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:

handstitched hearts


Valentine's Day really is the perfect excuse for sweet crafting and homemade goodies. I got the idea for these Valentines from my friend Liz, who had a stack in progress when we visited last week. They are so very sweet and such a beautiful opportunity for handwork with the kids. We have a stack of wet-on-wet paintings from the last couple months and this seemed the perfect way to use them. I can envision making many versions of these cards throughout the year in different shapes and color schemes reflecting the season or holiday.

I put together a tutorial for wet-on-wet painting recently. If you're interested in making these Valentines and haven't used this painting technique before, you should start there.



Dry wet-on-wet painting

Tapestry needle

Embroidery thread

1. Cut or tear your painting into cards. I like the rough edged look for these, so I tore ours. To tear a straight line, fold your paper along a ruler and crease it, then fold in the opposite direction and crease again. This will make it easy to tear along the line.

2. Draw a heart on the white side of one card, then draw dots along the line about every 1/4". Make sure there is a dot on each of the center angles of the heart shape. dont worry about doing this perfectly. These are handmade and are allowed to look it! :)

3. Use your tapestry needle to poke holes through the paintings on each of the dots. Make sure to pull your needle all the way through the paper each time so the holes are big enough. (Thanks for that tip, Liz!)

4. Using your first card as a guide, draw dots and poke holes in the remaining cards.


5. This is when the children get involved! Help them thread their needles and tie a knot at the end of their thread.

6. Use a backstitch to create the heart design on each card. This type of stitch creates a continuous line rather than having gaps between each stitch. Fiona needed some guidance throughout on where to put the needle next, while Elijah was able to sew them independently. Fiona finished one card completely on her own and then chose to draw on the backs while Elijah and I finished the rest. I wouldn't expect young children to make more than one or two cards, while older kids can probably plow through many of them.


7. This last step is optional. We cut rectangles that fit on the back and hot glued them on to cover the back side of the stitching. Elijah wrote notes and Fiona drew pictures in that area.


All of us were so pleased with the results! Don't you love them? I love that they were truly a family effort. Fiona's painting is on the front, Elsa's is on the back. They are mostly sewn and written by Elijah with drawings by Fiona.


I am still trying to come up with a quick little handmade gift for the kids. Last year I made soaring hearts. Any ideas for this year? Are you doing any Valentine's Day crafting? Or baking? Maybe Valentine's Day baking is the answer! Hm.

wet-on-wet painting


Fiona told me the other day that when she becomes an adult, she wants to paint animals and houses. Then later in the day as she was flipping through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, she pointed at an illustration and exclaimed, "Mama! Look! This is what I want to do." Well, my dear, then you will. Let's get to work.

Wet-on-wet painting is traditionally taught in Waldorf schools. You may have noticed we have a lot of Waldorf inspiration going on around here. There is so much inspiration to be found in the Waldorf approach to early childhood.


For wet-on-wet painting, you will need:

Heavyweight watercolor paper

Watercolor paintbrush, 1" wide flat bristle

Watercolors in one or several shades (We use Stockmar)

Small jars for each paint shade

Large jar for water

Waterproof painting board or counter


1. Lay your paper on a waterproof surface, like your kitchen counter. Thoroughly soak the paper with a wet sponge. Slide the sponge gently side to side across the surface, then top to bottom. Turn paper over and repeat on the other side. Give it some time to soak in the water while you prepare the paint. Another way to soak paper would be to submerge the paper completely in a tray full of water for 10-15 minutes. We didn't have a tray, so we opted for using a sponge.

2. Put about a teaspoon of paint in the bottom of your small jars, then fill 1/3 with water. Mix the water and paint. You might want to test the mixture to be sure you are happy with the intensity of the color, then add either more paint or more water if necessary.

3. Lay the piece of wet paper on your painting board. Smooth out any bubbles and wipe off any excess water.

4. Paint! I just let Fiona experiment with the paint without much direction aside from encouraging her to fill the page and have fun with it. When you're done painting, let the paper dry completely while it's still on the board.


Fiona asks to paint this way often, so this has become a  regular feature during art time. I have even pre-mixed the paints  and kept them in the fridge a couple times to cut down on prep time so  we can jump right into painting.

If you'd like more information about the wet-on-wet technique, check out the book Painting with Children. My favorite thing about the book is the examples of children's work. After doing her own paintings, Fiona really enjoyed looking through the book with me. The results are so beautiful!

homemade matcha gift set


My brother recently spent four months in Japan. We all missed him terribly, but adventures are important, and exploring the other side of the earth on your own is nothing short of a great adventure. Of course, if he moves there, I most likely will have a complete big sister I won't allow it and I'm in charge, did you forget? freak out. Until then, I am quite supportive of his adventuring. :)

I had planned on getting Eric a specific book for Christmas until my mom informed me that he just ordered it for himself! I was glad to know that I knew him well enough to buy him something he would actually want, but that left me giftless. Something health related? Something inspired by Japanese culture or food?

And then I thought of it! A matcha gift set. (And I do think I'm quite clever to have come up with this little set!) I had seen a link to this video tutorial for Matcha Salt on Angry Chicken a couple weeks before and thought it would be perfect. Then I consulted Organic Body Care Recipes and a few online resources and put together my own recipe for Matcha Sugar Scrub. I gave him the salt and scrub along with a new tin of Matcha.


Matcha Sugar Scrub

1 cups granulated sugar

1/8 cup coconut oil

1/2 tablespoon matcha green tea powder

1/2 tablespoon vitamin E

Place everything in a bowl and mix it!

This recipe will fit in a 1/2 pint mason jar perfectly. I decided to also give this sugar scrub to all the ladies in my life who I knew liked body products and made many batches over the course of the holidays.


The Matcha Salt also turned out really well and we were able to put it on our eggs on Christmas morning! Isn't it pretty? (For this recipe, and for everyday use, we use Real Salt.)


I think this set makes such a nice gift! Is there anyone in your life who might enjoy this set?

homemade organic lip balm set

Okay, I promise that this is the last Valentine's Day related post. I think I am really just looking for excuses to make things now that I have my energy back after that exhausting pregnancy. Yay! It's over! ;)

Anyway, I made this cute lip balm set to share with family and friends this Valentine's Day! It was really fun and quite simple. I thought it would be cute to stick with the theme of the holiday and made peppermint lip balm and cinnamon lip gloss, naming them "Play it Cool" and "Keep it Hot." Hehe.

I followed Amanda's recipe on SouleMama for the peppermint lip balm. I left it untinted so that I could give it to the guys in my family, too. I love it and it got great reviews from everyone. Even better, I had everything except for the essential oil already in my house. Love that!

I bought the tins from Mountain Rose Herbs and the stickers from Paper Source. I also bought the book Organic Body Care that Amanda recommended. I can't wait to try some of the lotions and bath salts.


For my first batch of cinnamon lip gloss, I just subbed in cinnamon essential oil for the peppermint. It was nice but I wanted something a bit glossier with more color. I improvised a bit and made a couple different batches and settled on the following recipe. I LOVE it. I think you will, too. Enjoy!

Keep it Hot
Organic* Tinted Cinnamon Lip Gloss

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon Beeswax (1/2 Fluid Ounce)
1/2 Tablespoon Raw Honey (Local is great if you can find it!)
10 Drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
1/2 Stick of Natural Lipstick, Chopped (I used Hemp Organics)

*I used all organic ingredients.

Place coconut oil, beeswax and honey in a double boiler or heatproof bowl and sit atop a saucepan of simmering water. Heat until melted, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Add cinnamon oil and lipstick. Stir until blended.

Place the pan or bowl in a larger bowl full of cold water. Stir quickly until the mixture begins to change in consistency and turn opaque. (If it starts to change consistency on it's own while stirring in your essential oil and lipstick, because it's cool in your kitchen, you can skip this step!)

Spoon mixture into containers, filling to the top, and smooth the surface of the balm with the back of a spoon. Place covers on, and let it sit to cool for a couple hours.

Fills approximately four 1/2 oz tins. Double or triple the recipe for gift-giving!

I packaged each set in a little muslin bag with my logo. I bought the custom logo stamp and drawstring bags from My Rubber Stamp on Etsy. Then I printed out the Valentines I designed for DBFA at a 50% scale for the tags.

I think this little Valentine's lip balm set turned out quite cute, don't you?

cranberry pistachio dark chocolate bark

Sheldon's birthday is this Saturday and for every holiday I get him truffles from his favorite chocolate shop a couple blocks away. I decided to step it up this year and make him some homemade chocolates, too. I thought I'd share this super easy recipe with you in case you have a loved one who might appreciate some homemade treats for Valentine's Day.

16 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pistachio nuts

Turn a baking sheet upside down and wrap it with tin foil. You'll use this to spread the melted chocolate on. Fill a small plastic bag with the pistachio nuts and hit them gently with a glass jar to turn them into coarse bits. Save for later.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and sit it over a saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should not be touching the water. Stir here and there until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the cranberries and gently fold them in.

Spread the chocolate and cranberry mixture on the foil covered baking sheet evenly to desired thickness. While the chocolate is still hot, sprinkle the pistachio bits and a bit of sea salt over the surface. Chill for about a half an hour in the fridge until cold and firm.

I like the look of simply breaking it into uneven pieces, but you could also cut with a sharp knife if you'd prefer even squares. Triangles could also be cute. Store in the fridge.

If you're giving the bark as a gifts, this batch would fill about 4-5 half pint mason jars. Fabric and a sweet tag complete the package.

And because this is MY BLOG and I do what I want, I'm going to indulge myself by getting all sentimental about the fabric. The last time I used it was in college when I sewed complicated things like hoodies, laughed like crazy, cried like crazy (literally. crazy.) and had some really awesome roommates (move back to Baltimore, you jerks!). I got out my old laptop and found this picture. See the fabric on the shoulder?

Look at that confused little girl. Hot, though. Maybe I'll put this picture on my fridge as a reminder to NOT EAT (too much) CRANBERRY PISTACHIO DARK CHOCOLATE BARK. ;)

Sorry about all the caps. Happy Valentines Day! And happy birthday to my dear husband! I love you, Sheldon, you sexy thing.