Saturday, August 27, 2016

Save the Dragons! Kids' Club Creativity

My girls have been "all about dragons" for weeks now.  My older daughter has scoured the library for every book with the word "dragon" in its title all summer.  This led to a two-week intensive planning session between my two girls for a "Save the Dragons!" club that they ultimately held with five additional friends this past Friday.
Some of the Save the Dragon! Club girls acting out fearsome dragons
These girls do nothing halfway.  My seven-year-old created a book that introduces the club, outlines famous dragon killers from history (thanks to Wikipedia), lists the rules for the club, and has drawings of all the various kinds of dragons in the world.  An excerpt:
In the old world, dragons roamed the earth freely. Then man was created and started killing the dragons. And then new people came to earth and tried to save them. Can we do it? If we try, maybe just maybe we can save the dragons.
Rules for the club include:
Protect the dragons. Never ever say or write that dragons are not real. No potty talk. No lying. If you leave dragon club not believing in dragons one little bit, you can't come back to the next dragon club. Take care of each other. Take care of stuffed animals. Raise your hand. Dragons matter!
Seven-year-old club leader reading the rules
My eight-year-old created a second book entitled "Dragon Watch: A Research Book." (The fact that it has a subtitle was very important to her!)  Her book includes a dragon's possible daily schedule, an extensive chart of dragon types, general facts about dragons gleaned from a computer game they like to play online, and sections with pictures and information about different dragon types, including Drakes, Serpents, Wyverns, and Nagas. There are even diagrams of their body parts, and a quiz to make sure you've been reading with attention!

The girls didn't have as much time to share their books and research as they had hoped, so much of this will be saved for the second Save the Dragons! club meeting.

During the first club meeting they were busy with:

Crafting paper houses for nano-dragons (very small dragons):
Eating the "dragon's head" snacks that the girls designed and created, which all of the club members enjoyed:
Going outside for dragon-themed outdoor games using pool noodles and lots of running around. (You will notice that two additional club members have joined at this time):
My seven-year-old was the official club leader, with my eight-year-old serving as "co-leader," and there were moments when the pressures of leadership threatened to get the best of the younger one.  It can be tough when expectations do not meet up exactly with reality, and though I had tried to encourage her to go with the flow and remain flexible with how things evolved, there was some stress when games were not played exactly as she had hoped.

I also think that our second Save the Dragons! club will be limited to 1-1/2 or 2 hours to reduce stress brought on by over-excitement and activity.

But I am mightily proud of the creativity and planning my girls put into this fun activity for their friends, and I saw lots of smiles and genuine interest from club members who had no idea what they were getting themselves into!

I don't think I ever organized such a well-planned and elaborate club for my friends when I was a kid.  How about you?  Did you participate in any fun, informal clubs when you were young?

Monday, August 22, 2016

My First Letter Writing Social

A Letter Writing Social Tablescape
I have been hearing about Letter Writing Socials for years, especially from Pamela at Cappuccino and Art Journal and Mary England of Uncustomary.  The main goal of the letter writing social is to keep the art of the written letter alive in this age of emails and other digital communications.

Like-minded people gather around typewriters, pretty papers, pens, stickers, decorative tapes and other staples of the traditional-meets-modern letter writer.  They sit at tables that are deliciously crowded with supplies and other letter-writers' works-in-progress.  They sip tea, or coffee, or wine--depending on the venue--and leave with postcards or letters written, stamped, and ready to send.
The Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, PA
I attended my first Letter Writing Social in mid-August at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore and Cafe in Harrisburg, PA.  Our organizer Anne had loads of supplies to offer us, and several of us brought contributions, as well.  My mother came along with me, and I had an opportunity to see my old friend Becky (the Snail Mailer) and meet the illustrious Mary England, blogger-author-and-life enthusiast, promoter of self-love and creativity.
My Mom and I, fan-girling with Mary
Our location was perfect--tables set up right in the heart of the bookstore.  Not only did we have attendees who knew of the event ahead of time, but we also drew in passers-by who were often mystified and then delighted to discover that we were "just sitting there writing letters."
Our organizer, Anne, with Mary England at the start of the social
Our typewriter station, with Becky on the right
We had some young participants who enjoyed the mysteries of the ancient typewriter.
Sometimes the letter-writing became a family affair:
And there were some couples who made Sunday a letter-writing afternoon date:
There was lots of enthusiasm generated by the social, whether expressed by diligent work or big smiles.
For my part, I prepared several postcards, and wrote messages on three of them (including one I mailed to myself!).  Everyone was generously sharing their supplies (to the extent that they were saying, "Take these papers, take these stickers---please!) so I expanded some of my mail art stash as well.
And if ever I needed some visual inspiration, I could always gaze around at my favorite sight--shelves upon shelves upon shelves of books at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.  They have an impressive collection of over 200,000 new and used books, and offer a popular community meeting space in my state's capital city.
Anne is already planning the next Letter Writing Social in October.  I am looking forward to getting back to my mail art making and letter writing, with the help of Mary's Snail Mail eCourse.  If you are interested in finding out more about the fun of old-fashioned/new-fangled letter writing, Mary has tons of resources, and you can email me at for more information too!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lettering Apprenticeship

People across the Blogosphere are devouring resources related to improving their handwriting and lettering in order to spruce up their art journal pages, planners, and personal correspondence.

As evidenced by over 200 pins on my "Lettering, Handwriting" board on Pinterest, I am one of those people in search of the perfect handwriting that has eluded me since kindergarten!

Recently, I sat down with a whole screen filled with Stephanie Ackerman's doodles, lettering, and artwork, and put myself into the position of apprentice: studying her style, copying her work, looking to internalize her approach.
My effort, emulating Stephanie's artwork; I included only the first part of the verse.
I love Stephanie's quirky, playful, casual style that incorporates cursive and print, capitals and lower case, colors and black & white.  Her work looks so spontaneous, but those arrangements of words and doodles must be well-planned.
I made slight changes to Stephanie's version, mainly because of the size of my sketchbook page.
I also love how Stephanie works with Bible verses, favorite quotations, and inspiring phrases in her artwork.  There are so many possibilities for creating encouraging artwork based on my own favorites!

I made three different drawings in my sketchbook, and then reduced them by 50% on the copier.  (Once I accidentally reduced the 50% drawings by 50%, and got tiny little artworks from them!)  I cut and pasted them onto one page, and then printed it out on sticker paper.
Next, I cut each of the little stickers for use in my planner.
A couple of them made their way into this week's planner spread:
I added some red marker for "pop" on this one.
This was one of the tiny ones, and got some decorative tape and doodling in order to stand out.
At first, I was embarrassed when my 7-year-old asked me, "Mom, why are you just copying from her work?" But I think that copying can be a valid step in the process of developing my artistic style.  Just like the apprentices of the Renaissance era would copy the masters and even add to their works, I see this stage of copying as one step towards developing content, style, and and approach of my own.

In an article I found entitled, "The Making of an Artist," the author writes of Renaissance apprentices:
"Pupils...then learned to draw, first by copying drawings made by their masters or other artists.  Drawing collections served not only as training aids for students but also as references for motifs that could be employed in new works...Young artists also learned from copying celebrated works that could be seen in their own cities--Michelangelo, for example, copied paintings by Giotto in Florence's church of Santa Croce--and they were encouraged to travel if they could, to Rome especially, to continue their visual education."
What do you think?  Shameless copying, or valid step in the learning process?

If Michelangelo himself employed this method for learning, I'm going to take my chances!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Seagreen Gallery Inspiration

I've just returned from a week-long vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Nature is clearly the star of the show.

As expected, I was inspired and rejuvenated by sunshine, ocean waves, glimpses of sea life from fish to crabs to dolphins, summer thunderstorms, and sandy beaches and dunes.

But I found an unexpected source of creative inspiration at a shop called Seagreen Gallery in Nag's Head, just down the street from our rented beach house on South Virginia Dare Trail.
The parking lot featured a weathered row boat filled with old wine bottles and lounging cacti, while an ocean wave fashioned from license plate parts swept over the side wall of the store's exterior.
And they even had a--dare I say it?--old-fashioned red telephone booth.  I certainly don't see those around much anymore!
The handcrafted items sold inside provided me with plenty of creative eye candy:

Bracelets made from acai berries:
(Some of these came home with me!)

Wall hangings from old license plate parts:
Collages of hand-drawn lighthouses on text page backgrounds:
Paintings on pieces of thin wood:
The store's decor kept my eyes busy, even in the bathroom, which featured a bathtub water feature made with a mosaic bird house, crowned by a printer's tray filled with ocean finds:
I absolutely loved their monochromatic bottle displays in blues, greens, and purples:
The back door led into an eclectic wonderland of buoys, bottles, and driftwood.
There was even a pond and a vegetable garden in the somewhat small, contained space:
Any small-space argument against whimsical outdoor living is out the window after a visit to Seagreen Gallery!

And check out this guy hanging out near the cash register:
Turns out, he makes his home at Seagreen Gallery, and he's so comfy there, I almost didn't see him as I was headed out the door!

I enjoyed this shop so much that I made a return trip in order to make sure I didn't miss anything, and to get some photos to share with you here on the blog.  I love a good creative excursion in the midst of a family vacation!