Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shout out to . . . Dover Publications!

It's ArTuesday, and I want to recommend a publisher: Dover Publications!

I first discovered Dover about a million years ago when I took my first calligraphy class. The teacher recommended that we buy and study their book Three Classics of Italian Calligraphy. (Being a total nerd, I followed this advice, and have not regretted it.)

Dover publishes oldies-but-goodies. They even have a reprint of the how-to-draw-animals book that was given to me by a neighbor who was an ACTUAL WORKING ARTIST (and therefore my hero) when I was growing up. The copy she gave me is falling apart--maybe I should replace it!

They also publish the most amazing coloring books! 

And here's a really neat feature: Sign up for their "sampler" emails, and you get a weekly email with links to download pages from their books--coloring pages, mazes, puzzles. These were a staple in our household, and they make great inserts to send to sponsored kids!

Check them out! www.doverpublications.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Arts?

When I was a music teacher, I sometimes had parents expressing their conflicted feelings about putting their kids in arts activities or sports. (Our overscheduled children don't seem to have time for both... but that's a topic for another day!)

I know that sports are wonderful--teamwork, physical fitness, all of that. And if your child *loves* the sport in question, then the answer is easy. But we often saw kids who had more of a, shall we say, artistic nature being forced to participate in a sport they did not enjoy. The feeling seemed to be that the benefits of a sport absolutely outweighed any perceived benefits to the alternatives--art, music, or theater.

But let's think about this. Arts activities have some unique benefits:

*Boys and girls can play together. 
Sports by necessity need to segregate the sexes. Arts do not have such a restriction. In a choir, both are necessary for a full sound. In a play, there are almost always parts for boys as well as girls (except for "Steel Magnolias," ... but I digress.). Boys and girls get to experience working together for a common goal. That's cool!

*Arts can be a lifelong involvement.
Our family was in a summer musical once in which the ages of the actors ranged from 8 to . . . wait for it... 92! In arts activities, not only the genders but the generations can play and work together. For the individual, this means you never "age out" of the arts: You just improve and improve, and even if you blow out your ACL, you can still participate! And how cool is it for a child to participate with teenagers or adults in an activity? Talk about a self-esteem builder!

*What about physical fitness?
Pick your kids up after rehearsal for a musical and observe their healthy pink faces-- practicing a dance routine over and over can be all the exercise anyone could ever want! And a word about dance: Groups who engage in movement together actually bond strongly. It's science: dancing or moving in tandem releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) in the brain. Ken Robinson says that if there were only one course that should be required in every school, it would be dance. More and more, I agree (and I am NOT a dancer--just ask any of the kids who are following my lead for movement during rehearsal of our church Christmas musical!). But, wow--all the benefits! Fitness, coordination, cooperation, oxytocin--all wrapped up in one FUN package!

Besides dance, I would add "presentation skills" to the list of required topics in school. Think about it: There are the ubiquitous book reports in school, but the workplace also often requires presenting. People who are calm and confident when having to present their ideas to a group have a distinct advantage (and a happier time of it when that presentation looms). Teachers told me they could always identify the theater kids: They were the ones who were completely unruffled by having to speak in front of the class! Theater, singing, dancing--all of these help take a bite out of the Fear of Public Speaking. And people who are well versed in art care about creating visually appealing presentations. 'Nuff said!

So, parents, if your child would rather paint and sing than throw a ball--don't despair. They are reaping benefits that can continue through their lifetime!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Amazing Pencil!

For ArTuesday, I want to talk about my favorite drawing tool, and one of the main attributes that makes it so cool for drawing: The Amazing Pencil!

Everybody knows how to draw with a pencil, right?

Something I often see kids (and adults) fail to notice about the pencil is the wide range of marks it can make. Take light and dark marks, for example:

What if you combine the light and dark marks? You can get such a wonderful variety of marks—and really awesome hair!

In art classes, you often have to make a bar like this one to prove that you know how to make different values with your pencil:

That's pretty boring! What if you were to draw, say, a fox, with and without dark and light lines?

Now you can start to see the difference that occurs when you use those light and dark and varied (hair-like) marks!
I like this exercise:
1. Draw a scribble:

2. Start to fill in some of the corners you see with a dark-to light gradation:
3. Keep going!
(I could spend a lot of hours on something like this—how about you?)

So... take out your pencil and try varying the lines. Try shading something. Try filling in the corners of a scribble! And HAVE FUN! Hooray for the Amazing Pencil!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mommy and Me Toddler Arts Classes!

Mommy and Me Toddler Music Classes: Why?

Next week we will start our “Mommy and Me” toddler arts classes. Little ones will be making music, dancing, singing, and creating colorful works of art with their moms (Dads are welcome too, of course!).

Why do we think this is important?

More and more research shows the benefits of early, early education. Combine that fact with our world’s desperate cry for individuals who know how to think creatively, and how could you not offer toddler arts classes?

Here are some specific benefits:
•Bonding. There is nothing like creating something together to bond a parent and child. Decisions are made, questions are asked, and all that creativity is applauded and celebrated with smiles and hugs.
•Sing now; play [music] later. Research indicates that young children and babies who are sung to by their parents are the ones who grow up to show musical talent and interest. Participating in music with your child shows her that you value music, opening the door for her to value it as well.
•Create memories. Those pieces of art that end up on the refrigerator and later in a “memories” file box are tangible representations of quality time spent together. Years later, they can bring back memories of the fun.
•Socialization. Singing and dancing together releases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone.” Besides strengthening parent/child relationships, the group songs and dances we will do together will help foster a “circle of friends” among the participants, children as well as adults.
•It’s fun!!

There is still room in this fun and amazing class—sign up here!