Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving turkeys

Doodle and I had some fun making these cute turkeys together to celebrate the holiday.

I precut turkey bodies from a cereal box we scavenged from the recycling bin, and let her paint them. While they dried, she free-painted on butcher paper while I cut out feathers of different sizes, waddles, and beaks from construction paper.

Later she assembled the layers after I helped apply the glue. A final touch was gluing tail feathers in an arc from the back and adding wiggly eyes.

Last step was cutting a 3 inch strip of extra cardboard, folding it in half, and snipping a slit into both halves.

These will look nice for Grandma's table setting, don't you think? Check out our handiwork:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stupid mom award goes to ME

Scribble has started solid foods, and it's been pretty fun, despite the fact that with two kids I have less time or patience to sit and spoonfeed.  So while occasionally I offer food on a spoon, call me lazy, but most of the time I just put chunks of food on her tray and let her go for it.  She's a much grabbier baby than her sister was, so honestly I don't think I could have done it a different way!  So far she's had the following foods (and mostly from our plates):

- avocado
-sweet potato
-brown rice cereal + breastmilk
-apple slices
-butternut squash
Isn't she cute?

My husband loves to cook, and I love to let him.  Saturday night he created a fabulous veggie dish stewed in a tagine with Moroccan spices, and it was so yummy.  Maybe it was the food coma that rendered my brain completely useless, but for whatever reason I offered my baby (who has battled reflux like a champ) some of the sweet potato from the dish.  Everything was fine until an hour after bedtime when she started howling up a storm (and didn't stop for two hours).  My husband, possibly feeling guilty himself?, stepped in to relieve his crazed wife, and sent me to run the errand I'd been meaning to run ages ago.  She ended up sleeping, but then right when I returned home she was up again, and again screaming and crying.  (I'm still amazed Doodle didn't wake up from all the racket.  Thank goodness for air purifiers and their white noise.)  Finally around midnight I put her in the bouncy seat and brought her to our room to sleep on the floor, where she didn't make a PEEP... until 6am.  Poor kid stayed awake the whole day (aside from a piddly 30 minute midday nap).  So that was my weekend in a nutshell: trying to put the baby to sleep.  I think today we're back to normal, though, as she's currently sacked out on nap #2, after sleeping all night long.  That's my girl.

This weekend we're packing up the family and heading south to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  A car trip should be a good opportunity to work on my book for The Sketchbook Project.  More on this soon... I hear little feet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Soul food

Tonight I found myself having an interesting flashback.  When I was young my younger brother and I spent summers in a tiny south Georgia farm town with our paternal grandmother.  He and I would spend our days shucking corn or shelling peas or exploring the cow pasture for old bones and buttercups, and our nights watching Hee-Haw or some old cop show on a giant cabinet television while outside huge bugs clung to the windows, attracted to the only light for miles, that of the fluorescent overhead in the kitchen.  There was no cable tv, barely a phone, and of course in the 80s, no Internet.  My sibling was my only playmate, so we invented game shows with dolls and chased each other around the yard before the heat got too bad.  The gnats were impossible to escape, temperatures never got lower than the mid 90s, even at night, and my big feather bed was always soaked in the morning when the rooster crowed.  My city-girl desires left me often feeling displaced, lonely, and bored.  I read a lot (including A Wrinkle In Time three times back-to-back one summer), poked around a lot at my dad's old toys, and drew a lot.  A lot.  My grandmother was a hard woman to know, and we had a difficult time relating to each other.  But despite myself, I learned more from those experiences than I ever thought I would.  Who would have thought then that a significant portion of my artistic memory and reference material would have come from that dying farm town?  Certainly not me.  I think if my dad were still alive he'd have a great big chuckle at what he helped create.

Tonight I found myself thinking back to those afternoons with Grandma's soap operas and the scent of freshly shelled black-eyed peas, drawing people in my 5-subject spiral bound notebook.  My grandmother used to receive those giant JC Penney catalogs, as well as a seeming truckload of other magazines and things, but that phone book-sized book of models posing in chinos and horizontal stripes became the perfect reference material for my earliest sketchbooks.  It was from those pages that I learned to handle a pencil.

The Tapas Bar  © Morgan Johnson Norwood
I think about life these days, filled with so many distractions and bombarding images.  Where would I be now if I hadn't been a bored city kid stuck exploring a sweltering farm?

What kind of experiences will shape my daughters' lives?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Small treasures

Drips series. © Morgan Johnson Norwood
I love how playful these small abstracts are, either grouped together or separately.  Perfect holiday gifts!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting small

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. -- Pablo Picasso

Doodle turned three this month.  I love three.  Love.  Three is the age when those pudgy little fingers start finally helping in the kitchen instead of making a bigger mess than mommy or daddy.  Three is the age when conversations about what strangers’ footwear is like (“I have birdie shoes on, but he has toes on”), among other such charming observations of life.  And three is the age when art gets to be really super fun.

Drawing of a "skinny bug (stink bug)", 3 years old. 
Yes, it's that time of year again when those evil creatures invade the house....

I have been waiting for this moment since she was born, and now that it’s here I am beside myself with possibilities.  What can she do?  What does she understand?  What can we MAKE??

Now that my classroom has transitioned from 600+ elementary kids a week to 2 kids, I'm always looking for ideas, and I have lots more ideas brewing.  One of my favorite blogs lately is A Little Learning for Two.  Her project and learning ideas are all geared for young hands and sensory issues that are perfect for this age.  Please feel free to share some of your favorite preschool art projects!

Where did we begin?
I get this question from new moms who are ready to start artmaking with their young children-- How can I get my kid interested in art when all he wants to do is chew on things?  What materials are good to start with?

My advice: start as soon as you want!  I chose the 1-year mark as an age when she could sit well, and have good manual dexterity to hold a tool or manipulate toys.  I started with homemade playdough, figuring if it went into her mouth, at least it was edible.  Well, let me tell you, if you try this yourself, consider an alternative recipe to what I did-- whole wheat flour and red food coloring in a no-cook recipe.  The playdough looked like ground beef, and quickly became a not-so-tasty snack for mommy to clean up. For the record, she's a pro at using playdough now, so at least it wasn't a deterrent.

When Doodle was 14 months old she got her first art supplies for Christmas: Crayola jumbo crayons, and their Beginnings line of palm-held markers.  I also got her big floor-sized pads of paper, and brought out an old colorful sheet from my childhood that I dubbed The Magic Carpet.  My one simple rule: art materials stay on the Magic Carpet.  If they leave the Magic Carpet, art time is over.  Here is a video of her trying out her new supplies.

So what about the eating the crayon thing?  Babies love to explore with their mouths, and some babies are mouthier than others.  I'm learning that Scribble enjoys putting lots of things in her mouth, but Doodle was really never that way.  With the caveat that the art supplies you have on hand should be nontoxic, and the expectation that mouthing the crayons is normal and may happen, it is your job to help her transition to drawing for pleasure, as opposed to tasting.  With Doodle, if it happened, I would remove the implement from her mouth and say, "crayons are for coloring," and hand-over-hand draw on the paper with lots of ooohs and aaahs.  Eventually the pleasure of mark making overrides the pleasure of tasting.  I would also color alongside my daughter, modeling for her, and having a super fun time.  

Developmental marks to look out for include big, sweeping side-to-side movements transitioning to circles.

Other materials to try:
Painting with a paintbrush and water on the sidewalk
Fingerpainting, including stamping with foam shapes and/or letters
Sidewalk chalk
Blocks, small empty boxes
Printing various objects (remember potato prints?  Carrots are good for little hands too!)

Where are we now?
This afternoon I focused on getting Scribble to nap longer than 30 minutes, so I didn't even pretend to try Doodle's "quiet" time today (it really is no wonder my youngest's naps are so screwed up, she has to compete with Little Miss Volume all the time).  Instead of insisting Quiet Time in solitude, I made her year by letting her spend time with me in the downstairs play area, where she got to paint with brushes of various types, including rope, sponge, fringe.  When we ran out of drying space, we cleaned up and transitioned from 2D to 3D, rolling and cutting out a billion (okay, not really) stars from playdough.

I love Three because of the elaborate stories that come with the art, especially the art that the casual observer truly has no idea what the masterpiece resembles.  I do my very best not to impose my own interpretation until she tells me all about it... and usually her description makes mine incredibly weak.