Mary Cassatt, American Impressionist Artist

Mary Cassatt, an American, joined the French Impressionists’ exhibitions just 5 years after their very first exhibition in 1874. Edgar Degas had seen some of her paintings at the annual Paris art show and invited Mary to join the Impressionists. The only American and one of only three women, Mary continued exhibiting with the group until 1886.

The post includes:

  • A short bio of Mary Cassatt
  • Information about her paintings
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand her work
  • A kid-friendly devotion based on the paintings

The Artist

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was born near Pittsburg, but grew up in Philadelphia. When Mary was still a child, her family lived in Europe for several years searching for a cure for Mary’s brother, Robbie, who had bone cancer. When he died, they returned to America.

Even as a child, Mary wanted to become an artist, and despite her father’s objections, entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts when she was just 15. Women students had separate classes from men, and Mary often felt frustrated by this and the lack of great art to study in American museums.

So, like many American artists, when the Civil War ended, Mary traveled to Europe to study art. She eventually settled in Paris. As a woman, Mary couldn’t attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but she studied privately with Ecole masters and spent lots of time copying masterpieces at the Louvre.

When she joined the Impressionists, Cassatt’s art took on many similarities to their work.

Most Impressionists used their families as models and often painted them walking in a field with a parasol, sitting in a garden, or at a luncheon at one of the popular weekend boating resorts along the Seine. But the men could also go to cafes and travel around Paris to capture everyday life.

Mary Cassatt, photo, 1913, public domain

The three women, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Marie Bracquemond, couldn’t do these things unaccompanied. Instead they painted the domestic life of women and children, also using family members as models. Mary Cassatt is known and loved today for her beautiful paintings, pastels, and prints of mothers and children.

Reine Lefebre and Margot before a window by Mary Cassatt, public domain

Cassatt lived the rest of her life in France, but never forgot the need of American museums for great art. She advised many wealthy Americans on what paintings to buy for themselves—all with the stipulation they would eventually give their collections to museums. Today, partly through Mary’s efforts, we can see large numbers of Impressionist and other great art at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, the Chicago Institute of Art, and many smaller museums around the country. American museums also have many works by Cassatt, herself.

The Paintings

Cassatt’s paintings often show figures up close, and once she joined the Impressionists, she began to use brighter colors, lots of light, and shadows full of color. Despite that influence, Mary continued to carefully outline her figures, not dissolving these as some Impressionists did.

Children on a Beach by Mary Cassatt, public domain

Besides the light-filled palette, you see the Impressionist influence in lack of fine detail in women’s dresses and people and flowers in backgrounds.

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt, public domain

Quite often Mary’s paintings of women and children include a dog called a Brussels Griffon. Mary fell in love with these little dogs and owned several during her life. These little dogs were first used to hunt down rats and mice in stables, but also gradually became pets. People found them to be sensitive and lovable, but they do need lots of exercise and can be somewhat stubborn to train.

Young Girl at a Window by Mary Cassatt, public domain

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore Mary’s Paintings

  • Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
  • These paintings by Mary Cassatt are great for telling stories. Ask children what they think is happening in each painting, and how the people are feeling, or what they’re talking about.

 Devotion—God’s faithfulness

  1. Ask children to say or list some of the traits that make dogs good pets for many people, such as friendly, loyal, fun to play with, devoted, etc.
  2. If they don’t come up with faithfulness, help them focus on that trait
  3. Look up some synonyms for faithfulness.
  4. Briefly tell one or two stories about faithful dogs from history or literature, such as Lassie Come Home or The Incredible Journey, in which dogs brave many dangers to return to their beloved families.
  5. There are many such stories about the faithfulness of dogs, and for that reason, they’re often used in paintings to symbolize faithfulness.
  6. Though dogs are known and loved for their faithfulness, we know God is even more faithful to love us, care for us, and keep His promises.
  7. Together read some of these verses and talk about all the ways the Lord is our faithful God:
  •      Deuteronomy 7:9
  •      Deuteronomy 32:4
  •      Psalm 25:10
  •      Psalm 33:4
  •      Psalm 57:10
  •      Psalm 89:14
  •      Psalm 91:4
  •      Psalm 145:13-20
  •      Psalm 146:6-10
  •      1 Corinthians 10:13
  •      1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
  •      Hebrews 10:23
  •      1 Peter 4:19
  •      1 John 1:9

Have children write a prayer using words from some of these verses and decorate it to put on the fridge or send to a loved one.

Together watch and enjoy  Lassie Come Home, The Incredible Journey, or another story about a faithful dog!

Before You Go:

3 Things you might like to do:

Click the button to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide called, How to Make Your Art Museum Visit a Masterpiece for Your Whole Family!

If you like the new look for my blog, check out my all new and helpful website at:http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

To read “Red, Yellow, and Blue, Let Art Refresh Your Children and You,” my post on the parenting blog, In the Quiver, follow this link. You’ll find more ideas about how art can help your child’s overall development and some fun activities to do togetherhttps://inthequiver.com/

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Molly, my faithful little artsy corgi and I hope you enjoyed learning about Mary Cassatt and most of all about the faithfulness of our God!! Please come back next time for an art activity related to Mary Cassatt’s work.

 

 

 

 

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Refresh Spring 2021 Issue Now Available

The Spring issue of Refresh, “Don’t Be Afraid,” is now available! In it are wonderful Bible studies, devotions, and poems with insights to help us see how God helps us when we’re afraid.

I’ve gotten to know many of these writers over the last year, and know you’ll be encouraged by their insights.

This issue also includes my Bible study, titled Rising on the Wings of the Dawn, about how God helped me conquer my fear of flying and can help each of us with the daily fears we face.

So I hope you’ll follow the link to the Spring  Refresh issue to enjoy many great studies and devotions. And it’s absolutely free!

https://mcusercontent.com/d56d783b628cb25e0234a8678/files/e9899f2c-3203-4045-8168-a2c8615b26eb/Refresh_Spring_2021.pdf

Let’s Make an Easter Card with Tulips and 3-D Butterflies

Maria van Oosterwyck loved to paint tulips and butterflies—tulips for spring and butterflies for Christ’s resurrection! So let’s make an Easter card masterpiece with tulips and 3-D butterflies in a Delft pot!

But before you begin your masterpiece, follow this link to my website, where you can sign up for my brand new newsletter and receive a free booklet to help you Make Museum Visits a Masterpiece for Your Family!   http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

Now Let’s get started.

You’ll need these supplies:

  • White construction paper
  • Cardstock in various colors
  • Watercolor paper if you have it, if not, cheap white paper plates will work
  • Scrap paper for patterns
  • Crayons and markers
  • Glue stick or white glue
  • Scissors, ruler, pencil
  • Watercolor set and brushes
  • Wax paper or plastic cloth to protect surfaces from paint and glue

Directions: because there are several steps to making this project, I’ve divided the steps into 7 short sections  (A-G) for clarity.

A. To make beautifully-colored paper for the tulips and butterflies, follow these steps:

  1. Make puddles of several colors of paint and water. Use enough water so paint will flow and enough pigment so colors will be bright on the paper.
  2. Using a flat brush, wet your watercolor paper or paper plates with clear water. Don’t saturate them, but be sure the surface has a good sheen of water.
  3. With brushes or even a spoon, add paint from the puddles to your paper or plate and allow these to swirl together and mix. It’s fun to swirl the paint on the paper or plates, but stop before your colors mix too much.
  4. Let dry.
  5. Repeat steps 1-3 on the backside of the paper or plate.
  6. Set these water-colored papers aside to dry.

 B. To make patterns for butterflies, tulips, and the pot, follow these steps:

  1. Cut and fold scrap paper squares of the appropriate size in half.
  2. Draw half of each object, then cut with the square folded. This gives you symmetrical objects (see photos).
  3. If you’re making a card, the pot needs to have a fairly long, straight side for the fold.

C. To make the card, follow these steps:

  1. Fold in half the colored cardstock you’ll use for the card.
  2. Place your unfolded pattern up against the fold line of the colored cardstock and cut out the pot-shaped card, cutting through both layers of cardstock.
  3. Now cut the pot pattern piece a little smaller all around and use this smaller pattern to cut out a front for the pot from the white construction paper.
  4. Cut another piece of white construction paper for the inside message, in whatever shape you’d like

D. To make the green stems and leaves, follow these steps:

  1. Cardstock is really best for this, and you may need to glue 2 stem pieces together to provide a stiff enough stem for the tulips.
  2. Draw or make patterns or cut freehand several stems and leaves (see photos for shapes)

E. To make the Delft designs on the pot, follow these steps:

  1. Use a pencil to lightly draw whatever designs you’d like on the white paper pot (repeat some of these on the inside paper, see photo)
  2. If you remember from the previous post, Delft designs are blue on a white background.
  3. Depending on the age of your children these designs can be simple or more detailed. I’ve included both and also the easy way to make some of the more intricate designs.(The red lines are what are added to complete the designs)
  4. If using watercolor paints, go over the pencil lines with blue crayon so it’s easier to keep the paint inside the designs.
  5. Use much less water when mixing paint for this small painting, and do not wet the paper.
  6. Once the papers are dry add an Easter message to the inside paper.

F. To make the tulips and butterflies, follow these steps:

  1. Use your patterns to cut tulips and butterflies from the water-colored paper or flat portion of the paper plates.
  2. Cut double the number of tulips you want if you don’t want the stems to show.
  3. Use crayon or marker to color the body of the butterflies.
  4. I liked these watercolor butterflies, but found they didn’t contrast enough with the pot, so…
  5. In the end I used orange cardstock and black marker to make some stylized monarch butterflies (see the photo).

G. To assemble the card follow these steps:

  1. Have an adult use an x-acto knife to make a slit along the lip of the Delft “pot” paper (see photo).
  2. Insert your stems and leaves through the slit and arrange these in the way you’d like.
  3. Apply glue to each stem and leaf and stick to the back of the Delft “pot.”
  4. Now apply glue to the back of the Delft “pot” and attach this to the front of the pot-shaped card (the stems and leaves will now look as if they are coming from inside the pot).
  5. Glue the other white piece of paper on the inside of the card.
  6. Glue each pair of tulips pieces together with the top of a stem in between (see photo).
  7. Fold the butterflies so one wing can stick up.
  8. Apply glue to the butterfly’s body and the back of one wing and place these where you’d like them (I put one inside and one on the front).
  9. Let all the glue dry completely before closing the card.

Helpful Hints:

  • You can also just cut away the top part of the Delft “pot’s” oval and then glue as explained above
  • Score around the butterfly’s body to make the wings fold more easily
  • When you close the card, make sure the inside butterfly’s unglued wing is folded up.

Clean up Hints:

Wax paper under objects as you apply glue protects surfaces and helps prevent things from sticking where they shouldn’t.

 Variations:

  • Skip the painting, and use colored paper for the tulips or have children color these with crayon or maker.
  • Use markers or crayons for the blue Delft designs also.
  • Instead of a card, make the project and attach to a colored background for a poster to hang.

Now that you’ve created your masterpiece, Molly and I hope you’ll follow this link to my website, where you can sign up for my brand new newsletter and receive a free booklet to help you Make Museum Visits a Masterpiece for Your Family!    http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

 

Link

Maria van Oosterwyck was a well-known and successful flower painter during the Dutch Golden Age of Painting, but as a woman, she couldn’t even join the artists’ guild.

Read on to learn about Maria and her beautiful flower still lifes, and why they’re called Vanitas paintings.

 This post includes 5 things about Maria and her work:

  • A bio of Maria van Oosterwyck
  • Information about Maria’s paintings, and how tulipmania and red admiral butterflies figure in her work
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy the paintings
  • A kid-friendly devotion based on the paintings
  • At the end is some background information. It’s not essential to enjoy Maria’s art, but it will help you better understand the art of this time and give you curriculum connections for this series.

The Artist

Portrait of Maria van Oosterwyck holding a Bible and a paint palette, by Wallerant Vaillant, public domain

Maria van Oosterwyck was born in a small town near Delft in 1630. Both her father and grandfather were Protestant ministers, and Maria’s faith was central to her life and work. No one knows for sure where she first learned to paint. We do know that later Maria lived in several other cities and studied with flower and still life artists. In 1666 she moved to Amsterdam and set up her own studio.

Despite having to work and sell outside the artist’s guild, Maria sold paintings for high prices. In 1669 Cosimo d’Medici bought one of her paintings, bringing her international attention.  Kings of France, England, and the Holy Roman Emperor all bought her paintings.

Maria never married, dedicating herself to her art. After retiring in 1690, she went to live with a nephew who was a minister. She died at his home near Amsterdam in 1693.

Although not widely known today, Maria van Oosterwyck’s paintings appear in many museum collections.

The Paintings 

Maria followed the Netherlandish traditions of close observation of details and attention to the effects of light on objects. She loved to show reflections in glass, the nubbly texture of leather book covers, and the sheen of satin ribbon. Maria’s portrayal of plants and insects is accurate enough for a naturalist’s work.

Roses and Butterfly by Maria van Oosterwyck, Crocker Art Museum, public domain

Look at Maria’s paintings and see how items emerge from the shadows of the dark background and so appear even brighter. We see this same dramatic use of light and shadow in the work of Rembrandt, Maria’s contemporary. Also notice the light blue reflection of a window in the glass vase.

Flower Still Life by Maria van Oosterwyck, Cincinnati Art Museum, public domain

Maria applied paint thinly and blended colors into one another. She liked to put complementary colors next to each other to increase contrast–red flowers behind green leaves, yellow flowers next to violet flowers, and blue and orange flowers next to each other.

Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase by Maria van Oosterwyck, Denver Art Museum, public domain

Go to this link and enlarge  Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, to see these details.https://www.denverartmuseum.org/en/edu/object/bouquet-flowers-vase

The Dutch loved variety in still lifes, so most flower paintings have flowers from different seasons. Maria studied and drew the flowers when they were in season, then put them together in the final paintings.

Tulipmania: in the 1600s flowers were rare and expensive. Seeds and bulbs had to be imported, so only wealthier people could afford flower gardens.

  • Flowers, especially tulips, became a status symbol. When Maria was a child, tulip bulbs that might produce striped or speckled petals became so popular, that prices rose to crazy levels–as much as a house. The stripes and speckles were actually caused by a fungus on the bulbs!
  • Tulipmania lasted only a short time, but a few people lost small fortunes speculating with tulip bulbs!
  • Flower paintings were much more affordable, and the flowers didn’t die. Notice that Maria often has a red-striped tulip—one of the really expensive kinds—in her still lifes.

Vanitas Paintings

With her flowers, Maria often included glassware, musical instruments, coins, globes, shells, books, insects, and skulls. Each item shows careful attention.

Vanitas-Still Life by Maria van Oosterwyck, Kunsthistorisches Museum, public domain

Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwyck, public domain

Because of trade many could afford luxuries, such as oranges, furs, and porcelain from around the world. These paintings showed off the wealth of the Dutch during the 1600s.

But they did more. When a still life had insects, skulls, chewed leaves, half-eaten foods, wilted flowers,etc., it became a Vanitas—a painting meant to remind viewers that life and worldly possessions are fleeting.

Maria went a step further, almost always including a red admiral butterfly to lead you into the painting and represent the resurrection of Christ and eternal life for those who believe in Him.

Red Admiral Butterfly: the red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), along with the related painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) are among the most common butterflies in the world.

  • They live on every continent except Antarctica.
  • They’re medium-sized butterflies whose caterpillars can live on many different plants.
  • Admirals and painted ladies migrate, but they have kind of a rolling migration. As winter approaches, they begin flying south laying eggs as they go. Soon those eggs hatch and that generation continues south, and so on until some reach warmer places where they live and breed year round. When spring arrives, the process reverses, and they repopulate northern climates. Some years they leave or arrive in such large groups that they show up on weather radar.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore these Beautiful Paintings

  • I always like to first ask children what they think is going on in a painting, and what tells them that. This grabs their interest and makes them feel their ideas are valuable. You’ll often be surprised by their observations. And you can enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
  • Play an I Spy game to find butterflies, foods, books, different flowers, reflections, etc.
  • Or, try this fun activity: have children look at the painting briefly, then turn away and tell all the things they remember. With a group have each one write down what they remember and then compare answers.

Devotion

Ask children what things the Dutch liked to include in still lifes. Remind them that flowers and other items in Maria’s still lifes were luxuries and so became very important. Then have them gather or draw things they would put in a still life to tell important things about themselves and why.

  1. Discuss how our interests, skills, and possessions are all gifts from God.   “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)
  2. Discuss how these should be used to love God and our neighbors.   “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mathew 22:37-39 NIV)
  3.  What is one way they could use a skill or possession to show love to another?
  4. Ask children what things in each of Maria’s Vanitas paintings remind us material things don’t last.  ” The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)
  5. Then ask what they might put in their still life as reminders that life is fleeting—a broken toy, an insect perched on a bowl of cereal, etc.
  6. Maria also put in a butterfly to stand for Christ’s resurrection and eternal life for those who believe in Him. Discuss with children why a butterfly has long been a symbol of the resurrection.

    author photo of swallowtail butterfly perched on lilacs

Here’s some information about butterflies that may help your discussion:   At one time people didn’t know about the life cycle changes of insects, frogs, etc. But during Maria van Oosterwyck’s life, many were studying and learning more about nature. Another woman artist who also lived in the Netherlands at this time, studied and painted butterflies, helping people learn about their life cycle.

  • Maria Sybylla Merian

    Maria Sibylla Merian
    public domain, wikimedia

    proved that a butterfly begins as an egg, hatches into a hungry caterpillar, and then forms a chrysalis to complete the change into a butterfly.

    Maria Sibylla Merian’s work
    public domain, wikimedia

    You can learn more about her life and work in this post I wrote in June of 2018, called, Artists/Naturalists: Maria Sybilla Merian and Titian Ramsay Peale II.

Chrysalis, public domain

  • Scientists now know the change from caterpillar to butterfly is even more profound than anyone thought. Inside each chrysalis a caterpillar actually liquifies and every part is completely rearranged to produce a butterfly.The caterpillar, which is often ugly and must crawl along leaves, becomes a beautiful new creation that can fly!
  • If you’ve never raised caterpillars and watched this process, you and your children will love it! Order monarch, red admiral, or painted lady caterpillars online and watch them grow, form chrysalises, and emerge as adults. Then enjoy releasing them to fly away into the sky, just as Jesus did at His ascension!!!

What a wonderful and amazing picture for us of Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and our resurrection into eternal life! Here are some verses to read together:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20 NIV).

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:9 NIV).

For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Tor the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality . . . (1 Cor. 15:52b-54a NIV).

Prayer  Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Word, which endures forever and teaches us about Jesus our Savior, and His death and resurrection. Thank you that one day we will be resurrected also, and you’ve given us such an amazing picture of that transformation in butterflies! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Historical Background  

Some background of the religious, political, economic, and art history of the Netherlands is helpful to understand the amazing Golden Age of Dutch art and Maria’s work. I’ve just given brief descriptions. Homeschoolers may wish to use these as jumping off places for more research for reports, diaries, plays, charts, timelines, etc.

Dutch Faith   Important forerunners of the Reformation came from the Netherlands.

  • The Beguines were women who banded together in cites and towns to study Scripture and volunteer as teachers and nurses for the poor. Many groups formed in the Netherlands in the 1200s.

    Drawing of a Beguine from Des dodes dantz, printed in Lubeck, 1489, public domain

  • The Brethren of the Common Life opened schools and printed Bibles and other books from the 1300s on. The Netherlands had a higher literacy rate than many other European countries. Thomas a Kempis, who wrote The Imitation of Christ, was a member of this group.
  • Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467-1536) wrote of the need for religious reform and produced the first Greek New Testament.

When the Reformation began, Protestantism really took hold in the Netherlands, but persecution followed:

Dutch Independence    Charles V (the same one who presided over Luther’s trial in Germany) and later his son Philip II ruled the Netherlands as part of their empire. They were determined to stamp out Protestantism in the Netherlands. Terrible persecution killed many, and the Dutch rebelled to gain religious and political freedom. The war was long and harsh. Sometimes the Dutch opened dykes to flood farmland or burned crops as part of the fight. One group of fighters known as the Sea Beggars helped win battles against the Spanish fleet.

Battle of Haarlem by Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, public domain

Dutch Economy    After independence in the early 1600s, trade and commerce grew rapidly in the Netherlands. Dutch traders traveled to Asia and America. They established the colony of New Amsterdam (New York) in 1624. They brought back spices, furs, Turkish rugs, and silks, making the Dutch among the wealthiest people in Europe.

One much-loved luxury was Chinese porcelain, especially the blue and white-patterned vases and table ware. Eventually the Dutch learned the art of making this and today “Delft” dishes and vases are still very popular! Which one of van Oosterwyck’s still lifes has a blue and white piece?

author photo

 

Dutch Art   Oil paints were first invented and used by early Netherlandish artists, such as Jan van Eyck. Northern European artists became masters of close observation of every detail and loved to show how light reflected off glass or metal. They carefully painted every facet of a jewel or the softness of a fur collar.

Protestant churches no longer commissioned art, but independence and trade enabled ordinary Dutch people to buy paintings. They loved to decorate their homes and businesses with still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and scenes of everyday life. Dutch artists often specialized in one type or another, and the Golden Age of Dutch Art was born. It encompassed most of the 1600s, and some of the most famous artists—Rembrandt, Ruisdael, and Vermeer!

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning about Maria van Oosterwyck and all the amazing events that surround the artists of the Golden Age of Dutch Art! Comment and tell us what you found most interesting or enjoyable.

And we hope to see you right back here soon for a fun art activity about tulips and butterflies!

Make a Zig Zag Book to Tell about Your Family

Let’s make a zig zag book to tell how your family is special! Each family is unique. One family may love skiing in the mountains, and another might especially enjoy visiting historic sites. Some families have lived in the same place for years, while others may move a lot. Each family also has a unique history, with stories, favorite foods, and traditions passed down from grandparents, great grandparents, and even farther back.

For example, I grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine. Saturday night always meant baked beans and brown bread, made with lots of molasses. Special meals included lobsters, clams, corn on the cob, and blueberry pie—sometimes cooked and eaten at the beach. Waves crashing on the rocks, beach roses, and lighthouses say home to me.My father’s ancestors had come to this town several hundred years before, perhaps as fishermen. But by the 1800s most managed general stores or other small rural businesses. On my mother’s side were farmers, and I loved my great grandfather’s barn where black and white cows chomped on sweet hay, and a big coon cat named Fluffy, hunted mice in the dark corners.

What makes your family special? Where have you’ve lived? What foods does your family make for special events? What pets do you have? What fun activities does your family enjoy? What holiday traditions do you have? What are your family’s favorite books and movies? Do you have stories about your family history?

Let’s get started making a zig-zag booklet to record all the things that make your family unique.

 Supplies for the Zig Zag Booklet and decorating it

  • Construction paper in two colors
  • Scissors, pencil, ruler, glue stick or white glue
  • ribbon
  • Be creative! Have fun. Gather and use many materials.
  • Use paper scraps, yarn, glitter, stickers, leaves, buttons, fabric. The sky’s the limit!
  • Use crayons, pencils, markers, or paints, whatever you want!

Directions for the Zig Zag Booklet

  1. Measure and cut 3 pieces of one color of construction paper (I used blue) into 3 pieces 6” X 12”
  2. Repeat with the other color (I used green)
  3. Fold each of the 6 pieces in half
  4. Choose one color to be the front and cut one of its 3 pieces in half along the fold (I used blue)
  5. Cut 4 pieces of ribbon, each about 7” long
  6. Begin putting together the folded pieces of construction paper, alternating the 2 colors. Start with one cut piece of blue which will be glued to the green’s outside front fold. Then glue one side of a blue piece to the inside back of that first green piece. Notice the green piece folds toward you and the blue piece folds towards the back. (see the diagram and photos)
  7. Continue this pattern until you get to the 2nd blue half piece and glue this to the inside front of the last green piece. (see the diagram)
  8. Check that you have created a zig zagging length before gluing
  9. Also be sure to lay the 4 pieces of ribbon in between the correct layers of paper (see the diagram) before gluing those layers together.
  10. Glue and let dry

When all done, you can fold up the booklet and tie the ribbons.

Directions for decorating the cover

  • I decided to make a house on my cover and used scraps of colored paper to make its windows, door, roof, and bushes. Don’t forget the door knob! If you decide to make a house, you might draw a picture of family members in the windows or glue in photos of them.
  • But you can do whatever you’d like with crayons, paint, fabric, etc. and you may want to put a title on the cover, too. You might use stamps or watercolor paints to decorate the cover. Here are some ideas from previous posts: bubble prints, cardboard tube prints, leaf prints, paint designs made by blowing with a straw, painting with a cardboard strip, watercolor paints, and prints made from finger painting. All these techniques are explained in earlier posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for doing the pages

  • While you’re making your zig zag booklet, write or email your grandparents if you have questions about your family history.
  • Also during this time, interview family members for their favorites, etc.
  • Here are some suggestions of things to put on the pages of your booklet:
  • Family history
  • Places you’ve lived
  • Favorite foods
  • Pets
  • Favorite books and movies
  • Favorite Bible verses
  • Things your family likes to do together
  • Use pictures and/or lists to tell these things. You can write or type information on a piece of white paper and glue it to the colored paper. Use special computer fonts for titles

Variations:

  • If you’d like a more easily-made booklet, take one long piece of paper and fold it back and forth to create the zig zags.
  • Instead of each person making a booklet, make a family booklet with family pages and individual pages for each member.
  • Although younger children will need help making a zig zag booklet, once that’s done, they can certainly enjoy coloring and decorating the pages.

Molly hopes you enjoy making a zig zag booklet about what makes your family and each individual in it, unique! We’re sure you and your family will treasure it!

Molly wasn’t sure she liked wearing a beret in this photo! But she’s sure you’ll enjoy our next posts about a nature artist and a fun and easy art activity about nature.

 

Children’s Author, Becky van Vleet and Courtney Smith, Illustrator, Talk about Becky’s Newest Picture Book

Today I’m happy to introduce you to my friend, Becky van Vleet, a children’s author and Courtney Smith, illustrator of Becky’s books. Becky loves to pass down family stories and traditions to her grandchildren, just as we saw the grandfather doing in my previous post about the painting, The Banjo Lesson.

In this interview Becky and Courtney tell a little about Becky’s books and offer advice for young writers and artists who might be interested in writing and /or illustrating books!

Welcome Becky!

 I love your 1st story about Talitha, a little skirt that over the years, travels to several little girls.  And in the 2nd, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica, about a boy, his dog, and a harmonica, also travels to several generations! Molly, my corgi, loves that there’s a dog in each book!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

A: Thank you, Kathy, for featuring me. I am a retired teacher/principal. My husband and I make our home in Colorado Springs where I enjoy spending time with my family, lap swimming, oil painting, hiking and biking, and eating cotton candy. I especially enjoy reading books to our grandchildren. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never set out to do anything with it until retirement. With a little more time, kind of, I connected my ideas to my computer and ran with it which resulted in my first published children’s picture book in 2019.

Q: I understand this book is the second in a series. Can you tell us a little about the first book and any others you have planned?

A: Yes, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica, is the second book in my “traveling” series. I was inspired to write my first book, Talitha, the Traveling Skirt, because we had a little skirt that had been traveling around in our family for three generations, for more than 70 years. This was such a fun project for me with many family memories attached.

That sounds like so much fun! 

Q: Do you have a theme that carries through your writing!

A: My third “traveling” book is already under contract and the fourth one will follow. The common theme of all four of these picture books is that an inanimate object becomes the main character and travels through three generations.

Q: What inspired you to write your stories?

A:  I would say it’s my passion to create and preserve family memories and traditions as well as sharing family stories. In fact, my website is devoted to this. Check it out! https://www.beckyvanvleet.com. If any of you who are reading this would like to share a family memory or tradition, please get in touch with me!

Q: How does your Christian faith encourage you in your writing and influence your stories?

A:  My call to writing is just that. I have been called by God to write. I pray about my writing endeavors and I really feel that keeps me humble. When I write, I want to give back something to the reading community that is truth, noble, pure, lovely, and of good report. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

Q: I know you’re a mom, a grandmother, and a teacher like me. Do you have any suggestions to help parents enjoy your books with their children?

A: I have a very simple, yet profound, suggestion. Just read, read, read! I can’t emphasize that enough. Read books aloud, encourage independent daily reading. I believe in this so much that it should be like brushing your teeth—read every day!

“Read, read, read!” Yes!!! Molly and I agree with that!

 Q: What would you like children to take away from your books?

A:  I would like children to hear a message of working through conflict and coming out on the other side in a good way. All of my books have a theme of family life and traditions, so I’d like children to understand and appreciate these themes.

Q: What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

A: My advice for young writers is to write, write, write. (Does this sound familiar to read, read, read?) I would encourage the very young ones to write and draw and share their work with family members. For the older ones, I would encourage them to attend a writing conference, buy books about tips for writing, and share their ideas aloud with family members.

Q: Where can we learn more about you and your upcoming projects?

A:  My website is: https://www.beckyvanvleet.com

Q: Where can our readers find your books?

A:  On Amazon:

Talitha, the Traveling Skirt:  https://amzn.to/3qpG1fI

Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica:  https://amzn.to/3nUh7CL

Roxie, the Traveling Rocker:  Stay Tuned!

Wally, the Traveling Watch:  Stay Tuned!

 Welcome to you, too, Courtney! The Illustrations are such an important part of picture books!

I love all the details you put in your illustrations, and my corgi, Molly, especially loves your illustrations of the dogs in each book!

 Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.

A: My name is Courtney Smith. My husband and I live in Franktown, CO with our five children ages 16 down to 8. I am a full-time homeschool mom and a part-time Athletic Trainer mostly working with our USA Wrestling teams (when things are not shut down). I also breed Great Pyrenees puppies and love to draw and scribble.

Q: How long have you been illustrating children’s books?

A: Creating fine art was a passion which helped me stay sane throughout my college years. (I have a triple major in Math, Chemistry, and Computer Science and a minor in Fine Art). That background provided me with the opportunity to illustrate my first children’s picture book in 2019. Since then, I have finished 12 more picture books and devotions and have some in progress.

Q: What is your process when you receive a book project to illustrate?

A: The most important step I take is to ask the Lord for peace about the project and wisdom to know if I’m the best illustrator for the job. Then, I like to read the manuscript to see what images fly into my imagination without knowing anything of the author’s vision. Are the pictures created in my mind realistic, whimsical, or cartoon style? Are they colorful, dark, heavy or light? Most authors send their proposal with ideas for what the images on each spread could be. Does my vision or ideas align with the author’s ideas for their story?

Not only do I want to create a book I’m proud to promote, but I also want the author to love the images that will bring his work to life. Even if the author and I seem to be on the same track, I like to sketch out a spread so the author can see what my idea or vision is. I want my author to be entirely confident that my working for him or her is God’s will and provide the opportunity to either jump in with both feet or kindly decline partnering with me. If we both want to continue as a team, we will agree upon compensation, sign a contract, and begin the adventure.

Q: What part of illustrating do you enjoy the most?

A: I really enjoy working with the authors and am most gratified when they are excited about the images I create. I had the opportunity to work with Becky Van Vleet early on for Talitha the Traveling Skirt. We live close and were able to meet in person to chat about the book. Along with the two of us, the children’s book editor from Becky’s publishing house was there as well. Together, we were able to pare down the manuscript and tell much of the story with the images, which is always better when creating a children’s picture book. Because I was able to feel Becky’s passion for her story, I was able to shape the images to tell the story using meaningful tid-bits from Becky’s photos and memories.

Q: What medium did you use for the illustrations of this book?

A: Currently, I do all my illustrations on my computer using my Wacom tablet and Corel Painter’s software. Using this program, I can select many different mediums from pen and ink, to watercolor, and oils and acrylics.

Q: What advice do you have for young people who may be interested in art and illustrating?

A: Go for it! When I was contracted for my first project, I was terrified. But God is faithful and with each story, I have gained both skill and confidence. I would highly recommend a wacom tablet for beginners. The model I use is smaller than a sheet of paper but allows me versatility and convenience. I am able to choose canvas size from the beginning to make uploading or sharing more streamlined for the editor.

Q: Where can our readers see more of your work?

A: With the exception of one story, all of my projects are available through Amazon.

2020’s publications include:

Harvey the Traveling Harmonica by Becky Van Vleet,

I Hate Oatmeal by Jan Lis,

Benny Learns a Lesson by Cheryl Johnson,

Fairy Tales & Faith by Antwan Houser,

Mayflower Marty by Luann Hamill,

High-water Hattie by Shelley Pierce

Thank you, Becky and Courtney, for taking the time to tell about your work and these wonderful books that highlight the love and joy we have in our families!

 Molly and I are looking forward to the next two books in the Traveling series!

Please join us for our next post that has a fun art activity to highlight the special things about Your family!

Henry Ossawa Tanner, African American Artist of Many Firsts 

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African American artist to become a full academician of France’s National Gallery of Design. He continued getting awards even after his death, becoming the first African American artist to have a major solo exhibition in the United States (in 1969 at the Smithsonian). And in 1996, Tanner’s painting, Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, was bought for the White House, the first painting by an African American to be added to that collection.

Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

Henry Ossawa Tanner won numerous other awards and honors and has paintings in many museum collections. But success didn’t come first in the United States.

The post includes:

  • Information about Henry Ossawa Tanner
  • Information about his painting, The Banjo Lesson
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Banjo Lesson
  • A kid-friendly devotion based on the painting

The Artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner, photograph, public domain

Born in 1859, Henry grew up mainly in Philadelphia. His father was a minister and eventually a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his mother, a teacher, had escaped from slavery on the Underground Railway.

In 1872 when he was just 13, Henry Ossawa Tanner saw a landscape artist at work in Fairmount Park. This large, scenic park stretches along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and includes land once belonging to William Penn, the founder of the city. Henry stopped to watch and decided he wanted to be an artist.

Largely self-taught at first, Henry spent hours painting in Philadelphia’s zoo and at its waterfront, but when he graduated high school, his father apprenticed him to work in a flour mill. Henry had always been small and frail, and work in the mill made him so sick he had to quit and recover at home.

In later life, he credited his artistic abilities to his poor health, because he spent his recovery time painting. But Henry wanted formal training, and in 1879 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins. He was the only African American student.

When Henry went out on his own, though, he found it difficult to succeed,  because so few were willing to give work to an African American artist. During this time, he traveled in North Carolina, painting ordinary people and their lives. His paintings showed African Americans with dignity.

After selling some paintings, he traveled to study in Paris as so many Americans did in the late 1800s. Tanner loved Paris and its art and was especially thankful to find more opportunity and less discrimination. He married another American living in Paris, and together they made Paris their home, only returning to America for visits.

Tanner painted landscapes and many scenes of ordinary French life as he had in North Carolina,

The Young Sabot Maker by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

but eventually turned more and more to religious subjects. He took several long trips to study and paint in the Middle East, because he wanted to show real people in authentic settings. He once said he, “preached with his brush.” He won awards with his religious works and was one of the first African American artists to win international fame.

I posted his Annunciation and The Annunciation to the Shepherds for my Christmas post. But for today’s post we’re going to look at another of Tanner’s famous paintings, The Banjo Lesson, probably painted during a trip home to Philadelphia.

The Painting, The Banjo Lesson

While studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Tanner came to love the art of Rembrandt. He shared the Dutch artist’s faith and appreciated his many portraits of Jesus as well as other biblical subjects. Tanner also loved the way Rembrandt used light and shadow to create drama in his paintings. Probably above all, Tanner wanted, like Rembrandt, to show the emotions and character of his subjects and give dignity to everyday people and their work.

Tanner’s studies in France added lighter colors—cool blues and warm yellows and reds—and sometimes looser and more expressive brush strokes to his style. But Tanner never changed his focus on a realistic, sympathetic portrayal of his subjects, whether it was a landscape or people.

Jesus and Nicodemus by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

Tanner continued to experiment with how to use light to create atmosphere and heighten a painting’s message as in The Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel is shone as a pillar of light. Notice how the light forms a cross with the shelf high on the wall.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, 1850-1937,Philadelphia Museum of Art, public domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see all these influences in The Banjo Lesson

The Banjo Lesson by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

  • A realistic and quiet genre scene of everyday life
  • Lights and shadows to highlight the subjects, who are treated with dignity
  • A sympathetic portrayal of the loving bond and interaction between the boy and his grandfather.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore this Beautiful Painting

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.

The Banjo Lesson is both a sensitive portrait of a man and boy and a quiet story about them. Use these questions to enjoy it together:         

  • Have the man and boy just finished a meal? What would make us think that?
  • What are the 2 light sources? (Window and fireplace)
  • How does Tanner use the light to focus our attention on the faces and hands of the boy and man?
  • Notice how the man’s hands mirror the child’s hands and look ready to help only if needed
  • Ask children to use their 5 senses to explore the painting. Would they hear hesitant notes from the banjo or a flowing tune? Would they feel warmth from the fire? Would they smell coffee or other foods? Is the floor rough or smooth?
  • What do the objects tell about the people? hat, frying pan, rough cloth on table, simple chair, etc. (Play a game with children: have them look at the painting for a minute and then turn around and tell you all the things they remember)
  • Are these people wealthy or poor? What makes us think this?
  • Are these people related? What makes us think this?
  • What words would describe the man? The boy? Encourage children to go beyond physical appearance to emotions, such as patience, attentive, kind, loving, etc.

Devotion

After viewing The Banjo Lesson talk about your family with your children. You might begin with a story about a grandparent or your childhood and then ask some of the following questions:

  • What makes your family special?
  • What are some things they know about family history, such as where the family came from or stories from tough times.
  • Have any objects or traditions been handed down from older generations?
  • What are some interests and hobbies of family members?
  • Have any of these been handed down from grandparents or other family members?

Ask children whether when they looked at The Banjo Lesson, they felt like the man, probably the boy’s grandfather, loved his grandson and was patiently teaching him how to play the banjo?

The Banjo Lesson by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

  • Talk with your children about how families were created by God to be places where children would be loved and accepted and could be encouraged and instructed as they grow and learn skills.
  • Ask them what skills they have learned from family members.

Loving and accepting families also help children learn about God’s love and acceptance (read Deuteronomy 5:4-7).

  • Jesus was born into a family. He had a mother and earthly father like other children. God knew Jesus needed a family who loved Him and helped Him grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men (read Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:39-52).
  • Ask children what they have learned about God and Jesus from parents and grandparents.
  • Ask if they’ve learned more from words and conversations or from actions?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us and send Your Son to grow up in a family. We are so thankful for our family where we can be loved and accepted and learn about Jesus. Help us be attentive and want to learn to love and please our parents and You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning about Henry Ossawa Tanner and his paintings. We also hope you’ll join us again for an art project all about family!

 

 

Winter Picture Books to Read Aloud

Here are some wonderful picture books to read aloud during the winter. Most are classics—many Caldecott winners—so they’re readily available in your library or in many bookstores as well as on Amazon. It’s amazing how many Caldecott winners have been about winter!!

Two of these books have mice in them! So here’s a mouse reading a book!!

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, 1948 Caldecott medal. While adults work to shovel or continue their work through the snow, the children build snowmen and taste snowflakes on their tongues.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt,, wikimedia fair use

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, 1949 Caldecott medal. Forest animals prepare for a big snow.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1963 Caldecott medal. A young boy enjoys the first snowfall in the city.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Wikimedia fair use

Frederick by Leo Lionni, 1967 Caldecott Honor book. While the other mice gather food for winter, Frederick, a mouse artist and poet, gathers beautiful colors and stories for long, bleak winter days.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, 1988 Caldecott medal. A little girl and her father take a late night walk to see and hear an owl. Other forest creatures appear in the illustrations.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, 1999 Caldecott medal. A nonfiction picture book about a Vermont farmer at the turn of the century who loved nature and with great patience and determination, learned how to photograph individual snowflakes.

Here’s a brand new picture book about winter that younger children will really enjoy.

Once Upon a Winter Day by Liza Woodruff, 2020. A little boy wants his mother to read a story. When she’s too busy, she suggests he take a walk. At first he grumbles, but soon is caught up in following a mouse’s tracks through the snow. He finds feathers, acorns, and other tracks that make him wonder what happened.

In beautifully illustrated 2-page spreads, the reader sees what happened—a flock of birds taking off, a herd of deer feeding, etc. Children will enjoy finding the mouse in each of these illustrations and following the boy and the mouse to their homes. When he gets home the boy tells his mother he has stories to tell!

Once Upon a Winter Day and The Snowy Day provide a nice contrast between a winter walk in the city and one in the country.

Make some winter memories! Go for a walk or build a snowman with your children or grandchildren, then come in to share one or all of these books around a fire while sipping hot cocoa!

Does your family have a favorite book about winter? Let me know in the comment section below!

Writing News:  I have 7 devotions in the Spring 2021 (March-May) quarterly of The Quiet Hour devotional available from David C. Cook. If you’re interested, you can enjoy 3 months of short, daily devotions by a number of authors.

Looking Ahead:  This month we’ll be looking at a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson. It shows a man, perhaps a grandfather, teaching a young boy how to play the banjo. Tanner was well-known for his realistic and compelling religious paintings, which I love, and I showed two in my Christmas blog—The Annunciation and The Angels Appearing to the Shepherds.

1st post will tell a little more about Tanner and The Banjo Lesson painting, as well as include a short kid-friendly devotion.

2nd post will have a related art activity highlighting the importance of family.

3rd post will be an interview with a children’s author whose work also highlights family and passing down traditions!

Molly and I hope you’ll join us for a great month of engaging hearts and hands to discover God in art!

 

 

 

 

Stay Snuggly Warm for Winter Walks, A Fun Art Activity for Creative Kids

Winter walks need the right clothing. When you looked at Monet’s painting, The Magpie, in my last post, did you think about what you would have to wear to enjoy that winter day?

The Magpie, 1868, Claude Monet, Musee D’Orsay, public domain

This post will include 3 things:

  1. A short story about the woes of getting 20 kindergartners ready to go outside in the winter… but why it’s worth it
  2. A fun art activity about hats, mittens, and winter pictures
  3. Some suggestions for related curriculum connections to enjoy

Story

“Where was that boot?” I knew the child had arrived in boots, but I had crawled under every table and it was nowhere. I finally gave up and searched through our spare bin for a boot to fit her small, stockinged foot, so we could go out for recess.

Each child had a cubby, so you’d think it would be easy to match each child to their outdoor clothing. Not so. Twenty kindergartners can quickly create an infinite number of mismatched mittens, boots, and lost hats. Chaos often reigned, along with tears. Lots of tears–sometimes mine .

When I graduated college, I took a position team-teaching with an experienced kindergarten teacher. Kindergarten was half day, and we taught one group in the morning and another in the afternoon. So teaching time was at a premium. Despite that, this teacher insisted we take children out for a recess. Even if it was cold and snowy. (and in Maine it often was)

About three days into the first cold week of winter, I asked (okay, grumbled!) why we took so much valuable lesson time for recess in the winter. Wouldn’t it be easier to just let them play in the block corner? She just smiled.

And as she knew I would, I soon began to notice the joy on children’s faces as they played outside. Sticky snow inspired snowmen. They loved to taste snowflakes on their tongues, and even in snowsuits and boots, they jumped in snow drifts and chased each other around the playground. When we came back in, the wiggles were gone, and most settled down to do a little more work.

No matter what age we are, we all need those breaks to get out the wiggles. Outside sights and sounds refresh us mentally, physically, and spiritually. But we need snuggly clothing to enjoy wintry weather.

So here is our art project. A child’s happy face with a hat and mittens opening up to reveal a picture of something they enjoyed outside on a winter day.

A Fun Art Activity

Supplies

  • Sturdy white paper
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Crayons and/or water color paints and brushes
  • markers

Directions (Although there’s lots children can do on this projects, an adult or older child will need to do the original measuring, cutting, and drawing)

For an adult

  1. From the white paper, cut a strip 18” long X 6” wide
  2. Measure 9” in to find the middle
  3. From that point measure 3¼” over twice on each side of the middle mark and draw lines ( which leaves 2¼” left on each side)
  4. Fold on these lines as shown in the pictures (the inner folds toward the center—they should meet there—and the outer folds outward)
  5. Next draw a template for a mitten and one half of a child’s face topped with a hat. (see the picture)
  6. Using the mitten template draw a mitten on each side of the outer fold (turn the template over for the second mitten
  7. On the folds beneath the mittens, use the face template to draw half a face on each side. (See the picture)
  8. Cut away some of the paper around the mitten so it is still attached but has the mitten shape. (see the picture)

For Children

  1. Draw designs on the mittens and eyes, nose and mouth on the face ( just one eye and half of the nose and mouth go on each side)
  2. Do the designs in crayon and fill in the spaces with water color paint (this is called crayon resist, because the waxy crayon resist the paint) you can mix your paint colors and paint right over the crayon designs.
  3. On the space inside, attach a photo or draw a picture of something you enjoyed seeing outside this winter
  4. When finished and dry, refold the sections so the mittens cover the child’s face until you open it all up.This makes a great picture to put up on the fridge or a card to send to grandparents!

Helpful Hints

  • Children may use just crayon or marker for this activity
  • If using the crayon resist method, have children outline all shapes with crayon, even if they don’t color them in. This makes it easier to paint within the lines of the hat, mittens, etc.
  • I left my face uncolored except for rosy cheeks, so that children can choose the skin color they’d like. Most large boxes of crayons now have many skin tones available
  • Help children mix enough water and pigment to be able to paint a whole space. (this is what the cover of paint sets is for) But not so much water that no color shows and the paper gets saturated.

Variations

  • Use colored paper for your base and draw and cut out faces and mittens from white paper. Once these are colored, cut the mittens out and the face apart and glue onto the folded base paper. You will still have to measure and cut the base paper as explained above.
  • Make a real pompom of yarn for the hat (you’ll actually need 2 pompoms!)
  • Use some cloth to make a scarf

Cleanup Tips

This is not a very messy project, but certainly a supply of paper towels and a plastic tablecloth are helpful if you decide to paint.

Curriculum Connections

  • Look up how sheep are raised and cared for and learn about how their wool is turned into yarn.
  • Watch a video of sheepdogs in action.
  • Watch a video of someone knitting mittens and hats.
  • Research about the Industrial Revolution and how spinning and weaving were among the first processes to be mechanized.
  • What were some good outcomes of this mechanization, such as cheaper goods?
  • What were some bad outcomes for the workers who flocked to the cities to work in the mills? such as child labor.
  • What are some new, man-made fibers that help keep us warm today?

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Molly and I hope you enjoyed this art activity and will be able to don your own snuggly hat, mittens, and scarf and get outside to enjoy God’s creation!Next post will be children’s books about winter! Don’t miss it! Sign up to receive the Picture Lady posts by email.

 

 

 

 

Winter Snow, Winter Color, Winter Quiet

In his many winter snow scenes, Claude Monet showed that winter has lots of color! In 1890, in a field near his home in Giverny, Monet began his first series—painting the same 2 or 3 grain stacks to capture how light changes the color of objects, even snow!

Haystack, Morning, Snow Effect, 1891, Claude Monet, Boston Museum of Art, public domain

Monet thought he could do it in just a few canvases, but he ended up with about 30 paintings in the series. Each day he trundled out to the field with a wheelbarrow full of unfinished canvases that he switched as the light and weather changed.

When winter came, Monet paid the farmer extra money to leave the stacks in place so he could paint them in winter. He painted early and late and once complained that the winter sun set so quickly it was hard to capture its effects.

People immediately loved the grain or hay stack paintings, and their sale allowed Monet to buy his home in Giverny. People still love them—in May of 2019 one sold at auction for a record-breaking 110.7 million dollars.

This post is about an earlier winter painting by Monet, The Magpie.

The Magpie, 1868, Claude Monet, Musee D’Orsay, public domain

Done in 1868, its quiet beauty shows how Monet was experimenting and developing his style, especially his use of color in shadows ( an earlier winter painting has black and gray shadows). The Magpie also shows the technique he was developing to capture fleeting changes while painting en plein air (outdoors). The post includes:

  • Information about the painting
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand the painting
  • A kid-friendly devotion

The Painting

In these early years the official French salon rejected most of Monet’s paintings, and he sold very few. But in 1868 he received a couple commissions and was able to rent a house on the Normandy coast.

He wanted to paint the famous cliffs there, which he did. But The Magpie shows there had been a heavy snowstorm and Monet probably couldn’t get to the cliffs. Instead he painted this scene, probably close to the house he was renting.

(when it’s not traveling as part of special exhibits, The Magpie lives at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Its website doesn’t allow you to enlarge the painting, but this link will take you to one you can enlarge as you move your cursor around to see details)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Monet#/media/File:Claude_Monet_-_The_Magpie_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

  • In the painting the sun is low in the sky, casting long shadows across the sunlit scene. The painting’s brightness is accentuated by the dark tree trunks, branches, and the wattle or woven wood fence. Monet paints the deep snow with patches or dabs of paint, his emerging technique for capturing the changing light. In the middle ground a long light rose-colored building with reddish chimneys, is the only truly warm place in the painting. In the background is the sea.
  • Look closely at the sky to see yellows and reds and blues and violets. And when you look at the snow, especially in the shaded areas, you’ll see violets and blues and even some yellows and pinks.
  • The focal point of the painting (the area that draws your attention) is the magpie sitting on top of the fence.

Activities to Help You and Your Children Enjoy the Painting

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Then have them to tell what else they see. Enhance observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Help them see nuances of color in the sky and snow.

1.This painting is great for describing what we’d hear and see and feel if we’d been there with Monet. Here are some good questions to help children imagine what it would be like:

  • Have you ever been out after deep snow and noticed how quiet it is?
  • Have you ever walked in the woods after a snow and had snow plop down on you from the trees overhead?
  • What would you need to wear to be comfortable in this scene?
  • Would you feel the cold seeping into your feet even through your boots? Can you imagine how cold Monet’s fingers must’ve gotten as he tried to paint this?
  • Would the fence feel rough or smooth?
  • Do you think the snow would be warm and sticky enough to make a snowman?
  • Do you see how Monet has created a rhythm of shadows across the painting in front of the fence?

2.It could also be fun to make up a story about the magpie. Here are some story prompts:

  • How long has he been sitting on the fence?
  • Where was he before?
  • Is he looking around for food or is he resting?
  • Is he quiet or singing?
  • What other creatures might live here?
  • Look up information about magpies to see how they survive winter.

Devotion

Our everyday lives are busy and often noisy, and cold winter days aren’t always inviting, but taking a walk on a winter day and be refreshing for our bodies, our minds, and our souls.

So take a walk with your children. Help them be especially observant with some of the following suggestions:

  • Have them stand still and listen, then tell what they hear
  • If it’s quite cold, can they see their breath hanging in the air as they speak
  • Study shadow shapes and colors on the snow.
  • Look at the sky and describe the colors and clouds
  • Look for bird nests (they show up more without leaves on the trees).
  • Look at different tree shapes (these also show more in winter)
  • Observe animal tracks. If you go out soon after a new snow, you may see rabbit or squirrel or even deer tracks. Take photos of these and look up how to tell the difference between rabbit and squirrel tracks.
  • Many birds stay around all year, so it’s fun to watch them and observe their winter habits. Use a field guide to identify species.

After your walk come inside, make some cocoa, and gather to talk about your walk and what you’ve learned.

  1. Discuss with your children all the things they saw and heard on your walk. Read Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
  2. Talk about the variety and beauty of clouds, trees, types of nests, and tracks in the snow. Describe the type of snow you walked in. Talk about and look up why some birds go south and others can survive cold winters.
  3. Read verses from Job, chapters 38-39 (especially 38:19-22 and 24-30) and talk about God’s wisdom, creativity, and continuing care of all He has made.
  4. Discuss the ways you saw God’s hand caring for plants and creatures while outside enjoying the quiet of a winter day. (Suggestions: snow covers and protects plants from the cold; squirrels and rabbits have thick, furry coats for warmth; red cardinals and black-capped chickadees eat seeds that are still around in the winter)

Just as the quiet winter day helps us see God’s hand in creation, taking time each day to be quiet with God can help us know Him even better. God is our heavenly Father, and He wants us to come to Him and talk to Him in prayer about all the things going on in our lives. He wants to talk to us, too, through His word that helps us learn about Jesus and His love for us.

What do you enjoy most about winter and how does it point you to God?

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Molly and I hope you’ve enjoyed this winter painting and the devotion about it! Come back soon for a related art activity, curriculum connections, and children’s books about winter!