Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Watercolor painting with Salt


Want to make beautiful stars in your night sky painting or add a special sparkle to your painting of a dress?  It is so easy with these three materials:

– Water
– Watercolor paints
– Table salt

First make a painting of your choice – using deep dark colors for night skies or vivid colors for other subject matter. This process works for any sort of painting, even abstract.

While the painting is still very wet, add a sprinkle or pinch of salt to the wet paint.


Let the painting dry throughly. Then rub off the salt with your fingers!


The background of this collage is an example of a watercolor/salt painting. The salt pushes the pigment away from the paper and adds a beautiful visual texture. Now go try your own!

Posted by Thomas James on 02/04/13 under children's art,IF Kids,Projects,Uncategorized
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three tantalizing totes

Block Printed Totes << Illustration Friday

Block Printed Totes << Illustration Friday

Block Printed Totes << Illustration Friday

I don’t think you can ever have too many canvas totes. Especially ones with fun, hand-done prints.

Mountain Canvas Tote by UrbanBirdandCo  |  Be Happy Tote by stolenmoments  |  Honey Bee Tote by SplitEndsDesigns


Posted by Thomas James on 01/23/13 under apparel / products,art for sale,Uncategorized
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Master Spotlight :: Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud drawn by Rama Hughes

Lucian Freud is considered by many to be the greatest figurative painter of our time. Figurative art represents things as they really look, not in an abstract or stylized way. One of Freud’s most famous paintings is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Lucian Freud was born in Germany. To escape Nazism though, the Freuds moved to England. In Britain, Lucian studied art at the Central School of Art and Cedric Morris’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. As a young artist, he was hired to illustrate a book of poems by Nicholas Baker. The drawings were included in his first solo exhibition a year later. He travelled to Greece and Ireland, but worked most of his live in London. There he was a member of a loose collection of artists that R.B. Kitaj named “The School of London.” They were notable for creating figurative painting when abstraction was most popular.

Freud’s early work were small expressionist paintings of people, plants, and animals. He also experimented with a more precise, more careful style. It’s most famous example was a series of large-eyed portraits that he did of his wife.<p>In the 1950’s though, the artist devoted himself to portraiture. He developed a much freer style using thicker paint and texture. Backgrounds and objects were grey or muted. When painting people though, he cleaned his brush between every stroke to keep the color rich and changing. Models often reclined on couches, beds, or floors. The poses reminded some people of Lucian’s grandfather, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Indeed, Lucian’s work became widely known for their “psychological penetration.” Freud expected his models to sit for him for the entirety of a painting. This demanded a long, uncertain amount of time. One painting for example took sixteen months to complete. The artist used this time to tell stories and get to know his subjects. He would draw his models’ heads to get to know them, continue to the rest of the painting, then return to paint the head again once he knew the model better. After sitting for a painting, art critic Martin Gayford praised the artist’s perceptiveness, “The final portrait reveals secrets – aging, ugliness, faults – that I imagine I am hiding from the world.”

“I paint people,” Freud described his own work, “Not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”<p>Freud was one of the best known British artists. He represented his country in exhibitions around the world and at home in the Tate Britain. He spent a year and half painting Queen Elizabeth II. The British media called the painting “a travesty” because of its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the monarch. Despite this controversy, his paintings continue to sell for millions of dollars and are prized by museums and private collectors.

Lucian Freud died in 2011.

Queen Elizabeth II  by Lucian Freud

I have to be careful when teaching Lucian Freud to my elementary school students. There is more to his life and his work than I could include in this biography. That said, I love to mention him before a portrait project. His work challenges young artists to be brave with their likenesses, to stay true to what they see. “I know you want it to look pretty,” I counseled a student the other day, “But every time you make a change the portrait looks less like the real person.” Instead of conforming to our ideas about beauty, Lucian Freud challenges students to see the beauty that is already there.

Portrait of Lucian Freud drawn by Rama Hughes from a photo by Stephan Agostini (AFP/GETTY). Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Lucian Freud.

Posted by Rama on 01/09/13 under artists,Uncategorized
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Master Spotlight :: Chuck Close

Chuck Close is a photorealist portrait painter. Photorealists work from photographs to create extremely realistic paintings. Chuck Close’s most famous paintings include “Frank” and “Big Self-Portrait.”

Charles Thomas Close was born in 1940. He suffered from face blindness, severe dyslexia, and a neuromuscular condition that prevented him from playing sports. He had very few friends, and he did poorly in school, but Chuck Close loved art.

His parents were supportive of Chuck’s creative interest. When he was 11 years old though, his father died and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Chuck got very sick himself and was stuck in bed for almost a year. Despite these tragedies, Chuck’s passion for art continued to grow. An exhibition of Jackson Pollack paintings inspired him to become a painter. Chuck earned degrees from the University of Washington and Yale’s Art and Architecture School.

Although he was inspired by abstraction, Close’s work changed dramatically at Yale. He experimented with new techniques throughout his career. “I threw away my brush,” The artist said, “I chose to do things I had no facility with. If you impose a limit to not do something you’ve done before, it will push you to where you’ve never gone before.” In this way, Close mastered a wide variety of materials including graphite, pastels, watercolor, finger painting, ink stamps, and printmaking. Using an original process that he described as “knitting,” the artist created large scale photographs and recreated them as massive photo-realistic paintings. His process blurred the line between painting and photography in a way that had never been seen before. His unusual application of color paved the way for the invention of the inkjet printer.

By the 1960s, Close’s enormous portraits were famous throughout New York. By the 1970s, he was recognized throughout at the world as one of America’s best contemporary artists.

In 1988 though, Close suffered an “event” that left him almost entirely paralyzed. He was confined to a wheelchair.
Despite these limitations, Close continued with his work. After physical therapy, he regained some use of his limbs. He taped brushes to his wrist and continued to paint. His style became more abstract and less precise, but even more compelling. He remains one of America’s greatest painters. His work is shown in museums and galleries around the world. It is met with rave reviews and expensive commissions including presidents Clinton and Obama. In 2000, he received the National Medal of Arts. In 2007, he was featured in a documentary, Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress. In 2010, he was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Chuck Close lives and works in New York.

I am a fan of Chuck Close. Pretty much everything he does is fascinating to me. But the first work I ever saw of his were a collection of his fingerprint portraits, enormous photo-real likenesses created with an ink pad and fingerprints. I was blown away. I kept walking towards the images and away from them trying to find that magic line where they became people.

As a teacher, I have grown to appreciate Chuck Close even more. His methods and experimentation as an artist make him a versatile subject in the classroom. His life story though, his perseverance, and his wisdom are a wonderful example for all children. And a reminder to me to be a better teacher. If this bio doesn’t prove it, consider THIS SHORT VIDEO. You will thank yourself for watching it.

Line drawing of Chuck Close by yours truly, Rama Hughes.

Posted by Rama on 12/09/12 under Uncategorized
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IF Kids :: Monoprinting with Beans

I love to cook, so my art is often inspired by what I find in the kitchen.  Monoprinting is a fun process with a bit of serendipity.  You think you know what the results will be, but there is always an element of surprise.  I used dried beans (kidney beans to be exact) to create this texture study, but dried pasta also works well.  Linguine makes lovely broken straight lines!

To get started you will need:
–   dried beans
–   cardboard (I used an old box.)
–   liquid glue (such as Elmer’s)
–   scissors
–   water-soluble printing ink (2-3)
–   printing brayer (2-3, or be prepared to wash and dry)
–   old plastic tray (2-3)
–   paper for printing
–   paper (brown paper, newspaper) to cover work table
–   apron

Let’s create!

1.   Prepare your work surface.
Cover your table with newspaper or brown paper to protect it.  This process is slightly messy, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution.  Don’t forget to put on your apron!

2.  Make your printing plate.
Cut out a piece of cardboard from an old box.  The size will be determined by the size of your printing paper.  Arrange your beans on the plate in a pattern of your choice.  Glue them into place.
3.   Ink your tray.
Squeeze a small amount of ink onto the center of the plastic tray.  Smooth out the ink with a brayer.  Don’t have too much fun squishing it around!  The ink dries quickly.
4.   Ink your printing plate.
Roll the ink across the surface of your printing plate.  Move your brayer in different directions to get the best coverage possible.
5.   Make your first print.
Center your paper over the printing plate and press into place.  Run your hands across the surface of the paper adding light pressure.  Once you’ve pressed the paper all across the printing plate, peel it back to see your first print.
6.   Make your second print.
Roll the second color across the surface of the plate while the ink on the plate is still wet.  This will allow the colors to mix slightly when you make the second print.  Remember to use a clean tray and brayer or the colors will mix too much.

Stick to an analogous color scheme unless you want to see how brown is made, then use a complementary color scheme such as red / green, blue / orange or purple / yellow.
If you don’t want any mixing to occur, wipe off the ink from the first print and allow the plate and print to dry before proceeding to make the second print.
7.   Clean up.
Place your art aside to dry.  Use warm, sudsy water to wash your tray and brayer.  Allow to air dry.  Recycle the newsprint.

Use your print as the base for a mixed media artwork or use it in a collage.  This project is suitable for ages 5 on up, though only adults should cut the cardboard base from a box.

Posted by Thomas James on 11/26/12 under IF Kids,Projects,Uncategorized
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IF Kids Project :: Illustrated Wish List

Here’s a fun project for Black Friday, birthdays, and holidays; try drawing your wishlist instead of writing it. Kids get to meditate on the things they really want. If it’s not worth drawing, it’s probably not worth having after all. Parents get a peek at what their children are craving. And Santa -ahem- gets a collectible hand-drawn record of it all.

All you have to do is scour the internet for pictures of things you might want. Draw those objects the best you can. Make notes about sizes, colors, styles, and details. Fit it all on one page if possible. Make a copy for grandma. Send the original to the North Pole?

Posted by Rama on 11/23/12 under IF Kids,Projects,Uncategorized
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Master Spotlight :: Charles & Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames were modern designers who made major contributions to architecture and furniture. They also created fine art, film, industrial and graphic design. Their work was characterized by its thoughtful simplicity. Their most famous work is the Eames chair.

Charles Eames, Jr. was the son of an architect. When he was 14, he worked part time at a steel company where he learned about engineering, drawing, and architecture. He studied architecture at Washington University, but left after two years because his views were “too modern” for the school and he was distracted from school work by his job at an architectural firm.

So, Charles started his own architecture business in St. Louis, Missouri. He was inspired by Eliel Saarinen, a Finnish architect, who invited Charles to continue his studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Charles soon became a teacher there and the head of the industrial design department.

Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser moved a lot when she was young. In New York City, she studied abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hoffman. She was a founder of the American Abstract Artists group, and one of her paintings is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

She met her husband, Charles, at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts. She prepared drawings and models for New York’s Museum of Modern Art “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition. Together with Eero Saarinen, Eliel’s son, the Eameses designed prize-winning furniture for the competition. Their chairs used the new technique of wood moulding which they soon adapted to our products including splints and stretchers for the U.S. Navy.

Ray and Charles moved to Los Angeles soon after they were married. As part of Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program, the Eameses designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study House #8. Built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the house was hand-built in just a few days using pre-made steel-parts. It remains a milestone of Modern architecture. Ray and Charles used it as their home and studio.

The Eameses continued their work in architecture and modern furniture design. They pioneered new design technologies like fiberglass and plastic resin and wire mesh. They made short films to experiment and to document their work. “Take your pleasures seriously,” They advised. Their hobbies often led to important or lucrative work. Powers of Ten, for example, was a documentary that zoomed – by powers of ten – from a family picnic to the edges of the universe. It is preserved by the National Film Registry for its “cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.” Because of their curiosity and communication skills, the Eameses were hired to create a number of educational exhibitions including Mathematica for IBM, the World of Franklin and Jefferson for the American Revolution Bicentennial, and Glimpses of the USA for the American National Exhibition in Moscow.

Charles Eames died on August 21, 1978. Ray died in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles. You can learn more about them at

As a teacher, I love how limitless the Eameses’ curiosity was. They explored everything from fine art to government filmmaking, and seemed to see no distinction between them. Their work is a wonderful example for students about the freedom and the power of art as investigation.

As a fan, my favorite piece by Charles and Ray is their home and studio, the Eames House. According to “Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect & The Painter,” the house was always in flux. Changing to suit the whims and needs of each day. I am powerfully inspired by that idea of a home as a work of art.

Portrait of the Eameses drawn by Rama Hughes.

Posted by Rama on 11/04/12 under artists,Uncategorized
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IF Kids Project :: Fruit or Vegetable Printing

A recent trip to our local apple orchard inspired this project.  Apples (and other fruits and vegetables) make great stamps for printing a pattern repeat for a mixed media project or even a small roll of gift paper.

To get started you will need:
–   an apple (pear, orange, onion)
–   cutting board
–   knife (used only by an adult)
–   water-soluble printing ink
–   printing brayer
–   old plastic tray
–   paper for printing
–   paper (brown paper, newspaper) to cover work table
–   apron

Let’s create!

1.   Prepare your work surface.
Cover your table with newspaper or brown paper to protect it.  This process is slightly messy, so always better to err on the side of caution.  Put on your apron.

2.   Select your fruit.
Select a fruit or vegetable with an interesting shape or texture when cut in half.  With a sharp knife and a cutting board, cut your selection in two pieces.  Use one half if only using one color or both halves for two colors.

3.   Ink your tray.
Remove the cutting board and knife.  Squeeze a small amount of ink onto the center of the plastic tray.  If you are using two colors, use two trays and brayers.  Smooth out the ink with a brayer.  Don’t have too much fun squishing it around!  The ink dries quickly.

4.   Print your pattern.
Determine your repeat.  Will you make rows?  What about a checkerboard look with two different colors?  Push the cut side into the ink and press it onto your paper.  Repeat until you have covered the entire surface of your paper.  If you run out of ink, reink your tray.  If you aren’t getting an even amount of ink on the surface of the fruit, roll ink across the flat surface with the brayer.

5.   Clean up.
Place your art aside to dry.  Use warm, sudsy water to wash your tray and brayer.  Allow to air dry.  Recycle the newsprint.

Frame your art.  Use it as background for a mixed media piece.  Wrap a present with it.

* * * This post is by IF Kids Guest Contributor Lindsay Obermeyer. Lindsay is an artist, designer and author with a passion for textiles, color and chocolate. She views her role as artist to be synonymous with that of an educator and as such has always included teaching as part of her art practice. She’s never sure who learns more, her or her students.  


Posted by Thomas James on 10/10/12 under IF Kids,Projects,Uncategorized
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Master Spotlight :: Walt Disney

Walt Disney was an American film maker, entrepreneur, and a pioneer of character animation. Instead of silly gags, his cartoons focused on story-telling and characters with whom people could connect on an emotional level. He and his collaborators created some of most famous characters in the world including Mickey Mouse.

Walter Elias Disney grew up on a farm in Missouri. A neighbor encouraged his love for drawing by hiring the young Disney to draw pictures of the local horse. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Kansas City where he took Saturday classes at the Kansas City Art Institute. The Disneys moved again when Walt was a teenager. He took night classes at the Chicago Art Institute and drew cartoons for the school newspaper.

After driving an ambulance in World War I, Walt returned to Kansas City to begin his career as an artist. His brother got him a job creating advertisements for newspapers, magazines, and movie theaters. He specialized in animated cut-out commercials. Walt enjoyed it so much that he borrowed a camera from work to experiment with cartooning at home. He taught himself cel animation and eventually started his own animation business.

Disney showed his first cartoons at a local movie theatre. His “Laugh-O-Grams” were so popular in Kansas City that he was able to buy his first studio. He hired a lot of animators including close friends and former coworkers. Disney didn’t manage his money very well but, with his brother’s help, he set up a second studio in Hollywood, California, the capital city of the movie industry. The Disney Brothers’ Studio made a successful series called Alice Comedies. It featured a live action girl with cartoon costars. The Disney Brothers were soon hired to create an all-animated series. The new cartoon, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – drawn and created by their friend Ubbe Iwerks – was an instant success. Disney hoped to get a pay raise for himself and his coworkers but, instead, the studio was offered a pay decrease. Disney refused the bad deal and lost the right to draw Oswald anymore.

So, Disney designed a new cartoon character based on his pet mouse. Iwerks reworked Disney’s sketches to make the drawings easier to animate. Their cartoon mouse, “Mortimer” was renamed “Mickey” by Disney’s wife. Mickey Mouse’s first two cartoons were silent and unsuccessful. Disney added sound to his third cartoon though. He even voiced the part of Mickey Mouse. With sound, Mickey’s third cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was a big hit. Mickey Mouse soon became the world’s most popular cartoon character. The Disney Studio followed the Mickey Mouse series with musical shorts called Silly Symphonies. They added sound and color to all their cartoons. The most famous one, The Three Little Pigs, included a song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” that became an anthem of the Great Depression.

With two successful cartoon series, Walt Disney made plans for a feature length animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Critics and friends thought the movie would ruin Disney, but the film received a standing ovation at its first screening. It went on to become the most successful picture of the year. Disney received one full sized Academy Award and seven miniature Oscars for the cartoon. It was the first animated feature film in America, and it launched the Golden Age of Animation.

Disney built a campus in Burbank for the Walt Disney Studios. The animators created cartoon shorts starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto; short films like The Wind and The Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; and classic animated films including Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, and Cinderella. During World War II, the studio was hired by the Army and Navy to animate instructional films and funny cartoons to boost morale. After the war, the studio was hired by NASA to create educational cartoons about the space program, the Moon, and Mars.

Disney conceived Disneyland as an extension of the animation studio, an amusement park where his employees could spend time with their children. He sketched the park for years before construction began. By then of course, the idea had grown very big. The park opened in 1955 with thousands of people in attendance. “To all who come to this happy place, welcome.” Disney said, ” Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

Disney continued to expand into other arenas. He hosted a weekly television series also called Disneyland, and he created a tv show called the MIckey Mouse Club. Walt Disney Studios went on to create live action films like Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mary Poppins. Disney was always present at story meetings, but he entrusted more and more of his animation work to key animators who he dubbed “The Nine Old Men.” Under his guidance, they created cartoon classics including Lady and The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmatians.

In 1964, Disney began planning a more ambitious theme park. Disney World would be a more elaborate version of Disneyland and the heart of the “Magic Kingdom” would be an Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow (or EPCOT). Unfortunately, Walt Disney – a long time smoker – died of lung cancer before the project was completed.

Walt Disney is remembered as a philanthropist, a visionary, an entrepreneur, and an entertainer. He holds the record for most Academy Awards, 22. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Before he died, Walt Disney devoted time to funding the California Institute of Art or CalArts. The college trained many of his animators and is one of the most respected art schools in the country. The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in 2009. It included thousands of artifacts from Disney’s life including 248 awards that he received. The Walt Disney Company exists today as a multi-billion dollar corporation. It owns five vacation resorts, eleven theme parks, two water parks, thirty nine hotels, eight motion picture studios, six record labels, and twelve television studios.

When I introduced Walt Disney as our next Master of the Month, my students didn’t believe that he was an artist. They know him as the creator of a tv station, a movie studio, and their favorite theme park. In my opinion, that’s what makes him a perfect artist to study. As much as I enjoy Disney movies (and had my mind blown by some of their educational cartoons), my favorite Disney creations are the theme parks. I spent a lot of time at Disney World as a kid and, as an adult, I remain blown away by the detail that went into the creation and maintenance of Disneyland. It’s easy to believe that it sprung from the mind of an animator.

Portrait of Walt Disney drawn by Rama Hughes

Posted by Rama on 10/08/12 under Uncategorized
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Master Spotlight – James Kochalka

James Kochalka is an influential American comic book artist and a rock musician. His comics blend fantasy details into autobiographical scenes and stories. His most ambitious project is an ongoing comic strip diary, American Elf.

James grew up in Springfield, Vermont. He earned an MFA in painting from the Maryland Institute, College of Art. He spent six years working in a Chinese restaurant before quitting his job to create comics and music. He documented the story in one of his first graphic novels, Quit Your Job.

In comics, Kochalka draws himself as a long-eared elf, sometimes named “Magic Boy.” Other recurring characters include his wife, Amy; their sons, Eli and Oliver; their cats, Spandy and Nooko; and his bandmate, Jason Cooley, drawn as a Snoopy-like dog. Since 1998, the cartoonist has recorded their adventures in a daily comic strip diary, American Elf. The cartoons can be read online or in a series of collected books published by Top Shelf.

Kochalka’s comics are characterized by bright color, fantasy elements, and simplicity. He believes strongly that simplicity is desirable in comics, and he has debated cartoonists who disagree with him. His “Craft is the Enemy” essays were collected into his 2005 book, The Cute Manifesto.

Kochalka’s other artwork include graphic novels, children’s books, cartoons, and video games. He has created comics for Marvel Comics, Nickelodeon, and Star Wars. His children book characters include Eisner Award-winning Dragon Puncher, a dragon fighting cat; Johnny Boo, a kid ghost; Pinky & Stinky, spacefaring pigs; and more. His superhero cartoon, Superf*ckers, is in production now. And he is collaborating with Pixel Jam to create a Glorkian Warrior video game.

In addition to these endeavors, James Kochalka is the lead singer of a rock and roll band called James Kochalka Superstar. He also teaches comics at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. It may be premature to called him a comics master, but he has already earned Ignatz, Harvey, and Eisner awards; he continues to apply his skills to new mediums, new genres, and new ideas; and he is an outspoken voice in the comics industry.

In 2011, James Kochalka was named the cartoonist laureate of Vermont. He lives in Burlington with his wife and kids. You can follow his work online at

My students are still studying Shepard Fairey in school. So, this month is my chance to mention any artist that I really like. I have enjoyed James Kochalka’s work since I discovered it in college. It is fun and inspiring. My appreciation grows as I get older though. His autobiographical comics are so candid that they frequently tackle big subjects like parenthood, aging, anger, and death. Read from beginning to end, his diary strips reveal a rhythm to daily life that’s comforting and truly beautiful.

Portrait of James Kochalka by yours truly, Rama Hughes

American Elf comic strip by James Kochalka

Posted by Rama on 09/02/12 under Uncategorized
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