The Great Soda Motivator

So, finished shooting the book Soda’s Valentine!  Thought I would recap all the action in one post, so we can get on with the next step in illustrating, which I will come to in a moment.  But, first thing is first.  We need to talk about chicken.

Soda is ready to do another book.  All because of chicken.  He has found his reason for living.  And that is….chicken.  For those of you mailing him Valentines this week, make sure they are made of…you guessed it…chicken.

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I agree….not my idea of a great meal, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There were 4 different shot “sets” I needed to get for the remainder of the book.  And chicken factored heavily in all of them.  First, Soda needed to “eat” a box of candy.  Now, I’m not going to feed my cat chocolate for 2 very big reasons.

1.  Chocolate can kill cats.  So, that one is out.  He’s not eating a heart-shaped box of candy.

2.  I love chocolate.  So, Soda is not eating a heart-shaped box of candy because I’m going to eat that candy.

Instead, to make it look like he ate the candy, me and my kids ate the candy (most of it) and put some tidbits of chicken in the holes where the chocolates were in the box.  Then, we scattered a couple chocolates around, and even bit into a couple so it looked like he HAD eaten them.  Of course, with chicken around, he completely ignored the chocolates.  And we got the pictures pretty quickly.

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He didn’t even GLANCE at the chocolates once.  Clearly, he and I are going to get along famously, because, as a vegetarian, I don’t eat chicken.  So, all chicken goes to the cat, all chocolate to me.  It works.

The next shot set was one with Soda and candy again, but this time, those little conversation hearts.  I just wanted a shot of the cat reclining on the hearts–a close-up.  This one didn’t even require chicken.  We simply spread the hearts out, and my husband petted Soda on his tummy while I shot the pics.  Easy peasy.

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Then we moved on to Soda and the high heels.  Chicken was again required.  I wanted pix of him messing around with the shoes in whatever way cats mess around with anything.  So, I pulled out a pair of red high heels, concealed some chicken in the toes, and let him have at it.  Now, Soda is adorable, but he isn’t a great ball of fire in the brains department.  He is pretty catered to in our house–he isn’t allowed to be outside, so he doesn’t exercise his hunting “problem-solving skills” very often, and his food appears in a bowl every morning.  We had to show him where we placed the chicken to get him going.  But after a few minutes, he got into the act in a big way, and pushed the shoes all over the floor, stuck his paws inside them, and generally used all his rusty brain synapses to figure out the puzzle of the chicken in the shoes.  We got some cute shots.

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By the time we got to the last set, Soda was actively demanding chicken by attempting to paw it out of our fingers.  I wanted a shot of him wearing a pair of cupid’s wings, sitting next to an arrow and a bow.  The wings are a prop I keep in the Studio for children’s portraiture.  The bow and arrow were easy–sticks from the yard, construction paper, string and hot glue.  So, we set Soda up on the pretty red loveseat, put the bow and arrow next to him, and promptly realized the feather wings were going to be too large.

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In the process of discussing this with my husband Mike, Soda Pop did a very cute thing….he sorta jumped on the wings.  And in my mind, I got the hilarious picture of a cat pouncing on Cupid.

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Now, I know I write children’s books, but I also have a fairly black sense of humor at times….So, I felt I had to put this little image collage together….simply because it made me laugh.

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But I don’t know if I will use these images in the book.  I will have to think about it, and make that decision probably the day before I submit the digital book file for printing.  So, I needed to make the images I intended to make, which is Soda with the wings ON.  In order for that to work, I had to take pictures of Soda in the correct position, AND pictures of the wings separately.

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Then, I could digitally combine the wings with Soda, and shrink the wings down so they fit the cat.

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Here is the result.  And sorry, but I still like the one of him jumping on the wings better.  Oh well, it will require a bit of rewriting too.  We will see.

So, today we learned a few things.

1. Chicken is important.  It makes all Soda Pop photo sessions just FLOW.

2. Building your own props is an easy solution–and they don’t have to be that fancy.  The bow and arrow took about 5 minutes.

3. Sometimes the props won’t work exactly as planned.  Our angel wings are too large for Soda.  So, I had the choice of getting smaller wings, or digitally altering the ones I had.  Digital alteration is easier and quicker, so that was the route I chose.

4. Sometimes, you get something unplanned that you like better than what you originally had in mind.  I am undecided about which Cupid shot to use, but I’m going to prepare them both so I can choose.  I am also facing the possibility of some rewrites.  But that is okay.  Projects grow and change during execution.  I am still on track for finishing, I am just not entirely sure what the finished project will be like.  That’s okay.  Be open to changes.  Good ideas strike at strange times!

So, we are pretty much done with the shooting.  Now, I am on to page design for the next step!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Soda, T.P. And Stew

The next set of photos I need for my book involve Soda Pop tearing up a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, which is something he used to do in real life if left to his own devices when he was a kitten. Soda Pop is going on 4 years old now, and although he still plays when one of our family plays WITH him, he rarely tears up anything on his own. He does have a cat-wrestling buddy in our other male cat, Sunny–they spend much of the humans’ sleeping hours pounding up and down our hallway, pausing to whap each other around righteously before chasing each other to a different part of the house. But, that is a completely separate story.

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Anyway, my 11 year old son was recruited to help me do the photography for this part of the book. He is very good and patient with our animals, and I needed a cat-wrangler for this one. The bathroom we worked in was small, and Soda is not normally in there, so this was a challenge in comfort level with him. However, after a few tries and much petting, he relaxed in the bathroom on the floor, and watched intently as we “decorated” him with swirls of toilet paper.

He purred and allowed his picture to be taken for several minutes. Then, we cleaned up the t.p., and we were done!

The next shot involves Soda eating from a pot of stew on our countertop. Soda doesn’t like stew, normally–he is crazy about his cat food and treats, but stew isn’t his “thing”, normally. My son and I thought he might be curious as to what was in the empty pot to just stick his head in, but, no dice. He isn’t usually allowed on our counter top, so I imagine the unfamiliar surroundings had something to do with it. We put dried catnip in the pot—still not interested. Finally, I busted out the leftover chicken breast, and that did the trick.

Soda clearly loves chicken breast. After the shot of him with his head in the stewpot, I thought we should try for one of him jumping up on the counter. My son waggled a stem of artificial flowers (what we had on hand) over the counter to lure him into leaping, but the only thing that really helped was the unplanned barking of our dog, Sophia. After we had nearly given up, the dog barked, the cat lept, and I got the pic.

And here comes the bark!

And, Soda was rewarded with some more chicken breast. We all won.  Two photo “sets” was enough for one day, so we folded up production to continue the next day.

Lessons learned:

1. Have a good, patient person to handle animals for photo shoots.

2. Figure out what motivates your animal and have it on hand–chicken breast = success–with Soda Pop, at least.

3. Plan every shot ahead of time and source what you need–for these shots, I knew I would use one roll of toilet paper, the stewpot, and of course, bathroom and kitchen locations.

4.  When you and the animal are tired, stop.  Cross what you managed to finish off your list and start the next day.

5. Reward the animal richly for desired behavior, even if it is just sitting still.  And love them up afterwards as well.

Equipment used—Canon 7d camera, a couple different lenses that function well in daylight without flash.  I am trying to use natural light as much as possible in this book, because I feel flash spoils the look of the story.  I want the book to look like Soda Pop in his house, not Soda in a photo studio shot with a bunch of professional equipment.  Other than the camera and lenses, and the few props mentioned above, that is it.  Of course, the computer and software to edit the images are very important as well.  But these shots can be done with simple point-and-shoot digital cameras as well, so please don’t let the lack of “professional” gear stop you from photographing anything creatively.

I ended up shooting over 200 shots for these two different “sets”, which will amount to maybe 4 pages in the book.  I only have a few more “sets” to shoot–we’ll start with Candy next time, and maybe do Cupid as well.  Then comes the more interesting, difficult part of setting up the book format, page design, and any other illustration work that needs to be done.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

Foggy Perspective Makes Sharp Photos

When you go to someone’s home, and they cook you a great meal, do you ask what kind of stove they have? I am always amused by the question “What kind of camera do you use?” I hate to tell you all this, but it isn’t what you have, but how you use it that matters the most.

I went for a walk in the fog yesterday—for 2 days here in Southwest Iowa we’ve had a luscious, velvety fog enveloping our world. And, yes, I realize that fog is sucky when you are driving. But for photography purposes, it is AWESOME. Several years ago, I went out in a fog very similar to this one and took photos in the cemetary that is just up the street. I got beautiful images, and yes, I took my pro gear. Here’s a couple, and I love them.

 

Yesterday, I decided to walk the daughter to school, simply for the fun of walking in the fog. And, I decided to bring a camera. BUT, I didn’t want to drag out the studio cameras and the bags of lenses and go trotting 13 or 14 blocks with all that rattling gear. So, I grabbed a small Canon point and shoot camera that I keep around because it has an awesome zoom lens and I don’t have to think much when I use it–hence, the name, point-and-shoot.

And I got beautiful stuff. Now, it isn’t the same stuff. It has some technical differences that i can see, but many people won’t be able to. In fact, I might like some of the point-and-shoot pics better.  My point here is this….no matter where you are in your own creative journey, no matter what gear you have, or how long you’ve been doing whatever it is you do, when the moment is there to do something creative, SEIZE IT. Don’t worry about whether you have tools that cost 5 grand or 50 bucks. Just go do something.

My grandmother ran a motel when I was little. She had a guest once that did some art with ballpoint pen and cocktail napkins, and it was AMAZING. He left them behind, because, to him, they were probably just cocktail napkins with ballpoint scribbled on them, but wow….he had talent. That stuck with me. I spent hours drawing on whatever I could, WITH whatever implement was nearby, all because of this man’s inspiration.

Use what you have. Use it as often as you can. Practice, practice, and don’t be discouraged by your first attempts. Artists of all types discard many more “pieces” than you can possibly imagine. You don’t have to have expensive ANYTHING to be creative.

Snow is coming tonight (I hope. Please, weatherman, be right for once!) I’m gonna photograph everything in it. I’m gonna use all sorts of gear. I may even break out the black and white film and the old medium format cameras.

Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my life were cooked over campfires, no fancy stove required.

Photo-Illustrations–The Beginning, With Flowers…

So, the cover has been designed. And the next step is the illustrations. As I have mentioned, I decided to use photography for the bulk of the story simply because it is a little faster for my production schedule. Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE doing actual art illustrations, but, for this book, and because it is about a REAL cat, I think the photography will add to the story rather than detract from it. So, the first thing I must do is make an illustration list.

I do this with every book, no matter if I use photography or art for the visuals. I read through the text and decide which parts of the text should be illustrated in some form. Not everything that happens in a story needs a picture, but for children’s books, I always feel the visuals are an extremely strong and necessary element to actually tell parts of the story. I need fewer words because the images are effective.

So, my illustration list, or my “shot” list, as I will refer to it from now on ( in photographic terms) goes something like this for this story.

Flowers (2 shots)
Stew (2 shots)
Shoes (1 shot)
Candy (2 shots)
Bathroom (2 shots)
Hearts (1-2 shots)
Cupid (2-3 shots)

Now, I know, from experience, that I will actually take many more photos than those during my shooting time with Soda Pop.  I also know that my text may change slightly while I am shooting–the cat may do something unexpected and interesting that can be incorporated into the book, and I will photograph it, and then write it in.  So, even though I have 14 or so shots listed there, I will probably end up with at least 20, and maybe more for the book.  And that is EDITED shots.  I will actually take maybe 500 pictures in order to get exactly the ones I want for my book.  There will also be a few pages of illustrations as well, but I will execute those after the photography, because then I will know exactly what I need to complete the story.

If I were doing art illustrations for my book, I would make a similar list, and then start sketching ideas for each item on the list.

So, the first item is “Flowers”.  I decided to go with daisies, so, I sent my dearly beloved to the florist for a few stems.  Then, it was time to set up the shot and retrieve Soda Pop from wherever he might be having his nap-attack and take the pictures.  He is pretty cooperative, although he isn’t extremely intuitive when it comes to understanding what I want him to do.  So, here are a couple of flower pictures…..

I shot around 50 images to get these.  I’m not sure that these will be the ones I use, and I won’t know for certain until I have all images and illustrations in front of me.  But these are “possible-maybes”.  I still have to work with the flower images some more, in another image set….but a few things have to be secret about the book, right?

Overall, Soda Pop was relaxed during these shots.  His attention was captured pretty well by the flowers, and he sniffed and posed for me just fine.

Next post….the bathroom pix.  These were more challenging.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

31 Days of Halloween–Project 14

Another crazy weekend of photography for me, so I’m falling behind on my posts! However, we will persevere! Today, we are going to do some printmaking! You will need potatoes, paint ( I used orange and black, because of fast-approaching Halloween), paper, and small, sharp knives.

Small children will need an adult to actually cut the potato for them. My older kids–11 & 13, loved cutting their own potatoes for printing. First, slice the potato in half carefully, making a flat cut surface for your “stencil”. Then, come up with a plan. Are you going to make jack-o-lantern faces? My boys liked doing this, and, in fact, that was ALL they did.

So, play around with the potato and your knife, cutting out eyes, nose, mouth, and any other details. Obviously, the larger the potato, the larger and more easily you can cut your shapes. Our potatoes were not huge, but each potato “stamp” only took a few minutes to complete.

We then painted the surface of each potato stamp with whatever color we wanted to use.

Then, grab some colorful paper and stamp away! Experiment a bit with each stamp–because of variations in the cuts, each will require different amounts of paint, and different amounts of pressure.

Do NOT expect “perfection” from any one stamp or print. Have FUN with this! You can create Halloween cards for friends, stamp on fabric, or just make a whole lot of fun designs on paper!

And the magical part of all of this is that when you are done, you can THROW the potatoes away! This little project is quick, fun, and works with any theme or holiday. Experiment with different fruits and vegetables as well.

Check out my new children’s book,  I HATE HALLOWEEN, which can be purchased here, and visit Bug Summer on Facebook and post pix of your own Halloween art projects here!  Have a tremendous day!

31 Days of Halloween–Project 13–TGIF!

Today, after puppet making and photographic tinting, we are doing something simple! How about a Halloween crossword puzzle for the lil’ ones, based upon my book I HATE HALLOWEEN, which can be purchased here! Perfect for a little holiday fun without a major investment in time, supplies, or clean-up! Click the link below, print it out, grab a pencil and GO!

I HATE HALLOWEEN Puzzle

For those of you who don’t have the book, you may look it up an online pdf here to give you some hints!

See you tomorrow with another art project celebrating Halloween! You will need potatoes. That is the only hint I’m giving today! Look us up on Facebook here and like our page! Have a GREAT Friday!

31 Days of Halloween–Project 12

Have you seen black and white photographs with little “pops” of color added back in for accent? They are very popular, and as pro photographer, I perform “digital tinting” all the time. However, before there were computers, Photoshop, digital cameras, or even color film, folks wanted pictures with color in them. And the photographer would print a black and white image on special paper and use transparent oil paints to add flesh tones, eye color, tint clothing, and anything else they felt needed that little pop. I still perform “hand-tinting” today. It’s definitely a high level skill, especially with oil colors and large sized prints. However, it is a very fun activity for kids and adults alike when doing it on a smaller, more personal scale.

Today you will need a variety of colored pencils, and a black and white photograph printed on matte surface paper or cardstock. I’m including two Halloween photographs of Soda Pop, ready to print out that will be foldable into blank, 5×7″ greeting cards.

(Soda Pop is the star of my book, I HATE HALLOWEEN, which may be purchased here, AND the inspiration for my 31 Days of Halloween projects.) Print them on matte surface cardstock at the highest print quality. Let them sit for a couple hours or even a day before you begin tinting the photos to give the printer ink some time to dry and become permanent.

Now, the next part is easy-peasy. Simply pick some colored pencils, and get to coloring!

Use light pressure and build up your tones gradually.

Have fun making realistic colors, or go crazy and surreal, using weird colors in weird places.

Children especially have fun with this activity—give them black and white photos of relatives and they will have a BALL!

And for the adults who want to really take their time, feel free to explore this art form more thoroughly. There are pencils made especially for photo tinting, as well as a line of markers, and of course, photo oils for the advanced artist.

Have fun with this, and check us out on Facebook at Bug Summer here. Become a fan and post some of your own creative fall projects!

31 Days of Halloween–Project 11

Today is totally a Soda Pop day. For those of you who don’t know, Soda Pop is the star of my book, I HATE HALLOWEEN, which may be purchased here, AND the inspiration for my 31 Days of Halloween projects. He is a black cat with attitude. Today, we are going to make something that all children (and many adults) get a kick out of–puppets. Soda Pop puppets.

The supplies you will need are black felt–I got 9×12 sheets of it at the craft store. 2 sheets per puppet. You will also need a hot glue gun (for easy assembly), or craft glue (if you’re patient) OR needle and thread or sewing machine (if you want to be a perfectionist, which I am NOT). And then whatever kind of supplies you want to use to put eyes on your puppet, or any other decorations that you think Soda Pop would enjoy wearing on his person.

Here is a printable stencil pattern to get you started with your Soda Pop puppet.

Print it out, cut it out, lay it down on the felt and cut around it. DON’T cut out the eyes in the felt.  The eye marks on the stencil are there for guidelines for eye placement.   I was able to cut 2 sheets of felt at a time, but one at a time is fine. Young kids will most definitely need help with the cutting and glueing of this little guy.

After you get two Soda Pop cut outs done, it is time to add facial features/decorations or whatever else you can think of on the front of your puppet. My kids chose paint for the eyes. On your stencil, please note the two eyes delineated there. If you have a craft knife, you can cut those eyes out and have openings which you can overlay on top of the felt use as guides to paint/draw/sew your eyes on. You could also cut other pieces out of colored felt and glue them on for the eyes. How about button eyes?  Sequins?  Diamonds?  Hey, go for it.  Here you can see one of my boys painting the eyes on through his stencil.

Of course, you may ALWAYS freehand the eyes and facial features, which is what I did.  I added a nose, mouth, and paws, but you don’t need to.  The REAL Soda Pop’s features are totally black, so do whatever YOU like.

After you apply whatever decoration to Soda’s face/body, you may need to let any paint/glue dry.  Then it is time to attach the front and back cut outs together. I chose hot glue, because I feel it is magic. Really. Yes, you can burn the you-know-what out of yourself, but it is so darn FAST! Or you can use craft glue, if you have a couple hours.  OR, you can use needle and thread to sew the two pieces together, or even a sewing machine. Now, you will glue or sew the two pieces together, keeping the glue/stitches about 1/4″ from the edge, ALL the way around EXCEPT for the bottom of the puppet, where your hand is going to go.  Sew or glue right sides OUT, so there is NO “turning” of the puppet when you are done. It is simply finished with stitching (if you chose to sew) visible.  You will end up with a cat-shaped glove.

My kids love puppets. Even my teenagers, which some may find weird. Personally, I think it is one of the most creative things you can guide your children to make.  And there are people who make their livings doing things like puppetry (Jim Henson, anyone?). Not only do you MAKE something with your hands, but then you can create an entire world of activities/stories/songs/plays, whatever, that are all about the puppet you just made. I’m thinking about making felt “costumes” for my Soda Pop puppet, so he can be just as disgruntled as a puppet as he is when I dress him up in real life.

I am having my two homeschooled boys write stories about what their particular puppets do during the course of an average day. One boy named his puppet Cat Man (feline superhero). The other kid named his Just Regular Cat. I’m interested to read the stories they come up with, and I imagine they will be TOTALLY different, as my boys are themselves. ( I think another fun activity would be to have your Soda Pop puppet read I HATE HALLOWEEN to your children!) You can also have children write poetry, or even a play featuring the puppet.  Make more than one puppet if you like, in different colors.  Make different KINDS of puppets—cats aren’t the only critter out there.

 

Have fun with this, and check us out on Facebook at Bug Summer here. Become a fan and post some of your own creative fall projects!

31 Days of Halloween–Day 9

I need to preface this post with a personal note.  Like everyone else, I have big goals–posting every day for 31 days was one of them.  And last week, between 5 days of little or NO internet, my burgeoning fall photography jobs, and, last, but definitely NOT least, a couple personal things that came up, I simply didn’t post.  Not only didn’t I post, but I didn’t do IDEA generation on posts, or projects, or writing towards the blog (which I normally do so I’m ahead).  However, it is a new week, I’m still excited about Halloween, and I believe that we can get 31 posts up this month!  So, here we go!

Today is another fun, easy day in Halloween arts and crafts! All you need are some rounded rocks, paint, brushes, and of course, children.

Kids love to paint. For some reason, sliming their brushes around in sloppy, goopy paint and then making gooey marks with it on paper is one of the highlights of their lives–perhaps, because adults HATE paint. Paint, after all, is messy. It can ruin clothes, carpet, and furniture, and, as an adult, painting is a chore that we must do around our house, forget about being ARTY with it. But whatever the reason, kids find paint magical.

Kids also love rocks. They love to examine them, feel their shapes, learn about their composition, and, if not supervised, they will often find a rock that fits oh-so-perfectly in their palm and they will THROW it, causing possible property loss and/or emergency room visits.   Adults cringe when boisterous children pick up rocks.

So, I thought, why not combine the two—paint and rocks!  Give the kiddos something to do that they will find enchanting, and might make an additional, non-violent use for rocks.  Of course, because paint is involved, it will still be messy.  But, we are all adults here–we can get over it, right?  And, if it’s a warm day, the kids can paint outside.

So, here is the art part—get some paint, acrylic craft paint is fine.  Brushes are important as well, and they will probably need fine tipped brushes.  And let those kiddos create their own set of miniature jack-o-lanterns out of the rocks!  When they are finished, depending upon the age of the child, they may look NOTHING like recognizeable “faces” on pumpkins.  But, I guarantee it—the kids will be THRILLED!

Wash the rocks and dry them.  Let them air dry a little longer if you can.  Then, have the children slop on a base coat of paint, most probably orange.

This then needs to dry before they put on the faces, so send them out to play or something.  Then, give them whatever other colors of paint you have and let them go to town—my kids chose purple and yellow for their faces.

Depending upon the opacity of the paint, you may need to do a second coat both for the base and for the faces–you will have to be the judge.  You can also give them black permanent markers to do the face work, whichever they are most comfortable with.  Then, you may clear coat them with an acrylic spray, if you like, and display them.

Do NOT get hung up on how pretty the pumpkins are, or how perfect the faces are.  That is the WRONG direction for this project.

Not sure WHAT this face is, but I LIKE it!

Remember, with kids (and with beginning adults) it is about process, not product.  The children will be happy with their results, guaranteed.  Do not put your own “stuff” on that, saying it isn’t perfect just the way it is painted.

You can do internet image searches and find beautiful art pieces made of painted rocks.  And if you are tempted to pick up this hobby as an adult, go for it, and feel free to strive for the absolute BEST painted rock portrait you can.  That isn’t what this project is about for the kiddos, however.  It is for exactly this reason I didn’t go ahead and do a rock myself.  I didn’t want to get caught up in the perfection game, which I automatically revert to when doing my own art.  The children don’t need to carry my baggage.

Have fun with this—search for rocks, paint them, put faces on them.  Be free.  Be easy.  And come back tomorrow!  We will be doing more Halloween art!

Please see my new children’s book, “I HATE HALLOWEEN”, which can be purchased here. It’s a very funny book, and features my cat, Soda Pop on every page.  Please find Bug Summer on Facebook here, and become a fan–post pictures of your own Halloween projects there as well!

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!