Monday, May 30, 2011

Art Class: Ink

We're nearing the end of our Sunday Morning Art Class series and we hadn't used our ink pens yet, so I thought it was time to break out the big guns. The boys were very excited. Kids just love pens, don't they?

I brought out some art by Shel Silverstein (who shades with dots often) and Edward Gorey (a master of line) to show the boys different ways to create shadow and depth with ink.

First we drew the subject. In this case a chameleon from Magoo's Doodles at Dinner Placemats...

Then we shaded them in with dots...

All the boys did a great job. I think this is Mo's.

Then we drew a dagger from Edward Gorey's book and shaded with lines. Sorry, I didn't get around to snapping any shots of the daggers.

Then we drew flamingoes (from the Doodle pad) and I let the boys shade them however they liked.

We finished out the lesson with a few rounds of the Sketch Game in which they drew an Over-Dressed Panda Baking a Cake, an Angry Dad Dances Ballet, and a Happy Old Man Follows a Map.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Magoo's Portrait

Every year, as a fund raiser, Magoo's school brings in this wonderful photographer named Paul Cryan to snap pics. Since Magoo was 4 years old, I've been having a photo taken every other year. I am always blown away by how Mr. Cryan gets the kids to loosen up and have fun. He has a whole trunk full of tricks (literally) and always get fantastic smiles. Magoo particularly likes the gag where Mr. Cryan balances a rubber chicken on my head and shoots it off with a screaming monkey.

Good stuff.

We ordered two shots this year. The headshot (above) and the torso (below.)

This is Magoo at age 4, age 6, and age 8.

I can't believe how big he's getting! (And don't worry Grandparents, you'll get copies of the new shots.)

If you are in the Hartford area and want lovely photo portraits taken of your children or your whole family, I would highly recommend Mr. Paul Cryan. He's awesome!
(And I'm not getting paid for that plug either.) :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Couple More Ninjas

Here are a couple great ninja collages that slipped my radar the first go-round.

In this dream Wink is dreaming about Justin Bieber.

When I would tell other classes about the Justin Bieber ninja dream, the boys would let out a great moan. But I tell ya, once you get that song in your head it's REALLy difficult to think about anything else. It's like a virus.

Speaking of Justin Bieber, this is one of my favorite little bits.

And, of course, I have to include the ninja dreaming of a unicorn.

If you love unicorns, maybe you want to check this out.

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dreaming Ninjas at Braeburn School

Yesterday I did a full day of artist workshops with the 4th and 5th grades at Braeburn School - and they came up with some pretty awesome ninja dreams.

Here are some of my favorites.

This ninja is having a nightmare of being attacked by a ZOMBIE!!!

I had to include this one because the drawing is so wonderful. He wasn't even finished yet!

This artist gets points for creativity (a ninja riding a platypus) and execution.

It's a ninja farm!

I don't know where this kid gets his ideas, but his ninja is dreaming of identity theft! An alien has stolen his ID!!!

Disco Ninja - gotta love it!

Another exquisite drawing. Look at that awesome motorcycle. It even shoots ninja stars. Wink would LOVE it!

Here, Wink is performing at Open Mic Night for Stand-Up comedy.

And this was one of my favorite drawings. Wink is battling some sort of tribal warrior. This young artist was meticulous. It's a lovely drawing.

As I write this post, I'm remembering a few more that I want to include - so stay tuned for a more ninja dreams tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm back at Braeburn Elementary this morning to do my powerpoint presentation for the new Wink book.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Art Class: Nature Sketching

It's been a rainy week. A rainy, rainy week. But we got a little sunshine this weekend and I thought we best make the most of it because we're starting off another rainy, rainy week. So ... nature sketching!

I took the boys through one sketch of a pansy - or a petunia - one of those 'p' flowers, just to prep them on how to view the object they were drawing. I tried to get them to look at the shapes of the leaves and petals. The tiny hairs. The veins. The details.

Then I set them loose. (I should add that we picked up a couple extra students this week. D & J from a few houses down joined in.)

Here's Mo sketching the leaves of my neighbor's rosebush.

He did very well with this project. He had a lovely page of wildlife when he was done.

Mo's page.

Magoo did quite well too. His favorite is the wedi - "weed."

The boys sketched well for about 20 minutes, then they just wanted to run around. I coaxed two rounds of the sketch game out of them: beautiful old lady eats a worm & angry gorilla chases a butterfly. (Sorry I forgot to snap pictures.) Then I just let them run, jump, ride, laugh and get all their cooped-up ya-ya's out.

In other news:
I have another day & 1/2 school visit today and tomorrow. LOTS of dreaming ninjas in my future. Stay tuned for that!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dreaming of Duffy

Many thanks to Jill Daily - the fabulous media specialist at Duffy school - and all of the kids who came in and made sleeping ninjas with me! I had a wonderful time - you were all so well behaved and made me feel very welcome. Thanks so much!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Busy Crafting

I've completed a couple craft projects recently that I'd like to share. The first is a over-the-shoulder monk's bag.

I needed a bag that was big enough to carry odd-shaped things: like food containers. But not as bulky as a backpack. I wanted something that I could sling across my body so I could be hands-free - but wouldn't dig into my shoulder. I was looking online for something and found a little bag that I liked on Amazon - but then I thought I can probably make one. And I found this pattern on PurlBee.

Now, I wanted a few pockets. What if I want to carry some cash or an ID? I can't have something like that just flopping around - so I put in an internal zipper pocket.

And I also included a buttoned pocket on the outside front - for a sketchbook or whatnot. For the most part I like a big open bag, but I like to know - specifically - where a few things are.

The strap is wide and, doubled-over, it's quite soft and thick. So if I end up carrying a heavy load - it should still be quite comfortable. I haven't used it yet, but the time is a-coming.

I also finished a knitting project this week. It's called the Sunset Highway Scarf and it's a free pattern I got on Ravelry.

If you're a knitter and not on Ravelry I really don't know why. It's an AWESOME resource. For example, I was at a knitter's tag sale and she was having a major de-stash. There were tons of fabulous skeins of yarn. I bought 2 skeins of this lovely worsted weight, cotton/silk combo. So then I went on Ravelry, typed in the yarn and how much I bought, and got a list of all the projects I could make. How great is that? Boom - I'm already onto my next project.

But back to this scarf. I knit this with Malabrigo Rio yarn. SOOOOO soft and great to work with. I will definitely use this brand again. This is a simple pattern of only knits and purls and once the pattern is established, it's easy to knit and chat and chat and knit. (Which is how I like to roll.)

Im not saying who this is for - I'm saving it. But I think it will feel good around their neck. At least I hope so.

In other news:
Just finished Disc 1 of AMC's The Walking Dead. LOVE IT! Technically, it's a zombie show. But it's not about the zombies. It's about the strong characters. The zombies are a circumstance. Love the actors. Love the writing. And whoever does the zombie make-up should get an award. Lovely zombies!

Happy Thursday everyone. I hope it's dry where you are because it isn't here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Art Class: Origami

Last week, I had asked the boys if there was anything in particular they wanted to learn at art class. After some suggestions that simply were not doable, they came up with origami. Origami has it's advantages, it's clean, I have books and papers - so it's cheap. But it can be complicated for young hands and it requires precision and patience. In short - it's not easy teaching origami to children.

I chose something that I thought was simple enough for them to handle (except for the last part when you had to flip the whole thing inside out) and interesting enough for boys to want to make. No kittens, please. I choose canoes.

The boys did a GREAT job listening to the instructions, watching me perform the task, and waiting for everyone to catch up before we moved on. They were champs. I had to do all the inside-out flips - but I expected as much.

Then the boys loaded them with LEGO passengers and launched them in the tub. Bon Voyage!

After ten minutes of canoe time, we proceeded to sketching. I had done a small sketching game with them before which they had enjoyed so I tailored it a bit. Each boy reached into the tub and pulled out one slip of paper.

White papers had a character on them.
Yellow papers had a description on them.
Green papers had an action on them.

The first thing they had to sketch was Happy Medusa Rides a Dragon. The second, Smelly Ninja Eats Pizza. And the third, Hairy Mom Juggles Bowling Balls.

Here are a few sketches.

Magoo made the Medusa. Curly made the Mom with the bowling balls. (She must be going up a hill. The talent!)

And Mo put all three onto one crazy page.

The boys LOVED this and it's a good way to get them sketching. I could easily use this as a reward for the end of a great art class. Or it could even be a warm-up. Except that once they get going with it, they probably wouldn't want to stop for a lesson.

In other news:
It's going to be a dreary week here. I hope everyone stored up enough sunshine in their skin and minds (like Leo Lionni's Frederick mouse) to last the week.

Happy Monday!!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Today, at Magoo's school, the second graders are having JAPAN DAY.

They have been studying about Japan for about 6 weeks now and the whole adventure culminates in a morning immersed in Japanese culture and craftsmanship. The three classrooms divvied up space and set up stations for calligraphy and sushi making (below) ...

...kokeshi dolls...

...origami, fan decoration, flower arrangement, face painting (as seen in the first shot), tea ceremony, and some other things that were in rooms other than mine.

They even had a sushi station set up for the volunteers. THANK YOU! I was more than a little excited when I saw that. Then I ran around to every parent volunteer and said, "Did you see the sushi station?!?!" One little girl told me that I acted like Wink. I said, "You mean kind of spazzy?" And she nodded. She's not wrong!

At one point, when Magoo had finished his calligraphy (that was my station) I let him borrow my camera and snap a few photos. Here are a couple Shots by Magoo.

Yep - that's me in a kimono. I was PSYCHED to get to wear it again. (It had been purchased as a Halloween costume from a couple years ago.)

For all the lessons the teachers teach, and all the reading and writing about Japan, I think the children are really going to remember Japan Day and what it felt like to have the hands-on experience of making their own crafts, tasting their own foods, listening to the music, and wearing the clothes. It was a wonderful day and just another reason why I love his school so much.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crafting: Magnets

I like to give homemade gifts for Mother's Day. Why?

One, I'm cheap and I give gifts to three mothers.
Two, it's just nicer, I think. It says, "I took some time to make something special and individual for you." And isn't that what Mother's Day is all about? Taking some time to do something nice for someone who has always done nice things for you.
Three, I like to make things.

So when I saw these at How About Orange and these at Abrosia Girl - I knew I wanted to make my own Polaroid Magnets!

I basically followed the directions above, except I didn't like the results of the Mod Podge Dimensional Magic. It dried hazy and I couldn't see any detail...

... which is a shame because it spread beautifully. Still, I was not satisfied, so I decided to use some resin which I had on hand from my brief foray into jewelry making. Only the resin didn't want to cooperate at all. It either wouldn't cover to the edges (pool int he middle) or it would spill over.

Then I got it in my head that if I wrapped tape around the edges of the magnets I would create a makeshift mold to contain the resin.

It worked ... in theory. But sometimes the tape wouldn't hold and then the resin would seep out and all sorts of other issues.

Long story short - this was a pain-in-the- *** project and they didn't turn out as polished as I would have liked.

But they're OK, so I gave them out anyway. They're kinda more of a it's the thought that counts project.

The finished product on the fridge.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day, Continued

I forgot to post the wonderful drawing Magoo did of me for Mother's Day. I LOVE IT! He got my drafting table in there, my haircut, Wink jumping off the page, and even the orange turtleneck I wear all the time. (Kidding about the last one.) :) But I do think he did a great job with my chair!

Thanks Magoo!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Mini Golf

It was a GORGEOUS day yesterday. Beautiful! So after some pancakes (thanks Mike) and gifties (Just Dance for the Wii and a coupon for a 10 minute back scratch - thanks Magoo!) I sorted through the winter/spring clothes, (technically work but something I wanted to do - purge!) I kicked back and did some reading in the sun, (Zombies v. Unicorns - so far the zombie stories are kicking the unicorns butts) and then we went to play MINI GOLF!!!!

Check out Magoo in his plaid shorts! Doesn't he look the part?

At 8 years-old, Magoo is finally at an age where he can control his shots and sink the ball in 4 to 5 swings. In years past, he needed to cheat so he wouldn't break down in frustration.

Here he is watching the Master.

Mike and I are pretty evenly matched. Sometimes I win. Sometimes he wins. It really depends on who's having a good game and who's choking. I started out with solid two-strokes. I was HOT! Then Mike got a lucky hole in one: swing, bounce, bounce, in. And it broke my stride.

(BTW, we play at a lovely course in Farmington that's right by the river, Riverfront Miniature Golf & Ice Cream.)

He looks so grown-up here. Ack!

By the end of the 9th hole I was in the lead by 1 stroke. Then Mike started getting hot and I couldn't hit a straight shot to save my life. I brought my game back closer to the 15th hole and Mike hit a rough patch so it was very close by the end. At the 18th hole I hit a gorgeous putt for a 2, but Mike (who could have used his poor placement to throw the game and let me win on Mother's Day) sunk an AWESOME putt - up a hill - and ended up winning the game by 1 stroke. Doh!!!

But the best part was being able to play with my son, who continues to be a great joy in my life and who made my Mother's Day a wonderful day. Thank you Magoo (and Mike, who's an awesome husband too)! I don't like to get mushy - but I am one lucky, lucky lady.

In other news: Magoo had been upstairs playing Lego's and came down to show us what he made: an action figure! He used the bendable legs from other Lego people to make a waist that bends and legs that move. It has articulating arms and hands. It was SO COOL! Maybe he'll work for LEGO?!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Since it's the Friday before Mother's Day I thought I'd post a couple images of the spring blossoms that are present outside my back window. If I ever need a distraction from my computer work - all I have to do is look out back at the different light patterns falling on the petals.

It's been a busy week. There was LOTS to do for Teacher Appreciation week at school. Yesterday I had the pleasure of filling in on cafeteria duty so the teachers could enjoy a lovely buffet lunch that the parents put together for them.

I helped set that up and I can tell you - O M G the sweets - the smells! But I am proud of myself because I didn't have a single bite! I didn't smuggle out any chocolates. I didn't wrap up a piece of lemon cake. I didn't lick crumbs off my fingers. NUTHIN! I set it up and hit the cafeteria, and the smells there pretty much destroyed my appetite.

But I don't want to destroy yours - so I'll stop there.

I hope all the mothers out there have a LOVELY weekend. You've earned it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reading is Fashionable Interview

Are there burning questions you wanted to ask me? Maybe FiFi did it for you!
Here's a taste of an interview I did over at the Reading Is Fashionable blog.

Tell us your latest news?

I'm currently doing some school visits and book store appearances for the 2nd ninja book, Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed. I have a third book that is in contract negotiations right now. With the new technology (eBooks, Apps, etc.) there's a lot of new territory for my agent to sort through. But hopefully they'll (my agent, Scott Treimel and Penguin) will figure it out soon so I can get moving on the book.

When and why did you begin writing?

I've been an artist all my life. That part was easy. I only decided to try picture books after grad school when I was teaching Kindergartners at an after-school program and reading a lot of kidlit. Most of my education is in theater and playwriting. I figured merging the dramatic aspect of theater with my visual art skills would be a nice combo for picture books.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I'm still working with the title "writer." It's kinda like fitting into my skinny jeans. Some days the term fits better than others. I never studied formal writing. Just playwriting. I've had to self-teach a lot of writing technique over the years. I still struggle with plot. I'm reading a book on plot right now. But I've been a an artist all my life. I drew well from a very early age and it was always a in which way I've identified myself.

Want to know more? Check it out here. And a great big THANK YOU to Fifi Flowers for the awesome interview!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Unified Sports

Saturday started off sunny and warm - and how lucky were we? Because it was Unified Sports day! Four or five schools gathered at Conard High School and they started things off with a parade. (Magoo is deep in the mix, so you can't see him in this pic. I couldn't even find him for awhile. I'm just standing on the sidelines thinking, "I hope my kid is in there somewhere.") He was.

After they lit "the torch," they broke the kids up into groups and hit the different sports. Magoo started off with volleyball - which was OK. They threw the kids all into a game without much instruction so Magoo just picked up a ball and hit is whenever he could. Parents on the sidelines needed to keep their eyes peeled for fly-away balls. Incoming!!!

Then the kiddos moved onto basketball...

...Magoo had a great time here because he was making baskets. Go Magoo! Go!

He ran good and fast on track ...

... and jumped high and far for the field portion.

He finished up with baseball, and the best part - getting a medal. Well, probably the BEST part for Magoo was having his Grammy there to cheer him on.

Apart from the fact that the clouds covered the sun and it got COLD (and I was clad in only a tank top and a very sheer hoodie) - it was an AWESOME Unified Sports Day and I couldn't be more proud of my little athlete!

(Sorry if you viewed this yesterday and there were no photos. I tried uploading the images in a different way and it looked like it worked on my computer - but it didn't work if you viewed the post form anyone else's. So I won't be trying that again.)