Simple Monet watercolor class

Even toddlers can participate with parent help.

We have been hosting monthly art classes in one of our homeschool co-ops at our local library. Our librarian is amazing and supplies us with paint and paper as long as we clean up and supply the teaching! We have taken a break for the holidays, but I have decided to do a repeat of our first class for the families who didn’t get a chance to attend. It’s a very simple Monet watercolor class that even toddlers can do with parental help.

Have the kids paint a water scene. You can supply them with some examples to see to start with if they need them. Use Monet books from the library, like Monet Paints a Day, for examples, or make a handout to distribute. We usually create one-page write-ups about the artists we cover, followed by a copy of one of their famous paintings (or more).

Next, help them glue down a coffee filter and paint it like a lily. They can paint lily pad leaves around the flower, or they can cut out various leaves from green construction paper and glue them on as well. Many kids may want to paint a few paintings, so it’s a good idea to have lots of surfaces ready for them to dry on.

Here’s a supply list if you need it:

Painting paper (at least three sheets per child)

Masking tape to hold paintings down with—it’s a good habit to start kids with when they are painting with watercolor

Paintbrushes—at least one for each child, but you may want to provide every child with varying sizes of brushes

Watercolor sets—one per child if you can, though they can share

Water cups—be sure to change out the water regularly as it gets dirty

I have been trying to encourage families to take turns teaching the monthly art classes, but so far, I’ve only had one taker one time. It’s fun to host, but if you can create a schedule with just 12 moms or dads, you would only have to do it once a year! Of course, having everyone pitch in for cleanup is also quite helpful.

Simple art classes like these help introduce the kids to an art master and their style in a very comfortable, easygoing environment, which is definitely how art should be introduced. Without any pressure and with lots of freedom, kids can freely express themselves and explore new mediums with your patience and help.

Five steps to decluttering kids’ art

What to do with all of those masterpieces?

As you can see, I have quite a pile of masterpieces that my little Monet (her current favorite artist) has made. I’ve been cleaning out the house—we do fall cleaning as well as spring cleaning around here—and these are from the walls, from hiding spots in my daughter’s room, my office, pretty much everywhere. Most moms wonder what the heck they’ll do with all of these pieces of precious art, but I’ve developed my own system that I’d like to share with you. Here are the five steps to reclaiming your walls and decluttering:

  1. Assemble a pile of art. In our home, this includes paintings, drawings, pastels, sculptures, you name it. Many yarn sculptures, leaf assemblages, and other pieces can be found in every room.
  2. Ask your child to pick his or her top favorites. This is usually ten in our home. If it gets too out of hand, compromise on a workable number of favorites to keep.
  3. Frame a favorite. If you can select a frame to house them all and rotate them, all the better! If not, just frame one and get another frame later for others. The point is to be able to change them if you want. Allow your child to choose one or two to put in his or her room if possible.
  4. Ask your child which pieces he or she would like to send to Grandpa, Aunt Dora, whomever. Use the art as gifts or just surprise pieces of mail—or give them to said people the next time you see them.
  5. Send the rest to a local nursing home.

And that’s it! I know a lot of parents are thinking, “My kids will never do this with me.” Think about your own art. Did you keep your favorites and give away the rest? I know I’ve even given away my favorites. If you emulate this behavior yourself and make it a habit, it can work. I make it a point to never get rid of my daughter’s favorites without her permission.

Another good tip is to let your child decorate the insides of storage boxes when they want to doodle. Then not only will you not get rid of the art, but you’ll also get a pretty surprise the next time you open a lid! You can also display art inside the doors of cabinets for another hidden surprise.

Tiny House for a Cause

The Tiny House Movement has taken over the Toledo Museum of Art. If you are not aware of the movement, the theory is that people, especially those in the United States, live in spaces that are much too large for their needs. No family “needs” a 6,000 square foot house. No person “needs” a 2,000 square foot condo. In fact, the movement tries to focus on dwellings less than 800 square feet or smaller. Seem impossible? Well, that’s why the Toledo Museum of Art included a 65 square foot home in their “Small Worlds” exhibit. They felt the need to show visitors that you don’t need as much as you think.

In fact, the tiny Tumbleweed home that they built sits in a standard 7’ x 10’ trailer and includes a living area, kitchen space, bathroom and sleeping loft. Yes, in 65 square feet. Sixty-five!

Of course, if you love art, architecture and design as much as I do and live anywhere near Toledo, you were driving as soon as you found out that a tiny house would be there. The added bonus to this whole exhibit is the charitable good it will do. All materials for the structure were donated and, more importantly, the home is being auctioned off on ebay, with the proceeds going to early childhood programming at the museum. With the deep cuts in funding both to the arts as well as art in schools, this is great news to many families and teachers in the area. It’s not really surprising though. The Toledo Museum of Art always seems to be doing something great!

Why I Miss The Terra Museum of American Art

When I was studying Art History in earnest at Wayne State University in Detroit,  I could walk the 2 blocks over to the Detroit Institute of Art and get lost in the many galleries and enormous square footage of the place. The overall size of the collection was, and still is, phenomenal.

When I traveled down to Chicago, as Michiganders often do, I always stopped at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was another massive art museum that I could spend hours in and still have so much left unseen. In fact, I enjoyed the infamous Impressionist exhibit there. Fabulous. I can still close my eyes and see the beautiful paintings, gathered from all over the world, all in one space.

The Terra Museum of American Art was always different. Their focus was much smaller, obviously, but the museum as a whole was profoundly more intimate. Starting with the location. Smack dab in the middle of all the downtown hustle and bustle of shopping the Magnificent Mile was a museum. The architecture and overall interior layout of the building was unique as well. It was like a giant spiral staircase, winding up and up through the decades of beauty that is American Art.

There were no large crowds, no need to wait to stand inches from a gorgeous Georgia O’Keefe or one of my personal favorites, William Merritt Chase. It was a quiet, relaxing break from the day. In fact, you could easily browse their entire collection on display in just an hour or two, which was perfect for those of us in town for only a day of shopping.  

Sadly, Terra Foundation decided to focus their interests elsewhere in 2004 and the museum is no more. You can, however, see their pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago or at various temporary exhibits across the country. 

What Can You Do With An Art Degree?

As a returning art student, one question you may frequently hear is, “What can you do with an art degree, anyway?”. In fact, you might even be wondering the answer to that question yourself. So what can you do with an art degree? Are there any jobs out there for art majors? Absolutely. Here are a few ideas:


Most people with an art degree probably don't dream of being trapped in an office all day, but some folks like the security and benefits that a job of this nature offers. If you have an art degree and want to work a traditional 9-5 gig, apply for a position in the marketing department. Your creative skills will most likely be utilized and appreciated in this area.


High school, elementary school, middle school...your options are unlimited when it comes to teaching art to students. Heck, you can even teach returning art students like yourself at the local college.


Yes, being an artist is a real job, and don't let anybody ever tell you otherwise. That picture in your living room? Somebody made it. Those photos in the doctor's office? An artist took those.


If you have an eye for art, you probably have a flair for decorating homes or offices. Put your skills to work as an interior decorator and help spread beauty all around town. Ugly wallpaper and boring generic paintings of forests and oceans? Not if you have anything to say about it.

Do you have career ideas not mentioned in this article?  Feel free to share them below.

Glass Blowing | Amazing and Amazingly Tough To Do

Glass blowing is a very old art form, dating back over 3,000 years. At first the heated glass was just formed around other objects to make bowls. The Romans (of course) figured out how to blow glass around 50 B.C. and artisans during the Renaissance period perfected it. The same technique is used today. In fact, not much has changed or improved since then.

If you’ve never seen glass being blown, it’s really an amazing process. It requires the glass to be heated and, well, here … watch this:

Amazing, right?! Then you begin to really wonder how artists like Chihuly can make their masterpieces? Talk about amazing…he does some crazy stuff with glass and it, too, is hand-blown.  His chandeliers are instantly recognizable. In fact, the average person may not know his name but they will tell you that they have seen one of his chandeliers or garden installations.

I’d love to learn to blow glass. I mean, out of every technique and medium out there that I haven’t tried yet, glass-blowing holds the most appeal. Sure, it’s hot. I mean, they do call it a “hot shop” for a reason. They keep the molten glass at over 2100 degrees F, which is ridiculous. But there is something calming to me about the whole process. The heating and working while it cools. You have to move quickly, yet gently. Plus, the added excitement of incorporating bits of other glass, yet not knowing what the actual finished project will look like until the end. Try it; if you can stand the heat, you just may like it.

Inspiration in the Desert | Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

When it comes to Prairie Style design, everyone always talks about Falling Water House, which is an amazing piece of architectural history that inspires to this day. Or, they discuss the fascinating tours in Oak Park, Illinois showcasing the plethora of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces. They are stunning examples of the architectural legend’s influential style. In fact, he designed structures throughout the world, including right in the desert of Arizona.

That’s right. Scottsdale, Arizona is home to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s crowning achievements: Taliesin West. The main building itself is just gorgeous, low and lean, blending into the surrounding landscape the way only a Wright design can. The main room is a staggering 56 by 34 feet and opens onto an equally large patio, perfect for enjoying the desert weather. One of the more unique tours is the fact that lights are embedded inside the columns and structural members, which makes the whole place glow at night.

If you are an architectural student or just feel inspired by the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, Taliesin West is a great place to visit. They even have their own School of Design, much like the original, intended purpose. Students spend their first year living in 8’ x 8’ tents. No doubt contemplating design style versus actual needs, beauty versus function. The following year they put all that thought into designing their own individual shelters that are included on a special tour. They are like petite jewel boxes. Mini glass and stone masterpieces. More inspiration. Good stuff.  

Most Embarassing Moment: Design Charrette

The technical definition of a design charrette is a workshop designed to be an intensive hands-on session to explore design options.  When I studied architecture at Lawrence Tech, design charrettes were meant to give student’s some dedicated time to work on their projects. Every Friday for three hours we would pile around a large conference table and sketch out ideas, thoughts and notes

 about whatever architectural design project we were working on at the moment. We brainstormed on paper and in our heads. The setting was quiet, yet informal. The professor was available for help and would occasionally walk around the room and make sure everyone was working. I always thought the whole process was a little redundant. I mean, I’d rather hang out in my apartment, in my pajamas, and work when the mood struck me. Instead, I was forced to be creative between the hours of noon and 3p.m. on Fridays.

Anyone who writes, paints or designs knows that it happens when it happens. You can’t force the words to come out. You don’t just pick up a paintbrush and create a masterpiece on cue. I should have skipped more. OK. I should have skipped. Period. I never did. I was 18 and too chicken. But, that’s neither here, nor there.

This is my most embarrassing moment and a warning for those of you out there. I figure if you have been forewarned then maybe it won’t happen to you. We were allowed to wear headphones; the prevailing wisdom was that music could spur our creative on to bigger and better things. Well, I listened. And. Sang.

One day, I was in a groove. The thoughts were flowing. I was jamming to some eighties tunes. OMD. Yaz. Depeche Mode. And, then I happened to look up. The entire class was staring at me. I had been singing my little heart out for over 15 minutes and no one stopped me. No one tapped my shoulder. They just watched. Ugh! So, yea. Definitely my most embarrassing moment, but I did get an “A” on that particular project. 

Pop Quiz | Name That Museum

Quick. Name the largest museum collections in the United States. It’s tough to think on your feet like that. You probably had the Smithsonian on your list. Maybe the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute or even the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But, you probably did not put the D.I.A. on your list. 

The Detroit Institute of Arts has one of the largest collections in the United States, yet only has the opportunity to display about 20% at any one point in time in its sprawling 658,000 square feet. I know, Detroit!  In fact, it is actually a world-renowned museum. Art lovers travel from all over the world to see many of the museum's key pieces. Who knew? There is the ever-popular Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry”, an amazing fresco cycle that is considered by many to be his best work.  And, of course, many travel to see Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait”, the first Van Gogh to enter a United States museum's collection.  Pieter Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance”, Bouguereau’s “The Nut Gathers”, Fra Filippo ... the list goes on and on. Even Rodin’s famous statue, “The Thinker”,  that sits outside on Woodward Avenue and greets each and every visitor is a famous piece.   

It is sad that such an amazing museum stands tall and alone amidst a crumbling city. The museum itself is safe to visit and wholly worth-while, but the journey in is sad. Detroit, the once proud and bustling city of the auto barons who personally donated the art in the D.I.A., has fallen on extremely hard times. It is easy to forget that Detroit was once a cultural mecca and has an amazing art museum to boot. 

Waterproof Power Tools?

Anyone who reads this column is probably aware of the fact that I have made Ridgid power tools my first choice for most power tools.  You guys are probably going to think that I work for them after I tell you about my experience from Thursday night.

The Spring Thaw is not a good time to be moving into a new house.  I say this because I moved into my new place to find parts of the basement full of water.  After a quick investigation, I realized that the gutters were draining directly into the foundation.  No leaders had been installed to move the water away from the house.

But by the time I realized this the damage was done.  I think most of New England’s record breaking snowfall total ended up soaking its way through my foundation.  This unfortunate fact determined much of my week, as someone had to be around to constantly get rid of the accumulating water.

So after working early in the week to get the basement dry, I next decided to install the leaders that the previous owners had not.  I thought I would be all set for the rain that was being predicted for Thursday night.

When the rain finally arrived, I checked on my recent work.  However, much of the joints between the multiple pieces were leaking.  So donning my rain jacket and a pair of kneepads, I got to work.  I soon realized I was going to have to design something with the pieces that I had in order to keep my next week free from basement drying duty. 

I went outside with my Ridgid compact 18-volt lithium ion drill and reciprocating saw.  I also brought my Ridgid flashlight and compact radio.  With Franz Ferdinand and The Black Keys keeping me company, I engineered a way to solve the situation.  It was so dire that I actually realized I may be “writing off” my tools in order to get the job done.

In the pouring rain, the drill drove and removed numerous screws throughout the three-hour ordeal. At one point, I looked over to see my drill lying in a puddle.  Part of the motor was literally submerged in water.  I picked it up, mentally crossed my fingers, and pulled the trigger.  It still worked.

As great as that was, I was even more impressed with the reciprocating saw.  Three different times, I had to cut the vertical downspouts- while they were rushing with water!  Again, I thought it would be the end of the tool.  It was so soaked that I put it inside so it could dry.  Later in the evening, all that was between me and the completion of my dreary project was a very large, overgrown bush.  I knew the saw would mow right through it, but I was nervous to even try to pull the trigger.  But needing to finish, I went for it.  In three quick cuts, the bush was gone.  I then finished running the last leader and went inside.

I put everything- the saw, drill, radio, and flashlight in front of a fan overnight.  I am pleased to say that this morning everything was in working order, and it all held up during the day.  I’ll let you know if anything fails in the near future.  If not, last night was yet another example of why I like the Ridgid brand.