Saturday, November 7, 2015

Painting with Natural Ingredients and Brushes

Five weeks ago I began teaching a series of private art classes to a small group of girls in Scarsdale, NY. Our theme was Native Americans and each art class was inspired by the Native American Culture. Today we made dyes and brushes using natural ingredients and materials. The Native Americans were innovative and worked with the materials they found in their environment. If they wanted to paint with a brush or dye cloth they had to make the brushes and dye. Today we went back in time and used similar methods to make our own natural paint brushes and dyes. I wish that the dyes had been stronger so that the girl's paintings were more vibrant, but realize that the process is often more important than the end result. 

These natural materials were used to make brushes. The girls gathered the feathers and leaves by the stem and used masking tape to secure them to the stick.

This is one of the brushes we made using leaves.

We put strawberries in a strainer and mashed them with our fists to extract strawberry juice. A bowl beneath the strainer collected all the pink liquid from the strawberries.

Beets and stems were placed in a bowl with hot water to create a pink natural dye.

Earth mixed with hot water create brown dye.

Onion skins mixed with hot water create a peach colored dye. The skins should sit in the hot water for a long time to achieve a strong color.

Beets create a strong pink color very quickly.

We used lots of big and little clear glass bowls. All the children had fun making their own set of dyes. The large bowl furthest away is tea in hot water. The large mixing bowl a little closer to us to the left are onion skins in hot water. The large mixing bowl to he right is pink strawberry dye. The two small bowls closest to us are beets (L) and earth (R). 

Although the dyes were very weak the children had fun using them with their home made paint brushes. We later switched to conventional brushes to see if there was a difference. The children liked using both brushes.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Weaving on Handmade Looms

Native Americans are master weavers and well known for their beautiful woven rugs and blankets. They wove on upright looms using cotton then later wool. The weaver sat on the ground in front of the loom. Not only did Native Americans weave for practical purposes but it was also a form of artistic expression as well. 

Today weaving is done on a loom and is dressed with a warp (strings that are vertical). Depending on the type of fabric or motif desired a warp can be very complicated.  Weavers have to plan carefully before they put the warp on the loom so that the design they are trying to achieve can be produced. The filling yarn (the yarn that goes across the warp) interlaces with the warp and creates fabric. 

I took a weaving course at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for a semester. It gave me a strong appreciation for woven fabrics. I experienced putting warp yarns on a loom and using fill yarn to make a piece of cloth. It is a long process and very difficult. I like to incorporate weaving into my art curriculum because I believe it is an art form children should be familiar with. In addition, weaving is great for fine motor skills, understanding over and under and alternating. In order for the material to stay in place the yarns need to interlace. The interlacing locks the yarns into place. If all the yarns are woven without interlacing they will fall out of the warp. 

I like using a variety of materials for the filling because it creates texture and looks interesting. I generally use recycled materials for the filling. I made the looms using sticks I found near my home. I notched the bottom piece of wood so it would cradle the stick laying on top. Hot glue holds the sticks together. I also wrapped a Pipe Cleaner around each corner to insure that the loom is sturdy.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Art Birthday Parties

I am excited to announce that I am available to lead an art activity at your child's next birthday party. Together we can customize an age appropriate art activity that will engage your child and their friends. Every child will leave with a completed project. My 90 minute rate includes art materials for up to 12 guests. Please contact me if you are interested in information regarding my rate and availability. 

Using Symbols in Art

"Me swimming in a river", age 5
Today, people communicate regularly through a variety of mediums. Sharing stories and ideas with each other has become easier and more sophisticated over time. In the past, expressing emotions, feelings and ideas was a lot simpler. 
"A rainbow with a cloud and rain with my friends", age 6
Native Americans used symbols to document their lives. Basic images and geometric shapes were used to tell a story. I showed the girls in my private small group art class a few symbols on a the sheet of paper below that I thought were easy to decipher. The girls identified them with me. Then I told them to draw me a story using the symbols we learned or create their own symbols. Their drawings incorporate some or all of the symbols we reviewed together. I was not sure how the pictures would turn out. I was happy to see how nicely they used symbols and the joyfulness in their pictures. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


This week our exploration of Native Americans continues at the private small group art class I am teaching in Scarsdale, NY. The artifacts I display at each class - pouch, moccasins, and necklace - all feature intricate beading with brightly colored beads. They are real life examples of objects that the Native Americans used in their everyday life. The artifacts also highlight how important beading was to the Native Americans as well as how good they were at beading. Native Americans used a variety of materials for beads like: shells, coral, wood, stones, metal and animal bones, and teeth. Beads played an important role in the Native American culture. For example, they were used during ceremonies, to mark milestones like a wedding and for currency.

Natural wooden beads and shells were used for this beading project. Pipe Cleaners replaced cord because thy are easier to push through the bead's small holes. Pipe Cleaners also can be made longer by attaching an additional Pipe Cleaner as well as easily twist close. Native Americans used shells as beads and possibly collected them nearby along the Bronx River. To give the girls a more authentic experience I told them to imagine they were a Native American girl who had to find shells on the Bronx River. (Prior to the start of class I had scattered a few shells outside so the girls could collect them.) Instead of going to the Bronx River I led the girls outside to search for shells. Everyone found a few shells and brought them back to the work table. Once the girls were settled in their seats I gave out a handful of the wooden beads for the girls to color with markers. 

I observed some girls using more than one color marker on a bead. I also noticed that they were coloring the natural shells. I would have preferred they kept the shells natural but this was their project and it is important to support children's creative decisions. The girls spent the entire class time beading. A few made two projects - a necklace and a bracelet. A steady stream of chatter persisted throughout the class. The girls had fun talking about their beads and shells. I sent everyone home with a quart size bag filled with extra beads, shells and Pipe Cleaners.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pinch and Coil Pots

This fall I am teaching art to a small group of young girls who range in age from 5 to 6 years old in a private home in Scarsdale, NY. Our theme for the 5 week art course is Native Americans and the art projects are inspired by the Native American culture. The classes will introduce the children to a variety of art mediums and techniques while also giving them information about Native Americans and how they lived.

At our first class I asked the girls what they knew about Native Americans. They knew that Native Americans lived here a long time ago and were the first people to live in this area. They knew that they lived in tents (tepees) and houses (Long houses) and could name some of the materials Native Americans used to build these structures. I brought artifacts - moccasins, a leather pouch, and a beaded necklace - for the girls to examine. I also brought books with me so I could show the girls pictures. The books were also used to help me introduce our art project. This week we made pinch pots and coil pots using clay. 

Native Americans initially used pottery for practical purposes. They covered woven baskets with mud clay and hardened the mud over an open fire. They used pottery to hold water, grain and seeds. Early types of pottery were pinch and coil pots. For practical purposes our clay came from a store and I used Crayola's Air Dry Clay in white. The clay was soft and had a nice plasticity. The girls began by wedging the clay. The children kneaded the clay with their whole hand. By wedging the clay the children are evenly distributing moisture, eliminating hard spots, and forcing out air bubbles. This process also makes the clay easy to work with. Once the clay was wedged the girls made a ball out of the clay by rolling the clay between the palms of their hands or by rolling the clay on the surface of the table with their palm. I showed them how to hold the ball of clay in their helping hand while they stuck the thumb on their opposite hand into the center of the ball. Then the girls gently pressed their thumb around the center to widen the opening. As the girls worked I saw pinch pots of various sizes and shapes forming. They all had a bowl! Next I told them to turn the pinch pot back into a ball so we could make our coil pots. Once the balls were formed they made a slab by pushing down on the ball of clay with the palm of their hand. 
To make the slab into round bases the girls used round tops from canning jars. The children made coils by rolling the clay on the surface of the table with their hands. I showed the girls how to score using a clay tool and emphasized how important it is to score both sides of the pieces of clay they are joining together otherwise the pieces may not stick together when the clay dries. Slip is made up of water and clay. Slip is used to moisten and smooth clay but can also be a good binder between two pieces of clay that are being joined together. I instructed the girls to add slip where they are joining their first coil to the slab and the coils to each other. The pictures above show the final results of our coil pot class. One little girl made a tiny spiral coil and attached it to the larger single coils. This active and outgoing group of girls all know each other from their neighborhood and school. This gathering was as much a social time as a learning time. 

I incorporate art terms often when I teach so that my students not only gain hands on skills but language skills as well.

Clay Vocabulary:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sewing 101

Several summers ago a very self-assured boy in my summer art class took some felt squares that were not being used and bounded over to me to ask for a needle and thread. I asked him what he needed the needle and thread for and he said he was going to make a pillow. I happened to have thread and a sewing needle on hand so I gave them to him.  He started a sewing craze that summer and it hasn't let up since. Every summer my students spend several days if not weeks sewing. Students enjoy making pillows but have branched out to other things as well. I teach the children how to thread needles and use different types of stitches like the running stitch or the loop stitch. Pillows require little instruction. Animals like this lamb are a little more complicated. I suggest that the lamb be drawn out first on a piece of paper then used as a pattern. I also suggest that the fabric be doubled so the student only has to cut once and there are two pieces of everything (lamb body and legs) that match perfectly. Cutting fabric can be hard for some children and may require adult help. Threading needles is an art and I try to encourage students to thread their own needles. Making a knot at the end of a threaded needle is also something students need to know how to do. I also teach students to stop sewing before they run out of thread because you need to have enough thread to make a knot before cutting it away from the fabric.

Many  of my students have never sewn before and I am thrilled to teach them basic sewing skills. I think sewing is an invaluable life skill. I hope my students remember me when they sew on a loose button or repair a torn piece of clothing as adults.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sun Prints

I look forward to teaching my students about Sun Print paper because it is a little science and a little art. You can achieve beautiful designs depending on the objects you use and how they are arranged on the paper. Sun Prints are pretty to look at on their own but can also be turned into other practical things like bookmarks, cards, and coasters. Sun Print paper can be found online (Blick Art Materials) but the other supplies you will need like the objects and a pan for the water can be found around the house or art studio. All artists feel successful after the process is complete so it is an enjoyable project. 

Sun Print paper is activated by the sun's rays. Objects from nature or man made that are placed on the paper create positive and negative space. Objects that are put on top of the paper block the rays from passing through that area of the paper. These objects create a positive space. The areas left open on the paper are where the sun's rays activate the paper and become the negative space. 

I begin by telling my students that Sun Print Paper is light sensitive and the sun's rays activate the paper. I show students samples of finished Sun Prints so they can be inspired by the variety of objects you can use and how they can be arranged on the paper. It also gives them an idea of the range of blues and whites that can be achieved. Before you give your students a piece of Sun Print paper make sure they have their objects and a design in mind. Students need to work quickly placing their objects on the paper once it is exposed to the sun. I find that the sun is so strong that exposing the paper to sunlight for a minute is usually sufficient.  Or, you know its time to remove the paper from the sun when you watch it go from a medium blue to a pale blue. Once the paper has been exposed to the sunlight it needs to be put into a cool water bath for a minute. The water stops the activation process and reverses the colors (initially the positive space is dark blue and the negative space is pale blue). After a minute take the Sun Prints out of the water and hang them up to dry. I notice that after the water bath the colors continue to lighten and darken. 

If your Sun Print looks washed out and there is no definition between your object and the paper it has probably been over exposed to the sun. Next time make sure you watch the paper and the time. Don't let the paper go past the pale blue stage.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Designing Furniture

"What are we doing today?" my students ask me as they come into the art studio. I tell them they are going to be furniture designers. After they get settled in their seats I give them each a piece of white card stock. I instruct the kids to place their paper in front of them in the landscape position (horizontally), then carefully fold their paper into a trifold (making each fold as even as possible). Open up the trifold. Next, still holding the paper in a horizontal position, make a hot dog fold (fold bottom to top). Open up the paper again. There should be six boxes in total (three on the top and three on the bottom). Have your scissors ready to make two small cuts next. Cut along the fold separating the top right box from the bottom right box, but stop before you get to the middle boxes. Cut along the fold separating the top left box from the bottom left box, but stop before you get to the middle boxes. 

  • The bottom left and right boxes are the legs of the chair. Fold down. 
  • The bottom middle box is the seat of the chair. 
  • The top left and right boxes are the arms of the chair. Fold forward.
  • The top middle box is the back of the chair. 

I put a piece of tape to connect the arms and the legs of the chair on both sides so the chair is more stable. I also make feet on the legs of my chair by folding the bottom of the paper into an L position. This will also help make the chair stay upright.

Finally, the fun begins! Decorate your chair using anything and everything you have in your art studio. I put out markers, feathers, fabric, glitter, colored tape, duct tape, colored tissue paper, and colored foam shapes. 

I demonstrate and assist my students throughout the folding and cutting process. However, the designing process I encourage my students to work independently. I see their personalities shining through in their chair designs. This project is good for older children who like to make things and have a finished project to bring home.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Saatchi Art Online

Saatchi Art is a quickly growing online community of artists and collectors. Saatchi Art provides a platform for artists to showcase and sell their artwork and helps make connections between artists and collectors from all over the world.

View my profile on Saatchi Art and see my original collages at the link above. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Love this Idea!

I like to use repurposed materials in my art classes. Often these materials are accessible and inexpensive. Over the past few years I have used clean garbage to make musical instruments, dried beans to make mosaics and this year pieces of discarded crayons were used to make these charming heart shaped crayons. 

Last summer I had an enormous amount of old crayons that needed to be repurposed. My students had fun experimenting with melting crayons. They each selected around 20 crayons and hot glued gunned them to a cotton canvas board. The crayon colors varied from person to person. One student chose all blues, another rainbow colors and still another chose earth tones. All the students had fun manipulating the melting crayon with a hair dryer. The results were fantastic. This summer I expanded their experimentation with melting crayons by adding a crayon made from a heart shape mold and by drawing with a crayon on top of a hot plate. Traditionally a hot plate is used to keep food warm. In this experiment put a piece of drawing paper on the surface of the hot plate then press down on a crayon as it moves around the paper. The heat of the hot plate (no hotter than a heating pad) makes the crayon glide across the paper. The results can vary depending on the user but I observed that the crayon looks like paint. 
Crayon drawing using a hot plate
One girl exclaimed that it looked like "liquid." Remember to always take precautions when using a hot plate with children. Safety is important and students should be aware that this is a hot surface.

The crayon hearts are easy to make. You will need a Silicone heart shaped mold or a mini-muffin tin. Take little bits of old crayon that are no longer useful and put them into the mold. Fill the mold shape up for desired thickness. The more crayon you add the thicker the heart. Use a variety of colored crayon bits. Put the Silicone mold or mini-muffin tin in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The crayons can go in the freezer if you would like to speed up the hardening time. When the crayon has become completely hard you can remove them from the mold. I think you will be surprised by all the fun you will have with your new heart crayon. As you crayon the colors change depending on how many colors you put in the mold. The color variations are endless! I learned how to make the heart shaped crayon from a teacher at the preschool where I work during the school year. She was kind enough to share these instructions with me. 

The three different types of melting crayon activities described above work well together. All of the them involve melting crayons using different methods - hot plate, oven and hair dryer - and the final results are all unique. It might be interesting to ask your students before they start each activity what they think will happen to the crayon and record their responses. Then after they have completed each activity ask them what they observed. Compare their before and after remarks.

Dream On

I like to start my first summer art class with a project that is engaging and unique. Last summer it was mosaics, the year before that musical instruments made out of clean garbage and the year before that was gluey string bowls. This year was no different and I was searching for an idea that was special. A former student of mine who is in the 5th grade suggested Dreamcatchers. Native Americans have used Dreamcatchers since ancient times. They believed that the Dreamcatcher kept bad dreams away and gave the sleeper a good night sleep. The Dreamcatcher is hung above the bed and the bad dreams get caught in the web like design around the hoop and the good dreams went through the hole in the center and slide down the feathers. In the Native American culture the Dreamcatcher's circular shape symbolizes unity and strength. 

I knew this project would not be easy for my Middle School aged students so I broke it down into two main components. On the first day the students used hemp cord (any color they liked) to cover the wire hoop I gave them. They held down the hemp on the wire hoop with one hand while their other hand wound the cord tightly around and around until the wire was completely covered. On the second day they began creating the web like design using a simple stitching process using yarn that they looped around the hemp covered wire. Before each class I showed my students a how-to video on my computer so they could see the technique we would be using next. I also taught and retaught the process as needed. This is a fun project but good fine motor skills and patience is required. I think the results are spectacular. Each completed Dreamcatcher is unique and even the ones that have some irregularities (in the stitching) have a lot of personality. 

Learn how to make your own dreamcatcher at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Donation to LIFT

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) was launched in 1996 in New York City to provide on-the-spot help and legal information for vulnerable families struggling to make their way through the complex Family Court system. Before LIFT, there was no source of information or guidance available. Today, LIFT operates innovative, award-winning programs in the Family Courts and in the community, which promote positive outcomes for families and children.

I am happy to be able to support LIFT and the work they do in the Family Courts with a donation of one of my original collages, which will be auctioned at LIFT's annual benefit on June 23rd. 

To learn more about LIFT and their annual benefit please go to their website:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

dk's collages at beautylounge

Three of my original collages are now for sale at beautylounge in Summit, NJ. 
beautylounge is a unique lifestyle boutique located in the heart of downtown Summit, NJ, just 20 minutes from New York City.

Selling my collages at beautylounge is a wonderful opportunity and I am excited about sharing my artwork with a new community. I know that my colorful, graphic, and nature inspired collages will be a great fit at beautylounge. Additional collages from my collage gallery can also be purchased framed or unframed upon request.

beautylounge opened in 2006 and has been thriving in Summit. The lounge has an eclectic mix of products that includes: both fine and costume jewelry, personal fragrance, home fragrance, body care, apparel, coffee table books, art, and decorative antiques and vintage furniture. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eight Years Ago...

Eight years ago I began the journey to become a teacher. I remember calling my local Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to find out what I needed to do to become a teacher. How naive I was! I thought with all my prior work experience and an undergraduate degree I could begin teaching in a school right away. Little did I know that the path to teaching is a very rigorous process that takes lots of study, dedication and passion. Those that do get through the schooling, student teaching and then are lucky enough to find a job teaching are to be commended. Upon graduating from an accredited graduate teaching program it is almost automatic that you get an Initial Certification to teach from New York State Education Department. After teaching full time for three years in a private or public school and meeting several other requirements you may qualify for a Professional Certification. A Professional Certification is a permanent teaching license which permits a person to teach in the state of New York. 

At the end of 2014 I was granted Professional Certifications in Early Childhood (birth - grade 2), Childhood (grades 1 -6) and Visual Arts K - 12. Having my Professional Certifications is something I am very proud of attaining. It is a significant achievement that took a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. Holding the actual certificates for the first time I felt like Rocky when he ran to the top of the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and pumped his arms in the air in triumph.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Exhibiting in 2014

Blue Mountain Gallery 2nd Juried Exhibition
Opening Reception on January 8, 2015 
I have always been drawn to art. As a child I was exposed to art and different art mediums. I visited museums, took art classes and created art at home. In my late teens I began collaging with my sister, while she was recovering from an operation. After she got better, I continued collaging. I collaged on and off for 20 years. 

When I moved to Westchester eight years ago everything changed for me. My new home is in one of the prettiest villages in Westchester. Every day I marvel at the natural beauty all around me. I never tire of my new surroundings and it inspires me creatively. I began to collage regularly and it became a vital part of my life. 

Then I decided an important next step was to begin sharing my collages, which I had never done before. I arranged to have my first solo exhibit in a small gallery space in Bronxville. I created an online presence by starting a blog, where I write about teaching art and my experiences in the art world. I sell my collages in an online shop on EtsyOver a short period of time my collages were being exhibited in bigger and more well known galleries. 

This past year I submitted collages to two juried exhibitions and they were accepted by both exhibitions. It is an honor and validating to be recognized by professionals in the art community. I plan on continuing to explore new ways that I can share my collages with the public, and I feel excited and hopeful about what the new year will bring.