A journal of creativity with my daughter Grace

back to main page
programs Fun stuff for families schools reviews bio store

This is my journal the creative ideas I try with my daughter Grace over this school year. I'm posting them so that kids, teachers and parents might be encouraged to try some of them, or be inspired to make up their own. It's to show you I practice what I preach, and hopefully you'll like some of the ideas and pictures of what we try. Grace is four, but things we do could be done with any young child, and the art and music we listen to are certainly useful for any age. Come, join us on our journey! It should be great fun!

Past months:

• December


Monday, December 1

We kicked off the month revisiting Impressionist painters -- Grace's favorite age of painting. I lingered over Degas's pastel drawings of ballerinas, since Grace loves ballet. I love this particular one, especially the freshness of the strokes. Look at the bold blue outlines! Fabulous. Maybe we should take a shot at doing something in pastel.

Thursday, December 2

Here's our shot. A few days ago, Grace woke up and called to me to come see the sunrise. It was so brilliant, I climbed out on the roof and took this picture of it.

I printed it out today, dug out my pastels, put a smock on Grace and sat down to make a beautiful mess. (Pastels are incredibly messy.)

Here's what we did. We started first with the sky, putting yellow streaks across, then adding orange, then blue mixed with gray above. Then, taking a tissue around a finger, we smeared and blended a bit. When the sky was what we wanted, then we darkened the ground and carefully added trees.

Grace was very reluctant to put any trees on. I can understand. It feels like you're about to wreck it. In the end, she did put in trees -- I had to help her draw them -- but just a few trees.

my attempt


One other thing I wanted to say is that when I added short strokes of color in the black ground, Grace said, "That's just like Van Gogh!" (He's one of her very favorite artists.)

Monday, December 6

Listened to Celtic music during breakfast, while we looked at Winslow Homer paintings. I also brought out a picture of bagpipes to talk about what was making that annoying whine.

Thursday, December 9

This was another of the mornings where I had nothing planned but decided to just hang with Grace and see what developed. About mid-morning, she began to draw -- actually, began to have this duck draw, with one wing wrapped around a pencil. This is Mr. Wibblefeather -- a name I gave to it long before Mr. Picklenose made it seem that we weren't on a first name basis with our toys.

Anyway, she drew a number of pages of a story about Mr. Wibblefeather's pond. When I parked him on one, she suggested we find a big piece of blue paper and create a pond for him. I had shown her how to draw lily-pads and cat-tails, it was an easy thing for her to make larger versions and cut them out. She really liked how I bent the bottom of the grasses and tucked them under the pond to make them stand up.

Friday, December 10

Yesterday, we also embarked on a long flight of fancy. On a whim, I made a high-pitched "Yip, YIP!" and turned to Grace and asked, "What kind of an animal might make that noise?"
With that, we were off and running. We created a creature we called the Bushy-tailed YipYip. It's a small, timid animal that lives in bushes and is terrified of dogs. This kind of YipYip has a mouth like a squirrel, a round body like a raccoon, duck feet (!), and of course, a bushy tail.

We talked about it a while yesterday. Then, out of the blue, Grace called, "Yip YIP!" She turned to me. "What was that?" she whispered. "There must be one in our house! Come on, let's find it!" So walking quietly, we searched the house; Grace occasionally threw in another cry to lead us on. We "found" it under her desk and we carried it to the living room.
This rarely happens, but this imaginary game continued to build beyond what I could handle. The YipYip is now Grace's pet. She carries it around in cupped hands and wants me to let it ride on my shoulder. She even wanted it to eat from my plate last night, for crying out loud! I may regret this invention. (I know, I know, some of you think: "You got what was coming to you!") But today, I did work with Grace to draw pictures of it. The picture above is hers, with a little help from me.
You know, people for generations have been making up their own imaginary animals. See some I found that lumberjacks imagined.

Friday, December 17

It has been so busy lately, particularly because I've been away, and with all the holiday craziness. But today, Grace and I did a few creative things. We looked at paintings at breakfast. Her college-age brother, Todd, is home, so he was impressed with the painters she could identify. (Yes, it's a little show-offish, but it's fun for her.) Later, we baked banana cookies. That was her idea. I had never seen a banana cookie recipe, so I had to Google one. They turned out nicely.

And just for kicks, we put on some Mozart and Beethoven. (Actually, she had asked for some music by Rembrandt, but that was a little hard to put my hands on.) You should have seen us dancing to Beethoven's Fifth. Da da da DUM!

It's actually a great piece of music for kid-dancing. There are so many dramatic changes from loud to soft, as well as punchy starts and stops. We crouched down in the quiet parts and leapt up when it got loud again. We worked on karate moves for the dramatic theme. By the end, we were both breathless -- and laughing!

Friday, December 17

Grace wanted to paint today. So we got out poster paint and I brought to the table a book of tree pictures. I thought it was a good week to learn a little about pine trees. Since Grace had already by trying Christmas trees on her own, I decided we could do a little observing.

We started by making the brown trunk, with gaps in the line, then drew the branches by making a stripe bent slightly upward. Then we added the needles hanging down. All the extras -- the hearts, the star with rays, the pink rug -- those are Grace's touches.

December was another fun month of discovery for Grace and I. Here's a little of what we did:

• inspired by Degas, we tried pastel for the first time
• we used stuffed animals as a starting point for a construction paper project and a drawing
• we enjoyed the art of Winslow Homer
• we made a strange sound, then created a strange animal to go with it
• we invented dance moved for Beethoven's music
• we studied pine trees so we could draw them better

Those were the highlights. It was a busy month; December always is. We're looking forward to being a little snowbound in January -- great for indoor invention!

On to January's adventure!

all material ©2004 Bruce Van Patter

back to main page
programs Fun stuff for families schools reviews bio store