Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Help Kids Enjoy Art

Above: Max hard at work on a complex pencil drawing. Left: Does this look like fun or what? Hannah, Alyssa, and Megan create masterpieces.

While in the Richfield area for a watercolor workshop, my son Jon and his wife Jolynn invited me to conduct a mini-workshop for my grandkids and their home-school group. So I hauled up ten palettes, three fist-fulls of watercolor brushes, some tube paints, pencils, lots of heavy paper and ten neat watercolor boards with grandpa's "special" watercolor paper mounted and ready to go.

The excitement level was high as I lavishly laid out all that good stuff, and told them they could use whatever they wanted, as much as they wanted, and there were "no rules." Children don't need any direction discipline when it comes to art -- they are naturals. All they really need is fun materials, space to work, and the freedom to create.

Art does not mean the same thing to kids under 12 as it does to adults. Children's art is NOT about conveying realistic images of nature. It's a language for them to describe and explore their feelings and thoughts, and their understanding of the bigger world around them. They readily adopt "symbols" to tell all about their experiences. These symbols aren't meant to resemble real objects from nature. So it's pointless for adults to intervene and try to help them with shadows, perspective etc. The kids don't know what you're talking about and it's meaningless to them until about the Junior high school years.

So how did my "Kids Workshop" turn out? Well, after two hours they were still going strong, and didn't want to quit. Later that night, they wanted to do it all again. My recommendation to parents, is just provide lots of materials in an appropriate place, and turn them loose. All kids know what to do.

Just a quick note to parents: Watercolor is usually a very poor medium for young children because they have difficulty controlling it. A wonderful back-run enjoyed by an adult artist is often perceived as a "goof" or mistake by a child. Kids usually feel more comfortable with crayons and markers because they are learning to gain control of their environment. And copy paper is really cheap. Rave about what they make and let them tell you all about it. Then pin their work up on the fridge for everyone to see. They will love it, and by the time they are ready for art lessons, they will still love it!

Painting Workshop at Elsinore Art Center

Barn demonstration for the Sevier Valley artists group at the Elsinore Art Center in Utah
Last weekend I enjoyed spending a couple of days with some wonderful artists from the Richfield, UT area. My good friend Lillie Jones invited me to teach a landscape painting workshop to their artist group at the charming "Elsinore Art Center."

Although it snowed both days, our indoor classroom facilities were great--and the big north window gave me a wonderful view while I was teaching.

The Elsinore Art Center
The Elsinore art center is located in a nice restored home owned by Sue Ann Brady, who offered the facility as a coop gallery and workshop facility to area artists. The artists each take turns staffing the gallery to keep costs down.

Roland Lee demonstrates painting a barn, starting with a pencil value study
Although the students used a variety of mediums, the subject matter applied to all of them, as we discussed learning to see values, edges, and shapes in nature. In the demonstration painting of a barn (above) I showed how a pencil value study provides the roadmap for the watercolor painting.

Click to see more Elsinore workshop photos

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plein Air Painting in Zion

I had Zion Natural History Association Board meetings in Zion on Saturday and took advantage of the great weather to do a little sketching and plein air painting after the meetings. It's like Christmas morning for me to be turned loose in the canyon with a couple of hours to burn. So, packing my sketchbook and portable paint kit I hopped from trail to trail, trying to soak it all in, and grabbing sketches as I went.

Ahhh, now this is the way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Parking my truck near the Zion Canyon turnoff, I set up my Anderson easel and folding chair on the west side of the river to grab this little sketch of Twin Brothers and Mountain of the Sun.

From the same location I did this little sketchbook study of a small pinnacle looking back toward Bridge Mountain.

Nice afternoon lighting on the Sentinel caught my attention, and I set up long enough to do a quick watercolor Sketch from the Pa'rus Trail bridge.

Following the river on foot I snapped some photos and sketched near the Court of Patriarchs.

Just for good measure, here's a sketchbook drawing I did earlier of Angels Landing from the trail. Now that's a hike you do not want to miss!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Roland Lee mini video How to paint Rock and Snow in Zion National Park

In my last watercolor workshop I demonstrated how to plan and paint a watercolor painting of a snow scene in Zion National Park. One of my students shot a little video during the process. It's only 8 minutes long, but you might like to take a look. We've been shooting a few more clips lately of some of the demos, so a few more will be added as time goes on. Patty Bingham from the art department at Dixie State College will be shooting some footage of my Drawing Workshop this Friday, so maybe we can post a little of that as well.

Click here to see "Rock and Snow, Watercolor Demonstration by Roland Lee" on Youtube

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Dennis Farris Speaks about his Zion Artist in Residence Experience

Dennis Farris speaks at Southern Utah University
Texas artist Dennis Farris spoke to an audience of students and community members at Southern Utah University last evening. Nellie and I were able to attend to hear him describe what its like to wake up each morning in Zion Canyon and spend the day painting its stunning cliffs. Dennis wraps up his experience this week as "Artist in Residence" at Zion National Park. He brought a number of paintings in progress and described his methods of painting. He is a master at values, and says if you can get the middle grays right, everything else falls into place. Farris hopes to have 25 paintings completed by August for a show in New Mexico. He has kept a blog of his experiences at www.farrisart.com

Guests get a closeup view of Dennis Farris paintings in progress at Southern Utah University presentation
Guests got a close-up view of Dennis' paintings in progress after the talk. His paintings are wonderful.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Painting with the Grandkids

Grandkids painting in watercolors
Nellie and I flew to Houston for a week of visiting our grandkids Matty, Katie, and Ally. Of course we got in a little quality art time with Grandpa's special paints. The girls just enjoyed the sheer ecstacy of paint on paper, but Matty and I poured our creative energies into a Space and Rocket Fest.

Painting the solar system
Painting the solar system

The x-winged space cruiser
My amazing "X-wing Space Cruiser"

Matty's paintings of NASA rockets showing the history of manned space flight