Lettering Like Niki



A few weeks ago, I went to see the exhibit on Niki de Saint Phalle: Mythical California at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.


One of the K teachers saw an IG post about my visit and the second Saturday class I took at the center that was about lettering. She asked me if I would do letter embellishing with her students. I agreed.

The classroom teacher printed the student’s names in large block letters. We talked about many different ways you can embellish letters and how Niki de St. Phalle decorated many letters in her journals. We looked at letter like Niki as well as other decorative lettering and then the students embellished their names in marker.

I think they are so creative and fun. I can hardly believe they are just kinders.




Martina Nehrling



For as long as I have been teaching art, I have been going to art shows, gallery openings, and museums as well as taking classes.  I think that if I want my students to be life long learners, I need to be one myself.


I love to look at gallery sites and find things that might inspire me or my students to create something fun. That is how I found this artist.


I came across an article about Martina Nehberg on the Markel Fine Arts blog.  Her art is colorful and fun and my students loved seeing her work and the pictures of her studio especially when it included her dogs.


We used scraps from our box of colorful paper strips. It was a great lesson for my 1-2 combo class to practice cutting and gluing skills while creating amazing works of art.


Voluminous Art


rob sidnerThe Mingei in Balboa Park often holds educator’s preview nights. These happen before the show opens to the public and usually the curator of the exhibition speaks.


The newest exhibition which opened today is a really cool exhibit that brought in books from the collections of our local Universities: UCSD, SDSU, and USD. It is really an eclectic collection of beautiful books.


The curator for the exhibition is Rob Sidner. Rob is the Executive Director and CEO of the Mingei and an absolute treasure trove of knowledge. His passion for what he does is so evident when he speaks.  This evening for educators was no exception.


He talked about how they decided to bring the books to the Mingei and said that the privilege of a curator is they often get to choose what they like. He talked about how he spent an entire afternoon with the Nuremburg Chronicle, because well, he just had to.

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The books on display span from the 1200’s with a spelling book, a 1400’s Geometry book by Euclid of Alexandria,  to modern art books such as Directions of the Road and Hanging Laundry.

There are also classics like Moby Dick and Leaves of Grass as well as The 500 hats of Batholomew Cubbins including an illustration by Theodore Geissel.

500 hats

Perhaps my personal favorite was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham with an intro by AA Milne and illustrations by Arthur Rackham. A treasure to have that trio contributing in one book! My father read it to me as a little girl complete with different voices for each character so it holds a special place in my heart.

wind in the willows

If you get a chance, go and see this exhibition and then try to make your own book at home as we teachers did after the preview. Rod says they will be turning pages once a month on many of these books so you might want to go monthly until it closes on September 3, 2018.

Monster Parade




The kindergarten students at one of my schools does an entire unit on Monsters.


For this lesson, I drew a bunch of monsters and then had a list of eyes, noses, face shapes, hairstyles, etc on the board.


The students could create their own monster portrait or copy one that they liked. The classroom teacher took it to a whole other level and had them write about them and do more portraits.


They did this in oil pastel.


Their classroom teacher took my white board scribbles and made her own monster parts menu and then the students drew more monsters and wrote information about them. So much fun to link art room and classroom lessons!

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Ordinary ‘Ohana, Art=Opportunity



There is a professor at CSU San Marcos named Merryl Goldberg who started a program called Arts=Opportunity a couple of years ago. I’ve crossed paths with her a few times and have the book she wrote called Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter through the Arts in Multicultural Settings.

art book

It is a good book that gives many examples of how the arts can cross over just about any area of the curriculum. The book  discusses so many of the things I have seen as an art educator that of course, I really enjoyed it. She has examples listed as well as lesson ideas. A couple of the stories that I resonated with were when a teacher had the students draw a cell and write about it. That process helped bridged a language gap for a student. Another teacher had a guest puppeteer come in and help her students make president puppets which opened up a whole new dialogue about history in a social studies class. Another teacher used poetry to help students remember scientific names better. There are many examples and ideas.

ordinary ohana

My most recent interaction with Merryl happened on February 13 when Arts=Opportunity partnered with The New Children’s Museum to have Martha Barnette from KPBS: A Way with Words interview author Lee Cataluna and artist Cheyne Gallarde about their book Ordinary ‘Ohana.

lee martha cheyne

It was a wonderful interview and great to hear about the process they each went through to get to the point where they worked together on the book. They also talked about their own creatives processes and shared stories about their own families.


They also shared about their education and what teachers influenced them the most. Lee spoke about her time as a High School Creative Writing Teacher and told about how her grandmother who had a very difficult life and was only able to finish the 8th grade wrote a story for her when she was born. Cheyne shared how as a 5 year old, he would draw Saturday morning cartoon characters complete with the lines drawn after a character that show movement. At the end, he drew a member of the audience and talked about how “easy” it is to draw. They both stayed much later than 6 p.m. for questions and book signing. I picked up two copies of the book, had them both signed and gave one to the DSES librarian for inclusion in our school library.





Another lesson with Sonia Delaunay



I had an opportunity to see some of Delaunay’s work both in Paris and in Bilbao. I love her bright colors and simple geometric shapes. Students looked at Delaunay’s art and textiles in a PowerPoint and they created these images in tempera paint.


I had the students look at her work and we discussed the way color and shape interact.


We also discussed her work as a textile designer and how she and her husband Robert were the initiators of the Orphism or Orphic Cubist Art movement.


They could copy elements of her work or create their own version.


Year of the Dog Grade 2



I always like to teach my students about other cultures and celebrations. I think learning about other cultures helps us to create better relationships and allows us to understand others better.


At my school, we have a yearly Heritage Night and last year, we had a great Chinese New Year celebration. This year, is the Year of the Dog.


I showed the students images of dogs and we talked about how all breeds look pretty similar with their snout, their eyes and their nose. We also talked about their differences-coat textures, colors, size, and breed.61173484.jpg

I showed students how to make a basic dog face and then left them to create their own dog their own way. Amazing what they came up with!


After School Art


Students and families have been asking me for a couple of years to bring back after school art. This year with permission of and encouragement from our new principal as well as our PTA and Foundation, I agreed. It has been really fun to allow the students to spend time in the art room and use my personal materials such as watercolor pencils, pencils in different hardnesses, textiles, beads, and even my treasured gelato oil pastels to create fun art pieces.

wc pencil

Watercolor Pencils

The class is very loosely structured. I give them project ideas, teach them how to use the tools and elements of art and off they go. It is not necessarily a step by step drawing or painting type of class but we have done a bit of that. The students choose what they want to learn about and we create things they are interested in.

We made beaded bracelets and kumihimo weaving. bead-bracelets.jpg

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One boy wanted to know how to draw things more realistically so I taught him the basics of gridding as well as creating and using a viewfinder.gridding

We created marionette puppets similar to the one I made at the Basil Twist workshop I attended last fall. They also made stick puppets.

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We made CD spinners and talked about color and pattern and what would happen when the patterns and colors spun together.

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We made LED Origami balloons and talked about positive and negative connections as well as how folding and following directions in origami can be hard sometimes.

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We talked about shadow and highlight and they create a picture of oranges. We also talked about and created gesture drawings of people.


They made their own sketchbooks

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They created sculptures using chenille stems, cardboard, buttons, feathers, and washi tape.


Most recently, students looked at Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. We talked about how it was made, what it represented, how the artist used color and how could we deconstruct it to reconstruct it using the art tools of our own choice.

the wave

The last 6 weeks have been a lot of fun having an open art forum and allowing students to play with art materials and be creative while learning. My favorite part is how my students are able to look at something, discuss it, figure out how it was made and then they create their own version.




I have a wonderful opportunity to teach weekly art to a group of students. These ponds were done at the request of a teacher to go with their grade levels pond unit.

These students get art with me for about 30 minutes each week. I started by telling the kindergartners about Monet and his water lily paintings. They created theirs using oil pastel and water soluble markers which they painted with water.


The next week, we made the green backgrounds. We talked about texture. I gave them green, yellow, and blue paint, forks, and my infamous paint daubers (sponges clipped to a clothespin).

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The week after that, they cut the ponds into a “pond shape” and glued them on the background and added cattails and dragonflies.

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The last week, we added butterflies and frogs. I think they came out just stunning and will be great for their open house celebration.



The Grade Three team shared their curriculum map with me which makes my job oh so easy! I knew whales would be part of their curriculum for November and December.


I found some beautiful images on Etsy that I loved. Enormous whales, a lot of ocean and tiny ships or boats. The work is by Rachel Blyer of the Colorful Cat Studio. Her work is done in watercolor.


For this lesson, I had my students create these in a mixed media format. We did these in just under an hour.

They started by drawing the image of their boat and sky. Then they did some scrubby paint with a cardboard scrap and some “ocean” colors which I tossed in some blue glitter glue for fun. They used pre-painted gray paper for the whales. I put out lots of images of whales for them to use as reference. I think they came out pretty amazing.