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This summer I saw a cute little video filmed at the Calgary Zoo where they were blowing bubbles for their king penguins. The penguins LOVED it! I immediately got the urge to paint a scene inspired by this delightful video. Luckily, I had some fun behind the scenes photos I took at Woodland Park Zoo a few years ago (yay for zookeeper connections!) so I pulled those up and got to work!

I based the penguins off of this photo I took of braying Humboldt penguins on exhibit. FUN FACT: penguins stink.

I began with a large sketch of the penguins, and then I used masking fluid to cover them completely. That allowed me to apply a wash of Daniel Smith Amethyst Genuine watercolor. I just love the granulation that the genuine watercolor line brings. So lush and organic! I was also pleasantly surprised by this particular color choice, because when I first used it, I allowed it to set first. Reactivating the Amethyst Genuine just doesn't work well for me, so it was never interesting. Recently I bought several others in the genuine line and did a test page of all of them. Amethyst Genuine stood out and was gorgeous (they all are, actually!) Seeing how lovely this paint is fresh out of the tube inspired me and I threw it on my background.

After allowing the background to dry, I peeled the masking fluid off. I next began adding in the darkest areas of my penguins. I wasn't concerned about specific details yet, so I painted in large shapes with Daniel Smith Payne's Grey watercolor. I went back in and added more here and there, adding in shadows, and more details until I got it where I wanted it. I used some Daniel Smith Yellow Ochre and Opera Pink for the other colors you see on their beaks.

Next came the trickiest part: the bubbles. Luckily I've taken several workshops with the amazing artist Eileen Sorg. Her specialty is mixed media; using watercolors and colored pencils in tandem. So I had some experience in this area, and knew I wanted to go this route, but bubbles are HARD! I found some tutorials online and followed along with them, but they just didn't quite do it for me. I had an image in my head of exactly what I wanted it to look like, so I found a comparable photo online and just winged it. I went straight to my painting and bravely traced circle stencils with a rainbow of colored pencils in random order. This brought the multi-colored effect I was going for. I really wanted these bubbles to shine, so I shaded areas of them with the same colored pencils, and then added shiny reflections with a white gel pen (the Sakura Gelly Roll is my favorite).

The end result is something I feel very proud of, and I think it captures the joy and whimsy I was going for. Once these guys were complete I immediately knew I wanted to enter them into the Parklane Gallery's All Creatures Great and Small exhibit. The call for artists was specific in that this show was NOT a wildlife art show. They were specifically looking for interesting and fun animal art. I thought this might fit in well. I entered and within 24 hours it was accepted!

I delivered my painting last week and when I arrived at drop off, the folks at the gallery were extremely kind. They were excited to see my piece and informed me that not only was it being used on their postcards to advertise, but was also going to be in the Seattle Times! I was blown away! Today I go to pick up the postcards, and I will keep my eyes peeled for the listing in the paper (I believe it will be in this Sunday's edition.)

For those of you with an interest in visiting the show (I've seen the other pieces joining "Bubbles" and they are fantastic!) the important information is as follows:

Parklane Gallery

130 Park Lane

Kirkland, WA 98033

Exhibit opens:

Sept. 4, 2018

Exhibit reception:

Sept. 14, 2018 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Exhibit closes:

Sept. 30, 2018


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One of my favorite age groups to work with is preschoolers. They are so curious and enthusiastic about new experiences; I love watching their brains work and evolve. I find it is imperative to encourage open ended projects, with a focus on process rather than end product.

Kids are hard at work every day building their skills, and art can play a huge part in that process. Art allows for exploration, motor skill growth, problem solving, and working creatively. They are exposed to new materials, which stimulates the senses, and enhances their view of the world in different ways. Working with clay strengthens hand muscles, holding a paint brush increases fine motor control, examining textures on materials enhances observation skills, and assembling a collage provides a puzzle-like challenge.

Directing young children to produce a specific piece of art can be counterproductive to learning, or even enjoying art as a whole. Encouraging exploration and creativity during the art process enhances their experience. This will likely not result in a perfect recreation of Van Gogh's Starry Night, but is that really what a small child needs in order to be an artist? Being an artist is much more about finding your own place and exploring your medium. The experimental process of art is scientific as well as artistic, which allows for more effective skill development. Observation of subjects becomes questioning, brainstorming ideas becomes testing those ideas, and finding the perfect materials becomes a scientific process in its own right. What will work best to show others my ideas? How can I effectively reproduce the images in my head?

Art is always evolving, and each artist has their own way of portraying the world around them. There are no wrong answers in art. Allowing for process to take over is important to let children know that they can make art however they would like. Young children especially can use the freedom to explore how they wish to test their boundaries and take risks that may not be available to them in other parts of their daily life.

Of course this isn't to say a guiding project is off limits. These can be quite helpful in focusing your child, or limiting the purchase of materials. But even in this endeavor, staying open ended and process-driven is possible. Perhaps the idea of presenting a project or famous artwork as inspiration, rather than as a right or wrong "answer" is the way to go.

Let's let kids be kids for as long as we can! Preschoolers are the optimal age to encourage freedom and leave worksheets or step by step instructions by the wayside. Allow your child's creativity to shine!

Sarah's Pre-K age art class meets every Tuesday at 1:30-2:30 beginning September 11. Registration portal can be found here.


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Last week I hosted the most enthusiastic Lego builders I've had the pleasure to meet. Nine kiddos and I embarked on a STEAM endeavor the included creating our own minifigure designs, based off of the official Lego patent blueprints, attempting to draw 3D Lego bricks (HARD!), painting ourselves as Legos, and storytelling with our Lego creations. It was a blast!

Here are some photos from our fun week:


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What's Up With The Bird Lady?