• creative sketchbooks
    Art Materials

    Choosing the Perfect Sketch Book

    Sketch books come in many sizes and shapes – the sheer choice out there can sometimes be bewildering, but at the end of the day, what is a sketchbook? At its simplest level, it’s just a plain paper book – so what’s all the fuss about, surely one sketch book is as good as the next? As a lifelong enthusiast for gorgeous sketchbooks, this is a subject on which I could write at length. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to do that here, since I suspect for anyone other than fellow enthusiasts it would be extremely boring, but I thought it might be helpful to outline some of the factors…

  • leaf-frottage
    Materials & Techniques,  Nature,  Techniques

    Fun with Frottage

    One of the things I most love about art is its sensual qualities. Art can be many things, but for me it’s the visual and tactile elements of art that I especially enjoy, and which I think are also particularly fun for children to explore. I’ve always had a particular attraction to texture especially – as an art student, I spent a lot of time seeking out ruined dilapidated buildings to paint because of the wonderful subtle colour combinations and textures you found there – not to mention their evocative atmosphere. A great way to achieve texture on paint is by using the technique of ‘frottage’. This is basically the…

  • Materials & Techniques,  Projects

    Paint with Bubbles – 3 Ways

    Bubble painting is a classic children’s art activity, and it’s easy to see why – it’s easy, cheap, kids love it, and the results are pretty good too, but bubbles are also amazingly versatile, we’ve tried 3 different techniques now, and each one has distinctively different results. Bubble Painting Method#1 The first technique is the one most people will be familiar with. Here, you mix your paint (in this case tempera) with a little water, and a squirt of washing-up liquid, stir it up and then blow into it with a straw to create lots and lots of bubbles. You then gently place the paper over the bubbles to take…

  • Art Materials,  Materials & Techniques

    Valentine Heart Canvas

    This canvas was created mainly as an excuse to experiment with acrylic string gel medium. String gel is basically an acrylic painting medium that makes your paint more ‘stringy’ or stretchy, allowing you effectively to ‘draw’ directly with the paint by flicking and dribbling it about. As you can imagine, the amount of ‘control’ you have over your ‘drawing’ is limited, but simple shapes are achievable, and I rather like the dynamic spontaneous scribbles you get this way. All in all it’s lots of fun to use.  It is however rather expensive, so before I bought it, I experimented with achieving the same effect with PVA medium.  I found that…

  • watercolour-sprays-with-leaf-masks
    Art Materials,  Materials & Techniques,  Nature

    Watercolour Spray Inks

    Ever since I first heard about watercolour sprays, I’ve been wanting to try them out. The ones you can buy ready-made are I discovered quite expensive, so I decided to create my own using the new powdered water-colour inks I’ve recently treated myself to. That way I can control the dilution I want, mix the colours, and be much more extravagant with them as they are so economical to use. So, I mixed up my inks, and bought some travel sized spray bottles to put them in. There are quite a lot of  posts around the internet at the moment for using spray paints with kids, more particularly using trigger sprays outdoors.…

  • Art Materials,  Materials & Techniques,  Techniques

    Dip-dyed Landscapes

    I love water-colour, I love landscape art, and I also love the dip-dyed effect. However in spite of my love of watercolour, I’ve never really mastered it as a technique – as a medium it can be difficult to control – and perhaps that’s where my problem has always been, I was trying to control it too much. I recently treated myself to some new water-colour inks, and decided to just play with them for a while purely for the sheer pleasure of it. Me and the boys did a lot of this while my computer was broken, and you’ll probably see lots more of it on here in the…

  • Art Materials,  Materials & Techniques,  Nature

    The Art of Mud

    Mud is a versatile and under-rated material, and lets face it there’s a lot of it about.  It has (and still is in some parts of the world) been used for a huge variety of purposes by mankind for millennia, for building, medicinal and beauty purposes, and making pots to name just a few, and of course as a material for making art.   Mud art has lots of advantages, it’s cheap, it gets you outdoors, and it also has an ancient lineage. Some of the very earliest artworks were created with mud – using it not only as a sculptural medium, but also as a pigment, because the colour…

  • Art Materials,  Projects

    DIY Bath Crayons

    I came across a tutorial for making home-made bath crayons the other day, and was inspired by the photograph accompanying it to try my own.  In the end I used the post more for inspiration rather than anything else, because my bath crayons looked absolutely nothing like the beautiful translucent ones shown in the photograph there – all I can say is that I have my suspicions that those may not have been created with normal soap flakes using the very simple method described.  Still, after a certain amount of trial and error based on the instructions given, I did manage to produce some workable bath crayons.  I should point out…

  • Materials & Techniques

    Decorative Paste Papers & Cards

    I came across this technique over at Art for Small Hands where there is a detailed tutorial for undertaking this as a classroom activity.  It’s a traditional technique, which, like marbling, was often used in the 18th and 19th centuries for decorating the endpapers of books.  As an activity it’s cheap, easy and a lot of fun, but (be warned) it is potentially very messy!  It’s also something that is suitable for all ages, with even the youngest of children able to get ‘hands on’. The paste is prepared in advance using rice and wheat flours, water and small drops of glycerine and washing-up liquid.  The mixture is cooked and…

  • Materials & Techniques,  Nature

    Experimenting with Natural Paints

    This time of year is good for experimenting with natural paints and pigments.  It’s easy to forget that in the not too distant past, all dyes and paints had to be obtained from the natural world, directly from animals, minerals and plants. The resulting colours may not always have been as bright as those obtained from chemical sources, but they have a beauty and subtlety of their own.  As a teenager I got heavily into experimenting with natural dyes – I think I was not only an unusual teenager in this respect, but had remarkably tolerant parents who were willing to put up with the foul smells from pots of…

  • Nature,  Outdoor,  Techniques

    Experimenting with Sun Prints

    For this post I decided to have a go at Sun Prints with the kids.  The proper name for these is Cyanotypes, and it is a technique first developed in the early days of photography by Sir John Herschel in 1842.  In fact they are the original ‘blue-prints’. They’re really simple to do if you buy the prepared paper, and the effect is almost ‘magical’ for children.  They are particularly effective using leaves, flowers, plants, feathers etc., but you can use cut out shapes, or any flat household objects which will leave a distinctive silhouette.  I love the resulting ethereal, almost ghostly quality that you get with them.  It’s a…

  • Art Materials

    Exploring Wax Crayons

    It’s been a little while since I started this series off with Canvas, and I thought it was about time I continued it.  This time I’m going to look at that staple tool of any self-respecting budding artist – wax crayons.  Traditional, cheap, practical, easy to use, these are so ubiquitous that their creative potential is perhaps sometimes a little overlooked.  Personally I have found that all wax crayons are not alike.  They differ amazingly – you can get short fat stubby, chunky crayons, or long, thin ones.  Some are hard and plasticky, others (perhaps unsurprisingly) soft and waxy.  Some will produce a dense, bright colour, others a pale washed-out…