Tag Archives: art with children

Art Buddies


When I was about 10, an uncle who was a  “Sunday artist” spent an afternoon  showing me how to draw cups and bowls. He taught me about volume and perspective, taught me how to shade with my pencil, and encouraged me to draw  with a “light touch.” He was patient and seemed to enjoy himself. I soaked up the attention. My aunts and uncles loved us all, but it was very rare for one of them to pay particular attention to one of us cousins. They were in their world and we were in ours. I now suspect that this uncle wasn’t so comfortable in the adult world, so for an afternoon, he crossed over.

When I was imagining “Explorations in Art” I wanted the young people who came to experience that kind of attention.  I have often worked with large groups of children and youth. Let the wild ruckus begin! Sometimes big group art experiences are more about handling materials and general chaos and completing a project  than learning about art.

My first ever Explorations in Art student was Lanelle. For the past two years Lanelle has come once a month, sometimes more and occasionally, less. Among her consuming passions are dragons, so we have learned a lot about art by exploring dragons. But we have also explored tractors, wildflowers, pencils, faces, cubes, cylinders, dogs, ski hills. Together with others we have explored art in the city, both in galleries but also in back alleys, restaurants and tattoo parlours. We have visited the horses, skated on the ice rink, climbed the hills and visited Grandmother Willow in all seasons. We play weird games in the car.  Lanelle has brought along her sister, her mom, her cousins and once, eight of her friends! We have favourite snacks – hot chocolate, ginger cookies, pizza. I have been promising her mango smoothies. She has promised me a fiddle concert under the willow tree.

One of the guiding principles of “Explorations in Art” is “Teaching is a two way path”. Nothing could be truer. I have a wonderful group of students and I do not doubt for a moment that they are among the very best  teachers I have ever had. They inspire me to see the world in new ways. Their interests take me in new directions. They shake me up.

While the one-on-one approach of “Explorations in Art” allows me to offer a student my full attention and tailor our time together according to their various interests, abilities and working rhythms, it also offers an unintended benefit – the very best art companions. It is about relationship as much as it is about art.

As such, the way Lanelle and I  create art together has changed. This summer we spent many happy hours creating in the same room…just enjoying the calm, creative, entirely enjoyable, and beautiful world we were inhabiting together. Lanelle is in charge of music – sometime roots music, sometimes calming music and sometimes dance music – for that, we have Marvin Gaye. Sometimes we have to shake it up and dance or do calisthenics. Sometimes we listen to a book. We have the same quirky (and sometimes dark) sense of humour. Sometimes Lanelle is absolutely quiet. She can be incredibly focussed. Sometimes she talks my ear off.

During the spring, we were having a wonderful talk and I had an epiphany. Lanelle is a kindred spirit. Friends for life, I am sure.  Renegades. Art buddies. So, this blog is for you Lanelle – with a thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s also for my long ago (late) uncle who took the time. Another thank you.

(Question for Lanelle: How would you paint the bottom of a heart? Have you ever seen a person’s ear fall off because the other person was talking a lot?)

Lanelle’s most recent project, summer of 2017

Close up

We both love working on the floor. Keeps us down to earth (sort of).

Lanelle’s piece inspired this “Sprites Dancing in Full Moon” .We both love this lovely blue paper and I was inspired by the simple clean lines in Lanelle’s piece.

Lanelle’s first dragon with piles of gold coins plus some wonderful food, fall 2015

Sketching around the farmyard, spring 2016

Spring 2016

Collecting ticks and painting wildflowers, Spring 2016

Painting Pots PLAYshop, Spring 2016

Dominique and Lanelle, Art in the City, Summer 2016

Art in the City, Lanelle’s 7 minute sketch, summer 2016

Lanelle’s surprise Christmas gift for her family. A watercolour (framed by Lanelle) of her family skiing at Mission Ridge, fall 2016

Paper Playshop, Fall 2016

Lanelle’s friends, winter 2017

Self- Portrait #1

Watercolour, Winter 2017

Neve’s mermaid (Lanelle’s little sister) and Lanelle at work



Looking for Love in all the Right Places


I love to create art with people of all ages. My recent morning at the Regina Early Years Family Centre (Gathering Place location in North Regina) saw me playing on the floor with my youngest group ever and their moms.

looking through the paper...I think the sounds that tissue paper makes were more interesting than the "translucence"

looking through the paper…I think the sounds that tissue paper makes were more interesting than the “translucence”

The minute I walked in the door, I felt at home and I felt comforted. There is a large tree in the corner made of twisted and curved brown wrapping paper. My sense was that there were small nests all around the room, and enticing corners and caves  inviting the curious to explore and linger. Nothing large and plastic in primary colours!! A magical place. A place for children and parents to spend good time together.

scrap baskets - full of possibility!!

scrap baskets – full of possibility!!

I came with my scrap baskets. Art programmer Kat supplied glue sticks, scissors and other kinds of paper. I like to think of myself as a beginner in art, but my time with these artists taught me so much about what it really means to be a beginner. Turns out that I have a ton of preconceived ideas about the purpose of glue or scissors, not to mention paper!  Here is some of what I learned from these small teachers:

  • A glue stick looks like lip balm. So it is reasonable to open the top and put it on my lips. What happens? STICKY LIPS!!!
  • It is a lot of fun to take the cap on and off a glue stick. Again and again and again. Why stop?  No gluing is necessary. It is still fun.


Photo courtesy www.studiosproutssantacruz.com

I spent 15 minutes with one little girl. At first she enjoyed digging the glue out of the glue stick with her fingernail. Then she could put some of the glue on paper. Then we tried another way –  together we dragged the glue stick across the paper. You have to hold the paper down when you do this. She reminded me of the deeply satisfying feel of glue when we move it across paper – it both slides and sticks, all at the same time!! We did this a number of times. Eventually we tried putting a scrap of  paper on top of the glue. When you do this your fingers get gluey or gooey and they stick to the paper. It helps to have a (relatively) dry fingered adult to separate you from the paper. Once this is done, you shake the paper and the two pieces of paper stay together. A miracle! A big smile! Two big smiles! It took us a long time to accomplish this and we were both quite pleased I think.

the many wonders of a glue stick

the many wonders of a glue stick


  • Scissors are very cool. I watched many children, especially boys, cut with scissors. Tissue paper is very hard to cut. It is too floppy, it moves all of the time. Firm paper, like construction paper or wax paper is much easier. Cutting with scissors takes 100% concentration – it is an an almost hypnotic activity. I love that scissors kind of sound. The straight lines produced by the scissors as the paper separates into two is amazing. Nobody wants help. Nobody wants to learn to hold their scissors properly. They mostly just to enjoy the pleasures, sounds and miracles of cutting with two blades of steel.
photo courtesy of www.lynaot.come

photo courtesy of www.lynaot.com  I love this photo because it shows that wonderful concentration and absorption that cutting demands

IMG_1846 IMG_1849 IMG_1853 IMG_1854This small girl below played with the paper for a while and then came straight for my lap, totally intent on having a cuddle. Her mom said that she has this beautiful gift of love, knowing just who needs her hug. We had a long cuddle… a great interlude of love in the midst of creativity.

finding love

finding love

Some of the parents fretted because they were not creating art with their child. They were creating art because they wanted to and their child was doing their own thing close by.  The kids had very different ideas than the parents. To my mind, this is a great thing! I believe that just as our children need to see us reading books and enjoying them if they are to grow up to be readers, they also need to see us creating art…if they are to grow up loving being creative. They need to see us creating at the kitchen table, on the living room floor, and If I had my way – in the halls and lobbies of schools and doctor’s offices, parks and playgrounds, shopping malls and arcades. Anywhere and everywhere! In fact, anytime I have created art where there are children or youth, they are magnetically drawn to see what is happening, and more often than not, they want to create as well. It just happens.

we get messier and messier, paper is fun to throw in the air and why not?

we get messier and messier, paper is fun to throw in the air and why not?

See my bird

See my bird


our tree of blooms, birds, unidentified flying objects and one dinosaur

our tree of blooms, birds, unidentified flying objects and one dinosaur

Thank you to Kat and all the great staff at the Regina Early Learning Family Centre for the invite. Special thanks to the moms, grammas and caregivers, and the biggest thanks to the small ones who taught me so well. To find out what else is happening at one of Regina’s two Early Learning Family centres, check out their FB page.