Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twelve Year Old Artists

Parents of Seattle public school kids will know that it is the season for little league baseball, shopping trips for summer clothing and the dreaded school auctions. Our schools are sadly underfunded and many schools supplement their budgets with funds raised from families through events like auctions. This year I contributed to my son's school auction by organizing the sixth grade art project and got each child to paint a flower from our Seattle gardens. Mothers brought in helebore, anemonies, tulips and whatever else they had in their gardens which the kids painted in acrylic on gold leaf. I instructed everyone to focus on the shape of the plant and to work slowly "like a scientist making an observation". I was so impressed with the intensity of focus the kids showed. The results are obvious. Wow. You can click on a picture to see it in detail and try to identify each flower. They are so full of character and not "generic flowers" at all.

After the individual paintings were finished I took them home and cut out each flower and glued them onto a couple of panels. (A crazy amount of work, I know)
Here is Henry's painting.

The end result is reminiscent of Dutch and Flemish still life paintings from seventeenth century, like the one below by Jan van Huysum. Well maybe not reminiscent, but at least a similar idea.

I am also reminded of the innocent exuberance of a nineteenth century Baltimore album quilt like the one below.


  1. What a great and inspiring project, Jean! Your son's school is so lucky to have you. We have a dad at our school who is a glass artist and he worked with my daughter's class to do some pieces for the auction based on tidal creatures they have been studying. I haven't seen the results yet but it sounds very cool. Sorry to miss you next SAGBUTT, let's work on Daniel for a future event! I hinted broadly about maybe having us come up to that place he's been working on lately, the one that belonged to the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle author. Want to help me convince him? :)

  2. That artwork is absolutely phenomenal!! I'm really touched and impressed. Your instruction to go slow and observe closely is great. Brava! That's exactly what is missing from so many lives these days, esp. youngsters. Good for all of you! I'm really impressed with how that turned out. The gilded embellishments are lovely and really bring it up that extra notch. -- Bonnie

  3. Jean... Wow! What a gift to your community and to those young folks! What beautiful painting! Bravo!! to you and your gift of sharing a brilliant talent. I am blow away and love the comparisons. I am sure you have inspired some young budding artist! And what a shame our country does not value art and music more.
    Thank you for making a difference! You have inspired me to act too.

  4. These comments choked me up a little. Working with children is so moving (and exausting) They need us to share our love of the natural world.
    Karen I am enjoying your blog. Thanks for checking on mine. I could do a SAGBUTT thing in the summer some time. Looks like May might have to go by the wayside. Maybe we are all too busy gardening!
    Bonnie how nice to read your blog and see that you have really embraced the Pacific Northwest's native plants. Lovely.
    Carol I love your photos. They took me back to my east coast childhood on a 75 acre old farm. Sigh.