Thursday, December 27, 2012

Art Auction Research

Oil Pastel version of Van Gogh's Starry Night
I did this as an example for my students.
Third grader adaptation of Starry Night

I am planning a fundraising art auction for the elementary school where I teach art. Each grade will contribute their own projects for the auction. I've never planned this kind of event before. I know schools do this on a regular basis but I've been unable to find a blog or books on how to do this successfully. I've found art auction project ideas around Pinterest and art teacher blogs, but I'm bummed that I haven't been able to find any planning information. 

So, the wheels have started turning. I'm going to track my process on my blog and possibly turn it into a book? If I can figure out how to raise money for my school through an art auction, then maybe it's a way to save art in other schools.

Art beautifies our classrooms, our homes, our life and yet it's the first subject to be cut in school. Recently, my third grade class used oil pastels to replicate master artist, Vincent Van Gogh's, Starry Night. These are perfect individual pieces for an art auction. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Color Mixing Acrylic Paint - Elementary Art

It is all about the COLOR! I didn't start painting until I was in college, which left me scrambling to learn the basics. I love the fact that I get to explore color with young children. With this project I did the following:
1) On a plate I gave the students (K-5 classes) all three primary acrylic colors, and the three mixtures to make up the secondary colors.
2) Each table had a pile of Q-tips to mix up their secondary colors.
3) They used those  Q-tips to apply their colors in a rainbow-like pattern.
4) I allowed the kids to choose whatever kind of patter they wanted, I just asked that they painted patterns and not a scene or mix all the colors together on the page.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Value ART ELEMENT - Elementary Art Project

Artwork Provided by a Kindergarten Student 
This Project was split between two class periods. The goal was to introduce students to the effect color value has on the mood of a piece of art. 

I was very specific on their colors, separating the light colored pencils from the dark colors so they weren't confused. 

Artwork Provided by a Third Grade Student

I drew the butterfly on a computer with Adobe Illustrator and printed it on card stock two-up so that each butterfly could be completed in a class period.

I encouraged the students to create patterns in the wings of the butterflies. When asked if they felt a certain way while working on each piece, quite a few mentioned they felt happier working with the light colors. I know that the colors effected me when I produced the sample. I was much happier working with the lighter colors.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christopher Vogler and The Writers Journey

Vogler opened with, "The world is all about vibrations."

It's important as writers, its our job, to write words that cause our readers to have a physical and emotional response. Whether it be tension in the gut, causing someone to hold their breath, or feel a tightening in their throats, our readers need more than emotion they need their body to respond to the situation our characters are experiencing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Seattle Writers Workshop

I'm in Seattle for a four day writing workshop. I think it's amazing to be at an age where my vacation time is spent learning. 

My kids can't wait to be done with school and homework and here I am begging to learn.

I'll take this opportunity to enter my workshop highlights in my blog.

The speakers at the Story Masters workshop are: Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Can't Pick My Favorite

Decisions, decisions. I can't seem to focus long enough to finish anything. SQUIRREL! I have a ton of new kid's art to post, yet I don't have time to do it. I have been writing and painting, but can't stop to say anything about it. I love to blog and share and it drives me crazy when I don't live up to my mental commitments.

Yes, I'm notorious for being hard on myself. If I didn't have goals though, it'd be easy to find a million shows on TV to watch, cozying up on the couch with a blanket and a kitty cat. I wouldn't contribute much to the world, but I know what cat that wouldn't mind that.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Elementary Art - CONTOUR LINES

Introducing Shape as an Art Element– Contour/Negative and Positive

Talking about positive and negative shape. The positive shape is the object. The shape of the
space surrounding the object is the negative shape. We will work with contour lines around the object.

Project: Glue a shape onto the middle of the page and draw contour lines around the shape.

                Goal: Fine motor skills

                Materials: Card stock, pencil, glue stick, cut shape.

Kindergarten Students exploring
contour lines around a solid object
Art Palette - 3rd grader - contour lines on the negative shape
Scissors - 1st grader - contour lines around the positive shape

2nd Grade Student - Combo of Insect directed draw
and contour lines

3rd Grade Student - Contour lines around
Positive object

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Elementary Art - LINE

Art Elements: Lines, Shapes, Patterns
Grades: Kindergarten - Fifth

There can be three insects that look the same in shape and size, but can differentiate with patterns and colors. Exploring shapes and patterns together first. Repetition helps children remember lines and shapes.

Project: Using the repetition of three insect shapes initiated by a direct draw. Each insect must be unique in color and patterns on the body, wings, antennae, etc.

                Goal: Fine motor skills, memory

                Materials: Card stock, pencil, black marker, colored pencil or crayon.

Kindergarten Student

Kindergarten Student

First Grade Student

First Grade Caption

Friday, September 14, 2012


You never know what kind of footprint you'll
leave behind, til you take a step.
At 8:01 a.m., just before I walked my kids to school, I pressed the send button on a very important email. I checked my email three times in one hour to see if there was a notification GUTGAA received my submission...none came...sigh.

I met my critique group for our bi-weekly meeting, something I look forward to for thirteen days every month, and forgot about GUTGAA for a while. I checked my email during a bathroom break thinking perhaps email notifications were sent later in the day. No email. Poop.

One of my critique partners told me to check Twitter for announcements, and sure enough Deana tweeted that the first round of submissions filled up in seconds. Well, I couldn't help but think congrats to Deana for running such a kick-ass event. I vaguely remembered the second submission window and checked my watch. I had 5 minutes to submit but was fifteen minutes from my home computer. Poop.

I searched my phone for my sent email, thank goodness for smart phones, and sure enough I was able to access and forward my submission for a second try. I pressed the send button...again. The cog wheel on the top of my phone twirled like a hamster running circles on its exercise wheel. I ran out of the cafe and held my phone in the air, yeah desperation gets us to do funny things. I dropped my head, it was 1:01 p.m. I told one of my writing partners that I'd probably missed the window.

Before heading to school to pick up my kids I checked my phone one more time for email, and smiled. I made it in. Thanks, Deana for giving me a story to tell today:)  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet Writers

-Where do you write?
I write where ever it's quiet. Sometimes it's in my bedroom, or at my desk in the front of the living room, or at the dining room table. My most productive place to write is at a coffee shop or on weekend retreats where I don't have anything interrupting me, like laundry or kids or cats or...

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My son sitting in a chair reading a chapter book.

-Favorite time to write?
Late at night, when it's quiet. Did I mention I like to write when it's quiet?

-Drink of choice while writing?
Irish Breakfast Tea with Silk and sugar.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
It depends on where I am in the story. Most of the time I like quiet. Did I mention that yet? But, there are times when I'm writing a scene that the only way to get in the mood is listening to music.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
I wrote a character that is like me when I was young. But she is also who I wanted to be.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Be open to revision and let go of your favorite lines, there will be a ton more to come.

I'm the author and illustrator of a non-fiction picture book, "Through Endangered Eyes - a poetic journey into the wild." It was published in 2009 by Windward Publishing, an imprint of Finney Company and won an Eric Hoffer honorable mention. I am working on my second picture book for an endangered animal series. Between that, my kids and husband, my ya novel, my home zoo of cats, a dog and two tortoises, and teaching art to elementary students, I'm enjoying life to the fullest.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Impatiently Waiting

Kindergartners + tasks = impatience and excitement. 
Writing + submitting to agents = impatience and excitement. 

I see a pattern. So what do Kindergartners have in common with writers that want to be published traditionally? Turns out, a lot.  

The Task...Designing the Portfolio cover

Kindergartners reaction to this project depended on the child. But, I can tell you my general observations. Once the crayons were in hand it was hard to get the kids to put them down. Sound familiar when you get into a writing groove?

Along the way, I interrupted the children's progress on their project to have them add three important elements: name, year, and a silly bunny drawing. Some listened and executed the instructions incredibly well. Some didn't hear a word I said and were lost in their own world, which meant they wrote their name upside down on their portfolio. I could say the latter must be the type of writer that might drive a agent crazy or critique partners. 

By the end of the project, the kid's were sad to wrap it up. I noticed how unique their designs were. Some were frustrated, some satisfied, and all had a level of impatience along the way.

I can relate to them. I think when we want something so bad, it's hard not to check your email a hundred times a day, waiting for those golden words--"I love what you've written, can you send me more?" I know I'm anxious for that day to come, almost as anxious as a kindergartner with a crayon in their hand.

My blog post was inspired by  Rachelle Gardner and her article regarding impatience

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bouncing Ball of Life

Big changes can be scary. 

Several years ago, I found myself wanting two big things in my life. The first was to be there more for my kids, I felt like I missed too much working full-time. So, I left my job and we downsized - big time. 

I let the ball bounce and waited to see if the second big thing I wanted could happen--finding a career doing something I loved. I didn't get a magnifying glass. I really didn't search the net. I simply listened. What I found was my love of teaching art to kids.

I'm surrounded by kids and their creativity, offering them a chance to explore who they are through art. Magically, I've become a better artist and writer because of the children I work with. 

This coming Monday, I embark on a new journey, teaching art at a private elementary school, and I can't wait! Knowing that I might make a difference in someone's life by offering them a chance to find something within themselves they never knew existed, is exciting. It's worth jumping up and down over.

I may lose some hair while adjusting, but I'm excited anyway.I think having a new responsibility will help me manage my time better and achieve more of my writing and illustration goals. And who knows, maybe the next Degas will be in one of my classes:) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Art Camp for Kids

I'm finishing my second summer art camp up tomorrow. This week is three days, a total of nine hours, and a ton of fun. The ages of the kids range from 7-10 and all of them LOVE art.

I made this display panel so that I could have an art show on the last day of class. There are eight spaces. The kids design a name tag to post above their panel. It is super fun for the kid's families to see all of the art students work hung in one place.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Inspiring Workspace

Sometimes a change in venue can inspire. I've had a huge painters block for the past several weeks. I've been painting, but they're all small projects used to teach kids how to paint.

So, this morning I decided to use my garage as a studio, ignoring the eight bikes and car sharing my space.

I know from the past, taking a break is soothing to the creative soul. It's hard to find the fire it takes to paint with a self-imposed deadline hanging over my head. But I'm excited to use the space, keep the garage open to let natural light in. Because when I'm truly inspired magical things happen. At least I like to think that way.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The French Laundry - a dining experience

An Egg Thing Dish with Potato Chip

I don’t live to eat. Don’t get me wrong, I know good food from bad food and I like good food, it’s just not high on my priority list of things to do. If I had to choose between going to a nice restaurant and going to a writer’s conference, I’d pick the writer’s conference and happily eat crackers and protein bars. So, when I told my friend I was invited to eat at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, California I didn’t understand her reaction it was somewhere between awe and disgust. The disgust came from the fact that I didn’t actually remember the restaurant’s name and she had to help me out. She begged me to take pictures of every course. Every course? Really? Okay, I told her, I’ll take pictures. Strange woman.
The restaurant didn’t stand out when we drove up to it, in fact there were no visible signs telling us it was anything other than an old building on a corner across the street from a garden, that was later told to me by our waiter provided the veggies for our meal. There was no valet service for the line of limos and fancy cars parked around it in gravel. It was as unassuming as me.
My family parked our car and I followed, in painfully high heels, into the restaurant. It was quaint and no different than a lot of restaurants I’ve been to that were formerly something else, like a barn, or a gas station, or a mini-mart. Its tiny staircase reminded me of the one in my grandfather’s house that was too small even for my feet, and if I didn’t take each step carefully I knew I’d trip in the fancy heels of mine and show everyone the color of my undies.
But I made it to the top of the stairs without so much as a flip of my dress. We were ushered into a private room where our party of eight could celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. The reservation for the room was set up a year in advance by my sister-in-law who had to speed dial for days between Noon and 1:30 p.m., the only time the reservation line opened. Still, really? It was that hard to get into this place? Yeah, I know I’d just seen a commercial for the American Express card a few days before, celebrating the guy, whose name I still don’t remember, and his amazing French Laundry restaurant. But I eat to live, food is food.
As we sat waiting for the rest of our party to arrive I surveyed the room. The small lamps scattered around us caught my eye and I laughed. Their translucent shades had the wash, tumble dry, iron-safe symbols on them. I appreciated their humor and subtlety. At each of our place settings an old fashioned clothes pin, with The French Laundry name burned into it, sat on top of a menu printed just that day, since every day was special enough to get its own menu, with a birthday wish emblazed to my mother-in-law. Okay, I’m starting to think this place is pretty cool.
We were ready for the first course, one of eight. The four hour parade of food began with bread the size of a golf ball. It balanced alone in the middle of my teacup plate. Huh. The waiter described the bread. It was made using blah, blah, blah, and cheese. Cheese? My ears perked up when I heard one of my favorite ingredients mentioned. I ate the bread ball in two bites, which I was glad of since the flavors electrified my mouth. It was unlike anything my finely tuned Wisconsin cheesehead taste buds had ever, well, tasted.
Our plates were cleared without so much as a tinkling of glass. A soup cup was placed in front of me. Course two. I glanced in the liquid-free cup and found a few dry ingredients and a purple flower. Hard not to think, and? Four waiters entered the room in Matrix-like suits. They stood behind each lady and in perfect unison poured the soup until the purple flower floated gracefully to the top of a sea of cream. Breathtaking.
Each of the eight, yeah eight, courses were all the same kind of choreographed dance, lifting lids at the same time to reveal display after display of edible art. I wondered early on in the meal how portions that small over four hours could fill me up. I mean I’m used to grazing all day at home and with two kids I rarely sit down to eat. But at the end of the performance, called dinner at The French Laundry, I was relieved to be wearing a dress and not pants with a button and a waist band because surely the button would have popped off.
At nearly midnight we ended the epoch meal with the last of the four desert offerings, an assortment of truffles. I only managed one bite and then suffered a moment of nausea. I was officially full. I can’t say that I have ever been so satisfied calorically in my life.
As the charming restaurant lights receded in my rearview mirror I smiled. I eat to live, and yet that food experience will forever be one of my topics of conversation. And as for pictures, I made a book of them. There are pages dedicated to the edible art, and each photo still makes my mouth tingle.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I Just Don't Feel Like...

I'm turning forty this week. I've been told, it's a big one; I should have a huge celebration; 40 is the new 30; I don't look a day over 29.

Truly I have felt like crawling in a hole for days and days. I don't want a party, in fact I'm getting my teeth cleaned this week that's how high partying is on my list. I've spent a little time wallowing, reflecting, and wondering if I'm in the right place at this monumental time in my life or not. I'm in a weird place.

I can't complain. I love my children and husband. I love staying home and being there for my kids. I love teaching after-school art. I love writing and painting in my spare time. So, why the funk? That I'm unclear about. I know that it's natural for people to feel down when they hit the near mid-point of their life. I guess I didn't think I would be one of those people feeling down. And yet here I am.

So, I do what I've done since I was a little girl, I write about how I feel. Writing has always been cathartic for me. If I had a worry or a problem, I wrote it in my journal. It was never meant to inspire anyone, it was just a way to get it out so it didn't suffocate me.

As with any stage in life, this feeling of being lost will go away. I'll get back on that horse, gosh I miss riding, and find my path. But not this week, this week I'll sit down in the middle of it and watch seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and wonder if Lorelei and Luke will ever get together. I'll look for my path next week, right Scarlet?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Artist in Residence Dingle Elementary

Leatherback Sea Turtle,  By: Xitlaly - 5th grade
I recently completed an Artist in Residence program at Dingle Elementary in Woodland, CA. I split 18 hours of class time between three classes of 5th graders over three weeks.

Using my endangered species book, "Through Endangered Eyes - a poetic journey into the wild" as an example, my goal was to create a book 
that the students would write and illustrate about California endangered species. 

Each student was assigned a different animal. I spent three hours with each class writing poetry. The poems were four line stanzas, which two lines rhymed. I devoted three hours with each class painting. We used my style of painting, a mosaic acrylic dot painting approach in front of a sponge painted background.

The results were surprising, fascinating and magical.

Here are a few of my favorite poems and paintings from the students.

Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard (Endangered)
By: Anyeli C. (5th grade)

I have the pattern of a leopard,
                              and my snout is flat.
      Yes, just like a leopard, but
                    of course I’m not a cat.

California Condor (Endangered)
By: Mason T. (5th grade)

The California Condor
              has a bald head.
   California condors
          will eat stuff that’s dead.

California Red-Legged Frog (Threatened)
By: Jessie (4th grade)

You usually find me 
         in the Bay.
                  I use my eyes 
                          to track my prey.

Alameda Whipsnake, - By: Gerardo - 5th grade

California Clapper Rail, - By: Eli - 4th grade

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coffee Cup Painting - ARTitude Workshop for Kids

The coffee cup acrylic paintings were so much fun. I had eight girls all between 11-12 years old in this workshop.

I gave them my example and they each ran with it. I love that all of their color choices were different, their designs were different, their coffee cup shapes were different. And the best part, they all seemed to have a blast doing this project.

Things that I learned to explain better:
1) The importance of layering color. We had to do two coats on the background, and two coats on the cups. Using a hair dryer to speed up the process only makes the paint crack.
2) Using color as an outline. This is supposed to be a flat painting, without shading or depth.
3) Practicing drawing the cup shapes was important before doing it on the canvas paper.

I'm planning on repeating this project tomorrow. I look forward to seeing the unique results and posting those next week.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Megan - 2nd Grade
Clare - 3rd Grade
I've spent a lot of time doing art with kids this month. The more I do it, the more I enjoy doing it. But I still get frustrated with myself when I don't explain things well, when I see kids not knowing what to do. I'm still figuring out the best ways to help children explore their creativity. And of course every child is different, so learning how to work with so many different personalities is exciting and challenging.
I base my success as a teacher on whether or not my students enjoy doing the project I present to them, and then their emotional response to their finished piece. If they don't enjoy the class, if they're frustrated, I feel like I've failed them. I've learned that that kind of thinking doesn't help anyone.

Ultimately, my job is to guide, challenge and offer suggestions for improvement, and then the rest is up to the artist. I keep in mind that I had to draw and paint a lot of things to figure out my artistic interests. Perhaps, that's part of my role with these kids, helping them determine what inspires them, and what doesn't.


I love the fact that the pears are all different. I required that the pears were the compliment colors of the table they sat on, but they could choose what color family the pears would be. I also noticed that younger children tend to make objects small in relation to their paper. I reminded these students that the painting is not about the table and its background, but the pears. I suggested at least one pear had to be larger than their fist, and that seemed to help with size and space issues.  
Hayden - 4th Grade
Gabi - 5th Grade

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Parade of Turkeys = Love Triangle?

On our way to school yesterday, me and my kids saw a parade of turkeys walking down the sidewalk.There were about eight male turkeys struttin' their stuff, puffed, bright red gobblers hanging, quivering to get the attention of the fifteen or so females ignoring them.

The elaborate show male birds put on seems to contrast what a human male does to get the girl. In our human game of courtship  it's the female that consistently has to put on the show, and the game appears to be more intense than I remember growing up.

Girls spend a lot of money and time fluffing to get a male's attention: implants, makeup, botox, hair dyes, manicures, long gym hours, the list goes on and on. Don't get me wrong, I highlight my hair and put on makeup to go out, certainly not to attract a male--I'm taken, but because I feel prettier that way, oh how I've been conditioned.

I can just imagine what the human world would be like if the males had to do most of the work:) I think that's why love triangles in literature make girls swoon, to have two males begging for you to pick them...sigh, it brings me back to the turkeys and I smile. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I've been looking through TV and movie listings in my Entertainment magazine, a guilty pleasure, and it has really helped me with my one-line-pitch. I've also been reading "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors," by Alexandra Sokoloff and she includes a list of what has to be in the log line to make it successful.

- What is the MC's problem and why is it worthy of an entire story?
- Who is the antagonist?
- What are the stakes? If your MC doesn't do something, why should we care? What is the danger?
- What is the setting or atmosphere?
- Give clues to the genre

Here is my one line pitch:

The Lion Within
YA Science Fiction
80,000 words

Sixteen-year-old Renna Healy was born a rager not part-lion, that happened by accident in Africa, and now she must train to defeat the lion that changed her in order to stop a virus from becoming an epidemic, but first she needs to learn to control the beast within her using the most challenging of places to train--high school.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Successful Queries - A Dreaded Process

Think Rock = Shark, Tree = Query
( I shot this in Lake Tahoe)
Although I'm driving ahead with my paintings, I have a query to produce for a conference critique coming up. My young adult science fiction novel, THE LION WITHIN is almost complete, querying will inevitably occur in the next six months. I've written queries frequently for this novel but only for critique, (except the time, three years ago, after finishing the first draft of this book, thinking it was the best thing ever.) I have had so much time between query drafts that I feel like a new student of querying every time. 
Luckily, the web is filled with query advice! I found this at Writer's Digest and fell in love with it:

I also spent a great deal of time on Janet Reid's,

I'll post the comments from my query critique in April. In the mean time, I'll be banging my head hoping some of the words filling my page will randomly fall off so that my query will be spit spot on.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Smell of a Book Quote

"I love the smell of books." - Hayden (9) said, frowning and turning an electronic page on her ipad.