The Laughing Zebra

I'm writing a book!

Book Updates

The idea for this book came about like most ideas come to me…..I can only explain it like a light bulb going on in a dark room. For maybe 15 years or so I have toyed with the idea of writing a book based on artist (both past and present) related art lessons that I was creating for different schools I have taught at. Many times I started to jot down ideas and lay out a  format, only to invariably hit a wall of some kind, mostly self doubt that there was a market for this kind of book given all the online resources available today for artists and art teachers. I think looking back now that it just wasn’t the right time in my life to tackle such an endeavor. Fast forward to the present and what I call a “perfect storm” occurred where all my thoughts, ideas, and my schedule lined up to make this the right thing to do NOW. 

It suddenly hit me when I was pondering what to do with the next stage of my life that creating this book was exactly what I wanted to do. I realized also, that what I had inadvertently  been moving towards all these years was an idea of what the perfect resource could be like for teaching art for someone who was a creative, artistic person. And while there are a lot of  books out there on art lessons for kids, none of them that I have ever used or seen had all of the elements of what I envisioned would be the “perfect” resource. When I mentioned this idea to my daughter (who is in her final year of journalism school at the University of Montana, and who has a talent for photography and media arts) she was as excited as I was, and agreed to come onboard to help create the vision I had in mind for the book. She also assured me that after 30 years of teaching and designing art programs I was truly an expert in my field and had a very successful and proven track record of a unique and creative style of teaching. So the process began…….

I wanted to make something that was fun to look at and use, that has creative elements like type, color and layout that work together to form a “brand”, and that you generally would just enjoy browsing through because it has that feel that sparks creativity. 

I also wanted to have the lessons laid out in a way that made sense to how you would actually teach the lesson. Step by step, clear and easy to follow. And if there are patterns, templates, or handouts to use you can actually access them, (ones for my lessons will be available on this website).

 Each lesson should have a complete supply list with pictures of supplies (to take the guesswork out of which supplies were used), not just a general list like: oil pastels, paint, markers, paper, but;  Cray Pas student oil pastels, Canson Montval student watercolor paper 11×15 90 lb. watercolor paper etc. Because the supplies you use do make a difference in how the lessons turn out, and who wants to waste time guessing at which are the best ones?

 The information included  on the artists should be in fact INTERESTING to kids and concise and appropriate for the ages you are teaching. For example a 6 year old doesn’t need to know that: Van Gogh suffered from a mental illness and ate paint and eventually cut his ear off in a fit of rage. Or that he was a:  Post-Impressionist painter whose reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by the Fauves and German Expressionists. But there is certain information that is fun for them to learn and makes the artist more real to them,  like he loved sunflowers, and he wanted to have a place where artists could live together and create and share ideas in the south of France. Facts like:  What was the most money paid for one of his paintings? Where can you see a real Van Gogh painting in person? What is he most famous for? How many paintings did he create in his lifetime? 

There should be a picture of the artist, (because it is so interesting for kids to see what the artist looked like), and also pictures of their artwork, not a cartoon drawing or a representation but an actual picture, so that when kids see for example, the Mona Lisa, American Gothic, or  The Starry Night painting in another context they will recognize it and remember the artist who painted it.

There should be real photos of actual kids artwork that are the ages the lesson is designed for. That is one of the first things I look for when deciding to use a lesson I have seen online or in a book. I want to see, given the instructions and supplies, what an actual kindergartner or first or second grader can create. Not just the teacher’s sample. I want to know if it has truly been tested in a real life classroom or is just an idea of a lesson. And also how to adapt it for different ages and environments (is it an after school class of 5 multi age kids or a classroom of 25 kids? Or is it just a mom and one child in a home school situation?).

And I want the lessons to be creative and out of the box type lessons. They  will be all kid tested for fun and interest and will make use of some different mediums and techniques that might not typically be used in the regular classroom. I want the lessons to truly reflect the artist they are referring to either with style, subject matter, or medium. There should be as many connections to the artist as possible.  For example: A Degas lesson with chalk pastel (a medium he used which he is famous for), with the subject matter being a horse (horse races were one of his favorite subjects) and the view is a partial horse from the back (because this is easier for a child to draw), or a Jacob Lawrence cut paper lesson based on black and white tools (mimicking his style of flat colors and shapes, and his use of tools as a subject matter). 

Also there should be a wide variety of types of artists and times  in history, which is how I always set up lessons for a year. Some big names like: Picasso, Gauguin, Renoir, Degas and Mary Cassatt, but with more obscure lesson plans than what you typically see for them (For example for a Picasso lesson, one on his guitar collages, instead of cubists faces). Some not so famous artists but still important ones, like: Paul Klee, Grant Wood, Joan Miro, Jacob Lawrence, and  Jim Dine. Some that are more regionally famous: Hundertwasser, Charlie Russel, Kevin RedStar, Iwao Akiyama, George Littlechild and Frida Kahlo. And also some more current day artists such as: George Rodrigue, Keith Haring, Gordon Hopkins. 

To sum it all up, we are creating a book that is striving to do all of these things. The book is designed for use in the classroom or at home by art teachers, general teachers, home school parents or any adult or older child. It would also be a great resource for an art camp or after-school program It will include around 26 artist and 31 lessons aimed at kids ages 5-15 (but could also be used for older kids), with roughly 4 pages total devoted to each artist (2 for artist info, 2 for actual lesson plans and photos). Lesson follow ups, templates, and any handouts used will be linked to this website. And you will also be able to purchase the book on this website as well. 

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