31 Days Of Halloween–Day 6

Good Morning!  I have set myself the challenge of coming up with a new art/craft/writing project for each day of the month of October, all of them celebrating the spooky vibe that permeates my favorite month. I’m also celebrating my favorite black cat, Soda Pop, who is the disgruntled main character in my new children’s book “I HATE HALLOWEEN”, which can be purchased here.

This is the first “weekend edition” of our Halloween creativity, and I think this one will be a 2 part-er. Today is a fun activity, very portable for kids and adults alike, and one that is extremely popular in art circles. Tomorrow will be how I “package” that activity in a pretty way that makes it accessible to all the dwellers in our home, as well as the folks who visit us. So, let’s get started with Art Trading Cards!

Little Art is AWESOME!

An Art Trading Card, or ATC, is a miniature piece of art, sized 2.5″x3.5″, (the size of traditional sports cards) done with any medium–paint, pencil, collage, pastel, ink, etc.–made specifically to trade with other artists. I know they are sellable, but the Zen of the idea is an exchange of creativity between two people. And, as it so happens, I have an ATC “station” in my home, where my kids and myself display our cards, and there are supplies for making MORE cards. That way, when a visitor comes in, if they want a card, they are welcome to take it for their own, as long as they then replace it with a card of their own creation. It’s a lot of fun to encourage people that maybe don’t consider themselves “arty” to see what they come up with. Today, the focus is on the cards, however. Tomorrow, we will talk about our ATC Station.

First off, I start by chopping up cardstock, tagboard, or heavy art paper into 2.5″x3.5″ rectangles. These are the ATCs.  You may also visit an art supply store–one of my favorite is Dickblick.com and  purchase ATCs ready made, but my way is infinitely cheaper, and I get my choice of papers. Then, I use whatever medium I like (right now, I seem to be favoring pencil and fine tip markers) to create whatever images I like, although currently, we are doing Halloween-themed art. The cool thing about ATCs is that they take very little time to complete, you don’t need a huge work area or lots of supplies, they are totally portable, and they are completely CHARMING finished pieces you share with others.

I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of mass-produced items that have no purpose but to fill space in our lives and in our homes–these things we purchase without thinking off of store shelves that really mean nothing, and have absolutely no “soul”. Handmade is beautiful. It is precious. It is truly one of a kind. Perhaps, in today’s plasticized, factory made world, it is the ONLY thing that is truly valuable. Remember what it is like to receive a handmade drawing from a child? The light in that child’s eyes as you take it from them, this piece that they made with chubby fingers and crayons? ATCs make that accessible for EVERYONE.

So, here are some sample ATCs that we are doing in our home right now, all of them Halloween-themed. Most of them are done with fine tipped art markers, some of them collage. On the back, make sure you put the title of the piece, the name of the artist, the date, and any other fun information (like a positive message or even a Halloween haiku?) to make it a “real” trading card! This is such a simple thing, such an easy way to bring art into your life. It is ALSO extremely easy to put together an ATC kit that fits in a purse or backpack, giving children and adults something to do when they are out and about in the world with some downtime–like in a restaurant waiting for a meal, or on a long car trip.

Our medium for these cards...

Try this activity at home—this giving and receiving of tiny art pieces. EVERYONE can participate, and it can go a long way towards swaying the culture in your home towards the hands-on end of the spectrum and away from mass-market, electronic, television-watching, video game playing, mindless treadmill type of life that many of us find ourselves in (myself and my family INCLUDED!)

Tomorrow, I will show you how to set up your own ATC Station in your house–one that looks stylish and allows for the easy trade of art back and forth between family members and visitors alike!  And take pictures of your own ATCs and post them on Bug Summer’s Facebook page here! Have a great day, and do something creative with a child!

31 Days of Halloween–Day 5

Hello, arty people!  I have set myself the challenge of coming up with a new art/craft/writing project for each day of the month of October, all of them celebrating the spooky vibe that permeates my favorite month. I’m also celebrating my favorite black cat, Soda Pop, who is the disgruntled main character in my new children’s book “I HATE HALLOWEEN”, which can be purchased here.

Here we go, and at 6:30 AM, I’m getting a late start. Okay, yesterday, my children had no school. Yeah, weird for a Thursday, isn’t it? The older kids are pretty independent now, but the youngest (8) loves to interact, AND be entertained by the rest of us. Today’s project is a bit of an entertainer, and not so much of a finished piece at the end of it, but that’s okay. AND, when you are done, there are lots of ideas you can utilize to turn your product into something beautiful.

We have had a couple bags of colored leaves around the house for a few days. Every walk I take (at least 2 a day) I bring a plastic bag and fill it with pretty, fallen leaves. And I know we’ve already done a couple leaf-focused days on this blog. But this one is so elemental, and so fun, I have done it with my kids ever since the first one was about two. We “waxed leaves”.

Get yourself a block of paraffin. My husband buys it in the canning aisle at the grocery store. Since I don’t can, I can’t imagine the mysterious use of it FOR canning, but there are lots of things to do with it that have nothing to do with edibles. It came in slabs (4 per box) and I put a couple slabs in the miniature crock pot we have to melt them completely. Now, here’s the deal–big safety tip: use an indirect source of heat like the little crock pot, or a double boiler on the oven, but do NOT just put the stuff in a pan and put it over an open flame. It CAN combust—you know what candles use for fuel, right? You don’t want it to get too hot. I prefer the crock pot method, because the little ones can be at the table doing this instead of over a hot stove.

Little crock pot....

Then, the process is simple-simple-simple. Lay out sheets of waxed paper to put your leaves on after they come out of the warm wax. Grab a leaf by the stem, dip it in the warm wax bath for a moment, pull it out and let it drip back into the pot, and then place it on the waxed paper to cool and harden. This “seals” the leaf from drying out more, and I’ve found it “seals” the beautiful fall colors in as well. Now, you’re not preserving these things for eternity here–they will eventually deteriorate, crack, and darken. But I’ve used these waxed leaves in wreaths, table decor, and as props for my photography until the Christmas season begins, and they do pretty well. When they get yucky, toss them. After all, nature will make you a whole new batch next year.

My youngest loves doing this each fall, and my oldest had her friends over yesterday, so naturally, instead of ME waxing leaves, I encouraged the teens to work with the single-digit gal, and they came up with a great variation that I’m ashamed I didn’t think of myself—glitter.

After a leaf came out of the bath, they placed it on a sheet of paper and sprinkled glitter and, in some cases, sequins upon it while the wax was still warm and “tacky”. They turned out beautifully, and I think the glittered leaves will work as great accent pieces when placed with “plain” leaves. I’m also planning on using the glittered ones as photo props in my Studio.

Another cool thing about this project is that they can do it every day while there are pretty leaves to collect, (and wax in the pot–just warm it up)  and children seem to find the process endlessly satisfying. Keep those kiddos occupied doing something NON-electronic, NON-screen-focused, and make a pretty decorating item as well. So, I guess today, I’m doing my Martha Stewart dance.

Perhaps, I’ll do a post on what I actually DO with these leaves.  Right now, they are gently stored in shoeboxes.  Try this one, and see if you can create something for your home or garden.  And take pictures and post them on Bug Summer’s Facebook page here!  We can always use more “likes”!

31 Days Of Halloween–Project 4

Good morning, and welcome to Project 4 of 31 Days of Halloween! I have set myself the challenge of coming up with a new art/craft/writing project for each day of the month of October, all of them celebrating the spooky vibe that permeates my favorite month. I’m also celebrating my favorite black cat, Soda Pop, who is the disgruntled main character in my new children’s book “I HATE HALLOWEEN”, which can be purchased here.

A couple days ago, I was walking the dog with my children, and we noticed a large, black cat lurking in a neighbor’s flower beds. Upon seeing our dog, the cat froze, and, from a distance it looked as if it was a cat-shaped piece of negative space. He was so black, he contrasted with everything perfectly, and gave me the feeling that someone had taken a cookie cutter and removed a portion of the real world in the exact size and shape of a black kitty. So, this got me thinking about silhouettes. I then drew some up on plain paper.

Download me!

Save me to your computer!

I drew some simple Halloween themes shapes which are pictured here. You may feel free to right-click and download, using them as you like. To use them as I do in Project 4, you need to print them on heavy cardstock so they can stand up to a bit of “stress”. Cut them out, and cut out the eyes, noses and mouths of the pumpkins as well. I used an X-acto knife for this, but if you’re good with scissors, go for it. Then I thought about what medium I wanted to use.

For me, the best medium is always the one I have on hand. And I love chalk pastels. Yes, they are a bit messy, but I think they are easier to clean up than paint, and they really show up well on colored paper. They can also be very inexpensive. So, there it is—chalk pastels, colored construction paper, and the cut-out silhouettes are all you need.

Now, I need you to get into the Zen of creating here. You have the cut-outs, so you don’t really need to do much drawing. BUT, you do need to lay down the pastels all around the edges of each shape, and inside the eye holes of the pumpkins and ghosts.

Start slow but HAVE FUN!

Put a shape down on a piece of colored paper (I chose black, because it seemed the spookiest) and, starting from inside the shape, radiate outwards over the edge and onto the construction paper, holding the shape down firmly as you work (you could use a bit of masking tape beneath the shape to help hold it, but be careful–construction paper may tear under such treatment).  I started very carefully, and then got more freeform and crazy with my movements as I went, picking a variety of colors as my surround for the silhouette.

Getting into it a little bit...

Really work those edges well, layering colors right up the the edge of the shape.  Remember, as you are doing this, you aren’t actually drawing the shape of a black cat or a jack-o-lantern, but rather, you are drawing what is AROUND the shape.

Getting some color in there...

Negative space in art is very important.  When you have trouble drawing a complex subject, try drawing the space around it, instead of the subject itself.  Hopefully, this little silhouette exercise will give you some experience with that.

Work the edges with different scribbling marks and lines and colors until you feel you have the look you want.

I think I'm having FUN!

Carefully pick up the shape off the paper, and check out your work.

All different, and all beautiful....

Do you like the piece you just created?  Why or why not? Are you not pleased with the color scheme?  Did you lay down enough pastel?  Make a judgement, and if you don’t like it, pitch it and start again.  You will not BELIEVE how many ideas and, consequently, how much paper is thrown away by professional artists.  Experiement.

Lots of shapes to try...

Try different techniques with the pastel.  Try it on different papers.  Do it on tagboard, on cut up cardboard boxes.  You could even use paint and stencil brushes, or spray paint to create your silhouettes.  Grab some sidewalk chalk and make silhouettes all over your driveway.  Have fun.  Make a lot of them.  After you are finished, spray each one liberally with cheap hairspray to fix the pastel to the paper (it won’t make it, like, PERMANENT, but it will help it from getting smeared).  You could even (gulp!) try some of your OWN drawings with pastels and colored paper!

And hey, you could do some writing about the project in front of you.  Does it inspire any ideas/feelings when you look at it?  For me, my best ideas for writing come from images I see or I create.  Try to encapsulate you art in words, in the form of a story or a poem.

Yes, the children in your life will require some hands-on help with this one, if they are young.  But my older kids loved it as well, and they helped each other.  Spend some time with the kiddos, and help them make Halloween silhouettes!  And take pictures and post them on Bug Summer’s Facebook page here!  We can always use more “likes”!


31 Days of Halloween–Project 3

On October 1st, I began the Halloween celebration we decided to call 31 Days Of Halloween. My goal is to post an art/craft/writing project daily for kids and adults to enjoy together as we approach my favorite holiday. And, of course, we are focusing a bit on Soda Pop, the main character from my new children’s book, I HATE HALLOWEEN. He is a black cat who has serious Halloween issues. You may find out more about the book and purchase it here.

Today there are no templates for our project, which is a bit of a change from Days 1 and 2. However, for those of you following along with us who do not consider yourselves “creative” (which you are, you just don’t know it yet) you may feel like freezing up when you don’t have a pattern to follow. But there you’re wrong. We will have a pattern of sorts, just nothing you can print out. First, I need you to go out and gather leaves, but not necessarily crispy leaves. They don’t have to even be particularly colorful leaves. What you are looking for is the pattern of the veins on the leaves. Pluck them from living plants and trees, or pick them up from the ground, it doesn’t matter, but make sure they have a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and vein patterns. This is a great opportunity to point out to your children that the leaves get their nutrition from these veins. Also, encourage them to notice the small ones versus the big ones, and to compare the unique shapes and patterns they find in their leaf collection. I would get at least a dozen different ones. Take them inside and put them on your work table. You will also need cheap printer paper, crayons, a glue stick, scissors, and construction paper.

So, you are going to do leaf rubbings! Place a leaf under the paper, vein side, or back side facing up. Pick a crayon (I favor bright colors) and tilt the crayon quite a bit so you are coloring in broad strokes. Color over the leaf beneath the paper, experimenting with pressure and angle to get the best outline of the veins and overall shape of the leaf.  Small children will need you to help by holding down the paper firmly while they do the crayon work, and yes, this will involve YOUR time.  But be patient with them, and enjoy the look of wonder on their faces as they see the leaf pattern emerge from the tip of their crayon!


Pick another contrasting color and go over the leaf again, or at least portions of it. Play around with color blending, different leaves, and the direction you move the crayons over the ridges.  This is a great project for picky kids (and adults), who feel their work doesn’t look “right”, because there is simply no right or wrong way to rub a leaf with a crayon.  Experiment.


If you don’t like it, do another one.  Do a whole bunch of them in random spots on the paper(s).  When you have several–at least a dozen that are big, small, all different colors, all different shapes–stop and cut them out.

Cut 'em out...


Be careful with this part.  Do your best to make the leaves look like real leaves–curvy, ragged edges. You can even cut out stems if you want, although my kids didn’t.  Younger children may need help with this part, simply because cutting requires a lot of fine motor control.  Allow them to do what they can, even if it is just cutting the leaf shapes apart while you do the fine detail work.  Then, get out the glue stick and the construction paper, and begin pasting your leaf rubbings down.

Get ready to glue...

You can make fun geometric shapes.  You could make an actual “picture” out of the leaves.  Random patterns.  Glue them on, and feel free to use crayons to draw between the leaves to accent them.  Put words on the paper if you like.  Or don’t.  Just use your beautiful leaves to make a collage that pleases you.  Make as many collages as you like, in various sizes.  Make fall greeting cards out of them, or glue them onto bookmark shaped construction paper.  Make wall art out of them.  Glue a whole bunch of them to a large, donut shaped piece of cardboard and make a fall wreath out of them.

I love a "creative mess"!

Now, have your children do some writing about the art they just created.  It can be a journal “how-to” piece about the project.  Or, they could write a fictional story that happens in autumn.  For younger kids, a few sentences might be perfect.  Older kids can do rhyming poetry, free verse, or even haiku.  For those of you unfamiliar, haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that has a very definite structure.  It is composed of three lines only, the first having 5 syllables, the second having 7, and the third having 5 syllables again.  It is traditionally a poem about nature, so leaves, trees, and autumn are perfect subject matter.



Two more haikus...

You can also include some science in this project.  Have the kids look up xylem and phloem and point out these parts on your leaves.  How about chlorophyll–do they know what that is and how it works?  Why do the leaves change from shades of green to vibrant, screaming oranges and reds and yellows?  What is the difference between simple leaves and compound leaves?  What tree did particular leaves come from?  What is the taxonomy of that tree?  What does the seed of that tree look like?  How do trees transpire?  Let them pursue these questions on their own and tell you the answers.  If a child can educate you on a subject, you can be assured they know it.

Most of all, have fun with this one, even if you don’t do any of the writing or science portions of the project.  Sometimes, it is just nice to lose yourself in the process of artmaking.

A word about the “age group” thing—in other words, for what ages are these projects intended? I am the WRONG person to ask, as I tend to spend my entire day doing creative things like drawing pictures of cats and dogs. BUT, with a little modification, I would say PRE-K and up will enjoy them, and possibly younger than that. In addition, MANY middle schoolers and high schoolers have a real desire for creative activities, but have no supplies, ideas, or role models to follow. Leaf rubbings are a great way to get creative juices flowing for all ages (even adults) and you can produce some VERY nice pieces of art, ready to frame. So encourage ALL ages to get involved creatively. You never know what might happen!

Follow Bug Summer on Facebook to see all of our projects, day-by-day and to post photos of your OWN art endeavors!