Childrens Art

 painted princessesChildren love to draw. It is one ot their first modes of expression. The best way to help them is to provide paper and pencils. Markers are a neat and colourful tool to encourage them. Messy is ok. It is best not to draw for them or ask them to copy something . Children have a developmental sequence of creating their own schema. To interrupt this schema with our preconceived formulas for things will inhibit their imagination and their adjustment to their world. It is important to just let them go. Asking them questions about what they are doing or dialoging with them is very good. Let them describe their drawing. They will readily share their process. When I was studying Art Education at a University in the U. S. this was the most important thing I learned. I believe and trust that all children have their own unique process .
Most people love children’s art,that is why there are so many children’s art contests. Children have an innocence and a way of going to the truth of things. I think all children deserve a prize if they have worked hard on their picture. They deserve as much time and stimulation as they can get to make their art.
I am not entirely in favor of art contests but I love to see children’s art displayed. Remember, that with any kind of contest it is important for the parent or the teacher to explain to them that everyone’s art is good and deserving of a prize. It is the effort that counts. This is a lesson for all of life.
I used to love to read to my classes and then they would draw or paint their favorite picture from the book. Listening to music and then painting with colour is a wonderful motivation. Drawing also helps to process grief and loss. More time should go into the motivation than the instruction. Helping children develop their art making abiltiy is a wonderful gift. Encourage them as much as you can. In subsequent blogs I will give some examples of fun motivations. There will be some tried and true stimulating approaches to broaden the child’s experience of art materials.


How To -2- If You are Stuck

Often in the creative process we get stuck. It all seems monumental and failure ever present. One of the best ways to get unstuck is by doodling.
Take a square of paper and draw a squiggle line. You can even close your eyes. Continue the line with your eyes open. Use different pressures. If you want to scribble with anger that is ok. Scribble awawy. Move out of the line and cross over a few times to make some freeform shapes. Keep going. Sometimes you will start to see shapes emerge into something recognizable. If you do that is fine,

Let yoursel go and do a doodle

Let yourself  go and do a doodle

but it is not a necessary part of the process. If you have bright colored markers the next step might be to colour these shapes. The more you work on it the more your mind will release tension. I have whole collections of large pads where I have  done my doodles. I started this process years ago during a difficult time and kept up with it till I could begin again.The large doodle in the post was done during this time . Your inner critique is silenced with this. Why? Well, because the mind cannot  label the result and it gives up. You end up with a fun collection of drawings that you cannot judge as good or bad. So start doodling and have fun.

How to Paint – 1

Dragonflies as big as your hand

Dragonflies as big as your hand

While I was walking up the path the other day I was thinking about how many people would like to be able to paint the coming of Spring. In my classes I would always stress the need to start a sketch book. This book contains little drawings of what you want to refer back to. Learning to draw is important if you are trying to paint. A light pencil drawing or a wash of yellow ochre to outline your shapes to help with your design is the best way to start. Drawing is practice. We are all born with the ability to draw. It is part of our human heritage. The ancient caves of  Lascaux still never fail to awe those who see these beautiful bison leaping across the stones. If you stopped drawing in third class this is where you will start. If your drawings are childlike , honour that child artist and build your skills with practice. I know you can draw a daisy . Now draw a group of daisies. Take photos, refer back to them as you work in your sketch book. See how you improve the more you try. 

One Billion Rising

One of the billion rising

One of the billion rising

Today one billion people will rise against violence against women. It is V day. All over the world women have been learning the steps to a dance. It will be done at points where they have gathered together dance to Breaking the Chain. My daughter is going to Central Park to dance with her friends and everyone else who have gathered together. I have watched it on U Tube being practiced in South Africa, France, Germany and the Phillipines. It starts with an invocation of the body opening to the energy of change,moves to the right, to the left , marching backward and forward, turning and arms opening and closing .There is a jazzy , happy bit and it ends with a single hand pointing to the sky. Each country seems to add its own identity and signature to the movement. This mural I did last year to catch the joy of Spring and celebration with dance. She is rising for freedom and safety and will always be there celebrating.

From Bridge to Bridge


This is a 19th century bridge over the Glore river. Every morning, with my dog , I walk by the river and around the circular path of the Glore park. I watch the early morning light under the bridge and what is framed by that arch on that day. Sometimes it is heavy rising mist, dense fog, pelting rain, sunlit reeds or grazing cows. The sounds vary from rushing rapids to a soft bubbling.That first deep breath of fresh country air revives me and puts me right again. If I am feeling strong and it is not too rainy I do the salute to the 4 elements and directions found in primordial, elemental tai chi . Since I have been in a recovery mode from chemotherapy due to stage IIIb colon cancer it is more difficult than usual to get up and go to the river park. My little dog, waits patiently while I pull myself from the haze of sleep, do a yoga roll up and out till my feet touch the floor and stumble along looking forward to turning on the heater in the bath. I still seem very sensitive to cold which is a result of the chemotherapy and a lifelong depression facing the day.I have never been happy in the morning before rising. Once up,it all seems a blessing but rising has never been easy. This last month I have improved some on my morning walk and with my little collie I been able to also walk down to the next bridge in the afternoon. In Ireland, in the winter, it is usually raining in the afternoon but I have decided it is good for my complexion.The Glore river runs under several bridges on its way to the Moy. It is part of the appeal of where I live in Mayo that it is very rural and along the hedgerows are cows, horses,and fields full of buttercups in the summer. Even in the winter it stays green. I hope ,in the summer, I will be able to walk to the nearby Cill Aodain cemetary church site from the 12th century. My progress is slow . It helps to think of getting from one bridge to the other.

Dance for Joy

My studio window with fired clay dancers overlooking the river

These dancers are portraits of real people. In the eighties I went to New York and was asked by a friend who is a professional dancer to come to her classes to observe. She had been a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company and was teaching at the famous Alvin Ailey’s and Julliard Dance at Lincoln center. She later founded the Jeanne Ruddy Dance Company. So I came sketchbook in hand and sat crosslegged on the floor and tried to catch the movement of the young dancers. I was used to static life drawing classes where the model holds a pose. These dancers were reaching , dipping, leaping , turning . The Graham technique employs much floor work so they were also rolling, balling up, and releasing. Arms and legs and hair went flying, swirling , whipping around. Into this I pushed my pencil and tried to stabilize one movement. I admire the Martha Graham body of work and the technique. The use of myth , the drama of passion, love, betrayal, lost in spirals and trapped in nets trying to survive the human condition on the stage is riveting. One of my favorites is “Rite of Spring”. It is tribal, virginal, sacrificial, and ends in celebration. So my small dancers leaping in a circle are frozen in their own rite of Spring.

Flowing to Source

IMG_1723Going with the flow is a popular phrase. Water is the most humble element but also the most powerful when pushed. Water seeks the lowest point. In its seeking it forms beautiful waterfalls and creates many sounds from soft gurgles to roaring cascades. This is my view every morning as the Glore River runs on its way pass the Mill and up to the Moy river and then to the Atlantic. I like to put bits of flowers of the season into its flow as a way of comunicating with the water to let it know what is happening on the banks. For centuries people have sent prayers on water .   I guess we know that the flow will take those words to a place of non-judgment and future storage in some low place on the ocean floor.

mer woman in her home on the ocean floor

mer woman in her home on the ocean floor

ocean floor

Nature’s Archway


looking through the window to the reading  atrium

looking through the window to the reading atrium

This is an attempt to access some creativity with writing this morning. Perhaps a stream of consciousness would work for a quick start. First, the circle of this window is a beautiful element in itself. When I saw it I wanted to frame it in some way and ugment its perfection. The cobweb is curcular in some ways and not in other ways. I have walked into my studio and seen an industrious line of silken thread going from sculpture point to sculpture point . How the little spider jumps that far is prertty impressive and it always seems a shame to have to break the thread to get to work. As I get older I can see more and more the web of life and how all is interconnected. One of the recent activities I have per day is to count the synchronicities that happen. There are always a few — some more dramatic than others. Since I started coming to Ireland in the  early nineties I have noticed more synchronicities than I experienced in my home country , U. S. A. One of the components of Irish myth is Enchantment. More about this later.