Charcoal Self Portraits

After practicing charcoal drawing with the teen class when they drew paper bags, they were ready to move on to something more challenging: self portraits. Personally, I have never enjoyed drawing myself.

I think it is extremely difficult because beyond drawing faces, you are representing yourself. However, the teens did such a great job and I am so impressed with how hard they worked and how they turned out. A few of the students drew half their face and used a photo for the other half, but most drew full self portraits.


They started by drawing their faces with pencil using a lesson we taught about the measurements of the face. Then they put in the darks and the lights and worked on shading. See some of their results below.







Exploring Charcoal: Paper Bags

A few weeks ago the teen class drew paper lunch bags using charcoal to practice value. We really wanted them to be able to look at their bags, find where the darkest areas and lightest areas were and use charcoal to express these values.


Many of the students had never used charcoal before and we were so impressed with how well they did! They were a little uneasy at first but quickly gained confidence in their drawing and they all turned out so well. Proud of our teen artists!








Aperture – Day 1 Photo Camp

Today was the beginning of our three day mini photo 101 camp.  As we are learning to take our camera’s off auto, we focused on Aperture Today.


The photos in this post were taken by students during the workshop today.


APERTURE:  The aperture of a lens is how wide the lenses opens when you take a photo and ranges from wide to narrow, and is measured in f/stops, such as f/4 (wide aperture) to f/22 (narrow aperture). AV


  • The smaller the number, the wider the aperture, the more light is let in  and the smaller the depth of field.   So, for a portrait, you want the subject in focus but the background to be blurred.  You would use a low aperture.  I love a shallow depth of field so I shot a lot of my photos on the lowest aperture that I can.


  • The opposite of this is true as well.  The narrower the aperture, the less light is let in, darkening your shots an resulting in a larger the depth of field.  While shooting landscapes or citys capes, you might want to have both the foreground and the background in focus.  For this you would want a high aperture value, f/16 or f/22 to get deep depth of field.


  • We shot in  Aperture Priority mode today which allows you to take control of the aperture, leavingthe shutter speed and ISO to be controlled controlled by the camera.   We practiced adjusting the amount of light entering into the camera through the lens and setting our depth of field.


Tomorrow we will explore shutter speed.


Teen Landscape Watercolors

The teens completed their landscape watercolor paintings.


There were a lot of lessons wrapped up into this project.


We started with an introduction to watercolor painting and all of the different types of marks you can make with watercolor.


We learned about color mixing and painted our own colorwheels.


We also had an in depth lesson on one point perspective.


We then completed mini-sketches of our paintings to check the overall composition.


And then our larger landscapes.


Watercolor is a very hard medium and they did a great job; had fun and learned a lot.


Teen Value Ornaments

This week the teens learned about value and made value driven ornaments.


Value Lesson

Value: Value is the amount of light reflected from the surface. Value creates depth in a picture making the object look 3 D.

We started by sketching a basic sphere and a five-value scale.  We talked about the different kinds of values such as:


Highlight: Brightest spot where the direct light hits the object.

Light: As the surface curves it gets less light and thus becomes darker.

Shadow: The side away from the light source that does not receive any direct light. It is not completely black because it does receive light from the surroundings.

Reflected light: The light that bounces off the surface the object is sitting on.

Cast Shadow: Darkest dark that gets lighter as it moves away from the object.


We then created our value ornaments with chalk pastels.


We cut them out and glued them to black paper and added finishing details with a gold sharpie and oil pastels.  They turned out beautiful.




Acrylic Pour Painting

As I explained to my students, I don’t have a great appreciation for modern art.  A lot of the time I just really don’t get it.  But I do have an appreciation for expressive art – art that tells a story, makes you feel something, shares someone’s unique view of the world.

I have had my eye on acrylic pour painting for a while and thought this would be a great medium for the students to explore expressive art.



We started by talking about how color and lines can convey different moods or feelings.  For example, red may make you feel excited while blue can make you feel cold or calm.  We looked at how different styles of lines can impart different feelings too – jagged lines can make you feel stressed, wavy ones calm and irregular ones can make you feel uncomfortable.


I then had all of the students write their names on a piece of paper and a feeling or mood on the back side.  This was for their information only.  I encouraged them to express that feeling with their art work.


The Steps

Our experimentation with acrylic pouring involved these steps:

First, I mixed up a solution of 1 part acrylic paint (really any cheap paint is fine) and 3 parts pouring medium.  I added a few drops of water so it had the consistency of heavy cream.  For every one cup of this mix, I added 3 drops of silicone.  I wanted to keep the palette limited, so I mixed up a few ocean colors and one color of a transparent gold acrylic to have the effect of sand.  Just for fun, I mixed up a small container of red.


Here are links to the products I used on Amazon:

I also mixed a container of white paint that did not have any silicone added to it!

Second, pour the colored mixtures on a surface.

Add the white paint and gently swipe the white across the surface of the colored paint.

Watch the cells appear!  The less you swipe the better (you will have bigger cells) but the students had a hard time not wanting to play in the liquid paint.

Add marks with a palette knife and lastly you can set the top layer and bring up more cells by using a blow torch (don’t worry parents, the students skipped this part).

Here is a video with a more detailed looked at the process:

Here is some more of the work.  Can you find yours?

Since I had extra paint, my family made a group painting during Thanksgiving.


Sumi-e Ink Paintings

For our last project of the year, the Wednesday night teen class created Sumi-e Ink Paintings.


Sumi-e is a Japanese word that literally means “Ink Picture.” “Sumi” is the ink.   Adding “e” makes it “ink picture.” The art of Sumi-e originated in China about 6000 years ago as Calligraphy. Calligraphy led to painting pictures.   

We added some wax resist into our project to make it more interesting.

The students really enjoyed this project.  Here is peak at some of their work:






Observational Value Drawings

It was so nice to be back in class this week and working with the Teens on creating Observational Value Drawings.


We practiced observational still life drawing – drawing from real life set ups using measuring techniques. I started by letting the students pick the objects they wanted to draw and setting up their own still life’s.  The only requirement was that half of the object be in the light and half in the shadow.


Working on tinted paper, we used charcoal and followed these steps to create a value drawing:

  1. Use tinted paper and draw big rough shapes.   Check accuracy with:
    1. Negative Space
    2. Horizontal Lines
    3. Symmetry
    4. Diagonals
    5. Verticals
  2. Lightly apply vine charcoal to entire drawing – holding the vine charcoal on its side color over entire drawing.
  3. Create a 2-value drawing – squint and erase all large light areas.
  4. Squint and color in darkest darks.
  5. Adjust middle values drawing into image using your kneaded eraser. Readjust the lights and darks as you work on the middle values.
  6. Pick your focal point and emphasize with higher contrast, sharper edges and more detail.
  7. Lastly apply the highlights, (lightest lights) with white Conte crayon. Note that highlights will follow the form of the object.


It was the first time that many of the students had drawn from “real life” and worked with charcoal. They did a great job! Here is a look at their work.



Painting with Glass Frit

As our last glass project, some of the Teen and Adult students made these lovely Glass Frit paintings.  I just love these!  Some of them I took to a full fuse, others I did a custom fuse so the frit could retain some of the texture.  I thought they turned out beautifully and look so pretty with the light shining through.  We will be doing more of this for sure!




Full Fusion Glass Tiles and Bowls

After our introduction to glass fusion through the making of frames, students in the Teen and Adult Classes were given the opportunity to continue their experimentation with glass by completing a full fusion glass project.


Design Basics for a Full Fuse

A Full Fuse  results in a finished piece that is smooth on top with rounded edges.

  • Design Up (on top of the glass) or Design Down (under the glass).

Design Up: Compose on top of a solid piece of glass.designup

Lines will be soft and irregular because some glass colors flow sooner than others.






Design Down: Design with colored pieces on the kiln shelf and cover with a solid layer of clear sheet glass. designdownThe cap will hold the seams in the bottom layer together during firing resulting in crisp lines.




Photo from Bullseye Glass.

  • 6 mm rule – Fused glass will retain a thickness of 6 mm. To retain the shape use a thickness of 6 mm or two layers of 3 mm.

If thinner, surface tension will cause the glass to pull in towards the 6 mm mark leaving a thick edge.

If thicker, it will flow outward to flatten to 6 mm unless it is constrained by dams.

Adding decorative glass on top of a 6 mm base lets you expand design options but if too much is added or it is too close to the edge, it may flow out and distort the edge of the piece.

To avoid this, keep added material ¾ inch from the perimeter.

  • Avoiding Bubbles

Some bubbles are a natural part of glass fusion. Large bubbles can be distracting. Avoid them by always layering the glass smooth side up, work with full layers of glass and allow pathways for air to escape.

Here is a look at some of the tiles created in class:












A few of the students chose to have their tiles slumped into bowls.  Here is a look at a few of the bowls: