|Little Red Riding Hood characters|
I am not an artist.
I do work towards becoming one, all the time. I create, I am inspired, and okay, maybe what I create is art - sometimes. I do not however, have innate artistic talent. Therefore creating something I like, can use, or that I would consider giving away or someday maybe even selling, is a bit of a process. How do I do it? It takes a few steps.
Ideas of specific items I could use in the classroom or with my own children, come to me all the time. When I am able, I write the ideas down. I use whatever is handy when I think of the idea be it post-its, napkins, my hand, or whatever! The trick of course, is finding those pieces of paper later. : )
This is the "Google" and picture book stage of the process. I google the name of something I am trying to create, and see if someone else has created anything like it. If someone has, great! I can look at her design, and see if it is something on which I can build. (Please note: If I borrow ideas from another person's designs in order to create my own, I do not sell that item! For example, this past Spring I was teaching my class about the life and works of Claude Monet. One afternoon during this time period, I was visiting Etsy and looking at the work of one of my favorite artists on Etsy, Mamakopp. I saw and simply fell in love with one of her designs for a little man called Crinkleroot. I thought he would make a perfect model for Claude Monet. I borrowed her design and created a little wooden figure of Monet to go along with a wooden bridge and felted pond with lily pads. I used this only for my own classroom. You can read about it and see pictures on one of my earlier blog postings, here.) If I don't find anything similar to my idea using Google and sometimes even if I do, I also look at children's book illustrations. There are so many amazing children's book illustrators that provide me with fabulous inspiration!
After the idea and the research have percolated for a while, I move to the scribble stage. This is the stage during which a "real" artist could work on design. I scribble as I work on the design, and try to figure out how to make an image that looks at least somewhat like the idea in my head.
Case in point: A friend asked me recently to create a set of wooden figures depicting the story of Adam and Eve. I am still in the scribble stage, even after cutting out some first drafts. My figure drawings have this habit of leaning the same way as my politics - precipitously to the left! I had to throw my first Adam away. He looked like he was fighting a very strong gale, but I didn't realize it until after I had cut him out (of wood!) Sometimes I have to draw half a person, fold the paper in half, and then cut it out - to make sure the person is symmetrical and not too liberal (lol, left leaning) for his own good.
Below: My Scribble stage of dragon creation
I'd like to say that once I have scribbled sufficiently, I always come up with the final design. The truth of the matter is that sometimes designs still need quite a bit of tweaking. Sometimes I have to work through all the steps of making a piece, and let the final project "speak to me" before I decide if it works. I know this is sort of ridiculous, but it is the only way I have found that works for me. A piece has to look like I made it (if that makes sense), for me to be really happy with it.
Acceptance and Use
Once I have deemed the final product useful and "looking like me" enough, I have my Consumer Product Safety Testers (my children) check it out. If it meets with their approval, I photograph it (for archival purposes and of course the ol' blog), and put it out in the classroom. Finally!
And the sometimes necessary Sixth Stage: Revisiting
Of course, sometimes later I come up with a better idea, and so then I have to start the process all over again. Ah well, such is the life of a teacher and "wannabe" artist.
What is your favorite classroom material you have made?