(An earlier version of this article appeared in Around the Park Magazine.)
Remember that squirrel from Ice Age, the Meltdown, who was always running around like crazy after a single acorn? That's pretty much what I look like in November. Not because I'm storing up for a long, hungry winter though. My acorn obsession is of the crafty kind.
It all started at the Park one November day, the kind that begins misty pink and then crisps to perfect blue skies, when lo and behold, the most gorgeous acrons called out to me that they wanted to join in the Thanksgiving festivities. Of course acorns don't really talk, but they can speak to us in creative ways. That's why I decided to paint them to decorate our family table.
Bobina is ready to be carved.
Light it up!
(An earlier version of this article appeared in Christy's feature, The Outside Art Table, in Around the Park magazine.)
Halloween is my favorite night, and this year it's still going to be, no matter what. Usually our street closes, doors open and families stroll (or run like the wind!) from home to home trick-or-treating in the blue-flame light of dusk. Bats swoop, witches cackle and pumpkins on porches glow like candy corn. True Story: the best costume I ever saw on our street was a dad dressed as Princess Leia and pushing a stroller.
To set the mood for All Hallow's Eve, no home would be complete without at least one jack-o-lantern. here in our artsy corner of the Park, drawing the face for parents to carve is a fantastic way to learn how to draw people.
You'll need a pumpkin of any size and a few sharpies, at least one light color and one dark. And why not be outside so you can enjoy a whispering fall breeze? Maybe sing a spooky song while you draw.
First, name your pumpkin so you know who they're going to be. We called ours Bobina because she likes to bob for apples even though she has trouble catching them with that big grin. Hold Bobina or ole what's-their-face in your lap and choose the best side to draw on, usually the one without dirt or bumps, unless you want to name yours Dirty or Warty, and then by all means go right ahead.
Using your light color Sharpie, draw a curved line down your pumpkin's face. Draw another curved line to cross with that one in the middle of your pumpkin where the nose will go. If at any time you feel like you messed up, just choose another sharpie color and ignore that first practice one. Remember, nobody's going to see the drawing once dear ole' Mom or Dad carves away and lights up Bobina, Dirty or Warty.
Now add the features using a dark sharpie. Draw the eyes like footballs sitting above the line, triangle nose that begins where the lines cross and then goes down and a smiling mouth under that. Pretty basic--right?
Give your pumpkin any expression you want: spooky slanting eyebrows, smiley turned mouth corners, evil frown, crooked warty nose (perfect for Warty), maybe a moustache. Take a step back and admire your work. What would you change or add?
Believe it or not, you just learned how to draw a face. Give yourself a skeleton dance party!
Once you ask your parent to carve it for you (using please and not in an annoying voice), remember to be patient as they may be up to their eyeballs creating a safe way to dole out the candy goods this year. Your pumpkin may end up looking different from what you imagined, and that's cool. Pumpkins change my friends. When it's lit up, that's your cue to hug your parent and thank them for bringing your jack-o-lantern to life.
Happy Halloween Everyone!
~Christy, Ms. Knight
Oscar lurves Halloween.
The Jolly Green Giant
The Mud Maid
(This article first appeared in print in Christy's monthly feature, the Outside Art Table for Around the Park magazine, March 2018 and was republished here in March 2020 as a free resource for families during quarantine.)
How many shades of green can you find in spring? Grab that box of crayons full of moss, olive, jungle, asparagus, sea green, and screamin' green just waiting to be used in our green scavenger hunt. This activity has several challenge levels for all ages and abilities, so give it a try and see how far you can get with your great greens.
Ask your parent to help you gather these things you probably already have hiding around the house:
empty egg carton
paper, clipboard and pencil
box of crayons with many green choices
optional: magnifying lens, field lens or loop
Look for green things like mosses, ferns, leaves and grasses in your yard or at the park. Maybe you'll even find a four-leaf clover while you're on the jolly green hunt! Take the egg carton and fill each space with a green thing that you find. Then, mark your paper with crayon in different shades of green; try to match the crayon colors to the nature stuff. You can even blend two or more colors to make your own shade. Give your hunt to a family member and see if they can match the nature stuff to their color. Pretty simple, huh? Want to take it to the next level? Read on...
Do this hunt backward by marking the green colors on paper, giving someone the egg carton and the color chart, and having them hunt for the things that match those colors. Pretty soon, you'll be seeing green with your eyes closed.
Not challenging enough? This time, use only yellow and blue crayons to mix your greens. Since these are the two colors that make up green, it should be interesting to see how many combinations you can make and how closely you can match them to the green things you find. Challenge accepted!
Do you like to draw? Take it to the next level. Sketch the items you find with a pencil on paper and then color them in. Take your time looking at each shape and texture, using a magnifying lens if you have one, to make a detailed drawing.
Hold a leaf up to the sunlight or under the lens. Do you see lines running through it? Those are the veins that carry food from the leaves to the rest of the plant. Wouldn't it be cool if we could just raise our hands to the sky at snack time to create our own food? That's what green leaves are doing for their plant or tree. Instead of going to the grocery store and then coming home to prepare lunch, green plants capture sunlight in their leaves and then store it to make their own energy. You may have learned about this process called photosynthesis at school, but did you know all living things depend on green plants to stay alive? Thanks to the leaves, we can breathe and play at the park and drink a kale smoothie that tastes like peaches.
What do you think of the green creatures in the photos? Artists created these giant people in a place in England called the Lost Gardens of Heligan. They are as big as cars and made with plants that grow on sculptural wire. How many shades of green can you find in them? Maybe you can design your own green people sculptures that celebrate all things good and green.
Photo credits: These larger-than-life natural sculptures are by sibling artists, Pete and Sue Hill, designed for the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, U.K.