Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Make a Clay Owl

Every year grade 4 does a book study on Farley Mowat's "Owls in the Family".  Last year they completed macrame owls.   This year we decided to do another clay project.
Now this owl design has been around for decades, I did a similar one when I was in school, so I'm not claiming ownership.  If you want to check out some other clay owl projects you can check out these:

- 4 Crazy Kings version
- Mr's Picasso's Art Room version
- Jeryl Hollingsworth La France Elementary at Incredible Art Dept. version

If you don't have access to a kiln you can check out my other great Owl Projects:
Owl Assemblage
Pastel Resist Owl
Mixed Media Owls
Pom Pom Owls
Mini Macramed Owl Necklaces


- low fire clay
- penny nail
- rolling pin
- piece of canvas to work on, can also use a paper towel
- circular items to create imprints
- electric kiln
- low fire glaze
- hemp or leather cording for hanger
- water

Roll out a slab about 1/2 an inch thick and cut out a circle using your penny nail.  We used a chinette dinner plate as a template.  Using a little water, (I get the kids to dip their finger into a little cup), smooth out and rough edges on the circle.  If you leave those little crumbs and they make thru the bisque fire they become very sharp.

Using your circular items create feather detail on the lower half of the circle.  We got some great results with one of those little wooden ice cream spoons, like from a dixie cup.

You can see the spoon and the results on this student's owl.

Fold over both sides of your circle to create the wings.  Squish it down into place a bit.

Fold over the top of the circle to form the head.

Using your circular items create imprints to form the eyes.

From the leftover clay  cut out a triangular beak.  Scratch both the back of the beak and where you are going to place it, add a little water and then  stick into place.

Add some detail on the wings.  Make sure to take that penny nail and make a hole thru the top all the way through for hanging.

Some student work in process:

Leave to dry out.  I waited 2 weeks as we were pretty damp here in Calgary the last while.

Bisque fire in the kiln.  For me this is cone 4 on our SKUTT.

Glaze with low fire glaze, we use Mayco Stroke and Coat. I buy my glazes at Ceramics Canada.  I ask the kids to put on at least 2 -3 coats.

Let dry and then glaze fire.  I use cone 6 on the SKUTT.  (it depends on the clay and kiln what you may use)

Add a loop of hemp or leather cording thru the hole for a hanger and that's it.

Here is our parliament of Owls.  Great job Grade 4!!

 Don't forget you have until 11:59 pm on Thursday to enter for the Book Giveaway.

Today is our first official day of Summer Vacation! 

Stayed tuned for lots of new projects over summer as I will have some time to get organized.

Also I am co teaching a workshop in Fernie, B.C  for 8-10 yr. olds "Writing and the Visual Arts".  If you are in the area and interested check out the website for registration.
As well I will be in Lloydminister at the end of August presenting an Art Education workshop for all you wonderful teachers in that neck of the woods.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway

So in keeping with the last post, I want to introduce you to a new book by Cathy Johnson, "Artist's Journal Workshop".  

I had the pleasure of reviewing this book a couple of weeks ago.

Now I have a lot of books on art journalling that I have picked up over the last 5 years or so.  It's a little trendy right now.
  Many have been disappointing, they are either too basic, with a few step by step exercises and a large chapter on basic supplies or they are just a book showcasing a particular artist's work and little "how to" info.

I tend too be very practical....if I'm gonna spend money for a book I want to use it not have it just sit on my extremely full bookcase.

Cathy's book is different. Using examples from her own work and that of some talented colleagues (including the amazing Nina Johanssen, whose work I always love), she gives you lots of information on how to fill that journal.

Tips on techniques you might want to try, things that didn't work and how to fix them and strategies to get you into the routine.

 She walks you through the process with exercises (Try This:) and has a few extended demos to keep you on track.
   This book has a very relaxed writing style so the beginning artist does not feel intimidated and yet a more experienced artist will find lots of "new" practical advice. I found myself constantly spring boarding off ideas for curriculum projects. (Lookout kids)

The book also includes all the links to the contributor's websites so I know have lots more people to check in on!

Overall I was very impressed and I can see it's one of those books I would have taken out repeatedly from the library (many late fees I bet) until I realized how much I need my own copy.
As I sit here writing this and looking at the book again I'm itching grab the sketchbook and want to re read this book all over again!

So if you are interested check it out at F plus W Media Bookstore.

When I last looked it was already on sale but if not you can use this coupon code for 40% off:


or you can try your hand at winning a copy.  Just enter in a comment on this post or send me an email at:
- must be a US or Canadian resident

Please enter by 11:59pm on Thursday June 30th and I'll make the draw on Friday.  Good Luck everyone!

New Ceramic lesson on Wednesday so stay tuned.

(Disclaimer: Review copy was graciously provided to me by FW Media)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art Journals and a Easy Painting Exercise:

Now that we are days away from Summer Vacation (school ends Tuesday!), I thought I would talk about a tradition at our house.  ART JOURNALS

Now I personally always have several journals and sketchbooks on the go and I try to keep my kids in the habit as well. 

We sketch from life and sometimes from reference photos.....the important thing is to keep them engaged.

Find a journal that works for you.  I find book sized works best (6"x 8").

I also like coil bindings but a book bound sketch book allows you to do a 2 page spread.

Watercolor sketch books with good paper are hard to find and expensive!  So I often make my own.  I cut my large pieces of wc paper to size, I add sketch paper for every second page and a very thick cardboard back.  "Staples", an office supply company, coil binds them for me for about $3.50 a piece.

I then pack everything into a small field bag.

So what's in my field kit........

- a sketchbook (I'm trying out a moleskin, not impressed so far)

- a small clipboard (these are great for the kids)
- my cottman wc kit (I just keep adding tube watercolor to it when I run out, I then let it dry out and I'm set)

-brushes, pencil, eraser, white crayon (for resists), quarter(for lifting out circles), fine black sharpie.  I keep my brushes in a hard plastic case to protect the bristles, it's the only way, I have also used toothbrush travel cases for this.
- kleenex and paper towels tucked in the pockets
- for water I take an old water bottle and a small cup, the one here stays at the house

So now you're all to get started?

Here is a really easy painting exercise that I do with the kids.  It will help loosen you up.

It's a water reflection painting and you can change up the scenery and make several of these.  Great for school too!

You can do reflections on a lake, river, ocean, pond, puddle, there are lots of possibilities.

If you want you can lightly pencil in a horizon line.

Start painting you sky in.  Be more intense at the top and then fade out into a squiggle at the bottom.  I have used the color to indicate my horizon line and I stay mostly down the center of my page.

I want this to be a city scene looking down a river.

I'm only going to use a few colors here (limited palette).

Start putting in some shapes on one side to indicate buildings.

When I reach that horizon line I dilute my color, my shapes are just smudges of color.

Do the same on the other side.

Add a few shadows and darker details.  I also smudge a little color into that horizon line just to define it a bit more.

You can then add a little detail in ink if you want and you're done.

Here is a cabin on a lake at sunrise.

Keep it loose and don't fuss.

So break out a journal or sketchbook this summer and stayed tuned for my next post with more on art journals.

See you soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dandelion Poetry Project

The abundance of dandelions in Calgary this year has provided me with lots of inspiration.  You might remember this project. a similar vein I have been doing a collaborative project with my colleague Kim McCullough. ( a teacher who is a fantastic author).  She also collaborated with me on the Woven Nest.

We are trying to develop projects that combine creative writing and the visual arts.

The premise for this project is "dandelion wishes".  You can click on the picture to see larger.


- watercolor or heavywieght sketch paper
- disk tempera
- paintbrush
- fine and heavy sharpie
- white sharpie, white gel pen, or computer/hand written text
- glue if using computer/handwritten text

We did this project with Grade 4.  Kim spent a Language Arts class with the kids discussing dreams and wishes.  By the end of the class they had typed out a poem.

We started the art portion by sketching out a silhouette profile.  After seeing the results I would advise all future classes to sketch out  the hand and/or arm. It just ties it together better.  They also sketched in the seed head and some loose seeds blowing away.

I had a few reference photos to assist them.  Next time I think I will have them pose and have a fellow student sketch out their profile.

They then painted in their backgrounds using disk tempera.  Most opted for the twilight scene.

To get that spotted texture you can see in the first picture just sprinkle on some water drops while the background is only partially dry.

Let dry.

Using black tempera they painted in the larger portions of the silhouette and then used black sharpies for the finer detailing of the seeds.

Here you can really see that spotted texture.

Next you need to add the text of your poem.

You can use white pencil crayon, white gel pens, white sharpies, or cut out typed/handwritten text which you then glue into place.

Click on photos for a closer view.

Great work Grade 4!