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Art Camp

Continuing on the theme I started with
Cora’s home-grown Ballet Camp a couple weeks ago – the
theme, that is, of
– we had another camp last Friday:

Art Camp.

Yes, I could do ballet camp because it’s my former
profession, and no, I have absolutely no art training (or,
let’s face it, talent) BUT I do have an ace-in-the-hole: the
girls’ Aunt Nikkie is a professional,
people-pay-her-to-teach-their-kids art teacher. So I begged, and
she kindly said yes, and I got to work.

I went through my rip-it file of fun,
artsy craft projects, and came up with a few I’d wanted to
try for a while but was, let’s face it, too lazy to do on my
own. We invited Maddie’s gal-pal Elise, who is passionately
in love with art and all things paintbrush-related. Yes, how
wonderful of me to open up my home to this other child, and share
my secret-weapon-Aunt-Nikkie with her, you say. But it wasn’t
all magnanimity on my part: Elise’s mommy is a preschool
teacher, and I knew she could help prep the projects like the
popsicle-stick-organizing professional that she is.

Earlier in the week Elise’s mommy and I drew up a list of
necessary supplies and hit Hobby Lobby, or what Cora calls
“the crack store”. She mis-heard me say “craft
store” one time and has gotten it wrong ever since, but
really, she gets it right – it’s peppered with craft
addicts and Hobby Lobby is the pusher. Regardless, though, we
loaded up on preschool crafty stuff and came home with full bags.

You may or may not know this, but I’m a bit OCD, and one of
the reasons I’ve never gotten into art and painting is that
it’s so, um, messy. And I didn’t want my hang-ups to
keep my kids from having fun, but I also didn’t want my
kids’ fun to keep my floors from looking nice. So Thursday
night I covered my lovely quartz counters, dark wood breakfast
table, and wooden floors with butcher paper, carefully taped down
with painter’s tape. It took me over an hour, but by the end
I was pretty sure I could relax and let them make a mess.

Maddie woke up AN HOUR early, so eager was she to begin art camp. I
called Elise’s mommy, just to make sure she was miserable
– er, awake – too. When the hour finally came and Aunt
Nikkie showed up to a rock-star reception, the girls importantly
put on their painting smocks and got to work.

Aunt Nikkie told me the day would start with a class in
impressionistic painting styles, and said she had a power-point
presentation to show the girls on Van Gogh’s life and
painting style. I snickered, until I realized she was serious. The
three girls filed in front of my computer and listened intently,
then headed out to their paper-plates-cum-paint-palettes, where
Nikkie showed them how to make all the colors from red, blue, and

And then they got to work.

Each girl stood at her own easel, intently painting her version of
the still-life vase of flowers on the counter. After about fifteen
minutes, Aunt Nikkie announced a “gallery walk”, where
all the artists walk around the gallery and view each other’s
work, talk about it, critique it, and get inspiration for their own
work. I think this was one of my favorite points of the entire day,
with all three girls gathering solemnly around one of the
other’s “canvas” and talking judiciously about

“Cora,” said Elise, “I really like your use of
color and movement in this upper right corner.” “Thank
you, Elise,” Cora said magnanimously, nodding sagaciously at
her piece which, let’s be honest, did not so much look like a
vase of flowers.

“Elise, I’m really enjoying your brush strokes on your
vase,” Maddie complimented generously, as Elise stared
contemplatively at her unfinished masterpiece. “Thank you,
Maddie, I tried something new,” she acknowledged.

I’m sorry, what?

The rest of the day was spent in more traditional crafts, and we
didn’t have a bad one amongst the bunch. We cooked sand with
corn starch to make it Play-doh-like, and the girls sculpted their
own sandcastles – with plenty of colored shells for extra
bling added on. The girls painted river rocks and craft spoons to
make turtles, Cora going for the outside-the-box look with a hot
pink turtle while Maddie and Elise stayed with more traditional
greens and browns. We mixed our own bubble solution and blew bubble
towers outside to play with. But my favorite craft took the least
amount of time, and will stay with us the longest – the
Gratitude Tree.

Several months ago, my girlfriend Abby told me she came up with the
Gratitude Tree. She sketched a big tree trunk on butcher paper, cut
it out, and taped it to the wall, then cut out dozens of green
leaves. Every time someone in the family thinks of something for
which they’re grateful, they write it on a leaf and add it to
the tree. So Friday the girls cut out two tree trunks- one for each
house – and began writing on leaves. We’ve got about a
dozen on our tree right now, and a basket full of unwritten leaves
waiting to be filled out and blossomed on the tree. Seriously,
I’m in love with this. And every time Abby’s boys get
whiney or crabby, she makes them go look at the tree and come back
and tell her three things they’re grateful for. Genius.

Art Camp ended right before nap time, and let me tell you, it was
four solid hours of crafting and creating. The girls were worn out
and already asking when we were having our next art camp.

Um, MAYBE next summer. We’ll see.

For now, we’ve got their still-life paintings on each bedroom
door, and I see the satisfaction and pride in each girls face as
she contemplates her creation.

Go Art Camp.


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