Tag Archives: paper flowers

State Birds

Here in California, the fifth graders learn about U.S. States.  And back in December, our household was steeped in all things Massachusetts (my son’s state of choice).  Each kid in his grade chose a state, and presented a full oral report, plus written and illustrated work about their state.  The Massachusetts triptych was also presented to the family on Christmas night, and still sits in my living room.  I’m sure all 60 kids were fatigued of their state project work by the end of it, but we needed an auction project.

Auction projects are my wheel house.  At our school, each classroom cooperatively creates a unified piece of art to auction off at our spring fundraiser.  I genuinely love to help orchestrate these art pieces.  I’ve helped: kindergarteners construct fabric collages; first graders publish their favorite sing-a-long songs; second graders vote on favorite animals and color their facets; third graders cut and fold paper houses that clustered into a chandelier; and painted leaves with cursive adjectives; string art state, and anchor.

And this year, for fifth grade, I asked them to draw their state birds.  I was inspired by a piece of art by Chris Waind, and I cannot resist an ampersand.

bird ampersand

I collected all the student’s birds (drawn on the same paper stock with colored pencil), and I arranged them on a watercolored ampersand.  A friend and classmate bought the piece, so we can still visit it!

So, I have state birds on my mind…

And I was smitten with the state bird of Alabama, the Yellow Hammer or Northern Flicker.  None of the fifth graders had chosen Alabama.  (Sorry, Alabama!)  However, the anniversary of my grandfather’s death (who lived in Alabama for several years) was approaching, so I thought I’d draw the Yellow Hammer in tribute.  It wears polka dots and a bib—irresistible.

AL

So many things came together on this page: the text box for common & Latin names, the color palette across the top, the little shape of Alabama, and the journalling—exactly nothing specific about Alabama, per se, but all the thoughts and memories and delights that occurred to me as I made my way through this process.  Plus, my backyard camellia is in bloom, so I had a real-life floral model.  And as I drew, and painted, and wrote, it occurred to me that this would be a fun project.  I love to draw birds and flowers.  I love to draw maps. I like to write my own personal associations.  And I want to improve all these skills. So thanks to California fifth grade curriculum, a project is born.

AK

It is sheer coincidence that I started with Alabama, and when I realized I could simply carry along alphabetically, I happily did!

I made a seasonal error on the Alaska page since the flowers don’t bloom until mid-summer, and by then, the ptarmigan would likely be sporting full, deep brown camouflage.  But I am okay with this mistake!  I would never have even known about the camouflage had I not embarked on a bit of research.

AZ

When I started Arizona, the doubt crept in.  I’ve never been to half the US states, and only driven through Arizona—who am I to write anything about it!?  But, the Seguaro cactus bloom challenged and enchanted me.  I truly wanted to attempt it.  White flowers are tricky with watercolors, and demand either masking or fierce control.  (I have neither).  But shadowing helps, and I made rough attempts at it.

AR

Arkansas, another state that I’ve only seen from the highway, is one of five states to claim the Mockingbird.  Am I going to tire of drawing mockingbirds? Especially since the male and female look similar?  I like this first attempt even though I cheated.  I used ink for the white feathers, and a big bold brush marker to darken the space between the white ink.

Now that I’m underway, here’s a sense of my process:

1) research the state bird and flower, including Latin names (which always interest me), noting any interesting facts.  I also jot down any associations that I have with the bird, flower, or state.

2) find photographs of the birds and flowers.  I like at least five or six photos, especially of the bird in a variety of portraiture.  And anything that details the plumage.  I always work from photos, and am thankful for all the nature photographers who post their work on the internet.

3) sketch out the bird/floral arrangement.  Hand-draw the text box, and state abbreviation.

4) I usually outline with ink the bird and flower before I paint them.  I have been alternating between a light grey pen and a black pen.  I haven’t settled into a rhythm for this part yet.

5) find a map of the state, and free-hand draw it on the facing page.  No scale or anything, just paying attention to the general shape, and placing a star at the approximate capital.  (Alaska was WILDLY difficult to draw!!)  Then I use a pattern marking tool that was my grandmother’s to ink in journalling lines.  It’s faint, and fast.

6) watercolor!  I play with palette on scrap watercolor paper, and once I settle on a color, I dive in.  I try to work from lightest to dark, but the bird feathers do not make this easy.  Lately, it’s been very dry, which makes watercolor painting a step more challenging—it dries within a minute or two!

What’s next?  The California Quail and Poppy are in pencil form, and being that this is my home state, I want to get it right. I started a Pinterest board for collecting.  And I need to make another sketchbook to continue this project along since I’ll run out of pages before Delaware!  My intention is to post the photos here after every four or five states.  (The A’s are all done!)  I hope you’ll follow along.

CA in progress

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Works in Progress: October 2014

It’s a works-in-progress month around here. And I sort of love it because when I hit a road block on one thing, there are eight more projects waiting in the wings.  But, to the detriment of this particular space, it means that I have no finished work to share.  (And my real camera is still being repaired, so I must make do with the phone camera and RadLab editing).  Are you ready for an assortment?

Paper to Petal

I began writing a review for Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell over a month ago. I had great success making some blossoms for a wedding, but felt that I needed more crepe paper.  So while I await some vintage Italian crepe paper, and continue to scour my go-to thrift stores for millinery supplies, here are some complete flowers.  I have a notion to make a giant Polish pajaki for Christmas with this paper flowers—big plans!  Pajakis are paper chandeliers that are a traditional Christmas decoration in Poland.

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Teeny Tiny Menagerie

This book by Niriko Komurata with “380 Whimsical & Wonderful Animal Embroidery Motifs” landed in my book bag, and I was instantly inspired to take up the hoop. Around here, we use cloth napkins every single day.  All but four newer ones have been in heavy rotation for twelve years.  They are tired.  So I had been thinking about whipping up a new set of matching napkins, 24 fresh ones to take us through the next twelve years.  I don’t want to embroider each napkin with the same thing, and I don’t want our initials on them—some of us are messier than others, and then there’d be evidence of it!  But Noriko Komurata’s book solves this challenge.  I plan to choose 24 (or so) animals and embroider them on the napkin corners.  This is a longer term project that I intend to realize over the winter.  Each of us has favorite animals, and family members and friends will be assigned accordingly.  In preparation, I borrowed a serger as I feel the serged napkin edge will allow me to make all the napkins now and press them into service, while embroidering them at will.

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Art Journaling

There is a band of self-proclaimed “crafty vixens” who create weekly art journal pages based on prompts. They have created a space for accountability and creativity, and I’m vicariously following along (#getmessyartjournal) until there is room for me to participate.  So, while I am just doing my own thing, I’m really inspired by their gang.  Here are links to their ring-leaders: Caylee and Lauren.

I found an old banco di roma calendar book at the SFPL BIG book sale. I extracted half the pages to allow room for my own add-ins.  And I cannot stop making pages. Love it.

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Scandinavian Memory Book

We took a trip. We took 3000 photos.  And before we forget (who’s kidding; we’ve already started to forget…), I want to capture as much as I can.

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Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies

I just met Megan Gordon. (Not in real life, but in a book which is nearly as good). Especially because she gave me the recipe to her Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies.  I am a creature of habit, and my breakfast each and every morning is nut granola with some berries or diced apple with almond milk.  Done.  Daily.  Except those mornings when we run out, and then I scramble to throw the mix together and bake it off.  When I spied these cookies, I thought they might just solve our whole entire morning.  The kids would gobble them, they are freeze-able, so we won’t run out.  They are easily portioned.  And they are chock full of good whole grains.  I did have to specially purchase barley flour, wheat bran, and millet.  I followed Megan’s recipe to the letter (though I used golden raisins instead of conventional).  These cookies are perfection for me, and not just for breakfast.  I am telling everyone about them.  (I’ll be honest though, my kiddos didn’t love them—for breakfast or otherwise).

Ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup barley flour 3/4 cup rolled oats 1/4 cup millet 1/4 cup wheat bran 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup coconut oil, (melted) 1/2 cup maple syrup 1 large egg (beaten) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/3 cup raisins (I used golden raisins) 1/4 cup roasted walnuts (chopped) 1/3 cup roasted pecans (chopped) To prepare: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In a large bowl, add the flours, oats, millet, bran, baking powder, baking salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Mix until combined; set aside. In medium sized bowl add the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla, mix; then add to flour mixture stirring ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Stir in raisins and nuts. Mixture will be very thick. Let sit 10 minutes. Using a large spoon scoop out dough and place on cookie sheet about 1-1/2 inches away from each other. Flatten dough to about 3/4 inch thick.

Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes before moving to wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Freeze-able. Makes about 18 cookies. Recipe has been slightly adapted from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook by Megan Gordon.

Next up, I’m going to make the Peach Breakfast Cobbler with Cornmeal Thyme Biscuits and the Blueberry Breakfast Bars.

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Thanks for jumping all over the place with me today.

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