Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Castle stories

Knights, princesses and dragons - it doesn't matter how old you are, castle playing is always fun. Our wooden castle has seen several jousts, medieval quests and rescues. Many a dragon has been spotted flying overhead or sneakily lurking around the turrets. The king and queen have told their stories and been entertained in turn. The valiant knights have shown remarkable chivalry. Horses have galloped through the drawbridge, just before it has been pulled up. Occasionally a lego figure or a zoo animal finds its way along the musty corridors, and the knights merely nod in passing.

One of our favourite knight stories is "Small Knight and George" by Ronda Armitage. Small Knight is told by his dad:

that it is time for Small Knight to have his first suit of armour and his first horse and his first shield and his first sword and to go out to fight his first fierce dragon.

But Small Knight doesn't even know what a dragon looks like, let alone how to fight one. Small Knight didn't feel big and brave; he felt little and frightened.

On his journey he meets several people who answer his request for a fierce dragon sighting with the same phrase - "Don't talk to me about fierce dragons ... are you sure you want to fight a very fierce dragon?"

Of course, our small hero's confidence wanes with every negative conversation. Finally he meets a small displaced creature whose home has been taken over by fierce dragons. Together they turn back home to the castle, to be met by frightened shrieks. Can you guess why?

Lots to love about this book - fabulous repetitive phrases, encouraging story of feeling brave and facing your fear and detailed pictures of castle life by Arthur Robins.

It doesn't matter how many stories of brave knights or fierce dragons you have heard - kids are very good at imagining their own tales of quests and adventures!

"Come over to play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dreaming BIG

Our family nest of five is flying haphazardly through February - new routines for school, kinder and work. There is a little bit of nudging, shoving, pecking, some very excited flapping and singing, and yet quite a bit of soothing ruffled feathers, as everyone adjusts to their new rhythm.

We did manage to find time in the last week of the school holidays to make our family collage - inspired by BIG.

BIG is a brand new magazine, coming out later this year. It's about art and creativity and kids - three of my favourite things! The bird gallery there looks amazing - it's very inspiring to see the creative work of kids presented beautifully next to an artist's interpretation of the same theme. Tom, Annalise and I spent two afternoons crafting our birds and their nest, and they feel very proud that their work is featured on the BIG blog.

There's still time for kids to draw, paint, sculpt or write about the theme of birds - any photos sent in by Monday February 14th will be posted on Jo and Lilly's BIG blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seven steps to create your own art gallery

Your own art gallery might sound ambitious but with a few children, twenty minutes before dinner, a couple of hot weather days (or rainy days), you will be charging admission prices before you know it!

1. Visit a gallery
During the school holidays, we visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art. We were all impressed by an exhibition called Freehand: Recent Australian Drawing.

2. Clear the walls
 Then we came home to our empty pinboard, emptied of school and kinder artwork, of Christmas cards and homemade decorations. Can you guess what happened?

 3. Find small pockets of time

Our drawing wall evolved day by day. Fifteen minutes here to fill in the grumpy time before dinner. Half an hour after lunch to settle us down. An hour on a hot day with books and paints and pens spread all over the table. Five minutes to quickly catch an idea. One evening I laid out paper and pens on the table, ready to start drawing before breakfast the next day. Sometimes I sat down with Tom and Annalise and drew with them, other times I left them to it.

4. Limit your materials - less is best!

To make it look more cohesive, we stuck to brown artist pens with cream, white or brown paper. We did add watercolour paints for some experimenting towards the end. We imitated Heide and used dressmaking pins to tack our art to the wall. I pinned our pictures to the wall every day, so we could admire our growing gallery.

5. Turn to books for inspiration

One of the most useful books we turned to was the 'Usborne art book - Big book of things to draw'. The suggestion for doodling was wonderful. I laid out a huge piece of paper from a cheap roll, splattered paint all over it, painted a few shapes, lines and squiggles and then we spent three rainy days on and off drawing around the table. I had forgotten how relaxing it is to NOT have an agenda, to NOT do something for the sake of being productive. It's so relaxing - you just sit and draw whatever you feel like. And the splodges and splatters do invite you to be more imaginative, more inventive, more creative.

We also followed the Usborne book for drawing city buildings and painting them with watercolour, and Annalise really enjoyed looking at Stephen Michael King's 'Leaf' and splashing green paint over her figures.

6. Themes are fun
Sometimes one of us would suggest a theme - animals, weather etc. I was inspired by Jean at Artful Parent and drew lots of different frames to fill in. (Jean has some amazing art ideas!)

7. Enjoy the gallery!
Once you have filled your wall, it is time for the launch - yes, with a glass of wine and a cheese platter! If you are lucky you may find a local artist to talk you through their work...

"Come over to play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up."