Inspired by Artists III: Emily Carr

For one month, I'm leading an art series for children, wherein they can learn, experiment and create art pieces just as the masters did. If you'd like to check out the rest of the series, see the links below:

This week we covered Emily Carr. When I was in the planning stages for this series, I knew right away that Carr should be covered - she's Canadian and she's a female artist in a time when female artists were still something to be seen as, for lack of a better word, uncommon. However, her style of painting was rather traditional and I worried that it wouldn't necessarily translate as "fun" for the participants. So, I thought of it more are "painting without a paint brush," as well as focusing on the idea of seeing Canada through painting.

I was more than a bit surprised - and very happily so - that this session was the second most popular (behind Picasso) for registrants. I love the fact that kids wanted to come learn about a Canadian woman.

A representation of Canada's prairies. Painted using feathers and cotton balls.

Supplies Needed

  • Bristol board, any size - I cut a piece in half so each participant received one half
  • Tempera paint
  • Brayer and/or roller
  • Any materials that are suitable for making a mark: feathers, cotton balls, sponges, etc.

Books on Display

As with other weeks of this series, I thought it'd be beneficial to have some books on display that fit with the artist and the overall theme. That meant not only finding books about Carr and the Group of Seven, but also books about Canada and the medium of printmaking.

Goodnight, Canada / Andrea Beck
Crazy about Canada / Vivien Bowers
The art room / Susan Vande Griek
Cool printmaking / Anders Hanson
Emily Carr / Anne Newlands
Once upon a northern night / Jean Pendziwol
M is for maple / Michael Ulmer
Meet the group of seven / David Wistow

The Plan

Intro/Arrival - We started things off by reading A day with no crayons by Elizabeth Rusch - it tells the story of a girl who has her crayons taken away and instead learns to see art and colour through other means. I thought this was a great book to pick for this session since the art activity was all about using different tools to create a painting. 

Next, I introduced Emily Carr by asking the group about her. Had they heard of her? What did they know about her? I showed them examples of her work and asked them what they saw - I showed them Big Raven, Sky, British Columbia Landscape, and Logged-Over Hillside.

Activity - I did a quick demonstration of how to use the brayer, and then let the kids go at it. The goal was to make a landscape without using a paintbrush. I provided cotton swabs, feathers, popsicle sticks, cotton balls and some of the kids used their hands and fingers too. I also made these awesome silly foam brushes I got from the Carle Museum and gave one to each child to use.

How'd It Go?

This went pretty well, I think! When all is said and done, this probably wouldn't be the most popular session, but the kids loved using their hands and the brayer to paint the background. In fact, they were so pre-occupied with using the brayer that some barely even touch the other supplies I put out, unfortunately. In hindsight, perhaps I should have demonstrated using all the other materials in addition to the brayer.  In all, though, the kids loved getting their hands dirty and really digging in with the paint.

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