The children in our art clubs have been busy getting to grips with the idea of printing this week.    We had a short discussion about printing before hand and many of the children realised that they had printed before even if it was simply using potatoes or hands.  We talked about different kinds of printing and I explained that we were going to be making a printing block using foam shapes. I showed them how to play about with their design on an A5 piece of polysterene before sticking anything down.  I encouraged them  to use scissors to cut more interesting shapes out of the shapes provided.  They thought about pattern and symmetry. Some children chose to create a representational image such as a flower while others preferred to work in a more abstract way.  One of the best parts of this project is that it really allows children to do their own thing and put their own personal stamp on their work.


Once they were happy with their design they glued it down using lots of PVA.  They needed quite a lot of reminders to use plenty of glue so that the pieces would stay in place when we came to printing.  I checked that everything was well stuck down at the end of the session and added any glue to parts that needed it.

In the second session the children were given black printing ink and rollers.  I use paper plates for this as it is so much easier to clear up at the end.  I showed them how to ensure they get an even coverage on their printing block by taking the roller both up and down and side to side.  They then lined their block up in the top corner of an A3 sheet of white paper and stood up so that they could use their hands to apply an even pressure on the block.  They were very excited to peel off the block and see the results!


Once they had the hang of it, they made another three prints on the A3 sheet, thinking carefully about the position of the block.  Some of the older children chose the experiment by rotating the image and achieved some lovely results.

NB – it is a good idea to have a couple of sheet of sticky-backed foam with you in case you need to make any last minute repairs!


We had a couple of great holiday club sessions over the Easter Holidays.  I always enjoy running these sessions as the longer time (two hours) gives the opportunity to really get stuck into a process or technique and send the children home with some lovely finished work at the end of it.  We also seem to be super fortunate with the lovely and talented children who come along to these sessions!

This was a bit of a messy one, but also lots of fun:

The children began by creating their wonderfully colourful backgrounds.  They did this by first of all dampening a large sheet of water colour paper with water and then applying food colouring directly to the sheet.  I had considered using pipettes for this but as the food colouring came in handy little pots with their own droppers we just used them straight from the containers.  Once they had made lots of different coloured drops on the paper they helped them to spread across the wet background using a paint brush.  They really enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful bright colours spread and marge.  NOTE: they need reminders not to splurge all of the colours together completely to keep them nice and bright!

We then set the backgrounds aside to dry and moved to another table where I had set out a range of flowers.  They spent some time doing some observational drawing in pencil, looking carefully at the different shapes of the flowers, both inside and out.

By this time, backgrounds were nearly dry so we moved back to the ‘messy’ table to practice a bit with the Indian Ink.  On some scrap paper, the children had a go at making a variety of lines and marks by dipping the bamboo skewers into the ink.  They gradually started to gain confidence in drawing in this way.  Once they were happy with this we started work drawing a selection of flowers onto the background.  I showed them how to look for flower-like shapes in the blobs of colour and pick them out using the ink.  The variety of blob shapes provided good templates for a range of flowers. Some children added in additional features such as leaves and insects.  The older children were able to use the skewers to achieve lots of detail and interesting mark making.


Obviously Indian Ink is a bit messy so I would recommend aprons and table covers all round for this one!  We managed to get through it with only a couple of spills and some beautiful creations to show for it.





I like to use work by well known artists as a starting point for our projects.  It opens the children’s minds to the world of art and can be a great starting point for discussions.  Children can gain a lot by thinking about the process that an artist went through to create a picture.  As we are looking at landscapes this half term, I decided to show them this picture by David Hockney.  I thought that they would be interested in the fact that he created it on an iPad and it is a great example of perspective to draw in the viewers gaze.

We used a guided drawing technique for the first part of this two week project.  This allowed us to talk through the various features with the children and plan the picture so that the main elements were in the correct positions.  To do  this, we pin a large piece of paper up at the front of the class and take the children through the process step by step.  They work in pencil at first, but we try to keep rubbing out in these early stages to a minimum so that the pace isn’t lost.  Once they were happy with the positioning of the main features they worked on their own to add more trees and other features.

They then worked in black sharpie, being careful to only trace the lines they wanted as the branches criss-crossed over each other.  This required some concentration!  They then rubbed out the pencil lines.


The second session was used to add colour to their pictures.  They did this using Crayola Markers.  (I have tried many markers with my art clubs and have found that these offer the best combination of range of shades and durability).  Before they began, we looked again at the Hockney picture and discussed the colours.  They saw that while some of the colours used were life-like (the browns and the greens of the trees), many were ‘hyper-real’ and that this added to the vibrancy of the picture.  They had a great time putting their own personal stamp on their pictures using the markers while still maintaining the Hockney vibe. 20190319_100325

They had to work hard to get this done in just two sessions but I think you’ll agree that they have worked out pretty well!

You can see more of this super work on our gallery page – Gallery

We began our new ‘Landscape’ topic last week.  We kicked off with a stand alone session (around 45 mins to 1 hour) to introduce the children to the idea of landscape drawing, perspective and colour mixing.

The children worked in pairs at first and were given a print out of a landscape scene that had been cut into eight strips.  They arranged the strips so that it made a complete picture and then push every other one up slightly.  One child took the strips which had been pushed up and the other child took those that remained.  They then arranged them on a sheet of A4 paper, leaving gaps between each one (remembering to keep them in the correct order!).  Once they were happy with the arrangement they glued them down using Pritt Stick.

The next stage was to use pencils to roughly sketch in the missing lines.  They looked at the mountains and imagined the shape of those that weren’t there so that they all joined together.  Then they did the same for the shore line, tree line, clouds and rocks.  We tried to keep this part quite brief so as to leave time for the fun colouring bit.  Once most children had their outlines sketched in I took them through how to use water colour pencils.  Again, I kept this quite short as one of the purposes of this session was for the children to experiment themselves.

They set to with the pencils, using different shades and tones to build up colour to match the strips on either side.  They experimented with using black to darken a shade and found that this needed to be done with a lightness of touch!  They also found that sometimes colours occurred that they would not necessarily expect, for example, purple in the sky or yellow in the grass.  It was a bit of a rush to get them finished in one session but I think they have done a great job!


This was a two week project with each session lasting around 45 minutes.

Session One

The children were each given a lump of clay and told to roll it into a ball and then squish it down with the heel of their hand. Once it was slightly flattened, they rolled it out further using a rolling pin to the thickness of approximately 2 £1 coins (be careful that they don’t roll them too thinly as they will break when dry). They then placed a paper plate on the top to use as a template and cut around the edges to create a disc. Using a sheet of cling film to stop the clay sticking to the plate they carefully placed the clay disc on the paper plate and pressed around the sides to gently mould it into a plate shape with raised edges. Once this was in place they were free to decorate the plate in anyway they wanted. They were given some ideas such as stripes, circles, spirals but they really enjoyed the opportunity to get create and do their own thing using a range of mark making tools provided. Once complete, the plates were left to dry.

Session Two

The children used acrylic paints to decorate their plates. We talked about planning a colour scheme and putting some thought into which colours they would use. For instance, would they stick to a ‘family’ of colours or would they use a wider range of hues? We also talked about the necessity to paint the background colours in first with a larger brush then the details on top using a thinner brush. The children all took great care in using the paint to enhance their patterns and make them really come to life. I love how each plate is completely unique and tells us something about its creator.

Our Art Explorers have been busy making these fantastic cup cake shaped pots this week. Read on to see how we differentiated for all ages…

They all began by making the base by creating a ‘thumb-pot’ within a silicone cup cake mould. We found that this worked best if the clay was not over-worked. Once it became warm and soft it was more of a challenge to take it our of the case. In most cases, adult help was required to peel away the mould from the clay, leaving a cup-cake base shaped pot.

All children then set to work on the lids by rolling out a flat piece of clay and cutting around the circumference of the silicone mould to create a disc. Our groups with very young children then used clay tools to work directly onto this disc, adding patterns, decorations and ‘sprinkles’. They had a bit of help to curve the edges slightly to create the appearance of a muffin. We found that this was more than enough level of challenge for the five and six year-olds.

Decorating a ‘muffin-style’ lid
Taking care to join add-ons carefully!

For the older groups (7+), we showed them how to roll coils using the flat of their palms. Some who were new to clay needed some help to get theirs going. Once the coils were rolled we showed them how to score the clay to ensure that both sides stick together when dry. They also used small amounts of water to smooth the clay pieces together. Once the coils were in position the children got creative, adding decorations such as sprinkles, flakes or cherries. They needed a lot of reminding at this point to score even the little pieces! They also used the clay tools to add details. After a quick once over from an adult to ensure that all parts were properly attached, they were left to dry, ready for painting with acrylics next week.

Dampening a coil ready for joining

Last week our after school club children had lots of fun experimenting with mark making in clay. Using shoes to make the patterns caused much hilarity! Here’s what we did:

First the children were given a lump of air dry clay to squish and squeeze until it warmed up in their hand and became easier to manipulate. Then they used rolling pins to roll the clay out to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin. Each child took off one shoe and we had a look at the patterns on the soles. I had taken a packet of wipes along so that any mud could be removed! Once the shoes were ready to go the children pressed them into the clay and carefully removed them to see the pattern it had made. They then passed their shoes around and had a go with a different pattern. Once their clay was covered in patterns they took a circular cutter and selected their favourite areas to cut out.

Those that wanted to be able to hang them used a pencil to make a hole in the top. I provided them with a range of mark making tools to allow them to enhance the patterns further if they wished, adding borders and details. They all got onto such a roll with this that they ended up with a whole plateful of medallions each to take home! I told them that once the clay had dried they could decorate them using acrylic paint. Many of them did this at home, which is fantastic! It’s lovely to see the learning continuing outside of our sessions.

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas break.  The topic for the coming half term at Art explorers is Clay so I will be spending the next few days getting all of the materials and tools ready and distributed to our club leaders.   Clay topics are always lots of fun and children take great pride in what they produce.  It is a good way to show children that that there is more to art than drawing and is particularly good for those who struggle with the fine motor skills involved with holding pencils and brushes.   We are trying a couple of new projects this time which will incorporate both mark-making and moulding and hopefully produce some great results.   We use air-drying clay for our clay work which you can buy in Hobbycraft or online, should your child wish to continue their clay journey at home.  It takes a couple of days to dry out and harden and then it can be painted.  We use acrylic paints in our classes as they sit on the surface of the clay and have a lovely sheen rather than soaking into the surface.   I will be sharing these projects with you here over the next few weeks should you need some inspiration or ideas so please check back in a week or so.  Now, off to round up some mark-making ‘stuff’…

I have recently returned from a trip to Vienna where I was lucky enough to visit the Hundertwasser House and Museum.  I must admit that I did not know a huge amount about the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser before this, other than seeing pictures of the amazing Humdertwasser House (see below)c5c8a59fe4694e1cf53dd810bfa6830e

The house is certainly a high point of any visit to Vienna but it is in the museum where I really began to find out more about this fascinating artist.  Looking at his  fantastical, dream-like  paintings , created with beautiful, vibrant colours, my main thought was, ‘my Art Explorers would LOVE this.’

On returning home I did a bit of research and found ‘Harvesting Dreams- Hundertwasser For Kids’ by Barbara Stieff (Prestel).  I was hoping for a bit more background about the artist and his paintings but this book is much more than that.  It is written for children but is in no way patronising and is a great and informative read for adults too. It is under-pinned by the importance of creativity in all its forms and sets about challenging the reader to think creatively, as Hundertwasser did throughout his life.  It takes the reader through the whole of the artist’s life, beginning in war time Vienna.  Each chapter relates to a different aspect of Hundertwasser’s creative output and also sets the reader creative challenges such as creating your own symbol, changing your name or designing a dream home.  These are brilliant starting points for creative thinking and would be great fun for adults and children to explore together.

The book takes us on a journey though the artists’s very unusual life and shows children that there are many interesting paths their lives could take.  It brings together aspects of visual art, nature, architecture and travel and presents a world view that challenges the status quo.  At the back of the book there are lots of ideas for practical activities that tie in with themes in the book. In a world where the education children receive at school is increasingly narrowing it seems that we could all do with a bit of Hundertwasser in our lives.


This week in our holiday clubs we have been focusing on still life drawing, using both pencil and chalk pastel.  We have quite an age range in these clubs (from 5 – 11) and so the challenge is always to come up with something accessible for the younger ones while also offering challenge to the older children.  As a bit of an experiment, I decided to let them build their own still life composition rather than restricting them to one I had already set out for them.  I took in a range of pumpkins and squashes of different shapes, sizes and colours, along with a selection of autumn leaves and conkers.  I set them all out on a separate table and told the children that they could pick one out, take it to the table and draw it and then return it and select another.  In this way they would gradually build up their own composition.

There are some downsides to this approach.  For example, it is hard for them to compare the sizes of the objects if they only have one in front of them at a time.  It is also a little tricky for them to think of the composition as whole as they are gradually adding to it.  However, despite these issues, I found that working in this way really freed most of the children up and seemed to minimise the stress that some children can feel when presented with a complicated selection of objects.  This method broke it down into much easier to handle chunks.  Some children actually went to to create quite complex compositions. thinking about layering and creating depth.  It seemed that, because they were selecting the objects themselves, they felt much more empowered to give it their best go.

The children were all very pleased with their results at the end of the two hours.