• Christmas

    Creating Artful Christmas Tree Ornaments

    Who says that art materials can’t be festive or decorative in their own right? If you’re looking to create an artfully themed Christmas Tree for a studio, creative space, or just at home, here are a few ideas you might like to try… Festive Paint Brushes Give those old worn out paintbrushes a new lease of life by transforming them into decorations. Decorate the handles with brightly coloured paints in any style you choose, and then dip the tips into glitter paint, or PVA sprinkled with glitter. Use the hole in the handle to thread a hanging ribbon through, and away you go. Alternatively you can just arrange them in…

  • Materials & Techniques,  Techniques

    Creating Abstract Sea and Landscrapes

    No, that’s not a typo! I’ve always been a fan of ‘accidental’ art, and this technique is one of those eminently satisfying yet essentially very simple ways of painting, that can deliver stunning results. That’s not to say that every single piece will create a masterpiece, but that if you do a whole bunch of them, you’ll end up with at least one or two that are frameworthy, and part of the joy of this activity is the very unpredictability of the results. You never quite know what you are going to get! The result is very like the technique that the artist Gerhard Richter has used in his work (on…

  • Projects

    Exploring Texture and Layers.

    I’ve always loved the visual effect of torn layers – billboards layered with posters, one on top of another, some ripped back to expose older ones beneath, and I once looked after an old house which had layers and layers of ancient wallpapers – some dating back as far as the 18th century. For me, such layers are almost a metaphor for time, and I think I love not just the beauty of the visual effect but also the almost archaeological thrill of discovering what lies beneath, of peeling back the layers so that you get a glimpse revealed of  something older, earlier, deeper.     It also makes a…

  • 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…

  • Nature,  Projects

    Botanical Papers – Part 1

    This project uses a humble office scanner and foraged natural materials to produce simple decorative papers with a wide range of uses. As regular readers of Artful Adventures will know, one of my favourite creative tools is our home scanner. I love the way it is simple to use, and creates images which are somehow both 3-dimensional and 2-dimensional at the same time. This project is one of those which started off with us all experimenting with the effects we could get using natural materials on the scanner, as indeed we have in the past, but ended up with me continuing alone, to push some of those ideas further. This…

  • 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…

  • Projects

    Art Portfolio Tutorial

    Keeping children’s artwork in good condition can sometimes be a challenge. Even if you are ruthless about only keeping the best, there is a tendency for it to get creased and dog-eared. It makes sense to keep it flat, and a traditional portfolio is the ideal way to do this. Yet the choice of portfolios available for children is limited.  I couldn’t find one that I liked and most were very small, so I thought I would have a go at making my own instead. This proved to be pretty easy and quite cheap to do, with the added benefit of offering the opportunity to decorate and personalise the cover…

  • 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…

  • ink-blot

    Happy Accidents

    ‘By looking attentively at old and smeared walls, or stones and veined marble of various colours, you may fancy that you see in them several compositions, landscapes, battles, figures in quick motion, strange countenances, and dresses, with an infinity of other objects.  By these confused lines, the inventive genius is excited to new exertions’. These are the words of Leonardo da Vinci – from his ‘Treatise on Painting’. As this quote proves, the use of the accidental or incidental to spark imagination is nothing new and has been used by artists for centuries. If it was good enough to help Leonardo spark his creativity, then it’s good enough for me.…

  • Projects

    Scanner Art

    Some of us may have fond memories of photocopying parts of our anatomy in the office in days gone by (do people still do that?), but the fun and games don’t end there, as the humble domestic scanner is an important piece of art equipment these days. You’ll often see scanned textures used in children’s book illustrations to give added texture and depth and create a ‘collage’ effect – in fact if you have any suitable books which use the technique,  playing ‘spot the scanned in texture’  is a game that you can play alongside this activity) but even without the additional digital manipulation often involved in mixed media illustrations,…

  • junk-art-collage

    Magnetic Art Junk Pictures

    Junk seems to proliferate in our house – by junk I mean those small items or bits and pieces, often unidentifiable, which seem to appear on surfaces, and which if left, seem to multiply as if breeding.  It’s tempting to throw them away, but if you are so rash as to actually do this, you can guarantee that shortly after you will find that the unidentifiable piece of junk was actually an essential and irreplaceable part of a piece of household equipment.  So not wanting to tempt fate, I tend to put them into a ‘holding device’ of some kind, a pot, box or drawer, just in case, which gradually…

  • Features

    Interpreting your Child’s Artwork

    Children’s drawings, doodles and sketches have been the subject of study now for over a hundred years, and new theories and ideas about what they mean, how they develop, and how they can be used both educationally and therapeutically, are arising all the time. This week, I’m going to look at whether children’s drawings, especially younger children, can give any psychological insights into their character and thinking.  There is a school of thought that believes that children’s scribbles and doodles are in fact deeply revealing of intelligence, personality and emotional state, in the same way graphologists believe that handwriting is for adults.  Analysts will look at how the drawing sits…