fast.
We also spray to get blooms and spatter effects on disk tempera and watercolours.


I buy green painter's mask in the bulk pack.  I use it to tape off paper we are working on.

It creates a nice white border or mat effect for display and it holds the paper down while kids are painting.

Regular masking tape tends to be too sticky ripping the paper when you remove it.

I use a lot of regular masking tape for other things (papier mache) as well as white hockey tape. (paints well)

Hair dryers are used for drying projects.

These 3 items are always close by:

- kleenex
- paper towels
and diaper wipes.

You be surprised how effective diaper wipes are for cleaning acrylic paint.

I also have collections of toothbrushes, eyedroppers, sponges, stamps, scrapers, combs, and printmaking tools that we use for painting.

Substrates can vary but we use a lot of canvas, canvas board, watercolour paper, heavy paper, cardboard, wood, hardboard, and recycled paper.

Working on more projects to post.......see you next time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Favourite School Supplies

The best thing about going back to school is stocking up on supplies.  Everything is on sale!

I get several requests for advice on supplies.  Now I am no expert and this post is not sponsored by any supplier.  It's just what I find works for me.

I work with thousands of kids every year and I'm always trying to balance quality, durability, and cost.  In my residencies I bring all the supplies with me so they have to perform.

This week we'll talk general week I'll show you my favourite art supplies.


Most of you know my favourite glue is Aleene's Tacky glue.  If you haven't used it you are missing out.  It's thick and sets up fast.  Cost wise it's slightly higher than regular white glue.
It can be hard to squeeze, I call it muscle glue, "Kids we gotta use our muscles"
It's easy to lose the cap so I always take off the caps ahead of time and store in a little cup.  During clean-up   one of my helpers will collect and re cap the glues.

I use regular white school glue when pasting paper to paper.  I loathe glue sticks as they just don't stick but I have had some success with Elmer's Xtreme glue stick.  I buy a class set of white glue containers (I like Elmer's) to start the year and then re-fill.  In my area the best glue to refill with is Scholar's Choice. I buy the big 4 litre and also use it to make my papier mache mix.

I also stock up on Elmer's Clear glue but not for pasting just for batik.

Adding Colour:

There are lots of ways to add colour.

These are some of my favourite Crayola products.

I love their oil pastels.  They are chunky and don't break like other pastels.  Schools can order mega packs which have extra black and white.

I also like the washable markers.  You can paint water over top of them and get some great effects.
The best crayons for me are the twistables.  You will lose some from kids twisting them all the way up but they are still worth it. It's a happy day when we get to use the twistables. (even grade 5/6 like them)

Pencil crayons or coloured pencils are usually on every one's list.

The best are Prismacolour.  There are different types but the Scholar does fine.  They are soft and creamy.  They blend wonderfully.

But.....they are expensive. (Walmart carries a great set, 48 of them on sale for about $19.99)
They are also not that durable because they are soft.

I use them personally and I buy them for my kids but I can't afford class sets of them at school.

I also tried out these woodless ones. (Koh I Noor Hardtmuth)
They are also  expensive. They are not as creamy as prismacolour. They last forever though as it's solid colour.  Easy to sharpen.  I thought they were quite durable until my son broke one of mine by colouring really hard.

However he did not break any from his set at school and everyone always wanted to borrow them.

Pencil Sharpener's

With those nice pencil crayons you need an awesome sharpener.

Forget the electric it eats all that wonderful colour.  I love Staedtler.  In fact I bought a bunch of them for this year for my pencil caddies.

See that little will last about 3 seconds at school.

But you don't need it so don't let that stop you.

I also love this Faber Castell Trio beauty.  But they are hard to find.

Why are these sharpeners so good?

They give you that very fine point for drawing without having to use a razor blade. (definitely not school friendly)

My favourite pencils are Staedtler as well. They have white erasers on the end and come pre-sharpened!!


My absolutely favourite erasers are the Ecure Maped.  They come in an oval or triangular shape. I buy lots and put my name on them as they tend to grow legs.

The Staedtler is my second favourite.
I do not like pink...and those funky shaped erasers are terrible.
I do not use kneadable erasers at school.


You probably know I love sharpies.

I buy them by the box constantly throughout the year.

I use the Sharpie pen for writing.

For art I use the fine and the ultra fine.
Here's a tip:  Sharpies often get dust on them and stop working.  At school I hand out small pieces of scrap paper when we use sharpies. Kids draw on the paper to get them working again. Don't throw them out too early.
In my own artwork I use Faber Castell PITT pens.  They are permanent, waterproof, and lightfast. I use the white one constantly. It works on almost any surface so I use it a lot to put my name on supplies that are dark. I just wish they made the white in different sizes though. :(

One final tip about supplies.  Last year I flagged all my sharpies to see if this would help.

Lots of kids have their own sharpies these days and I needed to distinguish mine. I used red duct tape and it worked like a charm. Make sure you put it on the middle though.  I first put it on the end and you could not put the cap there.

I hope that helps.  I'm going to try an include an art tip every week if I can.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Giveaway Winner

Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Just popped in to announce the winner of "Stencil Craft" by Margaret Peot.

The winner is Beth Arnott.  Congrats Beth and thanks everyone for entering.

There will be another giveaway next week and more art projects....I'm on a roll.

See you then.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stencilling and Stencil Craft by Margaret Peot

I thought I'd take our moose from Monday and do a stencil project.

It also goes nicely with this week's giveaway.

This is Margaret Peot's new book, Stencil Craft.
For those of you new to stencilling it covers everything you need to know....

and for those of you who have been stencilling for awhile it has some new ideas.

I especially like this amalgam composition idea.  Using multiple stencils to build a scene.  I will be using this in future projects.

I also appreciated all the info for stencilling on fabric, something I would like to incorporate more in my textile projects.

If you want a chance at winning this crafty book you need to enter by one of the following:

- leave a comment on this post
- email me directly at
- like or comment on this post on my Facebook page

I will make the draw on Sunday Aug 23rd/15.
Canadian or U.S. residents only please.

Back to our stencil project:


- cereal box weight cardboard
- wc paper or heavyweight paper for painting
- disk tempera
- black acrylic or liquid tempera
- round brush
- chalk pastels, oil pastels, or crayons


First we have to create our stencil.  I use a very low tech method.  I take a piece of cereal box weight cardboard and draw or trace out my image.

Here I took my moose template, traced around it and altered some of the areas to make a nicer silhouette.

You want to have lots of room around your image, more on that later.

At school I spend a bit of time explaining that we want to keep the negative space, we don't care about the moose itself.

It's hard to make that shift when kids are used to just cutting out the image.  To help I get them to put X's on the area we don't want.

A stencil doesn't have to be pretty, it's just a tool so why not make it easy on yourself........cut the image in half.

Now you can cut it out

and just tape it back together.

Paint your background.  I'm using disk tempera on a 90 lb wc paper.

A nice sunset.

For stencilling I want a nice round brush and a thick paint. I prefer acrylic but you can also use liquid tempera.  Acrylic tends to be more opaque so you get a better result.

You need to hold the stencil firmly in place.  You don't want it to shift.  At school I get the kids to work in pairs.  One holds the stencil and one pounces on the paint.   You can see now that it helps to have extra space around the stencil.

When applying the paint you want to pounce the brush straight up and down. You don't want to stroke side to side as the paint will get under the stencil.

Lift the stencil off in one lift straight up.  I tell the kids to use both hands, lift up and then put it to the side.

If you are re-using the stencil again wipe away the excess paint.  You want the side touching the background to be dry so you don't accidentally transfer any paint.

When the paint has dried we want to add some extra touches to take it further.

You can use chalk pastel, oil pastel, or even crayons.

Add some grass.  The yellow is the reflected light.  I also added yellow to the tips of the antlers and the back of the moose, areas I think would be reflecting that brilliant sunset.

I want a few clouds in the sky so I smudge in some reddish brown.

I also smudged some dark distant trees into the landscape.

That's it.  Gotta love a stencil project.

Be sure to enter the draw and give a stencils a try.

You never know what magic may occur.

(Fairy stencil on top of mixed media background)

See you Sunday


Monday, August 17, 2015

'Moose in the Wild' Art Project

This is 'Moose in the Wild' a new project that uses a variety of painting techniques.  As one of our iconic wild animals, most Canadians have seen a moose in the wild at some point.
 For those of you in Newfoundland it's probably a daily occurrence!

This one is on an 8"x10" canvas, can also be done on hardboard.

This is a page from my art journal.

Here is a Fall version on a piece of 18 x 12" heavy white paper.


- substrate, whether canvas, hardboard, paper or art journal
- paint, for paper based projects you can use disk and liquid tempera, for canvas or hardboard you need acrylic
- moose template, optional
- brown kraft paper or cardstock
- scraps of cereal box weight cardboard and a scrap of corrugated cardboard
- white tissue paper or drywall filler (there are 2 options for antlers)
- glue
- extra white paper
- sponge
- pencils for stamping
- sharpies and pencil crayons
- Mod Podge for sealing canvas or hardboard option


We start off painting our background.  For the art journal/paper version I used disk tempera.

I like to grade my wash.  Basically this means I want darker, more saturated colour at the top and then lighter, more diluted colour near the bottom.
Why? because this what you see in the sky outside.

For the canvas version I used acrylic and my sky is all one colour but I could have added some white to my blue acrylic and graded my background as well.  We want to add in our horizon line.  Stay low on the background and add some ground colour.

For the paper versions I added some trees while my sky wash was still damp.

I'm using watery disk tempera again.  I like to use flat brushes.
Use the flat edge of the brush to make vertical tree lines and to dab on the branches.

Because the paper is still damp you get a nice diffused look.

Set your background aside to dry. Now we'll work on the aspen trees.

I use 3 types of sponges in my work and they produce different results.

The foam sponge has a fine grain but soaks up the paint so you get a mix of fine texture and areas of concentrated colour.

The grocery store sponge gives you a uniform texture.

The natural sponge gives you a mix.

For our aspen trees we are going to use the grocery store sponge.

Take a piece of paper (12x18" or so) and cut in half.

Cut your sponge into pieces or for more unusual texture you can tear the sponge.

Sponge on some black paint leaving lots of white space.

When dry cut your paper in strips the long way.  You don't want wavy lines but you also don't want perfectly straight lines.

Make some wide and some thin.

Place a few (art loves odd #'s) on your background to see how they look. One hint mix up your strips a bit so you don't see the echo of your cutlines.  Glue into place.

Take your corrugated cardboard and cut a little square.

Dip the corrugated end into the paint (yellow, brown, green) and stamp on some grass.

Vary the lengths to look more natural and clump some together.

Time to add the leaves.

Using a new or unsharpened pencil stamp on some circular leaves. Use a few different colours of green or fall colours if it is autumn.

I keep a class set of these pencils and I use them in lots of my projects.

Cut your antlers out of cereal box weight cardboard.  I'm using cardboard because I'm going to add extra texture to these antlers.

Now you could use templates or have the kids draw their own.

I prefer the kids to design their own but I know how it goes and sometimes you need a template as a back- up.

Now I have 2 different techniques to add texture to these antlers.

The first is to spread white glue on the cardboard, add some white tissue paper, scrunching as you go into the glue to add wrinkles.

Let dry and then you can trim the excess tissue.

The second option is to spread a little drywall filler on the antlers.

Let dry, about 2-3 hours for this small area.

Once the antlers are dry (either technique) add a coat of white paint.

After the paint is dry you want to add just a touch of colour to bring out that texture you spent all that time on.

To do this use watery (just a hint of colour) paint and brush on the antlers.  Leave some parts unpainted.

Now that the antlers are done we can make the moose.

Take some brown paper or cardstock. (I used brown kraft paper)

Cut it about the size you want.

Draw your moose trying to use the full size of the paper.

I use this strategy to get the kids to draw the right size.  Inevitably I will get a few teeny tiny moose but we erase and start again.  Give them a few reference photos to help.

If you get really stuck feel free to use the template.

 I know the paper is already brown but we want to add a little variation to that colour so we add some paint.

Add a little sharpie and pencil crayon to define the features.

Cut out and glue into place.  Add the antlers.

Finally if you are working on canvas or hardboard you might want to add a coat of sealer to protect everything.

If you did the drywall on the antlers but the paper version you still might want to add a touch of podge on those antlers just to protect that drywall.

That's it.

Hope a 'Moose in the Wild' graces some of those school hallways in next few months and I'll see you