The Laughing Zebra

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door in Italy with turquoise bike by it.

The Doors of Italy

What stories do they tell?

So I have always had a thing for doors and windows. Long before this trip to Italy I have gravitated towards the rigid simplicity of these entryways into people’s inner spaces. They are like the faces on a building and tell so much about the character of what’s inside. For years I have had 6 framed photos of doors from around the world hanging in my living room that I purchased from a photographer at a street fair. Their colorful presence has been a happy spot on my wall and I would often look at them and wonder about what secrets they held. Maybe that is part of the fascination for me just the mystery of what lies behind them. Mostly though I am drawn to their visual statement, the textures, colors and contrasts that they form.

For those of you who have been to Italy you know that the beautiful old buildings with their colorful doors and windows are subjects begging to be photographed. Everywhere you look there is an amazing combination of colors, textures and designs. And because of the age of many of the buildings and doors you see are a wide variety of sizes. At some of the places we were staying in particular the buildings had these huge doors that made you feel like you were entering into a magical story set back in time. The Airbnb we stayed at in Florence used to be the servants quarters for the Medici family. Each time we walked through those doors I could feel the history rushing towards me.

The Amalfi Cathedral in Amalfi city had this incredible huge green door. I felt like I was in the Land of the Giants. Then there were the doors of the Baptistry in Florence that are major works of art. The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Michelangelo dubbed the east doors the Gates of Paradise. When you stand before these magnificent golden doors you can totally see why he said that.

But my favorite doors were the ones we stumbled upon in our miles of walking, whether it was in a hill town in Tuscany, or on the back streets of Venice. Here are a few of my photos. I took a ton of these types of pictures because I am hoping at some point to do some paintings and I wanted lots of ideas to choose from. 

 

Making Reading Beautiful!

We painted Free Little Libraries!

Does your city have a Little Free Library? These are little free standing libraries that have a “host” who looks after them and can be located in someone’s yard , out in the country, or in front of a business or in a park.  You can take a book to read or leave one for someone else to find. This non-profit organization was started in 2009. There are now over 90,000 Little Free Libraries in over 91 countries. 

Our town started this program a few years ago and my husband and I were two of the local artists who were asked to participate by painting one of the libraries. We did this two years in a row and really enjoyed coming up with an idea and seeing it through to the finished product. The libraries in our area were ordered from the official Little Free Library organization. 

They came already built and with a registered number that is linked to a LFL world map. However, there are hundreds of these libraries across the country that are completely handmade. You can Google Little Free Libraries to see some of the creative ideas. Below are a few of the libraries we painted.

My Beautiful Tuscan Kitchen

So I just realized looking through old pictures that I never posted any photos of our kitchen remodel. It is now officially 2 years since we completed what was a huge undertaking. All new flooring, cabinets (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the yellow color), appliances, and countertops. It feels like a bit of Italy in here, which I love! We spend a lot of time in this room. Me at the counter working and creating art, and my husband cooking.

The bright colors and warm feel really make a difference in the cold winter months. It always cheers me to be in this space, and I do my best art in here, (even though I have a classroom/studio downstairs). Something about the light, and the amazing view, and the bright colors are just the right environment for my creative juices to flow. I am so thankful to have such a talented husband. He is a cabinet maker by trade and did an awesome job on the whole kitchen.

I have to admit though that when he brought all the cabinets home and I saw the color, I was a little worried about too much yellow, (even though we had agreed on that color, there was just a lot of it!) But as soon as they were installed with the flooring and appliances and the red island I knew it was the perfect combination. 

Before....

And After!

My Bag of Tricks!

What is in my art bag these days….

These are my go to supplies these days that I grab when I am going out and feel inspired to create. Since I teach art and am surrounded by lots of artist supplies both at home and school it is nice to have some supplies that are just for me and feel like play instead of work. And they are small and lightweight so I can actually justify carrying them around even if I don’t have a chance to use them (which happened a lot in Europe by the way!)

I especially love the koi watercolors and the uni-ball signo white pens. And I love the ease of the aqua brushes. I found the Artist’s Loft bag at Michaels and it holds most of these supplies. The rest go in a small backpack that I throw the Loft bag in. 

What are some of your favorite supplies for when you are out and about? Let me know in the comments below!

I put together this handy list where you can find some of these supplies online:

These are affiliate links and I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) for purchases made through these links. Everything on this page I LOVE and heartily recommend!

Kindness Rocks Art

It only takes a few minutes to spread some love and kindness!

This page contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Everything on this page I have used and heartily recommend for teaching art.

My husband and I are on day 59 of a 2-5 mile walk. (we try and mix it up quite a bit and go different places) The walks have been so great to fight the isolation time and just a fun way to stay fit and have some good talks.

I got the idea to put out some kindness rocks in hopes to brighten someone’s day and maybe give folks an idea of a fun art project they could do. Kindness rocks are not a new thing but given our current situation with  Covid-19 it seemed like a good way to share some joy with my town. You can put anything you want on them and there are a variety of ways to paint them. I like using the Posca paint pens that I talked about in the Keith Haring Rocks! Art lesson that I posted recently.  You can also write things on the back like “Take me home” or “Share this with someone”. I am going to put out some of my Keith Haring rocks on my walks as well. They are so fun and bright and make me smile, and hopefully they will bring a smile to someone else as well.

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Let me know in the comments below if you make some of these kindness rocks! I’d love to hear your ideas and questions.

Famous art heists, expensive paintings, and eight top ten lists of interesting art facts!

You might be surprised by this list (probably not the first one thought!)

This is one person’s list and has some great ones on here. I think fame means something different to everyone.

Women artists have been shortchanged in history. I like these lists that give us a peek into artists we may not have heard of but have been important in the history of art.

Again this is one person’s list and these are definitely some of the most famous ones!

You might be surprised about this list as well.

I didn’t know about some of these museums. Interesting to read why they are considered famous.

Ah! I got to see the David statue in Florence last Spring. It was amazing!

It is kind of hard to get your mind around how amazing these artists are.

Kids love learning about this kind of thing. Did you hear that last Sunday a VanGogh was stolen from a museum in the Netherlands?

This list shines some light on some American artists that have been important in the history of art in our country.

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These lists are lots of fun! What’s your favorite bit of random art info?

These ten videos are sure to leave you inspired! If you want to be an artist, learn from the best!

1. Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite artists! She was the only American of the original Impressionist group of artists. I love her softly rendered children and women portraits. I have seen some of them in person and am in awe!

2. Vincent VanGogh

I love his vibrant colors and intensity. Learn more about the artist behind the famous Starry Night painting.

3. Leonardo da Vinci

He was a true Renaissance man! He had so many talents and was and is considered a genius. Learn more about this multi talented artist in this video.

4. Claude Monet

One of the leading artists in the Impressionist movement, Monet is one of the most beloved artists in history.

5. Glass Artist Dale Chihuly

I am from the Seattle area where Dale Chihuly has his studio and home. (and glass museum). Learn about this pioneer in blown glass. His work is amazing!

6. Michelangelo

The David statue and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are his claim to fame. Find out more about this incredible artist!

7. Andy Warhol

He was a trend setter, with a personality and style that changed the art world!

8. Wayne Thiebaud

He is a favorite of mine with his beautifully rendered paintings of cakes to his landscapes, portraits and still lifes. I love them all!

9. Georgia O’Keeffe

The queen of the flower! Her use of color and flowing style are a trademark of her work. She was a strong woman who ran in her own lane and left a lasting mark on the art world.

10. Henri Rousseau

Known for his jungle pictures and flat folk art style he carved out a life for himself as an artist. Watch this video to learn more about this interesting artist.

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Who is your favorite artist?

These are some books I have on my shelf and enjoy looking through and getting ideas from. They are also a great resource to get the creative juices flowing….

This page contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Everything on this page I have used and heartily recommend for teaching art.

Flow books are awesome! This book has tons of drawing prompts. I have used it to generate ideas. Great for an older child (maybe 12 and up ) or an adult.

I love the style and layout of this book. Her 60 interactive writing prompts and art how-tos help you to expand your imagination and stimulate your creativity. Fun illustrations and ideas! Written for kids but good for all ages.

This is a fun interactive book with lots of ideas and information about some famous artists.

This is a popular book and has fun projects.

This is a fun kids art book that combines some moral lessons with art.

This book has ideas for all different kinds of art projects and some really fun cartoon illustrations.

I love the drawing style of this artist. He has several drawing books. This book is like a walk outside with a sketchbook. For the older child or adult.

This has a whimsical and creative layout with projects good for all ages and fun for parents to do with their child.

This book is geared towards adults and helps you find a more childlike way to approach art.

This is a clever book with lots of open pages and drawing prompts to let your creativity soar! No real rules in this drawing guide just open ended fun!

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What are your favorite art books? Let me know below!

I'm writing a book!

I am excited to announce my latest project!  My daughter and I are working on a big, beautiful, creatively designed book on artist related lessons (similar to the ones on this website but with more details, step by step instructions and photos). The book will be for anyone who wants concise, detailed, well laid out lessons that are ready to teach, in a format that is fun to look at as well.

Book Info

Even the most prepared parent runs out of ideas sometimes! Here’s ten great activities for when the boredom hits and some good old fashioned fun is needed.

This would be fun for the whole family. We have also made random newspaper tube sculptures for a competition at a party (see who can build the tallest one that stands for at least 3 minutes etc).

Here is a list of 40 riddles for an amazing scavenger hunt. This is a great way to get kids up and moving!

This neat science experiment is low cost and super cool and can be done even with young children.

These little gardens are a great way to introduce your kids to gardening (who knows, they might have a green thumb!) Use materials you already have and watch those plants grow! (This is a great way to teach about responsibility)

Marshmallows work great for building and creating. See who can make the tallest tower!

This is a great outdoor activity! Round up whatever odds and ends you have laying around to create a magical destination.

This makes some great playdough that lasts for a really long time. My husband and I just had a playdate with a friend’s 2 year old. We made 7 different colors. She was getting really good at the mixing and measuring by the end. Cream of tartar and gel food coloring are two things called for in this recipe besides the flour, salt and vegetable oil.

Card games are a great way to teach math and thinking skills and such a fun way to pass the time.

We love paper airplanes in our family. This is fun for all ages. (lots of sites out there for patterns). Have the kids decorate them with markers or crayons and have a fly off.

Have you ever played Minute to Win It  games? So fun for a family game night! In addition to these 30 here there are so many more of these games out on the Internet.

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Do you have a favorite out-of-the-ordinary activity for kids? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out some inspiration from these amazing young artists (and maybe your child will join their ranks!)

1. Akiane Kramarik

Akiane Kramarik began painting at the age of four and never looked back. Check out this video of her at 9 years old with Oprah.

2. Aelita Andre

Now 13, She first began to paint professionally from nine months old when her amazing acrylic on canvas paintings were included in her solo exhibition in Australia at age two. Here, she opens a solo exhibit at age 9.

3. Autumn de Forest

Art prodigy Autumn de Forest has been a professional artist for most of her life. Since age 4, she has been creating masterpieces. Check out this video about her by CitizenKid.

4. Kieron Williamson

Kieron Williamson became famous at the age of 6 for his impressionist art work and has garnered massive attention since then for his beautiful works. This video likens him to Monet.

5. Evan Sharma

Now 16, Evan Sharma gained attention in the art world at the age of 12. His works have been compared to Picasso and Matisse.

6. Lola June

This 3 year old is taking the art world by storm. An artist friend of her mother’s discovered her talent and she took off from there.

7. Wang Yani

She first began painting at the age of 2 and had her first exhibit in china at 4. Her early artwork was largely made up of animals.

8. Josh Tiessen

Josh Tiessen is from Ontario, Canada, and started painting realism at a young age. His grasp of nature realism is stunning.

9. Cameron Sky Villa

He started painting when he was 1 1/2 years old and quickly became a known figure in the Sacramento art scene.

10. Kareem Waris

He is a young Nigerian artist who began painting at the age of six. He does incredible hyperrealism pieces of art and even did a portrait of French President Emmanuel Macron.

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Who knows, your little one could be the next Picasso!