backyard art camp :: graphite & collage figure art


I'm so excited to be participating the Backyard Art Camp series organized by Melissa of A Happy Stitch and Jane of Buzzmills. They recruited a bunch of bloggers to come up with projects for kids based on the work of established artists. I've been really enjoying the series and I think you will, too! Make sure to click over to the other projects at the end of this post.

I based my project on the work two illustrators I admire: Jaime Zollars (who happens to be a dear friend and an all around awesome lady) and Lisa Congdon (who is also awesome; just read her blog). Both artists have a series of work in which collage is integrated into more traditional pencil drawings: Jaime, in her Society of Seekers series and Lisa, in her Nordic inspired work.  


Fallon; She who seeks strength by Jaime Zollars (left) and Sami Woman by Lisa Congdon (right) shown here with permission from the artists.

I love how both artists integrate graphic elements through the use of collage into their delicate pencil drawings. The juxtaposition between detailed rendering and flat color creates an interesting tension that I'm really attracted to. I knew the kids would enjoy this technique and that it would allow them to achieve an effect they couldn't otherwise. The fact that the kids are familiar with the work of these ladies is an added bonus! We own The Dictionary of Ordinary Extraordinary Creatures illustrated by Lisa Congdon and Inside the Slidy Diner illustrated by Jaime Zollars. Two favorites in our house.

Fiona (4 years old) and Elijah (8 years old) both created great final pieces, but most importantly, enjoyed the process of drawing, tracing, cutting and gluing. I've outlined the project below, so let's get on with it!


Two Fancy Girls by Fiona (above) also posted here with permission from the artist. ;)


Graphite & Collage Figure Art 

Here's what you'll need: 

  • Thick paper (bristol, mixed media, watercolor or the like) 
  • Drawing pencils
  • Variety of colored and patterned paper (construction paper, wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, cards, etc.) 
  • Light box (Optional; You could also hold your drawings up to a sunny window to trace!)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I started out by presenting the project to the kids. I showed them this collection of images and explained how the artists achieved the look by creating a pencil drawing, cutting shapes out of paper for clothing and accessories, then gluing those shapes on top of the original drawings. I emphasized the process much more than the result to the kids. These examples are created by accomplished professionals after all and we don't want to intimidate our little artists!


Here's the step-by-step: 

Draw a person wearing simple clothes.

Choose which colored or patterned paper to use for each piece of clothing. In Fiona's first drawing, she chose to make the dress a pretty floral using one of my Liberty Notecards! Nice taste, little lady!

Place the pencil drawing on the light board with collage paper on top. Keep in mind that if the collage paper is too dark, it will be hard to see through to the drawing underneath. If you don't have a light board, another option is to tape the drawing and collage paper to a bright window and trace it there.


Trace the outline of the clothing or accessory with a dark marker or pen.

Cut out the shape traced on the collage paper following the marker line. Fiona needed help with this step for her more intricate details. Elijah was good to go all on his own. If the kids need help cutting, don't hesitate to give them a hand!

Glue the collage paper onto the original pencil drawing in the correct position.

Fiona got increasingly detailed with her collage on each drawing as she started to fully understand the concept. Elijah spent the whole time working on a single piece. Artists work at their own pace, even the little ones. Respect their process! Fiona wanted a lot of feedback; Elijah was content to work on his own.


I expect that this will be an idea we return to again and again. It feels good for them to add one more technique to their creative tool belt.

Ready for another project? For more creative inspiration, pay a visit to these lovely ladies also participating in Backyard Art Camp:

Still to come are projects from:

finger knitting


Elijah doesn't have camp this week, so we have the special treat of hanging out with him every day! Hooray! We are all so excited to have him around so much and I'm trying to make it an especially fun week for everyone. Like a stay-cation. Or whatever. :)


Today, we spent a lovely "crafternoon" at our new local craft shop, Baltimore Threadquarters. I originally just signed up Elijah for the finger knitting class, thinking it might be a bit frustrating for Fiona, but let me tell you, girl taught me a thing or two about underestimating her. She took to finger knitting like a fish to water. I should have known. Look at her little fingers go!


Elijah finished a rope over a yard long and Fiona turned hers into a necklace and a headband. Beautiful! Elsa remained happy on my back for much longer than usual indoors. She loved watching all the kids.


If you're interested in learning how to finger knit, it's super easy and rewarding for kids. Check out YouTube for a ton of tutorials, or better yet, sign up for a class!

for luck


Our St. Patrick's Day activities yesterday continued with a couple shamrock inspired crafts. These themed holiday crowns are becoming a regular around here. You can't help but feel festive with a crown on!

To make a crown, just cut a strip of crown paper (I bought ours at our local Waldorf School, but I found it online here.), cut a shape out of wool felt with two slits in it, then slip it over the paper. I punched two holes in the back and tied a bow through them with ribbon to secure the ends together, but you could also use a stapler or tape.


We also made some shamrock bracelets. These have become a regular craft, too. They are a modified version of our Fairy Head Wreaths. I just narrowed down the flower color palette to green! I bought the paper flowers at my local craft store and punched two holes in each flower. The kids thread the thin ribbon through and we tie the ends in a bow.

Oh, another quick note. For both of these crafts, I used my 1/8" hole punch. If you don't have one, get one! You will not believe how many reasons you'll find to use it. (I have actually had this conversation with other crafty mamas. It's a must.)


After all the singing, crafting and celebrating, it seems our little leprechaun had a late night. I found him passed out on his rainbow this morning. ;)


I'm feeling kind of low energy today. It's a cold, blustery day and it's as apparent as ever how affected I am by the weather. Oh please, Spring, you can't come soon enough. I am long overdue for some leisurely, wandering walks in the bright sun.

from the kids


According to Fiona, this was the most "elf-like" activity of all our holiday projects. She loved coating the little jars with the watered down glue (half water, half elmers glue), sticking on the pieces of ripped up tissue paper, then giving them another coat of the glue mixture.

These candle holders were Fiona's gifts to Daddy, who made his own stained glass pieces in a past life, when he had time to do such things. I thought these were very reminiscent of stained glass, so would make a special gift from the kids.

I had originally thought about using a metalic sharpie to draw lines between the colors to enhance the stained glass quality of it, but never did get to it. Maybe I still will. If it turns out well, I'll let you know!


They turned out really pretty and looked great on our Christmas table.


Elijah and Fiona both filled in bare books with their own stories. Elijah's book was a gift for his Mom, Stepdad and sister, Sylvia. His was one cohesive illustrated Christmas story. For Fiona's book, she drew whatever popped into her head and dictated a story to me that I then recorded.

I think these books are such a great way to preserve a child's artwork and imagination from a specific moment in time. Plus, the kids really work at their drawings since these very official feeling books are so special! I have several more blank ones stored away for another inpired afternoon.

Tomorrow, I have a post planned that I'm really excited about. For my brother, I made a matcha green tea gift set. I'm sharing my own super easy recipes, too! Come back to check it out!

kitchen elves


Fiona's fascination with all things Santa carried through the whole holiday season, so any time we were making anything Christmas related, we were playing the parts of little elves. Much of the elving happened in the kitchen, as usual. Some edible, some not.

This Candy Cane Playdough is SO cute. We followed Jean's directions in her e-book, The Artful Winter. The directions are also on her blog here. The best part of the recipe is that it includes peppermint essential oil, which really adds to the experience of making the dough. It just smells so good!


Fiona and Elsa were both able to help mix, knead and add the natural food dye and glitter. I think these little playdough sets would make cute Valentine's Day gifts, too. This project reminds me of another playdough idea on Sew Liberated where she mixed in googly eyes. Love that!


This is the second year in a row of using this recipe for peppermint bark. So, so yummy. I think this tradition is sticking around. After it had all been given away or eaten, I had a couple evenings in a row where I had a lingering feeling that something was missing... then I realized it was the peppermint bark. Wah! I had made such a nice, sweet bite before bed.


Then, of course, sugar cookies. They were originally meant to be brought around to some of our neighborhood friends, but then Fiona got a diagnosis of pneumonia (you may remember I had it a week or so before she did), and since she had taken such a huge role in making the cookies, I decided we'd keep our germs to ourselves. It worked out alright, though. More for us! ;)

But phew, I have to admit to being kind of relieved to have less sweets in the house after all that holiday feasting. Anyone else feel kind of bloated?

graphite & watercolor


Fiona and I spent some time the other day working with pencil and watercolor. I am trying to learn to work with this combination. I've never had an 'illustration style' when it comes to drawing figures.  I'm really a life drawing kind of girl at heart with graphite being my preferred medium. When I saw Minette's Feast, I was so inspired by the illustrations done by Amy Bates. She uses graphite and watercolor together so beautifully.


Fiona worked with some warm, fleshy tones and some cool patterns...


While I tried to turn Fiona into an illustration...


I don't think it quite captures her, but I'm going to keep experimenting. Next step is to add some color.

this drop cloth will do

I've had plans for a while now to sew a big drop cloth out of pretty oil cloth for the kids to do art projects on. Unfortunately, I have a lot of plans, and "make a cute drop cloth" is pretty far down on the list. So when I saw this vintage table cloth at the thrift store, I put it in my basket. But then I wondered, do I want a green background in every kids crafting picture? Is it kitschy cute or kitschy tacky? Does it look like astroturf? Is it just plain ugly? As I was mulling over these important questions in my mind, it occurred to me, what kind of person needs even their drop cloth to be perfect?! Then I bought the damn thing.

So this weekend when Fiona said she wanted to paint a picture of Elijah building his Lego Hogwarts Castle, instead of scrambling around spreading out newspaper and mumbling something about really needing to sew a drop cloth one of these days, I just got out my huge (kitschy/tacky/astroturfy?) green table cloth from the closet and laid it out. And you know what? No paint got on the floor and it actually looks kind of cute in the pictures.

And yes, I did just turn buying a drop cloth into a metaphor for my life, in case you were wondering.