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Robots vs Butterflies

21 Sep

It was so exciting to have some lovely little helpers for today’s craft: Robots vs Butterflies Mural!  This craft is great for kids and adults alike and works especially well at parties.  Each person creates their own, individual art and then combines it to make a beautiful, collaborative piece for everyone to enjoy.

I started with these blank robot and butterfly templates which you are welcome to print out and use yourself:

I set up a table with lots of copies of the templates already cut out, oil pastels and scented markers.  Since this was a group craft, I covered the table with white butcher block paper in order to prevent a mess!  Any medium will work for this project – I chose oil pastels because they are fun to work with and you can smoosh and smudge them into the paper in order to give the picture lots of texture; and scented markers are just plain fun 🙂


The kids had lots of fun decorating the robots and butterflies and came up with all sorts of uniquely awesome designs!  When crafting in a group it is often easier and more fun to work with pre-shaped templates than to use blank sheets of paper because it gives a unifying theme to everyone’s work while allowing for individual creativity. Templates also help to keep children’s attention for a little bit longer than plain ol’ blank paper!


Some creative individuals



After all of the robots and butterflies were completed, the kids helped me tape them to a big yellow board.  Since we used tape, they were able to place them on the board, stand back and check out the composition and then make adjustments as needed.  They even drew some pictures directly on the wall to enhance the look.  This is what they came up with!

Pretty cool!  Here are some close-ups of their handy work:













This is also a great craft for adults to have fun with at a party and a savvy way to end up with a one-of-a-kind decoration for your place that will make you think of your friends every time you see it.



Itty-bitty 8-bit Art

2 Sep

After checking out iam8bit Gallery’s inaugural show, Super iam8bit, I became inspired to make some 8-bit art of my own!  The gallery pays homage to the 8-bit characters of the 80’s such as Mario, Link and Donkey Kong and is currently showcasing over 100 artists who’s contemporary pieces resurrect their childhood heroes.

30 years ago, pixel art was the front runner in digital imaging technology; nowadays, to say something is pixelated is to say it is bad, low-quality and inferior.  Despite our modern-day aversion to choppy imaging, most people seem to have a soft spot for our oldest pixelated friends.  I like to think that is because 8-bit art has always seemed just a little imperfect, which we as humans can connect with.  My attempt to simulate a computerized process by hand seems to have achieved a similar reminiscent effect.  At the very least that’s my explanation for the child-like quality of this piece and I’m stickin’ to it!

For this project, I pilfered about a million paint chip samples from my local hardware store.

I definitely ended up with more than I needed!

I used a picture of Mario on my phone to match the colors…here is a close-up so you can see the names and numbers of the colors I used:

Initially, I wasn’t sure what size I wanted to make my Mario, but in the end I only ended up using one paint chip for each color.  That mean’s I have lots left over for a future, life-size mario project.  A quick google search landed me an already gridded image of Mario to use as a reference:

Then I counted every. single. square. by color in order to plan out my design.  Here are the grand totals:

54 Brown

42 Red

44 Yellow

I thought it would be a good idea to use one of the blue paint chips as the background for Mario so I did the math and figured that in order for it to fit on one paint chip each pixel would measure 1/4 square inch.  I created a 1/4 sq.” grid on the back of each of the three colors and got cutting with my teeny, tiny scissors.

And many more where those came from!

Then, I drew a grid on top of my blue paint chip.  I didn’t want to get stuck with pencil lines in Mario’s background so I compared my gridded Mario with my gridded paint chip and painstakingly erased all the squares around the outside of Mario. This is what I ended up with:

Mario Silhouette

Then it was just paint pixel by numbers!  Following my grid, I glued on one square at a time and used a toothpick to adjust and straighten it out. Here is the final product next to a key for size reference.


Making Mario by hand reminds me that humans built 8-bit digital Mario by hand as well. That makes me just a little less afraid of computers taking over the world.

Collaborative Collage!

1 Sep

This week I helped my friend, Nice Peter, turn all of the awesome viewer mail he receives into a giant collage to use as the background for his weekly show!  I really enjoyed this project because I got to make art out of art.  There was a wide range of mail, from letters and poems to elaborate drawings and postcards from all over the world.   A collage is such a great way to permanently display a lot of different pieces and every fan put so much time into their letters and pictures that this seemed like the perfect way to display everything all at once!

The first thing to do was measure the space for the installation – this one was a bit tricky because there was a door right in the middle of everything!

Before shot of the space and some of the fabulous viewer mail

Below is a screen shot of the HUGE pile of viewer mail – see the complete Viewer Mail Extravaganza episode to really get a feel for all the great art I had to work with!

Who doesn't love getting *real* mail?

A collage like this is fairly straightforward to create but it is important to be sure to use the correct materials to ensure the quality and longevity of the piece.  It is important to use a firm base such as foam core, stretched canvas or wood so that the collage does not get warped or wrinkled.  I chose foam core because it is inexpensive, light and easiest to secure to the wall.  I got a few giant pieces of foam core (taller than me!) from the art supply store and cut them to size.

The only downside to foam core is that it is quite porous and will absorb water and curl up at the edges.  In order to prevent this, I primed the foam core with two coats of white Gesso on each side, laid it flat and covered it with heavy objects such as books and rocks.  The Gesso seals the foam core so it is no longer porous and the heavy objects ensure it stays flat during this process.

It is also important to choose the appropriate medium with which to glue the pieces onto the collage.  Elmers or other craft glues work fine, but over time they can cause yellowing of images.  I chose to use archival acrylic gel medium because it contains no acids that might ruin the images over time.  It dries clear and can be mixed with water to use as a finishing glaze.

Acrylic Gel Medium for all your collaging needs!

I used a wide paint brush to paint the gel medium directly onto the paper rather than the foam core.  A thin coat is all that is needed to ensure the picture will stick.  I placed each picture on the foam core glue side down, and then used a rag to smooth it over and take away any excess glue.  Next, I sorted out the pieces of mail I wanted to use as the background for the collage.  I decided to first use the envelopes and letters to create a background of handwriting.

The first layer

I layered things on top of each other and in some cases cut letters or envelopes in half to take up blank space.  It was really cool to see all the different types of handwriting all right next to each other.  After I created a solid background layer, I cut out different parts of the viewer mail drawings and pictures to layer on top of the writing.  The effect was very cool!


Layers number 2 and 3

I put down a first layer to make sure there was even covering and then went in and layered in 3 and in some places 4 more drawings!  I tried to add some fun details like you see above where I put sunglasses on the unicorn.

The gel medium is generally good for brushing over a collage as a finisher, but there are a couple mediums (certain types of markers, etc.) that will bleed if they come into contact with the gel.  So many different types of markers, crayons, pens and pencils were used to create all the viewer mail that I did not want to risk it so I fixed the collage with a spray on, clear, matte shellac.  I sprayed 3 coats to make sure everything was nice and flat and secure and to give the collage a uniform finish.

It was pretty simple to install the collage, just a hammer and some nails in the corners of each board and we’re ready to sit back and enjoy!

Almost done!

The finished collage!

Close-up of that detail work

For the complete debut of the collage and some shots of the installation, check out Nice Peter’s newest Monday Show!

Thanks so much to all of you who created and sent view mail to Nice Peter – it’s you guys that made this amazing collage possible.  Hope you love it!