The Art House

“You are a trail blazer. I’ve never seen someone so seamlessly insert art into every day simple activities. ” Andrea Benton – RaisingBoys TV, Vancouver

I offer art workshops from my home in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver. These workshops are not structured like regular classes: I do not “teach” the children to make a specific item on a specific day. I encourage, support and assist the children, but I don’t insist. I model problem-solving and commitment to seeing a project through, but I also try to show that you can’t force creative expression. Sometimes you just need to take a break and blow some bubbles…

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I bring out a few things I’ve made and wait to see what excites the kids. If they want to learn how to make something, I’ll show them. And I allow them a chance to lead the syllabus: when I show a three year old girl a picture I’ve made with buttons and her eyes light up, I know what we’ll be doing the following week. DSC_0965

Experience has taught me that the best way to encourage children’s art is to focus on the environment, not on not the product. My priority is to create a space in which art is inevitable, not in which they come out with something that looks like the one I made.

My job is to help children recognize what inspiration feels like, and where to find it. At our house, we find inspiration in art, the books we read and the songs we sing; we find it in boardgames, field trips, toys and conversations with each other. We love seeing what our friends have been making and I do trawl the web occasionally for ideas. For the most part, though, my recent ideas have come from found objects, play dough and a big pile of styrofoam trays. Here are some of the things we’ve made art with so far: acrylic paint, yarn, gouache, pencils, markers, styrofoam, glue, seashells, buttons, string, rocks, buttons, cutouts, quotes, canvas, cardboard, noodles, vegetables, plaster of paris, play dough…

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All the world’s a stage. All the world’s a canvas. Mommy’s tattoo needed some colour. Yes, we do that.
 

Ground rules are few here but there are some guidelines:

  1. If we can work outside, we will.
  2. Your child may well get dirty. Their clothes may get dirty. You may find yourself getting a little goopy / painty / sticky yourself.
  3. We don’t play with stickers or anything that comes in a kit. I’m happy to work on seasonal projects but we won’t necessarily be making cards with eggs on in March. We might… but if you are feeling really passionate about platypuses, we’ll work with that instead.
  4. While it’s a close battle, occasionally art beats housekeeping over here. I know, hard to believe, but our home is not always immaculate.
  5. We have a small dog. An eccentric, cartoon character of a wiener dog. She’s noisy but totally harmless and basically a big baby. And she is NOT hungry. Don’t believe a word she says.
  6. I have a baking problem. If you don’t want to be offered cake, tell me before you come?
  7. Important: I take photos of children at work, for my website and for you to keep, print and share. If you would prefer me not to photograph your child, just let me know.
  8. Finally, we are an allergy house, I’m afraid, so while you are welcome to bring your own snacks, we would be grateful if you could leave your kiwi fruit, peanuts and peanut products at home.

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With children of five and up, I like to model constructive responses to other people’s art. I do this with specifics. I like your use of colour. How did you mix this one? Which brush did you use? That’s my favourite bit! How long did that take you? What were you thinking of when you were making it?  

My goal is to nurture a community of artists rather than “teach a class.” I don’t regard myself as a teacher so much as a guide or mentor, with the children – the artists – as my colleagues. I love conversations about curriculum and pedagogy but I like to check my -ologies at the door. What we do here is fluid, intuitive, messy and – quite often – very, very silly.

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Reading “Swimmy,” by Leo Lionni. The author-illustrator used printing techniques similar to the ones we’d tried. The book is being read by the six year-old at right.
 

Parents attend workshops with their children, which adds another  layer to the experience: doing art as a family is like reading with your child. It is an intimate process, a bonding experience and a great way to laugh and let go… there is no better way to  create powerful memories with your child than by sharing a moment of inspiration.

In sum, here’s my recipe for the Art House curriculum:

  • inspiration
  • motivation
  • commitment

Do join us!

For further information about my skills and experience, please take a look at my LinkedIn page.

Shula is gifted herself, and can keep up with kids and art. She can handle the chaos that ensues when several children pull out art supplies. Don’t be surprised if you jump in and start doing something too- she’s that kind of person.” 

Karen Neill, Speech & Language Pathologist, Vancouver

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