Thursday, July 31, 2008

Decorate Your Own Greek Vase

Decorate your own vase like the Ancient Greek vases you saw yesterday and Tuesday!

Supplies Needed:

Colored Pencils
Black Crayon
This project can get a little messy so protect your work space with newspaper.

Begin by choosing colored pencils. I picked reds, yellows, oranges, and browns because they reminded me of the color of the clay the Greeks used for their vases. Cover your sheet of paper with color. Mix it up. Color large patches of yellow and small patches of brown, circles of orange and triangles of red. Go nuts.
When your page is completely covered, color over the whole thing with a black crayon. You’ll need to press hard and color in several directions to cover the colored pencil.
Now draw a vase on the back of your page. I folded my paper in half so the vase would be symmetrical. When you’re happy with the vase, cut it out.

And now comes the fun part. With a toothpick, scratch patterns and pictures onto your vase. The toothpick will scratch off the crayon and let the colors show through. My vase is shown below. Though not something you would see on an Ancient Greek vase, I drew two people dancing. You can draw anything you want on your vase, including made-up creatures. Be creative.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ancient Greece Part II- Archaic Period

Before you read this, refresh your memory about the Geometric Period of Ancient Greek art. Remember how stylized and unrealistic the people and animals looked?

The Archaic Period began around 700BC and ended around 480BC. You’ll notice a big difference between the art of this period and that of the Geometric Period. During this period, Greek artists created much more realistic images. The people have muscles and their faces are detailed. The horses now look like real horses. And there’s something else you’ll notice (look at the bowl below)—the Greeks began to include mythical creatures like griffins (part lion and part bird) and sphinxes (part lion and part woman).
During the Archaic Period, Greek art was influenced by art from other areas of the world. This is because the Greeks were trading goods with neighboring areas. They were also setting up colonies to their east and west. Contact with other cultures allowed Greeks to learn to cut gemstones for jewelry, work with metals, and carve ivory.
Still, though, the Greeks continued to make sculptures and decorated vases. As I said earlier, the images became more realistic. Look at the decoration on the vases above. Big difference from Geometric Period vases, huh?
During this time, the Greeks began sculpting nude standing male figures (called kouros) and standing female figures with loose cloth draped over them (called kore). You have probably seen statues like the ones shown above.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ancient Greece Part I- Geometric Period

I took quite a long break, didn’t I? Sorry about that. I had a visitor for a long weekend and was busy running around D.C. I hope you all enjoyed your weekend, as well.

This post is the first in a short series about the art of Ancient Greece.

The time period from about 1000BC to about 700BC in Ancient Greece was called the Geometric Period. This is because artists often decorated items, especially vases, with geometric patterns. You’ll notice this in the picture shown below.
Many of these vases were used as headstones in cemeteries.

You’ll also notice that the animals are very stylized. The horses don’t look the way real horses do but they look enough like horses that you can tell what they are. The people also look unrealistic. They aren’t just stick figures, though. The artists of this time period had a unique style that makes their art different from art of any other Greek period.
Above is a sculpture created during the Geometric Period. Like most sculptures from the period, it is bronze. The most important parts of the horse are the largest (such as the nose) and the least important are smallest (like the torso).

Some experts believe that these small sculptures were used as offerings to the gods.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Make Your Own Masterpiece Magnets

I love this craft project because at the end you have a collection of miniature masterpieces that you can look at and play with every day. This is a simple and fun way to bring art into your daily life (just like reading this blog!).

Supplies Needed:

Clear marbles that are flat on one side
(use the largest size you can find)
Small printouts of masterpieces
Small, round magnets
White glue
Hot glue gun and sticks

You’ll need to ask an adult for help with this one.

Search online for pictures of your favorite paintings. At the end of this post are links to some of my favorite artists. Try searching this website for images before you go elsewhere. You’ll probably find what you’re looking for. You can make the pictures smaller by copying them to a word processing program and resizing them.

Print some pictures and cut them to the size and shape of the marbles. It’s okay if some of the picture is cut off. You may even want to cut one painting into many pieces and make one magnet with each piece of the painting. Be as creative as you want!

With a paintbrush, spread a small amount of white glue over the flat side of a marble. This should be a very thin layer of glue. You want it to dry clear so the picture will show through.

Let the marble dry.

Put a small dab of hot glue onto a round magnet and press it to the back (flat side) of the marble.

Repeat for each magnet you make.

Use your masterpiece marbles to hang your own artwork from the fridge!

**Links to favorite artists**

Vincent van Gogh

Claude Monet

Edgar Degas

Jackson Pollock

Piet Mondrian

Salvador Dali

Pablo Picasso

Henri Matisse

George Seurat

Sandro Botticelli

Johannes Vermeer

Leonardo da Vinci

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Illustrate Your Own Sun Myth

The sun is extremely important. It lights our days, gives us warmth, and helps our food grow. I’m sure you can think of many other ways the sun is important, especially in the summer. To certain ancient cultures, the sun was even more important, though. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese, Aztecs, Incas, Eskimos, and more believed that the sun was a god or goddess!

Each of these ancient cultures had a different idea about how the sun came to be. Read about a few of them
here. When you’ve read some of the myths, or stories, draw your own sun. Be as creative as you’d like. Maybe your sun has long rays that hug the earth. Maybe it is a bright fox, running around the world, day after day. Make up your own story about the sun to go with your picture.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Create Your Own Egyptian Jewelry

A reader requested more Egypt projects so I thought now would be a good time to post this. The ancient Egyptians used semi-precious stones and gold to make many types of jewelry, like these bracelets. You’ll notice that blue and orange/brown were especially common colors. Today, create your own jewelry inspired by the ancient Egyptians.

Supplies Needed:

Old magazines or colored construction paper
Glue Stick
Pipe Cleaner or Yarn
Mod Podge (optional)

Choose magazine pages with a lot of blue or orange on them. If you don’t have any old magazines, use construction paper instead. Make sure to get permission before you cut any magazines. Cut thin, triangular strips of magazine or construction paper. I used some aluminum foil, too. I like the way the metal shines.

Flip a strip over so that the colorful side is down. Beginning at the wide end of the triangle, roll your strip of paper around the end of your paintbrush. (A pencil will work instead of a paintbrush.) Put a little glue on the thin end of the strip so your bead doesn’t unravel.
If you want your beads to last, brush them with a thin coat of Mod Podge. This will also give your beads a nice shine. Allow your beads to dry.

Thread your beads onto a pipe cleaner or a piece of yarn.
Enjoy your ancient Egyptian jewelry!

If you’re interested in ancient Egyptian art, check out these previous posts:

Ancient Egyptian Paintings

Ancient Egyptian Carvings

Ancient Egyptian Sculpture

Amarna Art

Fayum Portraits

Draw Like an Egyptian

Create Your Own Ancient Egyptian Mask

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Create Your Own Bodegon

When you think of still lifes you probably picture paintings of fruit bowls. You may have created one before. The bodegon, as you may remember, was a certain type of still life that artists created in Spain during the Baroque period. Today, create your own bodegon like Juan Sanchez Cotan did.

Supplies Needed:

Black pastel

Go into your kitchen (get permission first) and collect some fruits and vegetables. Be careful not to drop them. You'll still want to eat those veggies later! Arrange the fruits and vegetables on a clean table so that they don't touch each other. Did you notice that Cotan's veggies never touched each other?

The next step is to draw what you see. Start with pencil. When you're happy with your drawing, color in the fruits and vegetables with crayons.

Finally, fill in the background with black pastel. This will give your bodegon that dark, shadowy background. Remember that pastel can smudge and smear if you wipe at it. If you wish, use a tissue to get an even color. Be careful not to wipe your hand across the pastel, though.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The Baroque period began in Rome in the late 1500s. At this time, the Catholic Church was very focused on spreading their beliefs to others because the Protestants were working hard to spread their beliefs. The Catholic Church decided that art was a great way to do this. Even people who couldn’t read (which was most people at the time) could understand pictures. The Church wanted a lot of paintings of biblical scenes that average people could relate to.

The Baroque style continued where the Renaissance left off. You may remember that Renaissance painters created a lot of portraits and religious paintings. Baroque painters did the same, as you read about last week. In order to make their biblical scenes familiar to people, artists such as Ribera used real people as models for their religious figures.

Baroque artists wanted to show life the way it really it was. In my opinion, there is no better example of this than Velazquez’s Old Woman Frying Eggs (below).
Finally, Baroque painters often painted scenes that took place in bright light against dark backgrounds. This is especially noticeable in Cotan’s bodegones you saw yesterday. To refresh your memory, Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber is shown below.
The Baroque period ended in the late 1700s.

And now I would like to ask a question of you readers who have been following this series of posts. Do you like it better when I write about artists and then tell you about the period during which they painted (like this past week) or do you prefer when I tell you about the period first and then about the artists? I would love to hear your opinions!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Juan Sanchez Cotan

Juan Sanchez Cotan, as I told you yesterday, is remembered for his bodegones (still lifes). He was born in Spain in 1560 and painted during the Baroque period.

Cotan worked as an apprentice and then opened his own workshop. He painted in Toledo for about twenty years.
Like most Spanish painters of the time, Cotan painted many religious paintings. Religious paintings make up the bulk of his work. Critics agree, though, that his religious paintings are not special. His bodegones, however, were unlike anything that had been painted before and unlike anything else being created at the time.
In his bodegones, Cotan painted fruits and vegetables against black backgrounds. The food was always very well lighted which allowed Cotan to paint every detail. This helped the fruits and vegetables look real. You’ll notice that some of the food is hanging on strings. This is because people used to hang their produce so it wouldn’t go bad as quickly.

In 1603, Cotan decided to become a Carthusian monk. He stopped painting bodegones, preferring to paint religious scenes instead. He was still a popular artist when he died in 1627.

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Monday, July 14, 2008


The last couple of days we have been looking at painters of the Spanish Baroque period. On Wednesday, I’ll write more about the Baroque period but today I wanted to tell you about a specific type (genre) of painting that was popular in Spain during this time: bodegones.

Bodegones are a certain type of still life painting. They show food, drink, and animals that have not yet been prepared as food. In Spanish bodegones the food is usually not cooked. The paintings are often dark and serious. They do not include people and they do not hint at a celebration to come.
I did not show you any examples of bodegones last week but Zurbaran painted some. For example, look at the painting above.

Velazquez often combined bodegones with another genre. He liked to paint peasants in kitchens or taverns like in Old Woman Frying Eggs, shown below.
The painter I’ll tell you about tomorrow is known for his realistic bodegones. His name was Juan Sanchez Cotan and he painted Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, shown below.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Francisco de Zurbaran

Francisco de Zurbaran was extremely talented but far less popular than Velazquez. Zurbaran was born in Spain in 1598. His parents were peasants and supported him in art as much as they could.

He worked as an apprentice in Seville in 1616 and 1617. There, he met Velazquez. The two were leading painters of the city.

When Zurbaran finished his apprenticeship, he began to paint religious scenes for churches in his area. He was a great portrait painter and his serious paintings of religious figures were well liked in the churches. Especially impressive was the way Zurbaran painted fabric draping around bodies or hanging from windows. For example, look at the painting below.
Many churches asked Zurbaran to paint for him and he did well for awhile. Around 1630, Zurbaran was even named a “Painter to the King.” After 1640 though, his solemn style fell out of popularity and he received fewer and fewer requests for paintings.
In 1658, Zurbaran moved to Madrid in search of work. Velazquez, his old friend from Seville, helped Zurbaran find work.
When Zurbaran died in 1664 he did not have much money and his popularity had passed. He was unknown outside of Spain. Today, collectors around the world seek his work, but Zurbaran’s paintings are not found in many museums outside of Spain.

The paintings above, in order, are St. Francis, a painting of a Carthusian monk (I don't know the title in English), The Apostle St. Andrew, and St. Francis in Meditation.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day Off

I'm taking the day off. Enjoy your Thursday and be sure to check back tomorrow to learn about Francisco Zurbaran.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Diego Velazquez

Diego Velazquez was born in Spain in 1599. When he was eleven he told his parents that he wanted to be a painter. He immediately became apprenticed to a religious painter, Pacheco, in Seville. Pacheco was impressed by Velazquez’s talent and hoped the boy would grow up to be a religious painter like him. Velazquez wasn’t interested in painting for churches, though. He loved to paint pictures of the people of Seville. He was especially good at painting scenes in taverns and kitchens. The picture shown below, An Old Woman Frying Eggs, is a good example of this.
When Velazquez was nineteen, he married Pacheco’s daughter, they moved into a house together, and Velazquez opened his own studio. After eight years of study, he was now a master painter.

In order to earn enough money to support his wife and young daughter, Velazquez began to create religious paintings for the church. He used real models from Seville as the basis of his paintings. Because of this, the people in his paintings looked alive. Velazquez never stopped painting the subjects he loved, though. He wandered through Seville, collecting ideas for paintings.

In 1623, Velazquez moved to Madrid. Soon after, he became “Painter to the King.” His portraits were adored by the royalty but other painters were jealous of Velazquez’s position. Below is one of Velazquez's early portraits of King Philip IV.
Velazquez enjoyed his position as “Painter to the King” but he longed for more freedom. He was able to take a trip to Italy to study the work of the Italian masters but he was rushed back to Spain when a prince was born.

Velazquez had to be available all the time to paint for the King. He even went with the King to battlefields. On the King’s second trip to the battle front, the Prince became ill and died. The Queen had died just before the trip and the King was extremely saddened. The King was forced to marry again because he had to have another son. Who would take over the Spanish throne?

The King’s new marriage gave Velazquez a reason to go back to Italy: the whole palace needed to be redecorated and Velazquez was put in charge of decorating it. He couldn’t paint enough to decorate an entire palace so he bought paintings by some of the Italian masters.
Velazquez loved his time away from the palace. He created many paintings and he loved the freedom of choosing his own subjects. While was in Rome, he even painted a portrait of the Pope (above).

In 1659, Velazquez was awarded the highest honor: the cross of Santiago. This meant that Velazquez was now a noble. He died only a year later.

Shown above is one of Velazquez's most famous paintings, The Maids of Honour.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jusepe de Ribera

Jusepe de Ribera (also known as Jose de Ribera) was born in Spain in 1591. His parents wanted him to go to school so he could work an intellectual job but Ribera wanted to paint. He worked as an apprentice for awhile and learned his art. By 1611 he had moved to Italy.

Ribera lived in Rome until about 1616. There, he studied the work of great painters of the time. This was the end of the Renaissance and there were great painters everywhere.

Finally, Ribera moved to the Kingdom of Naples. Today, Naples is a port city on the south-western coast of Italy. In Ribera’s time, Naples and the towns around it made up the Kingdom of Naples and was ruled by Spain. Ribera made an impression on the Spanish Viceroy, or ruler, of the Kingdom of Naples, and the man bought some of Ribera’s paintings.

In 1647 and 1648, when Ribera was sick and the people of Naples were rebelling against Spanish rule, the Viceroy even let Ribera stay at the palace. Ribera died in 1652.

Ribera’s paintings were extremely realistic. He wanted to paint the world the way it really was and that included the bad things. He especially liked to paint people in pain. Ribera was very good at showing pain of the faces of his subjects. Look at the painting above, The Deliverance of St. Peter.
In his early paintings, Ribera used a strong contrast between light and dark to create murky looking paintings. The painting above, Jerome Hears the Trumpet, is one example. Around 1630, Ribera moved away from this. He began to create paintings that seemed to glow with dim light. An example of this is Saint Francis of Assisi, shown below.
Check back tomorrow for another Spanish painter.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kandinsky Geometry

I have already written about Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian, abstract artist. For a class I’m taking, I have been working on a geometry lesson using one of his paintings. I thought some of you might find it useful. In my opinion, any time you can incorporate art into math or reading—or any subject—it’s a good thing.

The purpose of the activity is for kids to learn to measure diameter, radius, and circumference of a circle. This activity is good for 3rd and 4th graders.

Materials Needed:

Kandinsky’s Circles in a Circle

Focus first on the inside of the large, black circle.

Diameter is the measurement of the length across a circle. To find the diameter, use a ruler to measure straight across the circle. This line should cut the circle exactly in half.

Radius is the measurement from any point on the edge of the circle to the center. It would not be easy to guess the exact middle of the circle so, to find radius, divide the diameter in half. If you don’t yet know how to divide, try using a paper ruler that you can fold. Find the diameter and then fold the ruler so the diameter is split in two equal parts. The fold will tell you the radius.

Circumference is the measure around the circle. To find circumference, use a piece of yarn to find the length around the outside edge of the circle. Then, use your ruler to measure the yarn.

Repeat these steps until you are a master of measuring diameter, radius, and circumference.

A related project can be found here.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Swim Stay!!

I am excited to announce that some people who are very close to me have started a business. The company, Liquid Lanai Concepts, LLC, is a small, family business which has put out a useful, well-constructed, inexpensive product.

This great product allows you to use your backyard pool for exercise. It's called the Swim Stay. This product is not meant for children but is a fantastic workout tool for adults with pools. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do. It allows you to work your entire body and it doesn't strain your joints and bones the way running does... but you know all that.

Please check out their new website and, if you think the product will benefit you, purchase a Swim Stay of your own.

Santiago Calatrava

And finally, a modern Spanish architect…

Santiago Calatrava was born in Spain in 1951 and is still alive and working. He is a sculptor, architect, and structural engineer.
Calatrava began his career designing bridges and train stations (like the one shown above). He is currently working on a design for a station at the former site of the World Trade Center. The station will remind viewers of a hand releasing a bird.

Calatrava is also working on a building that, when finished, will be the tallest building in North America. It is called the Chicago Spire and was inspired by campfire smoke twisting into the air. To me, it looks like a twisty rocket ship.
He has designed many modern-looking buildings that have been constructed throughout the world. I really love the Turning Torso in Malmo, Sweden (shown above). If you are from the Milwaukee area you will certainly have see the Milwaukee Art Museum (below).
In Valencia, Spain you will find the City of Arts and Sciences. The city includes five massive and gorgeous buildings designed by Calatrava. The Hemispheric is especially beautiful. It looks like an oyster with a giant pearl. Also check out the pictures of the Palace of Arts and the Museum of Science.

Each of Calatrava’s designs is so different from the others but you can see that they came from the same mind.

To the Americans: Happy 4th of July! To everyone else: Enjoy your weekend!

I will be posting later today about something that is not related to art but that you may be interested in. Be sure to check back.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Antoni Gaudi

I mentioned Antoni Gaudi yesterday but I think I need to tell you more about him. He was a pretty terrific architect with a style unlike anyone else.

Gaudi was born in Spain in 1852. He studied architecture in Barcelona, Spain at the Escola Tecnica Superior d’Arquitectura but he was not a very good student. After five years, in 1878, Gaudi officially became an architect.

He began designing small projects but soon met Eusebi Guell. Guell became Gaudi’s patron and the architect designed buildings and parks in his name. You saw a picture of Parque Guell yesterday. Go click through the photos at the main Palau Guell website. I especially like the chimneys that grow atop the building like colorful trees.

You can see the characteristics of Art Nouveau in Gaudi’s work. There are bright tile mosaics and curving lines. He was very influenced by nature as you can see in the chimneys at Palau Guell.

The building that Antoni Gaudi is best known for, though, is La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (shown below). He began this huge church in 1882 and he worked on it until he died in 1926. It still has not been finished. Gaudi designed and redesigned this building. He was forever tinkering with the plans. Unfortunately, the last blueprint he drew was destroyed in 1938 so the architects who are currently working on the building don’t know exactly what Gaudi had in mind for the church. Click here for more pictures.
One of Gaudi’s buildings, Casa Vicens, is for sale. This means that you can go to the website and see pictures of the inside and outside. Make sure to look at the original blueprints, too. It’s neat to compare the blueprint for the facades (the outsides) of the building to the pictures shown.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Spanish Architecture: Art Nouveau

You may remember the post about art nouveau. The style began in France but it spread to other places, including Spain. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Art Nouveau buildings were created in Spain.

Like the buildings in France, Spanish Art Nouveau buildings included curving lines and decorations, and mosaics and stained glass. The shapes imitated nature so they were not usually symmetrical.
One example is the Parque Guell (sounds like: par-kay gwel) by Antonio Gaudi (shown above). Below is a second example, also by Gaudi. It is the Casa Batllo.
They remind me of cartoon castles or bakery cakes. Quite different from the Mudejar style buildings and the Churrigueresque architecture.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Spain: Churrigueresque

Yesterday you learned about the Mudejar style of architecture in Spain. Beginning in 1667, a new style took over. Like Mudejar it was very decorative, but it wasn’t so serious. The style was called Churrigueresque.

Churrigueresque buildings are very decorative with carvings and twisting columns. You may remember that Mudejar buildings are also often covered in carvings. Compare the pictures shown below. Notice the difference between the patterns carved on the Mudejar building (shown first) and the pictures carved on the Churrigueresque building (shown second).

Churrigueresque combined architecture with sculpture. The carvings are so detailed and stand out so much that they are almost little sculptures. Can you imagine how much work that must have taken?

The Churrigueresque style can still be seen in Spain. It spread to all the Spanish territories, too, so you can find this style in Central America and South America.

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