Art Rage, Self Healing, and Penguins

Artists have a reputation for being temperamental, sensitive, and volatile, and I have been doing nothing whatsoever to help quell that stereotype lately.

After spending the month of July happily wandering around my old stomping grounds of  London and Paris, I returned to the US and jumped straight into a hectic teaching schedule for the whole of August, things were go, go, go, I had no time to stop and think about anything, no time for self evaluation or sentimental reminiscence. Thank goodness.

Then came September.

My summer camp was over, the kids started school, and I decided to give myself a week’s rest. Bad idea. I started being a mopey mess of introspection. All of a sudden, I was flooded by a thousand quietly worried thoughts.
“what exactly am I doing here? I miss Europe. I should live in a city, it’s too quiet. This isn’t conducive to being an artist, there are no people to talk to here, why is it always so hot? I don’t like working from home, I need a studio space with real humans in it. Ugh, the presidential race is so depressing; what is the world coming to?” I could go on, and I did, but I won’t write it all down here.

I don’t want to make light of these thoughts and feelings, they are based on genuine concerns that I have. I am working through many of these issues, and making changes in my lifestyle to help myself. However, I find that inactivity rarely helps my state of mind. I’m always more content when I am busy, and when I am busy, I find ways of working through my problems. It is the inbetween times when I am left to my own devices for too long (just after the camps, just before the Fall fairs) that can magnify these thoughts, and dip me into a downward spiral. The trick, I’ve been told, is to recognize when this is happening and stop it (easier said than done, mate).
However, I think now that I’m forty, I’m finally beginning to gain a little maturity. No really, this time around I managed to nip the negativity in the bud! I like to share, so I’m going to share my very mature (stop laughing) healing process with you. You are welcome.

The Healing Process

Cleanse and Detox:
I cleaned out my house, purged it all of all useless and undesirable articles, moved things around, and made more space for me to work in. So satisfying, and pleasing to the rest of my clan. Very upsetting to the trash removal guys. Sorry!

Impulse Shopping:
After teaching a camp on Yayoi Kusama, I had been itching to do a big drawing on canvas. I saw a photo of Yayoi sitting at a huge canvas and drawing organic patterns onto it with chunky pens, and it made me long to do the same. So, I bought a large canvas, and some Montana paint pens and started drawing without any real forethought or planning. I’m going to do a series of them. I work on this canvas whenever I need a little break from my printing. Giving into your instincts, and not having any other motive than pleasure when working on your art feels great.

Immersion Therapy:
I stopped dawdling, and threw myself into the printing. This year, I have signed up for more fairs than usual, so there is more to do. I’m leaning in, the theme for winter is penguins and snowscapes, and my house is overflowing with the little feathered creatures. Awww!

Keeping a journal:
At the end of each summer camp, I come home with a pile of scrap paper with ink blots, scribbles, and teeny tiny, unnoticeable smudges on (kids are so fussy!). This year, I’m incorporating them into my sketchbook. Almost every night, I choose a sheet of paper and turn whatever is on it into my own drawing, sort of like an artsy rorschach test. Sometimes I forget, and just draw on a new page. Whatever, I find it a great way of loosening up my inner art muscles and keeping myself from getting into a block. Also, it makes me happy and stops me from late night snacking.

Reconnecting with Nature
I stopped behaving like a mole, and forced myself outdoors more often. Sometimes I even convinced other people to be outdoors with me. Once, I got completely lost, but that is a story for another day.

Throw in a few bars of chocolate, a trip to the Renaissance fair, a few episodes of Stranger Things, a date night, a bottle of really weird cider, and some self chiding, and there you have it. Self healing. Voila. I really must be maturing -I love being forty.

Paris with kids

This summer I went to Paris with my family. People kept advising me against choosing Paris as a family destination, but we went anyway, because I love not doing as I’m told. I’m here to tell you that my kids loved it, and so did I. Well, they loved most of it, some of it not so much. So I thought I’d share the parts that did work with you, and spread some love.
Oh, quick side comment, have I mentioned that I turned forty this year? The Paris trip was actually planned as a fortieth birthday treat that involved a lot of hot chocolate, eclairs, and sitting by the Seine. Being forty means also being mature enough (don’t laugh!) to accept that this trip would not involve rolling out of the Buddha Bar in the late hours, and spending an entire day looking at modern art.  I rolled with the punches and had a great time, and you haven’t heard the last of this. I’m celebrating all year, it’s a good age to be.
Here’s the top ten list courtesy of me and my kids:

What my kids enjoyed the most in Paris

1. The Tuileries
Although my 10 year old found the statues of Greek gods in the Louvre fascinating, the six year old screamed his head off for the entire time we were there. When we finally stumbled out clutching our heads into the sunlight of the Tuileries, it was like a curse lifting. The Tuileries are so beautiful and a lovely counterpoint to the huge, over-crowded Louvre museum. The kids loved walking around in them as much as we did. They sailed boats in the pond, ate ice cream, and my husband and I actually got to have a pretty long conversation without interruptions while they played in the very nice playground there. Sweet!

2. Hot Chocolate at Cafe Angelina
Right across from the playground in the Tuileries, we discovered Angelina, which is meant to have the best hot chocolate in Paris. I don’t know if it is indeed the best, but it was pure, molten dark chocolate. My arteries were filled with the heady stuff, and it felt pretty good; maybe a little too rich for the kiddos, but they had a whole range of other goodies for them. The Cafe itself is so decadently furnished that my daughter was in raptures, and my son was just happy to be served dessert.

3. Picnic near the Eiffel Tower
I generally avoid very touristy activities when on vacation, but the ten year old really needed to go to the top of the eiffel tower, so we did, and it was fun. But what was more fun was the picnic afterwards. Places to eat near the tower tend to be overpriced, so I asked a security guard to point us to a grocery store, in really bad French, and he, surprisingly, obliged. We bought a baguette, some cheese, olives and other stuff and found a spot near the river. Eating outdoors in the sunshine with the tower looming over us was a lovely experience.


4. St Chapelle
Notre Dame is beautiful, and the kids loved looking at gargoyles and trying to spot the hunchback (thanks so much, Disney), but it was totally overshadowed by St Chapelle. This church took our breath away. The stained glass, and patterned walls were so beautiful that even the six year old stared open eyed without a whine. Also it is mercifully small, perfect for short attention spans.


5. Riding the escalators at the Pompidou Center
The Pompidou center contains some beautiful modern art, and the courtyards are fascinating, but what really got the kids excited about it was riding those escalators all the way to the top and looking out over Paris. Also, we found the best Lebanese food somewhere in a tiny alley nearby. Sorry, can’t remember the name, but the Marais district is great for middle eastern street food.

6. The Metro system and the Funicular
Once you get the hang of it, the Paris metro is pretty easy to use. My kids are fans of all public transport, the little one is quite the trainspotter, so they loved it. When we visited The Sacre Coeur  cathedral in Montmartre, the kids insisted on taking the Funicular train up the tiny hill to the cathedral. It was slow and not very thrilling, I could have walked up faster, and the ride was ridiculously short, but the they rode it a few times (you pay with a regular metro fare) and were very pleased by it.


7. Pain Pain
This bakery in Montmartre is a true treasure. It is so cute, their quiche is to die for, and we fell in love with their eclairs. You have to visit to see what I mean.


8. Jardin du Luxembourg
These gardens were a hit with the whole family. So beautiful, and relaxed, and large enough to get lost in. They also have a nice playground, that you pay a fee to get into (what?). The kids gave it a thumbs up, and so do we.


9. Hanging out by the Seine
No need to really explain this one, right? There are some spots by the Seine that just beckon to you, and ask you to stop and sit awhile (or run up and down the steps frantically while your parents catch their breath).


1o. Getting Lost
We got spectacularly lost in Paris, because we speak such bad French, and it led us to discover some of the best places. We wandered through the Sorbonne, and the Beaux arts district, we saw beautiful apartment buildings and imagined what it would be like to live in them, and we discovered delicious crepes, cool street art, and a soccer festival!

We couldn’t really cover it all in a week. There are so many other places I would like to visit in Paris. The Rodin Museum, Belleville Park, and Les Docks to name but a few. I have always loved traveling with my kids , so there will be plenty of other trips to write about.
Now, back to the grind…..

What Exactly Happened In The First Week Of Camp? (No really, I have no idea!)

*Scroll to the bottom of this post if you are just here for printmaking teaching resources, and want to skip the waffling!

There are two main reasons for my  What Happened at Camp updates.
Firstly, I need points of reference for the future. When someone comes up to me in a few years and says “Remember that time we printed with feathers, and you read to us all about Selkies?”, the chances are, I will have no idea what they are talking about. I can use my blog posts to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, my memory cannot be trusted to remember all those details all by itself; it is at full capacity right now, and I keep stuffing extra bits in. I’m running a little bit slower than usual.

The second, and most important reason is that I want the parents of campers to get a peek into what goes on in their kids’ lives while they are with me. I’ve been there; I’m a parent, and I love receiving pictures and anecdotes about what my kids get up to during the day (up to a point, I could take or leave many of the mind numbing details my ten year old relays to me with regularity every evening).

With this in mind, I feel terrible that I didn’t manage to write a post about the first week of camp. I was tired and disorganized, and chose to skip the week. However, five weeks later, I am ready to share the experience with you. Well, some of the experience, remember, I have a terrible memory. Speaking of terrible memories, I also have a tendency to block those out. Parents, if you want the full story, you may need to drag it out of your kids!!

Here is what I do remember:

The theme of the week was printmaking, so I was super excited all week. printmaking is one of my favorite things to teach. We learnt about different types of printmaking, and tried our hand at mono printing, screen printing, relief printing with natural objects, making our own blocks for block printing, and using all kinds of household, and found objects to produce prints with.

Highlights from the Week (it’s all coming back now!):

  • Sticking foam to rolling pins, and printing with them
  • Using embroidery hoops, screen mesh and Mod Podge to create hand made screens for printing t-shirts.
  • Adopting a ladybug for the week. Don’t ask how the kids domesticated it, they just did.
  • Exploring the woods near the camp, and making a see saw and balance beams out of fallen logs.
  • Trying to stop ourselves from popping all the bubble wrap before printing with it.
  • Spending a whole morning collecting leaves and feathers, and making spectacular prints with them.
  • Watching the teacher (me) attempt to use a particularly fast piece of playground equipment called the spinning doughnut, and falling off it in a spectacular fashion.


There are so many amazing videos on block printing on the net, here are two that the kids enjoyed.

Click here for a  great introduction to different types of printmaking, courtesy of MOMA.

Thomas Yang, is one artist who uses found objects to print with, that we looked at. Check out some of his work here.

I found the book below at my local library, and it has some good projects for beginner printmakers to try at home:

Finally, check out my Pinterest board on printmaking with kids, if you are so inclined!

Now I’m off to forget it all again. Happy weekend to you all!


When Picasso met Matisse. Resource list for camp 5


As promised, here are a few resources that I used in the final week of summer camp this year. The camp’s theme sprang from a lovely little book that I found in the National Gallery’s children’s bookstore in DC. Here are the resources that worked the best with kids aged between 6 – 10.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse – Nina Laden – Beautiful picture book about famous frenemies. Packed with puns, and funny for all ages. The inspiration for this camp.

Oo0h! Matisse – Niepold/Verdu – Another winner for both big and little kids. This book is basically a guessing game using close ups of Matisse’s cut up shapes.

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! –  Jonah Winter – The kids sat very still during this one, it’s a great story to read out to a large class. The older kids loved hearing about Picasso’s rebellious nature, and the story made sense to the little kids.

Henri’s Scissors – Jeanette Winter – A good introduction to Matisse’s cut outs, short with beautiful, bright illustrations.

Who Was Pablo Picasso? – True Kelley – I love the Who Was…? series for children old enough to read chapter books by themselves. The 8 – 10 year olds could read this to themselves easily.

Pablo Picasso – Art for Children – Ernest Raboff – An easy to understand biography with plenty of pictures. Perfect for teachers to use in the classroom.

Pablo Picasso, Breaking All The Rules – True Kelley – Presented as a child’s class report on the artist. This is a fun read for older kids to read to themselves, with lots of little cartoons and irreverent humor.

Cut Out Fun With Matisse – Prestel books – A nice way to introduce little kids to Matisse, this includes paper and directions for kids to make their own cut outs.

Can You Spot The Leopard? – Prestel books – A library find with some wonderful photos of tribal masks. This was a great, comprehensive read about African tribal masks.


The above book is a camp staple. no matter what the camp’s theme, no matter what the age group of the kids, there will be something suitable and desirable to read in this book. Dorling Kindersley, you have my heart.


I have to include the above book, because it is just so beautifully written. It is the perfect book to read at the beginning of a class with different age groups, and it’s message is delivered in a lovely way. This is a great book to use for teaching kids about how to be good friends, and look out for each other.

Here is the link for the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. And apparently The Baltimore Museum of Art has a large collection of Matisse pantings (and is a lot closer!).

And finally, there are a LOT of videos of Picasso drawing, on the web (not all of them child appropriate, might I add!). This is one that I particularly liked for the kids.

Happy exploring, and let me know about other great resources out there that I have overlooked!

What Happened at camp – Week 5

Stop giving me that look. I know, I know, I should have written this post straight after the last week of camp, when all my memories and muscle aches from camp were fresh and raw. But I decided to take a day off for some rest and recuperation, and er, it turned into five days. What happened during those lost five days? Well that’s a story for a different post (see how I keep you hanging on?); I like to keep things in chronological order blog-wise so lets crack on and talk about that final week of camp.

Week five was significantly different from the other weeks of camp in three ways. 
1. It was siblings week, so we had more little kids than usual (awww), and employed a buddy system in class.
2. It was the last week of summer vacation, and the kids seemed worn out.
3. I finally broke down and started drinking coffee. The kids from week five got a slightly more manic, hyper version of me (if you can imagine that). There were a few recess incidents where I tried out crazy skateboarding /jump rope/ free running stunts and landed on my arse. I still hurt, but it was fun.

I’m well aware of how little recess kids get once they go back to school, so I eased up a lot on indoor time on the week before school started and the camp was loose and floppy. Our topic was Picasso v Matisse, or rather Pigasso v Mootise, based on a sweet and funny kids book about the two artist frenemies. We made paper mache masks after looking at African tribal masks, and discussing Picasso’s interest in tribal art. We collaborated on large paper cut-out compositions inspired by Matisse’s cut outs, and we dabbled in a little contour drawing, and drawing on glass.


I set up a Play-Doh table for the little kids, and everyone got obsessed with it! I realized that the big kids loved story time as much as the little kids, so we read a lot of stories. Also, we built teepees, went on walks, had high jump and limbo contests, and on the last day of camp, we wore costumes, ate pizza, and had a very chaotic fortune telling session. The kids made me a banner and there were moments during the group hug that followed, that I almost forgot about the black paint bottle that had exploded onto the carpet earlier on!  We lay on picnic blankets, played with balloons and drew on mirrors. The kids sort of ran this camp!  It was a pretty amazing end to the summer. Good luck at school, campers, I miss you already!

*Resource list for camp to follow in next post!