Dance and Draw Workshops

Dance and Draw Workshops

I’ve teamed up with dance instructor Wendy Grin to host a few Dance and Draw art workshops in which we investigate movement through different visual and performing arts.  The first workshop was inspired by Matisse, the second by Giacometti.  Each class we divided the kids up into two groups.  One would stop dance while the other group quickly captured their movement through “gesture drawing”.  After each group had a go, they all worked to convert their gesture drawings into collage to the like of Matisse, and with Giacometti they transformed their designs into 3d sculptures.  All followed up with lots of fun movement games.







Amsterdam Art Project

Amsterdam Art Project

In 2008, before I ever even worked as a high school art teacher, I prepared an art lesson for my dad’s 5th grade class to share a bit about my life in Amsterdam.  In my five years at ISH and still to this day, it is one of my favorite projects, and I am asked back each year by ISH to come and do the lesson with the 6th grade class in connection with their WW2 history lesson and Amsterdam excursion.  The project consists of a brief history of Dutch architecture- Canal houses to be specific, explaining why the buildings are so tall, narrow and wobbly.  (In a nutshell- people were taxed on the width of their house- so people built up not out.  And they’re wobbly because 1.  A leaning front facade was made to give the illusion of grandeur and 2. They are built on sand, so they sink every which way.)  The kids are told about three basic types of gables (Step, Neck and Bell).  Then they draw their canal house with stick and ink (no pre-drawing- they are told it’s ok for their houses to be wobbly since that’s how they are in real life!)  Then they color in their houses with chalk pastel.  Once sprayed with fixative, they cut their houses out and we line them up along the wall against a colored backdrop.  Here are pictures from some of the workshops over the years:

canal house project 3

Here is the very first project I did with my dads 5th grade class. 10 year olds.

canal house project 4

canal house project 1

canal house project 2

Here is the project done with 7 year olds. Black background probably wouldve been better.

canal house project5

And some detail shots from the 6th grade class. 10-11 year olds.

canal house project6

canal house project7

canal house project8

canal house project9

canal house project10

Still Life Painting with Kids

Still Life Painting with Kids

On a recent rainy-day playdate, my 7 year old chose to do a painting workshop with her friend (also 6/7 years old) at the art studio.  For this special little class, I printed off pictures of flowers (working with what I had) and drew three examples of vases to give them some ideas.  Then they chose their palette and painted the underpainting.  Once dried, they drew their chosen flower in chalk pastel, then painted in their flower and vase, ensuring there was a table for it to sit on.  Just before all attention was lost, they added final details like highlight and shadow.  …Then they were off to play in the rain.

still life lesson


The girls described what they saw in the flower images, and we talked about form vs. shape when making the vase, etc.


still life1


still life 2

In the end, they made all their own creative decisions and created lovely little still life paintings.  This would be a great project for a small birthday party.

Painting Fundamentals for Kids

Painting Fundamentals for Kids

Last week, I asked my daughter what she wanted to do over the ‘Herfstvakantie’,  or autumn break, and the only thing she said was that she wanted to make a painting with me.  Brilliant.  So after an inspiring weekend away at a 17th century chateau in Champagne, France with an amazing group of people…she knew she wanted to paint ‘herself playing with her friends in France’.    However, I couldn’t find a photo of all of them together- so had to do a bit of photoshopping…  and we set to work.


girls web


She learned the concept of underpainting.  She chose the color gray because that’s the dominant color in the background, and was diligent in ‘leaving no white!’






She then used chalk pastel to block out shapes and some basic proportions.  This was my demo:



And hers:


We discussed value changes (shadows) as well as how to mix changes in skin tones and hair color.





She decided to reincorporate chalk pastel and pencil for some details.  I am always into a little mixed media… 🙂  The only final detail I insisted upon, before completely losing her attention, was to put the small white reflective dot in their eyes.  I told her that her aunt Bobbi (a portrait artist) would be very proud of this finishing touch.
And Viola! Here is her finished artwork:
This was a good workshop that we did in less than three hours.  I just love the orange and blue in the background.  This lesson can be adjusted by age and applied into additional painting workshops for kids.  See the still life painting workshop we did later with a friend.
Jazzy Cut-Outs

Jazzy Cut-Outs

This is a lesson I’ve done with 7th graders (11-12 year olds.)

This project has evolved over the years, but basically students experiment with gesture and movement through color and shape.

One aspect of the project is to practice capturing movement through gesture drawing.  For example, they drew we watched breakdancing videos on youtube and quickly drew with charcoal the dancers movements.  As a class, they outlined the gestures and redrew them in large scale on colored paper (inspired by Matisse’s Jazz book).  They cut them out and collaged them all together to create a class collage.  Another aspect is to learn color theory through creating a color wheel and value chart choosing two complimentary colors.  They created abstract monchrome value paintings wiht their chosen colors then cut out their characters, shapes and lines f to create complimentary and/or harmonious color combinations in their final collages.  They glued them all onto A3 white paper.  This is always such a fun series of classes, buzzing with movement and creativity.  Kids love it!

Kids investigate:
*Matisse (Cut-outs and Fauvism).
*Gesture drawing and collage
*Color theory
*Principles of pattern and movement
*Elements of line, shape, contrast, and value



Matisse class collage

Class collage


monicaperezvega_matisse inpired colages3

Student work. All shapes cut from their own monchrome value paintings.


monicaperezvega_matisse inpired colages2

Some had fun with hole punchers…


monicaperezvega_matisse inpired colages1



Beautiful Ugly Dolls

Beautiful Ugly Dolls

“Beautiful Ugly Dolls” is a Design project I did with 6th graders in which they designed their own ugly dolls.  The students had to investigate the question “what makes a beautiful design?”
They began by researching existing Ugly Dolls for inspiration.  Then, they drew a range of possible designs; evaluated the designs based on peer feedback;  then chose their best design and wrote a design spec with common essential criteria and personal desirable criteria that their dolls had to fulfill.
They drew a life-size full color design with a one centimeter outline to give room for the stitch.  Then, they traced onto tracing paper including parts for all face details.  They investigated how to thread a needle; how to stitch three types of stitching; how to tie off the thread so that they could sew their dolls with confidence.  We used only felt, thread, synthetic cotton stuffing on the doll.
Some designs had to be simplified to fit the criteria.  One essential critera was that there are no sewn appendages; the body must come from a solid piece of fabric.  Any other color must be sewn on as a “decorative element”