Tag Archives: ART MAKING

Prehistoric Beauty

faux fossil1

Have you ever thought about the lifespan of a fern? They first appeared on earth 340 million years ago!

faux fossil

Ferns hold such a beautiful texture, most of which is hidden from the naked eye. Relief prints can be made to help capture and understand the hidden beauty of a fern.

fern press1

Students pressed ferns into clay as well as made fern prints using white ink on blue and black paper. For more information about creating fern prints in clay to produce a faux fossil, view my complete tutorial at ART ENGINE.

fern prints
Look at these lovely ferns covered in white ink.

And bask at the beautiful freshly made prints.
fern print blue

fern print black

Have you printed nature before? What textures tickle your fancy?

Have a LOVELY day!



Filed under Creating Art, Inspiration

DIY: Holiday Stars

Do you have paper? Do you own scissors? How about glue?
Have you caught the holiday spirit? If you answered “tak” to all these questions, then you are familiar with the Polish language and are already prepped for making this stunning paper star. Oh yes, a ruler or a straight edge will help too.
Paper cutting is a decorative art from that is traditionally popular in Poland. During difficult times in the early to mid 20th century, when the production of elaborate glass ornaments was put on hold, people in Poland would save paper scraps and use it to produce holiday decorations. This tradition boosted holiday spirit and also helped everyone to appreciate simplicity.


This paper star was made from just 6 small square sheets of paper. Can you believe it? The versitility of paper fascinates me. I think of paper as such a delicate material, yet it has so much potential for sculptural creations.

Would you like to make one? Here is what you will need:
6 square sheets of any colored paper of any size larger than 7 inches
(I used 9 inch squares for this tutorial)
glue (I like Aleen’s tacky glue)
a ruler
a pencil
and patience



Fold all 6 sheets in half on a diagonal to form a triangle. Fold in half again, to form another triangle. Then rotate each triangle until the hypotenuse (the longest side) is parallel with your belly and grab your ruler and a pencil.


Using your ruler, you will need to draw 5 lines on each triangle. Each line will be parallel with the hypotenuse (the longest side). These lines are guidelines for cutting slits in your triangle, therefore they should be ghost lines, or very lightly drawn. I drew them with black sharpie in the image below because I wanted you to see them easily. Don’t do that. Please.


Notice how the lines are parallel to the hypotenuse. They are also an equal distance apart from one another. Draw your lines beginning on one side of your triangle and ending just before the other side. Be sure to stop your line before the edge of one side because soon you will cut on these guidelines and you must STOP before you reach the edge in order to form slits.


Carefully cut on each guideline, starting on the side where the marker touches the edge and ending about a 1/4 inch before the edge of the other side. Your triangle now has 5 slits. Draw your guidelines and cut slits on all six triangles.

Carefully open your triangle and…

open it again and flatten it into a square with triangular slits.


Now you are ready to transform your flat square into something 3-D. You will do this by connecting the triangular pieces that sit opposite of one another. My hands is reaching for the center two. Always begin in the center.


Put a small amount of tacky glue on one point as shown above. I like to say “a little glue goes a long way. If you use too much you will be waiting ’till next Tuesday”. My students say “not a lot, just a dot”. What I really mean to say is…don’t use a lot of glue. A small amount does the trick.

When connecting two sides, be sure to roll, or wrap the paper over one another. This creates a cylindrical form and is not only what makes the star pop into a 3-D form, but also helps it to stay strong and sturdy.

Do you notice the sculptural form starting to appear? Magical, right?
Once you finish gluing the two center triangles, you will move on to the next two that are closest to the center, BUT you will need to flip the paper over and attach them on the other side. This creates negative space between the parts. Negative space plays an important role in art. In Chinese brush painting it is seen as a resting place and a space to breathe.
Continue connecting the adjacent sides, flipping the piece over with each new connection. Do you notice the flip flop pattern in the image below?

Here is a completed form. A part of the whole.

Look at that sculptural beauty made from just one sheet of square paper!

IMG_0689After you are stunned by your creation,
understand that it is just 1/6 of the whole.
Finish gluing the remaining five triangles
until you have six 3-D diamond pieces.
Just like this gal to the left.

Now take two at a time…

and attach them at the pointed tip.

You must also attach them at the middle, which is the widest part of the diamond piece.

I am holding the middle here. Notice the pointed tip has already been attached.

Now attach the two other sets of two diamond pieces. You will then have three pairs of two. Join these three sets together at the point first, then attach the middles.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have successfully assembled a gorgeous paper star! Some like to call it a snowflake. You may want to call it a mandala. We all call it ART.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this tutorial helpful. I am a big fan of the written word so if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to leave a message on the bottom of this post.

May your days (and nights) be merry and bright.


P.S. Continue reading below to learn more about the history behind this paper star.

In the early 1900’s decorations became very popular and were mass produced in Poland. Most popular were mouth-blown glass ornaments. It was a magical time for Christmas in Poland during those thriving years. The production was amazing, the demand was literally world wide, and the country thrived through Christmas ornaments.

Unfortunately, World War II hit the country with devastation. The production of the beautiful ornaments dwindled as the country fought to survive. There were no materials to manufacture the decorations and no way to export them as the War raged. People of Poland found any scrap of paper they could find and began to make intricate paper decorations.


Filed under Creating Art

The Evolved Snowflake

The sun is so generous to share her afternoon beams of joy with me. At the end of the school day, when my teacher work is done, the lighting in my art studio inspires many clever photo shoots of freshly made works of art. Showcased below are images of kirigami snowflakes.

kirigami snowflake

Kirigami is the art cutting paper to create intricate symmetrical designs. Does the term remind you of origami? If so, it is because they both end in “gami” and when translated in Japanese, “kami” means paper. Origami is the art of paper folding. “Ori” means folding + “kami” means paper = folding paper. Can you guess what “kiri” means? That’s right: “kiri” means cutting. Therefore kirigami = cutting paper. Typically, kirigami begins with a folded base, which is then cut and opened offering a magically surprise in the end.


These snowflakes were created using a tri-fold technique which produces a 12-sided snowflake. To read through an informative snowflake tutorial, visit Michele Made Me. And take the time to snoop around her beautiful website, it is one of my favorite places to spend free time!

Have you made your holiday decorations this year?
Or maybe a clever advent calendar?
If so, please share your creations!

Have a lovely first day of December! -MJ


Filed under Creating Art, Inspiration


I just have to share this image with you. It illustrates the JOY of my Friday.

How stunning is this selection of contour ink paintings? I can’t get over the way each piece is unique yet they work together as a unified whole. Harmony.

The photo itself offers so much to the collection of artworks. The way the sun’s rays kiss the floor so calmly. The shadow of the afternoon light.

Just in case you were eager to zoom in, two close-ups await you below. All images are of observational ink paintings of African masks created by my fourth grade artists.

Happy Friday! -MJ


Filed under Inspiration, Teaching Art to Children

The Falling Leaves: A Rekindled Love of Autumn

You can try and call my bluff but I can’t remember a year in my life where I have been so head over heels for the nature and colors that make up the autumn season. As a child, the fall meant the end of summer and the start of a new school year hence homework and high-anxiety Sunday nights; I think many can relate. This year, however, holds so much more.

After exiting my car in the early morning and walking through the concrete parking lot, my eyes are distracted by the intense colors that cover the ground. Vibrant reds, fire oranges, intense yellows and that shade of lime that strikes a cord in my heart, sprinkle the earth in pointy geometric shapes. I collect a large quantity and use them for art making and nature explorations in the classroom wherever it supports my curriculum.

Early Childhood artists have been observing the fall colors and singing about the actions they perform in nature during the autumn. I play the xylophone to a simple melody and sing a song I wrote that was inspired by my rekindled love of this colorful season. Children are mezmorized by the gentle high-pitched sound of this musical toy and easily follow along in song and hand gestures.

Listen to the leaves (rest) falling from the trees

                                 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5  they touch the ground                            (hands are held up high then slowly fall to the ground)

Yellow, orange, green (rest) red and brown

fall colors (rest) cover the ground

With the help of the collection of leaves I found earlier that morning, we have a visual, tangable resource to inspire our art. We discuss the colors and shapes we see and notice that not each leaf is the same shape. Some have three points, others have 5 and this one has, let’s count: 15! As a supporter of Inquiry-Based learning, my learning objectives are to challenge students to observe, analyze and make connections. Therefore, my questions do not have “yes” or “no” answers. Rather than ask “what shape is this leaf?” I ask “what do you notice about the shape of this leaf?”. This allows every student to feel comfortable to share their ideas and also opens up the discussion for an endless amount of creative possibilities.

I offer a limited palette when creating collage, painting, and drawing during these fall art explorations. Brown paper is the ground and the space where we collage our falling leaves. Colored tissue triangles are the leaves that are fragile and pointy. Yellow and Red can be mixed to recreate the various orange hues that dress the fall leaves and are painted with patterns that mimic the motion of leaves touching the ground. Oil pastels can illustrate the falling leaves. I make an effort to ask the students about the shapes and lines I notice in their compositions and write their direct quote in small, neat pencil at the bottom of their drawing. The product is not my concern, rather a positive experience with the art process and the connection they make to the content determines my material choice and activity structure. Once you have an objective in mind (a goal for what you want students to learn and become aware of), format and plan your learning experiences to achieve your goal.

Elementary artists are introduced to contour drawing with the help of the various types of leaves I collect that morning. Note that leaves don’t last longer than a day inside so my collections were frequent and fresh for each art experience (if time is on your side, a quick trip outside will allow students to scan the local harvest and choose a selection of inspiring material). Students carefully observe the curves, dips and sharp angles that form the edges of the soft delicate forms and use black felt-tip pens to draw their observations. Students soon noticed the texture found on the underside of the leaves and inquired about what they saw. We discussed how veins bring nutrients to all areas of a leaf’s surface and made a connection to the veins in our own bodies and discussed how they carry blood and oxygen to every part of our body. Texture was further explored through leaf prints using black ink on white paper. Students discovered so much more about the details and patterns found in leaves when they observed the textures that the process of relief printing offered to the naked eye.

What other material would be able to display the textures found in a leaf? Students pressed leaves into clay with the help of a rolling pin and carefully lifted the pointed subject. A beautiful impression was left in the clay and students were motivated to use a clay knife to follow the contours of the leaf and cut out its elaborate shape. Colored underglazes can be used after a bisque firing to make these hard-to-see details more prominent. See the link for clay relief below. At the end of the class period, students had made at least three clay reliefs and joined them together to form a fall inspired sculptural work of art.

Are you inspired to bring nature inside for a creative artmaking experience? If so, view the list below for a selection of engaging and meaningful hands on learning.

Autumn Inspired Art Experiences (and the necessary materials)

Leaf printing (ink, brayer, paper)

Contour Leaf Drawing (any drawing material, paper)

Leaf rubbings (crayon, oil pastel, chalk pastel, paper)

Leaf prints in clay (clay, rolling pin, clay knives, colored underglaze, clear gloss glaze) learn more here.

Leaf collage (liquid glue, paper, be sure to vary the size and shape of leaves, literary resource: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert)

And if you crave direct contact with a human being to answer your questions, as do I, feel free to email me anytime at sunporchartstudio@gmail.com .

Have a crisp, cool, windy yet COLORFUL day! (and why not finish it off with a mug of hot cider)


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Filed under Teaching Art to Children

Recycled Beauty

zinnia made from only 3 paper towel rolls. 

A fellow teacher introduced me to this process. It is super cheap and easy and exercises your playful side. If you have a naked white wall in your home, this could dress it up a bit and be a popular discussion piece at your next household gathering.

Materials: At least 3 or more paper towel rolls; a pencil; a ruler; a scissor; tacky glue or hot glue and a glue gun; clothespins; a large flat workspace; a playful, open mind.

Press down on the paper towel rolls. It should look like someone sat on it and flattened it a bit. The open circles on either end will now look like a pinched oval.

Measure and mark off the paper towel rolls into 3/4 in slices. Now cut on the 3/4 inch marks starting at the pinched ends.

Once you have a collection of sliced pinched oval shapes, start laying them out on a large, flat surface in a branching pattern of sorts or a giant zinnia shape starting with a design in the picture above or another design that your imagination might invent! My vine above was made from only 1 paper towel roll. You will have many more ovals to arrange if you cut more than 1.

vine made from 1 roll. you will have many more to work with

Once you are happy with your design, begin to attach them with tacky glue or hot glue. Use the clothespins as a vice to keep your connections together and move on. This will keep your hands free to do the creative busy work of attaching rather than waiting for the glue to dry while you pinch each individual connection.

Mount your finished piece onto a wall will small unobtrusive nails or clear tacks. Witness the artistic beauty made by your own hands!


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Filed under Creating Art