Sunday, October 29, 2023

Painted Aprons for Chili Cook-off Winners

 Autumn is the season of Chili Cook-offs. Instead of spending a lot of money on trophies that people don't want to have to store, why not give them something useful to go with their bragging rights, like a set of wooden spoons or an apron. For an upcoming Chili cook-off I thought I'd give first, second, and third place winners aprons upon which I painted cooresponding number of chilis. Aprons were about $3 each. It's easy to copy chili shapes from images online, or you can trace a real chili in pencil if you've got one handy. I painted the silhouette with black acrylic and when it dried, I painted the topcoat of red or green acrylic, leaving some of the black show through for hatch marks. It's funky, fun, washable, and a conversation piece. I hope the winners can use it to brag about their win at cookouts for years to come.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Inktober 2023

Each October 1st, my husband reminds me that it is time for us to get out our pens and sketchbooks to do our annual Inktober Challenge drawings. We look at the official prompt list by Jake Parker, used by artists all over the world, and try to come up with an idea to bring each word to life.

I love the exercise of bouncing ideas around. For "dodge" I thought of a Dodge (car), a game of dodgeball, a Dodge playing dodgeball... and within a few seconds, I was asking myself questions about what kind of things could be thrown at each other besides balls. I settled on a snowman and the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow hurling and dodging each other's make-shift heads. "Map" can just be a map, while also being a topographical landscape to be explored.

For the prompt "toad" one can do a realistic rendition of a toad, or one can differentiate it from a frog, by placing it on a toadstool. Toadstool, barstool, bartender serving up "the usual" bar fly-suddenly there's scene to create. I had taken the prompt "wander" and made a guy walking through a bamboo forrest, until my husband reminded me that walking on a path isn't necessarily the most conducive thing to use for wandering. As I found my mind wandering through landscapes, and wondering how to execute it, I came up with an actual brain. I like the idea of asking questions letting your mind explore ideas. 

"Rise." Bread rises; the sun rises, each of us rises when the alarm goes off each morning; put them together, and 15 minutes later, you've got the idea: rise. For "plume" I thought it would be funny, of a bird plucking their feathers for a feather decorated hat, or to use as a quill pen, generally used in fancy calligraphy. I ended up drawing a chicken using a quill and ink to write in chicken-scratch rather than calligraphy.

Sometimes you can pair concepts, like when the prompts were "demon" and "angel" back to back. I had a devil eating devil's food cake using a pitch fork, and an angel eating angel food cake. I'm busy with all of my other daily obligations so  definitely can't spend long on working on these. It's an end-of-the-day-wind-down-while-watching-a-sit-com-with-my-sweetheart-activity, not something I want to take over my life. But it's definitely worth the effort to keep skills honed and your mind sharp. The official lists date back to 2016 and can be found at if you want to take the challenge yourself.


Monday, October 23, 2023

Sculptures from Braille Books

Book folding is a fairly new trend in wall art. Patterns can be found online, which give the number of pages and the number of inches from the top and bottom of the page to fold in order to make specific shapes like hearts or diamonds. For those creative souls (like my students) who want to explore their own folding techniques, the sky is the limit! Obviously most books are printed on paper, but Braille books are embossed on card stock, giving extra strength with fewer pages. I demonstrated a couple of folding ideas before letting students try out their own ideas with discarded Braille books. The fact that they are held together with staples and don't have any hard covers or spines to deal with, make them extra conducive to sculpture in the round. It didn't take long to get some great results.


Sunday, October 22, 2023

From Tennis Camp for the Blind to Insights Art Show and APH trip

APH president & my student
This year, the American Printing House for the Blind had more than 300 entries for their national Insights Art Contest; of those, only about 40 works of Art made it into their exhibit. Two of my studensthad work shown since one won an honorable mention and another got 3rd place in the grades 7-9 category, for art they made last year. Two other art students came for a trip to Kentucky to attend the Meet the Artists Reception and Awards Banquet. My student is seen here explaining her use of arbitrary color in her painting to the President of APH at the reception.

Ticket to the IMAX in Braille

They also attended a pre-screening and Q&A session for the Netflix Original "All the Light You Cannot See" at the Kentucky Science Center. It's coming to Netflix in November and I highly recommend it. It's so refreshing to have a blind protagonist played by blind actresses (both old and young versions).

watching bats being carved and dipped at the factory
Much of Friday was spent at the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts (complete with Audio Described tour), followed by Sluggers Museum and Factory Tour and the Louisville Visitor's Center.

Nick Doyle's solo show in denim at KMAC

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) experiences were everywhere: navigating TSA, flying on a plane, the plane train, an Uber, a charter bus, escalators, elevators, moving sidewalks, and miles of city sidewalks. Other life/ learning experiences included being interviewed for a podcast, networking at the reception, eating a meal with three forks and three plates, and shaking hands with the APH president in front of 400 people. It was an amazing trip!

The weekends leading up to the Kentucky trip were also exhausting and wonderful starting with an annual Crisis Clean-up trip. this time, my son and I went to Madison, Florida  after Hurricane Idilia left trees down everywhere. Tree work is physically taxing, but rewarding volunteer service.

Then there was Tennis camp for the Blind. They make special balls that are soft foam, bouncing balls with a rattle inside for Blind Tennis. Students started with basics like moving side to side, front to back as directed. They caught and threw balls, before trying to learn to serve and hit. It would take a great deal of work for an actual game to be played, but three hours flew by and the students were just enjoying getting better at basic skills.

I helped students cook s'mores over a campfire, go on scavenger hunts, play games (hide and seek was especially entertaining), and go swimming.


Tactile Student Face Ornaments

December will be here before you know it, which means, it's time to design our Christmas tree for the Museum of Art and Science's Festival of Trees. I always try to use the tree as a way for my students to advocate or help the community understand them and their disability better. 

Every student at our school has an IEP, with their own goals and accommodations. We have students with a wide range of vision problems and eye diseases, causing everything from blurry vision  to no vision at all. Students cover the autism spectrum and a variety of other challenges. We have students as young as four and as old as twenty-one. Rather than look at them as a recipe of race, gender, age  and diagnosis, it's best to think of them as extremely complex and lovable individuals. I wanted the tree to express the rich texture of our student body, made up with beautifully unique individuals, each represented by a student-made, tactile cardboard portrait.

Check out the Festival of Trees at The Museum of Art and Science in Macon, Georgia from the 2nd week of December through the beginning of January.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Pencil Cup Project from Recycled Materials

My Elementary School and Middle School students have been learning how something as flat as a piece of paper can be turned into something 3D by looping strips into links of a chain or folding pages of a book to make a sculpture, or quilling folded paper to make framed images. Making pencil cups is another project that teaches a one more technique of making flat magazine pages into a tactile exterior to a pencil cup. It is an easy, fun project that can be used for years, rather than tossed after a month of hanging on the fridge.

Students found magazine pages which they rolled into a tube, using a pencil, drizzling a strip of Elmer's glue to secure the edge. For stiff covers, rubber bands would hold it the tube in place until the glue dried, and with tight rolls a second pencil would be used to scoot the first pencil out of the tube. The each rolled tube was hot glued to a clean tin can, transforming waste from the recycled bin to something you can use to organize pens, pencils, markers, scissors, and paint brushes. Children can learn to think through the side and direction they want to roll their pages to get the nicest edge, and how to organize their colors and patterns on the can. The next rainy day at home with a bored child, consider having them make one of these to spruce up their bedroom.