Ten Tips for teaching Art to your child-for the non-artist parent

If you are a parent who sees artistic potential in your child or children but are at a loss as to how to help them develop their artistic skills further, then this is the article for you.

Tip 1:Believe that it is a basic part of human nature to be creative and that you and your children have every right to be creative because Art is not exclusive. (If you do not believe this yet, then pretend to for your children’s sake!)

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Tip 2:If you have very little formal artistic skills yourself, it’s not a problem. Find one of many great online tutorials that can teach you and your children how to draw. Here are just a few: How to draw a nose, How to draw a Spinosaurus, How to draw a butterfly, How to draw a dragon’s eye

Tip 3: When your child does a piece of art work train yourself not to automatically say ‘Wow, that’s so amazing darling’. Take a look at this fantastic clip called Austin’s butterfly and try giving feedback that actually means something and shows you’ve taken the time to really look at their art.

Tip 4: Keep sketchbooks and date work. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as looking back over art work and seeing how much you’ve improved since the first drawing.

Tip 5: Let children follow their own inspiration! If Jonny loves snakes and you have a snake phobia, you’ll still have to support Jonny when he draws snakes because you don’t want to pass on your fear of snakes. Remember, it’s passion that gets artists through difficult times.

Muhyi snake

Tip 6: Encourage your children to embrace mistakes. So frustrating when they know what they want a drawing to look like and their hands just won’t do it! Learn about Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and the power of using the word ‘yet’. Mistakes are not a catastrophe, they are part of an essential process towards a goal. Your brain develops most when you make a mistake and learn from it, so teach your child to be pleased when they make a marvellous mistake and explain that they are just not quite there yet.

Tip 7: For ways to create fun opportunities for Art linked to story books read this article.

Tip 8: Let your children take photos. Imagine you go to the zoo on a family trip but they’re just too excited to sit and draw any of the animals there. Well that’s where many artists would take several photographs of their favourite animal for later use. On a rainy day you can get the photos up on a computer or ipad and draw from them. Here are some photos my son took when we went to Crocodile world.

 

Tip 9: If you have an ipad or tablet then download Photoeditor. Let your children experiment with editing a photo they took. Art can be digital as well as drawn with pencil and paper. Here are some digitally edited photos done by 7 year olds I’ve worked with.

Tip 10: Get children out and about and do some Art outdoorsLand Art or at a museum.

Here are some pics of Land Art I’ve done with my children.

I hope this gives you some helpful advice to get started and perhaps once you get going you’ll have some inspiring ideas yourself that you’d like me to put up on this post for others to see.

If you have photos you’d like me to share then please send them to a.henckel@hotmail.com and add any short notes or tips you’d like me to add alongside them.

How to mummify a chicken in a primary classroom-NO SMELL RECIPE

Here’s the chicken about three quarters mummified so after 5 weeks

Having been challenged to write instructions on how to make a mummy the year three teachers invited all 90 year 3 children to take part in a chicken mummification ‘ceremony’ inspired by the 3000 year old Ancient Egyptian process.

Whilst smelling the sweet aroma of frankincense the children heard the live story-telling of an Ancient Egyptian myth of the first mummification involving the envious Seth, god of evil; tricking, killing and cutting his brother King Osiris’s body into 14 pieces and hurling them across the Nile. And of Isis, beloved wife of Osiris crying in sorrow at her husbands death, thus flooding the Nile. Then journeying to find the bits and put them back together so mummifying Osiris’s mutilated body with the help of the god Anubis. Read the story here.

Volunteers took turns to help in the mummification process as the others looked on enthralled listening to the parallels made to the mummification of a human body by ancient Egyptians. More about how ancient Egyptians mummified their dead herehere, and here.

What you need: 

  1. Small baby chicken gutted (I used a halal one because there is less blood in halal chicken as it’s drained out during the slaughtering process- perhaps this might make the mummifying process less smelly)
  2. Dishwasher salt -3 x kg bags
  3. Rock or sea salt (with no iodine added)
  4. Bicarbonate of soda -2 containers approx
  5. White wine vinegar-1 cup full
  6. Optional- dried lavender flowers or rosemary leaves
  7. 3kg seal tight plastic container
  8. Kitchen towel
  9. Gloves
  10. Antibacterial wipes
  11. Bin with bin bags
  12. Incense (optional)
  13. A table
  14. A large bowl

Method:

  • With gloves on Wash chicken with white wine vinegar, inside and out thoroughly ( this kills germs)
  • Dab chicken dry with kitchen towel
  • Mix in large bowl the rock salt, 1 bag dishwasher salt, half container of bicarbonate of soda (approximate measurements given)
  • Create a ‘bed’ of the salt mixture in the base of the plastic container and add some dried herbs if using
  • Place washed and dried chicken on bed of salt mixture
  • Stuff salt mixture in every nook cranny and crevice of the chicken as well as the inside ( if using a chicken that isn’t gutted you could take these out and also preserve them in salt in home made canopic jars.
  • Then pour rest of salt mixture over top of stuffed chicken
  • Sprinkle on some more bicarbonate of soda (keeps away any bad odours)
  • Leave in covered plastic container for 6 weeks or until mummification process is completed.
  • Check on it every two weeks and replace all the salt mixture once at around 3-4 week point

NB of course whilst demonstrating and involving children, health and safety must be adhered to. Incense can be burned as Ancient Egyptians would have done. The chicken can be weighed before, during and after the mummification process for scientific purposes.

I’ve kept the mummifying chicken in the classroom, closed and out of the way of nosey children for some time and it’s been so easy to keep, bring out and show as well as maintain throughout the process.

Below are photos of the chicken 5 weeks into its mummification. I’d like to add that not at any time during this process has there ever been any unpleasant smell. In fact there is a slight smell of soap (probably from the dishwasher salt) as well as the gorgeous smell of lavender and perhaps just a whiff of old leather shoes. 

  Above I am squeezing the leg, it’s become quite firm and stiff but is still slightly too pink to be fully completed yet. But you can see how the skin has dried out and is now tightly following the shape of the bone beneath.

  Above I’m pointing to the inside of the leg that has been face down on the salt bed is beginning to turn brown. A good sign meaning it is nearer to full mummification.

Above the chicken is beginning to take on a squashed appearance as the salt draws out the water and begins to dry it out.  

Here you can see that the fleshy breast is far less mummified than other parts. My finger can press into the flesh still and leave an impression. This part needs much more time in the salt. The colour is also still pinkish. 

I shall post more photos when it has completely mummified. We also hope to embalm it (wrap it in bandages) so these pictures will follow.

I hope this post helps make this really exciting activity accessible to your classroom thus bringing to life this strange and ancient art. (NB although we have parents of vegetarian/vegan children in our classes I’d like to add that no one made any complaint or comment about the process and all the children have been fully engaged throughout.)

A message in hands

A creative journey through art and story telling 

I am your servant,
I am your slave,
I obey your command.
And never once do I question your demand.

Food I bring and drink I serve
Often more than you deserve.

Like a clock I can change with time,
Yet unlike a clock I am able to mime.
Though words I can’t speak
I can say a lot.
Things I can feel,
Though feelings I have not!

What am I?

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This was the riddle I showed my class of 28 on the Monday of our school art & storytelling week.

It took a lot of logical thinking from one particular girl to finally answer the riddle correctly. She analysed every part of the riddle and justified her answer in such a beautiful and reasonable way and to everyone’s astonishment her answer of ‘a hand’ was entirely correct.

Our theme was hands and over the week I took the class on a whistle stop tour of some famous paintings, sayings and stories of hands. We began with a pair of the most famous and unfortunately commercialized hands throughout history. Albrecht Durer’s ‘Praying hands’. I story-told the famous, but untrue story of Albrecht and his brother Albert’s almost unobtainable dream to become artists and study at art school. Read here for a version of the story.

Albrecht Durer Hands or ‘The Praying Hands’

On day two we looked at our own hands and then grabbed ipads between pairs and went out into the sunny spring garden of our school and shot some gorgeous photos of our hands. The children had two tasks, first to find an intriguing natural object and photograph their partner holding that object. The second task was to get together into groups of 6 or 7 and put all their hands into interesting positions and take photographs of them. Here are just a few of the photographs the children took.

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Before we looked at any art works we discussed how hands could have meaning. The children thought together in pairs and groups of all the ways they could think of that hands convey meaning. They thought of mime and sign language but strangely did not link the communication they do with their own hands on a day to day basis as part of hands having meaning. So we did some drama and acted in silence short scenarios that use hands to communicate something to someone else. The sudden upward shot of hands when something or someone is about to hit us, the outstretched hand when we want someone to give us something or help us and shaking someones hands to say hello were just some of the situations we explored.

Shaking Hands: My children,son and daughter, shaking hands, used for a buddy program for school age kids. Comments Welcome :)

I taught the children how to do what I call ‘scribble drawings’. A sure way to free anybody feeling constrained by having to get everything right. The children have not been trained in observational drawing and as a result have quite negative attitudes towards their work. Scribble drawings in pen are so free and fun that they forget the tiny details and look for the big shapes and shadows. Here are a few of their ‘scribble’ hand drawings and some foreshortened fingers.

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Encouraging children to annotate their drawings, saying how they would change them what they don’t like discourages pessimism and them crossing out work. It get’s them to think in a practical way how they could improve it. The drawing below shows my favourite annotation ever! Having drawn a hand that she wasn’t too happy with, this young lady commented quite accurately that it resembled a turkey!

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We discussed the work of Kate MacDowell, in particular her sculpture titled ‘in the hand’ and we story told another beautiful folk tale from India called The answer is in your hand. The children were amazed that Kate MacDowell’s sculpture linked so much with this Indian tale and they listened entranced as I told it. Kate MacDowell ‘s sculpture is so delicate, detailed and yet sparse with it’s crisp white porcelain finish and the children found it really interesting.

Having viewed images of many artworks involving hands we discussed together what the different artists might be saying through their art works. We learnt that some artists have a hidden message behind their art work and some have a message that is more obvious (like this Sudarsan Pattnaik sand sculpture). The children talked with each other about what was important to them and decided on their own title or message that they wanted to convey through their art work. They all created punchy titles that help their message to come across. By this stage they knew that they would be creating a 3D hand sculpture later on in the week and their message would need to be reflected in their sculpture.

Two particular titles I thought were brilliant. One was ‘Nature’s Hand’, the girl whose title this was, wanted to convey her love of nature and her desire for people to help conserve and look after nature. The other was ‘Soft, gentle Mom’, this was a boy who was stuck for any ideas, yet when asked: ‘What is important to you?’ he immediately answered, ‘My mom’. He described his mom’s hands as soft and gentle and so this evolved into his title.

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Nature’s Hand

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The children have completed their 2D designs and the plaster of paris hand casts have been created. Liquid plaster of paris was poured (by adults) into gloves that the children bought in, the top was then securely sealed with a rubber band. Then we then bent the fingers very sightly and pressed into the palm of the glove to give it a realistic feel. Quickly the plaster set into the new positions and then children were able to peel the gloves off and sand off any lumps and bumps. More information about how to do this. For health and safety risk assessment. You can also make balloon sculptures in this way.

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Below are some of our 2D designs, some children have also written about why their message is so important to them.

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Be Happy

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Save Tigers

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Stop Pollution

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The Nature Hand

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Racism & Violence Don’t Belong in Football

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For children who have little experience drawing and sculpting, this is a nice way to bridge the gap between 2D and 3D work. The plaster hands can then be scratched into with different objects in order to create the creases and details of the hand. This must be done in a ventilated area because of the dust and goggles should be worn just as a precaution.

Our next task is to paint our 2D designs onto the plaster of paris glove/hand casts. I will post more photos of these as we get them painted. And of course, use some E600 glue to stick a couple of broke fingers back on!

Here are the some of the completed hands. We added PVA over the top of the paint to give a soft sheen and protect them a bit.

Be Happy

Be Happy

Nature's Hand

Nature’s Hand

Save the World

Save the World

Violence and Racism Don't Belong in Football

Violence and Racism Don’t Belong in Football

Help Snow Leopards

Help Snow Leopards

Soft Gentle Mum

Soft Gentle Mum

Save Animals

Save Animals

A didgeridoo just for you!

As first time revellers at the Wilderness Festival, my husband and I quickly realised that having brought our children along, we would probably be spending rather more time in the family section than we’d bargained for.

Whether it was the exotically feathered & sequinned ‘happy’ drifters, the masquerading

Skinny dippers at the Wilderness Festival

lines of males in leotards and leggings or the nudist couple casually wandering in their birthday suit that made our children a little shy, we weren’t sure. But what ever the reason, they spent much of their time attached to us by arm, hand or leg; leaving us parents precious little time to enjoy the luxuries, novelties and musical delights filling the  Wilderness air

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Nevertheless, all was not lost. Our eldest son found his calling which came in a strange guise…

As we wondered around the family tents which included many eco & bush-craft workshops such as braiding rope from stinging nettles, bow drill fire making, copper pendent metal working,  wooden spoon carving, chalk carving and so forth; we came upon a small gathering of attentive children in a colourful cloth clad hut making unspeakable noises on bamboo didgeridoos .

Both boys quickly joined in, sitting at the feet of Ganesh. Much to his glee, Adam discovered that he could make a rather more pleasing sound which caught the attention of the teacher Mark.

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Mark then invited Adam to make his own instrument and with much excitement he set to work on the task.

Step 1 was choosing the right bamboo pole for his instrument.

Step 2. Checking for any cracks and faults and sawing it off to the correct length.

Step 3. Scraping out the inner segments of the bamboo cane which took a whileIMG_1860 IMG_1861Step 4. Sanding either end of the bamboo cane.

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Step 5. Moulding the bees wax mouth piece (a natural antiseptic).

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Step 6. Rubbing the outer length of the instrument and just inside the bottom end with linseed oil.

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And lastly, here is an exhausted Adam having a lie down while still playing his new, hand made instrument.

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What was so brilliant was that throughout the festival Adam was able to return to the didgeridoo classes to improve his playing and on the spur of the moment was even asked to perform with his teacher and a few other young players to a whole crowd of the youngest Wilderness revellers at the Flying Seagull Project theatre.

So thank you to Mark for starting one little boy on a new adventure!

Exotic Beaded Bib Necklace

Here is one of my latest beaded creations. An adjustable, beaded bib necklace made with tiny seed beads, semi precious stone & hand made polymer clay cabochons, turquoise adjustable leather necklace and a soft ultra suede backing. Available to buy from here.

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Year 3 Perfect Pond Prints

20140401-212157.jpg The year threes at JHN academy in Oxford, have been learning about rivers, pollution and how it affects wildlife. I showed them the art of Ahmad Nadalian and they were inspired by some of his methods and techniques. I collected some locally source scrap and recyclables such as bubble wrap, water bottles, sequin waste scraps, sponge, netting, corks Etc and showed the children how to print with them using a small sponge to dab on the acrylic paint and then print onto A3 paper. 20140401-211914.jpg   20140401-213105.jpg 20140401-213121.jpgI took the children pond dipping which was an opportunity for them to see first hand the types of creatures that live in an outdoor water habitat. I taught them how to draw a pond creature-a damselfly nymph, which they completed on water colour paper. They then cut out their drawings and gave them a yellow ochre wash. Lastly we bent the legs and glued the feet to their pond prints to create these final pieces.                      20140401-213133.jpg20140401-221124.jpg 20140401-221248.jpg

Anubis weighs an evil heart

By the hand, the white shrouded figure is led up to the scales of Maat.  IMG_1674Jackal Headed Anubis brings forth the heart to be weighed and in the presence of the gods the Ba bird flutters above, awaiting its soul’s judgement. The feather of Truth is laid. The scale is set with exact precision and all is suspended in oppressive silence. The only sound to break the deathly hush is the drop of Ammit’s salivating jaw as she eagerly awaits her prey. Then with a clank, the heavy heart pulls down the scales with the weight of its evil, leaving the airy feather floating for all to see. It is done. The judgement has been passed and with a half starved snarl Ammit grabs what is rightfully hers. The evil heart, soul and Ba bird; all are devoured.

Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead- With a contemporary twist 

I spent a day with Windmill Primary School’s fantastic Yr 6’s who created some superb Ancient Egyptian art with a modern twist. Do have a closer look at who the white shrouded figure being led by the jackal headed Anubis actually is. A leader famous for cruelty, death and genocide.

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 Ancient Egyptian mythology provides superb opportunities for storytelling

I story told the myth of Isis and Osiris to the children and then we discussed Hunefer ‘s famous papyrus scroll commonly called Hunefer ‘s Book of the Dead. (NB this is a colour enhanced version, to see it in original click here)

Here is my fantastic interactive version https://www.thinglink.com/scene/478359226985480193

The Art Work

The children were each asked  to draw, paint and then cut out a figure, either individually or in pairs. I showed them how to draw an Egyptian figure using the Ancient Egyptian Canon. All the figures and elements in the scroll were measured according to this formula which kept everything in proportion. IMG_1673Below is the enthroned Isis, Lord of the Underworld, who will pronounce the final judgement over the soul of the deceased. This heart weighed more then the feather of Truth so the demon Ammit will consume it and the soul will not attain immortal life. IMG_1676

The All Seeing Eye of Atum

There is an intriguing creation story of the all seeing eye. It begins with the dark, swirling, chaotic mass of Nu before Creation was made. From Nu arose Atum, and he was alone. He created a hill named Ben Ben, upon which he could stand and with his shadow he created a son and a daughter. Atum spat out his son Shu, god of air and his daughter he coughed out, she was Tefnut the goddess of moisture.

Tefnut and Shu had two children. The sky goddess Nut whose star studded body arches across the sky and gives birth to the sun every day. The other child was Geb the god of the earth and growing things. Nut and Geb always wish to be together but Shu keeps them apart so that creation can exist between them.

Once, Atum lost his children Shu and Tefnut in the chaos of Nu and was frantically looking for them. He sent his ‘all seeing eye’ around Creation to look for Shu and Tefnut and eventually the eye found them and brought them back to their desperate father. He was overjoyed and cried tears of happiness. It is from these tears of joy that the first humans were created.

See this story here.

Children created the All Seeing Eye or Eye of Horus 

Having story told several myths relating to the ‘all seeing eye’, I asked the children to look at their own eye in a mirror. The concentration was almost tangible as I talked them through observing the light, shadows, reflections and shapes in their eyes. After this observation they then began to draw the outlined shape of their eye on A3 paper and worked on observing and drawing the detail. The last step was to turn it into the eye of Horus.

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The Eye of Horus

Horus is the son of Osiris who was brutally murdered by his jealous and evil brother Seth. Horus wishes to avenge his father’s murder and reclaim the throne of Egypt from his evil uncle, so he challenges Seth. An eighty year long battle ensues and in one particularly difficult fight Seth gauges out Horus ‘s left eye and breaks it into six tiny pieces. However with the help of his mother Isis and Thoth the god of medicine, the eye is restored and returned to Horus who gives it as a gift to his father Osiris. Although the eye is restored, it never regains it’s original brightness and thus represents the moon and is a symbol of protection against evil, of rebirth, regeneration and healing.

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Further useful links for teachers and anyone else interested in ancient Egyptian Mythology
For Adults:

For Children: