Friday, August 27, 2010

Art Doll Instructional Zine is ready...

The zine is ready.  Susan Anand and I will be using this zine at the American Art Therapy Association annual conference this year for our preconference course on the simple wrapped doll.  We will be using simple materials like pipe cleaner, yarns, fibers, crayola model magic, pebbles and some fabric.  I adapted this technique of wrapping pipe cleaner from Jhan Groom and Joy MacLeod art therapists and artists in Calgary.    Just  in case you can't make it to Sacramento in November, you can purchase the zine right here, for $9.  A free zine on the therapeutic value of doll  making will be following shortly.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doll and puppet making for literacy and education

Collage by Lani.  Texture by DJ Pettitt.

Yesterday I got a question about using art to further literacy from my friend, Jo.   She's volunteering in a children's charity program, helping foster children with self esteem and literacy issues.  One particular child she works with has just discovered art.  Jo says "he is a lovely little boy, currently in grade 4 but can't read, although he seems like a reasonably intelligent little boy - he makes wonderful Lego constructions, for instance. His speech development is fine and he attends a normal school which is very sad as he is completely out of his depth there and it must be so bad for his self-esteem. His teacher is at her wits' end to know what to do with him - he somehow seems to fall between the cracks as far as qualifying for help is concerned (unbelievably!). His younger brother is at a special needs school and can read better than he can."  She was wondering about doll and puppet making in aid of literacy and education, given his blossoming interest in art.

This is actually one of my favorite topics.  The whole idea of using doll and puppet making to elicit stories that are relevant and meaningful from children, and then creating little books that could help teach reading and writing more easily is something I have seen work and it's something that is so easy to do.  You don't need a lot of fancy equipment or expensive books, just some large sheets of paper, card stock, and old magazines.  (National Geographic is my favorite for this activity.)

I'd start with some free inspiration in my "library"; the 3rd and 7th free zine here:
and the paper puppet zine here (not free but not expensive):

Now read on...

I actually have thought quite a bit about art and literacy while doing workshops in Mississippi where literacy in the poorer schools seemed to be a huge problem.  The thing I noticed about these schools was the books and materials available to the children were out of date, and/or culturally irrelevant to them.  The thing that I loved while working in Mississippi was getting kids to create dolls, puppets, and simple narratives; and helping them construct books where the narrative could be written down.

The way I did this was to provide collage materials so that the children could create paper puppet people, characters of their own making and imagination (see the zine above).  I tried to get a lot of face images of a variety of species (sometimes children seem to want to identify with animals), cultures, race, age, etc.  Variety is important.  I also created simple templates of "paper puppet people" which are nice and flat and could "live" inside a book.  (This  is important as it creates a positive feeling about books).  Once the character is created, then I created simple book structures for the child (see free zine #7, above).   Simple questions to elicit a very nice narrative followed.  

In order to elicit the narrative you will need:
1. images of a variety of environments; inside, outside, urban, country, mountains, ocean, etc.  (For all of this, old National Geographic's are excellent.)
2. images of things that might be considered gifts or special powers or mysterious objects; wings, crowns, treasure boxes...  really just a variety of possibly wonderful objects.
3. images of things that might be considered difficulties; walls, manageable monsters,  chasms, strange enviroments... anything that might be symbolic of a difficulty.  

Now here are the questions (and to answer these questions the child should be sorting through separate piles of the above pre-cut-images) :
1.  "Where does your character feel most comfortable?"  Create a collage on your first page or two in your book (from free zine #7 above) of a place where the character would feel most comfortable.
2.  "What special gift does your character have?"  All paper puppet people have at least one special gift, usually a lot more, they just don't always know about it.  Create a page about the gift.
3. "What special difficulty does your character discover?"  All the most interesting stories usually have a difficulty that the hero or heroine can overcome.  Create a collage page about the difficulty.
4.  "How does your character use his or her gift to solve the difficulty?"  Again this is a part of all the most interesting stories, there is always a problem which gets solved by the hero or heroine, using their special gift.  This may take a little thinking and guidance but kids always get there in the end.  Create a collage about this.  (Any of these collage directions could also be partially or fully drawn or painted, of course.)
5. Now your character finds himself in a new wonderful environment, and maybe there is a celebration.   Create a final collage about this celebration on your last page or two. 

During this process you can take notes, while the child's narrative emerges.  Text can be added to the book (by you or the child) and a pocket for the character can also be added to the book so the character can be kept safe.

This is a wonderful activity for kids and can even be done with groups, for a group narrative.
The end result is children create their own stories, which is of course way more relevant to children than stories created by strangers from another century, and of course relevant narratives make working with literacy a lot easier!

Monday, August 23, 2010

We're having some birthdays over on 14 Secrets!

Collage by Lani and layers from Flypaper Textures.

Over at 14 Secrets we are having a birthday bash this week, because our group is 4 years old and because several of us have our own personal birthdays as well.  We decided since we are a virtual group we can celebrate any way we would like, so a virtual art retreat cruise to Hawaii seemed to be the just the thing.  We want it to be a week of Creative Juju collecting, creating, and sharing.  Like Cynthia Morris's workshops, we want to gather Juju, and one of the best ways to do that is get together with your artist friends and explore the world.  We'll have our art journals  with us and we will keep our senses wide open and play with generosity.  We will look for joy and juju in design and in all we see.  Some of us are filling the ship with flowers; frangipani, orchids, and rudbeckias.  We will find juju in stories and sounds around us, listening to the waves, seagulls, and each other.  Of course there will be new scents to breathe in and all of it will be memorable.  There will be new tastes, meals to share...  Exotic tropical fruit will be available at any time, along with teas and lattes.  Mmmmm.  Maybe some chocolate?  There will be much laughter and delight.  Want to join us?  All you need is your imagination.
We will have workshops on board our virtual ship, one being altered boxes with Patti.   Maybe I could do a little art doll workshop.  Any other offers?

'I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than complex.'
Mr. Rogers to Benjamin Wagner

Friday, August 06, 2010

Some more fun with working intuitively as seen in previous post

So I worked a little longer with my homemade "wikki stix" and created a side kick for the wrapped doll in the previous post.  And at the same time I had an altered doll emerging on another table.  So while waiting for paint to dry or for my intuition to dictate the next step, I could scamper back and forth between the two projects.  Fantastic.  And then once these dolls were finished I could use Mystele's "story-telling" technique to play in photoshop.  Just ask as you go, what is the story that wants to be told here and does this particular action help tell that story. 

One thing I have to say, let your intuition out to play and you are going to get some major endorphin surge, along with some nice energy.  So the texture layers in both are my own TtV and also from Flypaper Textures.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Further adventures in my "Postgraduate Studies Program"

Art doll by Lani using yarn, cloth, "crayola model magic" and my home-made "wikki stix" instructions appearing in doll making zine very soon.
Here's what I've learned today from Daniel Pink's "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko; The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need" (awesome manga comic!) :
1. "There is no plan!" 
Don't worry about what the dominant culture tells you about needing a plan.  Even the best plans get interrupted and derailed and the best stuff happens unexpectedly, like when you are eating sushi and... (no, buy or borrow the book)
2. "Think strengths, not weaknesses."
This is straight out of the positive psychology research and is extremely pragmatic.  The thing you focus on will grow.  Focus on problems, issues, weaknesses and soon that's all you see.
3. "It's not about you." 
Step back and look at the larger picture, look at the whole of which you are a part.  Do everything you do in the light of that larger picture.
4. "Persistence trumps talent."
You can have great ideas but unless you are willing to be persistent with them, bringing them out into the light of day as much as possible, no one will ever know.  You have to create in the world, not just in your head.
5. "Make excellent mistakes."
Leap into your next adventure, your next drawing, your next piece of writing.  Don't hold back because you are afraid of making a mistake.  If you make a mistake, make it excellent, let it lead you to the next step in your journey.
6. "Leave an imprint"
"People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
So leave an imprint that makes people feel  good!

And here's what I learned from Mystele's marvelous free class "story-telling basics no. 1".
1. There is no plan.
Consult your inner artist, your intuition, your gut.  Get a dialogue going.  See where what you are working on wants to take you.  (What a wonderful class!)
2. Think strengths not weaknesses.
You have strengths for a reason, you are meant to use them and enjoy them.  Use them, enjoy them and see where that takes you.
3. It's not about you.
Step back, look at the larger picture.  What story is your story a part of?  Do all you do in the light of the larger story.
4. Persistence trumps talent.
Persistence and practice will take you everywhere!  Go now!
5. Make excellent mistakes.
Heck, when it comes to making art it's all about the most excellent mistakes.  Start this minute and see where your mistakes lead you.
6. Leave an imprint.
Make sure they are kind and wise imprints.  Make people feel good!

So the art doll above was created in Mystele's "Gut Art",  "Story-telling" style.  I worked slowly questioning my inner artist or gut (or maybe it was the doll) the entire time.  And was it fun!!!
I decided that this is how I would like to proceed with everything.  Go slowly and persistently, and check in with that inner wisdom all the time.  Hooray!  Thank you Mystele and Daniel Pink!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

How do you grow your wings?

Morning Pages Collage by Lani with texture layers from my own TTV and  Flypaper Textures.

While in Cape Breton we got together with some friends and over dinner we would have the most interesting conversations.  One of these was about beauty.  Where do you feel it in your body, what is the feeling exactly?  After much thought (It's a great subject for thought) I decided that beauty is always something that surprises me and fills me with awe, as if I'd suddenly grown wings and could enjoy soaring.  This got me thinking about what other ways I can grow those metaphoric wings of awe and surprise. 

Alexander Graham Bell's grandson flying a kite in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  (Image tinted and fiddled with by Lani with help from  Flypaper Textures.)

Sometimes that feeling comes when I read a great article about something that I am already interested in, something that adds to my body of knowledge on the subject and something which I will be able to incorporate into my work.  So here's an example.  I love the idea of building resilience especially with tools I already have, so when I got a notice for volume 4, 6 of the Wise Brain Bulletin from Rick Hanson, I downloaded it and found a great article on neuroscience and resilience by Linda Graham.  I loved the article and will work with some of her exercises via art and see what come of it.  I also enjoyed looking at her website, which has more articles and links to other resources.  One was for a book by Lorne Larder, The Lost Art of Compassion (which is all too easily purchased via kindle I have to say!!!).  In it Dr. Larder asks this question:  "What is essential for living a happy and meaningful life?"  Wonderful question!  I'm sure if we asked each other this more often we'd get all kinds of good ideas about what is essential and what makes us grow our wings.

So how do you grow your wings?  And what do you believe is essential for living a happy and meaningful life?

Collage by Lani, texture layers fromFlypaper Textures(here and almost everywhere on my digital work)