Thursday, February 25, 2016

Clay Crest

Last month Grade 4 constructed the Alberta provincial crest out of clay.

The students did a terrific job and they were quite proud of them.  Great tie in with social studies.

Now you could adapt this to fit whatever province you are in.


- 1 box of low fire clay, buffstone or white for each class
- fabric mats, optional (if you work a lot with clay this are handy to have)
- rolling pin
- wooden skewer, penny nail
- small cup of water
- reference photos of the crest
- glazes or acrylic paint depending on what finish you want


I pre roll all the slabs for the class.
Cut a 1inch thick slice off the clay block, place on your fabric mat and roll to about 3/4's of an inch even thickness.

I will place these on a garbage bag that I have cut open, (down 1 side and across the bottom. I usually have mine on a cart as I'm moving from room to room.  I can get 6 or 8 on the top of the cart.  I then fold over the end of the garbage bag to cover the slabs and put another layer on top.

I will pre roll all I need for a morning or afternoon and the plastic garbage bag keeps the clay soft.

In the classroom each student gets a mat, a wooden skewer, a nail, and they share a small cup of water (every 2 kids).

We look at our reference material, I draw out the shape of the crest on the board and then I get them to first trace the shape using their finger onto the slab.

I like to check them before they cut to ensure the size is large enough and that the shape is good.
If they need to trace it out again just rub a little water on the surface to smooth out the 1st attempt.

Using the nail cut out the shape.

I get them to dip their finger in water and smooth the edges.

Using the skewer we lightly divide our shape into 3 sections.

I stress lightly as we don't want to cut our shape, it's just a line on the surface of the clay.

I asked them to make the middle section the largest as we have a lot to fit in there.

We start at the top of the design and work our way down.

For the cross we cut a long strip. I remind them that we use the nail for cutting and the stick for scratching.

By now they are very used to my 'scratch, scratch, water, water' chant but we say out loud a few times to remind everyone.

To attach the strip we make surface scratches (scoring) both on the crest and the strip. (scratch, scratch)

We then dip our finger in the water and rub a little on the scratches. (water,water)

I tell the kids you then get the scratches to kiss and that is how we glue one piece of clay to another.

The kiss analogy works great, they never forget it.

Cut 2 little strips for the rest of the cross.

Continue working through the sections using the 'scratch, scratch, water, water' method to add your pieces.

With the mountains you can make it all in one piece or indvidual ones.

For the wheat stalks I showed them 2 methods.

- cut a strip and scratch on the kernels or
- form each kernel seperately and add or
do both.

When finished we gently turned over in our hands ( a partner can help) and scratch our name and year onto the bottom.

Set clay crests aside somewhere on paper towels to dry out undisturbed.
I tend to use the tops of the bookcases in the library.
Depending on your climate the clay will dry out in 1-2 weeks.  To check hold it up to your cheek. I find clay is always a bit cold even when dry but if it feels damp give it more time.

Do the bisque fire when dry.  You can then paint using clay glazes (I love Mayco Stroke and Coat) or acrylic paint.

If you choose glaze it will need to be fired a second time.

Great job Grade 4!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Valentine Printmaking Project

Valentine #1

This is a Valentine printmaking project I have planned with grade 5.

The main focus is teaching them how to create their own stamps with craft foam.

Valentine #2

Here is a second version.


- watercolour or disk tempera paint
- heavy paper or wc paper
- sticky backed craft foam
- scraps of corrugated cardboard
- black acrylic or tempera paint
- coloured pencils, china markers, sharpies
- alphabet stamps, glitter gems, optional

Using watercolour or disk tempera paint your background.

Here I'm using disk tempera and this resulted in Valentine #2.

I used watercolour paint and a little kosher salt to create the background for Valentine#1.

Set aside to dry.

Now we can work on our stamps.

Gather your materials, we need some scraps of cardboard for the base of the stamp and some craft foam.  I like the sticky back.

There are 2 ways to make a stamp with craft foam:

1st Way:
Cut the cardboard into the shape of the stamp. I then cut strips of craft foam and apply to cardboard to outline the shape. You can also cut shapes to be added like the inner heart for this stamp.

2nd Way:
Cut your cardboard shape, then trace around it on the craft foam.  Cut the shape out of craft foam.

You then use a blunt pencil and draw designs into the craft foam shape.  Push hard enough that you can feel the design marks with your fingertip when you touch the foam.

Here is a good tip I got from Traci Bautista.  Use small pieces of craft foam on the back of the cardboard to make a handle.  I use the parts where the product sticker is, I normally just throw those ones away.  You can also use the leftover little pieces from cutting out a stamp.
Use 2 layers and you'll have a good handle.

Using a paintbrush brush some acrylic or tempera paint onto the stamp.  This gives you more control than stamping into a plate of paint to load.

I always have practice paper nearby when doing a printmaking or stamping project.

Here you can see then difference between the 2 types of stamps. 

Have the kids practice working with the stamps.  Sometimes the ghost print or the 2nd ghost print turns out to be the best.

Ghost Print = the second print from a stamp without applying more paint.

When they are confident apply the stamp to your dry background.

Now you might want to just stop there but I like to take it further.

Ensure your print/stamp is dry.  I use a hair dryer to speed things up a bit.

I added some coloured pencil, some china markers, and some sharpie.

I also used a little white and silver paint that I dipped the end of a pencil into and stamped on some accents. (see finished photo)

I painted some scrap paper.

I then stamped on some letters and added these to the Valentine.

You can also add a few sticky gems.

You could also print off some text from the computer to add.

Pair it with a Valentine poem and you have a great Valentine the kids can make for Mom and Dad.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

January Pocket Project

Here is my pocket project for January.  Pocket projects are like inchies but the use an ATC (artist trading card) size, 2.5"x3.5".
I've taken the cards out of the pockets for the photo here.

Because the cards are in plastic protector pockets you can add information to the back.  A  great way to combine art and research around a subject area.

Now each ATC is a stand alone art project that you can do much larger if you prefer.

I pick up my pockets at the Dollar Store.

The mitten square was done by drawing the mittens in pencil, add a little colour, and then cut out and glue on the ATC.

I added some text printed from the computer and painted with a red wash.

The Northern Lights ATC follows the project I posted HERE just in miniature form.

The snowflake ATC is a pastel resist.  I added some glitter glue, a gem in the middle, and some white dots using my white sharpie marker.  The snowflake types were added with a white pencil crayon.

The Bonhomme ATC was made by painting an ATC light blue.

- using white paint I painted on the snowman shape
- I added a snipet of ribbon for the belt
- I used a hole punch on some black craft foam for the buttons
- I added the facial features with a sharpie
- the hat is cut from some felt
- a few dots of glitter glue finishes it off

The hockey skate ATC is a close cropped drawing of a skate.  I added a little paint and mounted it on a  blue cardstock.

The snow shadows ATC is based on a larger painting project I like to do in January.

Here is the large version.

Snow shadows always catch my eye, the bluish tinge, the way you see every subtle shadow on the white background of the snow, the diffuse winter light.  It all makes a great painting project.

You want to use watercolour paper.  It's expensive but you only need a 140lb for this project.  There are also some good 90lb papers out there as well.

Tape off your edges.

My paper is upside down here as I have an incline on my painting table and I want the darker colour to be at the top, (the bottom in this picture).

I want some snow action in the sky so I add some salt.  I'm using kosher salt as it gives me the best result.  You want to sprinkle it on before the wet sheen of the paint dries.

Let the sky dry and remove the salt by brushing it away.

This shows you the salt effect.

I add some snow shadows in my snow drifts.  I'm still working upside down here.

You want the tops of snowdrifts to be pristine white.

I mix a dark brown and use the edge of my large flat brush to add the tree limbs.

Now my painting is right side up.

I add some shadows from the trees.  The large tree has a shadow that crosses a dip between 2 snow drifts so I need to make a jag in the shadow to make it look realistic.

Let dry and remove the tape.

See you next time.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Poppy Printmaking

As we move forward to Remembrance Day I have been trying a few printmaking projects with the students.

This one was done on a black painted background but black construction paper would work.

This one is just on plain white paper.


- craft foam, white or lighter colours work best.  You could also use scratch foam or a foam plate or container
- pencil
- cardboard
- acrylic or liquid tempera paint
- paintbrush
- pencil crayons
- paper for printing on


I really like using craft foam for printmaking.  Kids can just draw on it with a pencil, pushing hard enough that they can feel the design with their fingertips.

Scratch foam also works good and if you can't get your hands on that you can cut the middle out of a foam plate or container.

Here I just drew out pieces of a poppy.  Flowers, leaves, buds, and centres.  Adding contour and texture lines will enhance the print.

I buy sticky foam.  I cut the shapes out, peel and stick to some cardboard, cut out the general shape from the cardboard and then add a handle to the back with more cardboard.

I use my glue gun to stick on the handle as I'm impatient and want to get printing right away.

You could also use a loop of masking tape and tape the foam to the cardboard if you don't have sticky foam.  You could also tape them to the clear Plexiglas blocks if you use those for printing.

You can use printing ink if you have it but I tend to use acrylic paint.

I add just a touch of water to help it flow.  Now you could use a brayer to apply or a paintbrush.

If using a paint brush make a circular motion when painting, that way you won't get brush marks on the print.

Flip stamp over, place where you want on design and press.

The second print from the stamp, (without reloading with paint) is called the ghost print.  Sometimes that is the better print.

I work with 2 pieces of paper and sometimes I mix first prints and ghost prints together in a composition.

Here I'm giving my stamp a spritz with water before doing the ghost as I waited too long between prints.

That one turned out pretty good!

Continue printing.  I added some stems with a paintbrush.  Printed on the leaves and buds.
Finally I added the centre in black.

When the print is dry you can add some extra details and shading with pencil crayons if you want.

Another great thing you can do with sticky foam is cut it into thin strips and "draw" out your image.  I used cardboard as the base.

This will give you an outline of your  image.

See you next time.