“Our Community” at Catherine Blaine


zentangleAnother community art series with my good friend and colleague Carolyn Grane!  This time we worked with 3rd grade students at Catherine Blaine K – 8, right here in my own neighborhood, Magnolia.  (Seattle, WA)  The 3rd graders had been studying about the concept of community, what it means to be a member of a community, and how communities can be small groups of people to larger neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, and even larger, to the entire world.

In our first art session, students were introduced to “zentangle,” a widely popular drawing/doodling method.  If you’re not familiar with zentangle, check out the many inspiring images and techniques available on the web.zentangle

As this project is all about community, we played “pass the paper,” and had students draw for several minutes on one sheet of paper, then pass the paper to the next person and receive another doodle to elaborate on.  For some kids, it was an exercise in sharing and letting go.  For everyone, it was a chance to learn from each other, and to create something greater than one mind and one hand can accomplish alone.zentangle

Students finished the first art session with cutting out circles from tissue paper in preparation for lesson two.  We did not use templates, as we were not looking for perfect circles, but rather, taught the “chop off the corners of a square” method, which I thought was great practice in dexterity for little hands, and again, right-brain problem-solving.  I remember learning this technique in kindergarten or 1st grade, so I am always happy when I come across students who haven’t yet had that type of artistic learning, and I have the chance to share something useful and magical with them.

In the second classroom session, students cut out silhouettes of buildings, houses, and people shapes from their collaborative doodle drawings.  We also created the “fireworks” background on the panels, which would become a 15′ mural in the entryway to the school.  Additionally, the students made a mini version on paper that they could take home.  Their take-home piece tied in with a geometry lesson, as they were learning about shapes such as trapezoids, etc. and cut out these shapes to create buildings in their mini collage.


Finally, Carolyn and I put it all together in three panels, one for each 3rd grade class.  One class created Magnolia, an urban neighborhood near downtown with steep hills, crowded with houses and apartments.


The next class created the downtown Seattle skyline.


And the third class created the world, with dancing people all around.  The earth was created using text in the many languages that the families at Blaine speak in their homes.  There are around 15 languages spoken, and we translated various definitions of community into these languages to create a further layer of community collaboration within the piece.


We are so excited to see it installed!  A big thank you to Julie Cox, Principal at Blaine, who wrote for a grant from the Seattle School District to fund this program.  Also, thank you to the wonderful 3rd grade team of teachers, and the parent volunteers.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

Is it Lakeridge Elementary or Lakeridge Elementary?

warm&coolpaintingsTwo of the schools in my weekly rotation of classes are called Lakeridge Elementary. I’ve been checking and double-checking my schedule, (which Lakeridge is it again?!), glued to my GPS, cursing suburban traffic as I try to get around my ever-expanding territory. Both schools are on Lake Washington, but one is in the Mercer Island School District, and the other is in the Renton Schools.

birdontexturedbackgroundAlthough they are separated by only a few miles of water, the two schools with the same name are a world apart.

The program in Renton is funded by a grant for schools in need.  A diverse group at Lakeridge, these kids were hand-picked as students who would benefit from an after school art program.  Most of these children have never had an art class before.  They are eager, fascinated by the materials, enchanted by the colors and the possibilities they bring.  With this group, every moment is filled with discovery and wonder.

birdshapesThis Artist-in-Residence program is a collaboration with my longtime cohort, Nadine Smith.  Through a 13-week series, Nadine and I will be creating TWO permanent art pieces at the school, featuring the students work.  One will be a mosaic column at the front entrance to the school, and the other, a collage mural, installed inside the school.

We started the series with warm and cool paintings, and let the students discover the magic of wax resist.  In the second class, we introduced the concept of drawing using shapes, and we cut up some of their paintings to make collages.  Over the next several weeks, we will continue to explore combining shapes as we learn to draw flowers and plants, architecture, etc.

The students will apply their understanding of shapes when we begin the mosaic portion of the series, scheduled for May and June.

ericcarleThe other Lakeridge

Mercer Island is an affluent Seattle suburb, set in the middle of Lake Washington. I’m teaching an after school book arts series at Lakeridge and Island Park Elementary Schools. Both series are offered through the Kids Co. after school program, and are funded by parents.  These kids have all had art instruction before and are comfortable working with art tools and materials in a creative process.  In this series, we are making paper maché pop up books, fiber arts books, and 3-d shadow box books.

Now which Lakeridge is it again?