I was pleasantly surprised a couple weeks ago when I was asked to teach another art class.  There were some cancellations, so none of the originally scheduled classes were happening.  My mom offered to teach about magnetism, and I was happy to help out with a class.  The only question: what to teach?

A DIY-ers dream, I flew to Pinterest for inspiration.  Some sort of painting project was ideal, since the kids always love painting classes.  When I saw a brief tutorial for an acrylic galaxy design, I knew it was perfect.

You may have seen similar images before.  Galaxies have been trending the last few years, unsurprisingly due to how cool they can look.  From an artist’s point of view, they’re also comparatively easy to make.  While things like anatomy and perspective have rules (or guidelines, anyway), all you need to focus on with galaxies are composition and the contrast of values.


Galaxy paintings vary in design, but generally there are a few bright spots of color against a dark, almost black background.  Then small spatters of stars are painted or drawn on top as a finishing touch.  (To be honest, most of them are shaped more like nebulas (a.k.a. star nurseries) than galaxies.)

For the class, I pre-painted the previously white canvases a navy color.  It took about three coats each to achieve a solid color.

I went with the popular blue and pink version for my example [below], as well as some touches of green.  That was the idea, anyway.  When I was trying to blend the green it kept growing, and before I knew it the color became more of a splotch.my-galaxy-painting

I really wanted to create movement in my painting, as if you could sense the swirling of the space clouds.  Taking inspiration from Bob Ross and a pencil tutorial book I have, I tried to be loose with my brush strokes, while also ‘buffing’ the fresh paint to blend it into the background.  The end result was alright, I think, given that I was not working with Ross’ oil paints or any pencils.  I also wasn’t using actual brushes; instead I had cheap foam tools, since that’s what the kids would be using.

Pro Tip: Classical artists often use the technique of visible brush strokes to convey motion and drama in their works.  Some of my favorite masters of this include Joseph Mallord William Turner, Eugene Delacroix, and of course Vincent van Gogh.

Originally, I wanted to walk the kids through the painting step-by-step.  That way I could teach about things like brush strokes and how to use acrylics.  But most of it ended up too complicated.  Most just wanted to paint, and I understand that.  The other students did ask for more instruction and feedback, which I was happy to provide.

Because the concept of painting a galaxy leaves so much room for creativity, it was fun to see how they each interpreted that.  Many of the boys were excited to add black holes to suck in their galaxy.  It was interesting, too, how the kids played around with the shapes and colors of their paintings.

Be sure to click through the slideshow to see their artworks!

The real excitement came when it was time for the stars.  There were a couple kids who preferred using a brush to paint them on, but the idea of using toothbrushes for art was hilarious to the others.

The way it works is you dip a (clean) toothbrush into a tiny bit of water and then into white paint.  It’s a little hard to explain, but you can then use your thumb to push through the bristles fairly quickly towards the handle.  This causes the paint to splatter forward, creating a random scattering of dots.  In this case, they look like stars.  The more water you have on the brush, the larger the dots will be.

Perhaps my favorite moment from this class was when two of the kids were discussing how to sign their paintings.  Like famous artists, they wanted to hide their signatures somewhere within the work.  Also, one of them told me that, “If we rated classes, I would give it five stars.  No, five galaxies!” It made my day.

As it turns out, this was the last class I’ll probably be able to teach for a while.  The homeschool group’s ‘school year’ is over, and I’ll be heading to London for college before they start up again.  I want to give a big thank you to all of the wonderful kids and parents there.  Thanks for letting me share some art with you!

So far I’ve taught three classes to a local homeschool group: one painting, the second bookmaking, and the third—we’ll get to in a second.

Since teaching that first class last fall, I’ve wanted to do one that’s more about drawing.  As a fan of Mark Crilley’s, I thought it would be fun (though a little intimidating) to try and emulate his teaching style.  If you’ve never seen his tutorial videos, they are usually step-by-step drawings along with Crilley’s encouraging, educational, and often comedic narration.

Chibis, a main feature on Crilley’s channel, seemed like a natural fit.  They’re fairly simple, so learning the basics would be accomplishable in a one hour class.  Plus chibis are inherently cute and funny, which I knew a lot of the kids would like.

Because of some scheduling conflicts, the class was moved from last fall to earlier this month.


In preparation, I made a quick guideline for chibi proportions.  The focus of the class was going to be on the animated expressions, but I wanted to give the kids an idea of the head:body ratio that defines chibis.  I’m not totally happy with the drawing (his face is too high, the forehead is too big) but I had to go with it.

You’d think with months of time beforehand I would have everything done earlier than the day before, but…between studying for important exams and battling old procrastination habits I didn’t have much time in the end.

I also made a sheet of basic heads for them. (I’ll have a picture and free download coming soon!)  That way we could go over the expressions without having to draw a new head each time (if they wanted).  I decided to add hair to the first two heads as example hairstyles.

In many of Crilley’s videos, he also recommends viewers think of designing their own characters instead of copying just what he does.  I wanted to communicate that message to the class; just because I drew a girl with a ponytail doesn’t mean they had to.  Art is all about creativity and I didn’t want the kids to think my way was the only way to do things (which it certainly isn’t).


These I actually did in the car a couple hours before the class.  I searched the internet for a variety of expressions that were both fun and useful.  Though it was a little hard limiting the number to 11.  But the sketches were useful as a basis to go from.  Some of the kids had specific emotions they wanted to know how to draw, and having those references made it easier for me to lead the class.

Using a big whiteboard, I drew a chibi head shape and then filled in each expression as we went.  Some kids mainly used the example heads, while others changed to drawing their own.  Either way, all of them did really well.  The chibis were really cute!  A lot of the kids added creative touches to create their own characters.

Make sure to hit the arrows on the slider below to see their awesome artwork!

I think it went great.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the class is quiet.  But some had encouraging ‘thank yous’ at the end, and were happy to share their chibis.  (Thanks for sharing, everyone!)  Like the bookmaking, quiet seems to equal focus.  Hopefully the kids had as much fun learning about chibis as I did teaching them.

Side note:  I want to give a big shout out to Mark Crilley and his amazing YouTube channel.  He’s an awesome teacher and his videos taught me most of what I know about chibis.  Not only that, but his channel was a major influence in my decision to start pursuing art seriously.  His how-to-draw books are also really helpful and inspiring, and I highly recommend them.

If Mark Crilley should ever read this: THANK YOU for all of your videos, books, words of wisdom, and the all-important blushies!

Some of you may remember I taught a painting class to a local group of homeschoolers earlier this year.  It was an initially nervous experience, but ended up being rewarding and fun.  So I signed up to teach two more during their group’s ‘school year’.

This next one was inspired by Baylee Jae’s video on the subject.  She followed tutorials from another website and then made her own (tutorial).  You can watch below if you’d like to see her step-by-step instructions for making two types of books: hardcover and softcover.

My mom and I found a forgotten hoard of scrapbooking paper amongst our old craft storage, and decided they would be great for the covers.  Ideally, I thought doing the hardcover books would be a better class idea.  They seem more durable and certainly look fancier.

However, as we quickly learned through following the tutorials, it wouldn’t work.  We would need to get chip board (or at least enough cardboard), and the class was only an hour long.  So the simple staple-bound softcover version won out.

When I say simple, it’s in theory.  Choose the paper, cut the paper, poke holes, put staples, and BAM you’re done.  But it took time to size the paper out, since the cover papers were square and the inside papers were too long.  A simple thing to do, but cutting exact straight lines on multiple papers with little exact-o knives and scissors ended up being somewhat difficult.

If you want to do this project, or need to cut paper often, I recommend looking into a guillotine cutter.  Often used in schools, they are great and effective for chopping paper in bulk with clean cuts.  Because of that, they can often cost over a hundred dollars.

Surprisingly, the $26 one we purchased from Walmart for the class works great.  It can easily slice 10 papers of ‘average’ thickness (i.e. printer paper).  It made everything go much smoother and faster than expected, which was a relief when my class size doubled overnight.

Only a few kids had signed up to attend, but on the day of every other class at the time was canceled.  As the only option, I suddenly had no idea how many kids would come.  In the end, there were about nine total, ranging from the ages of roughly six to fifteen.

Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures.  I was so concerned with the paper and the cutting and making sure none of the kids poked themselves with the tacks or staples that it slipped my mind.  To paint the picture, there were three tables: one with the scrapbook paper spread out, another with different colored papers for the inside, and the last was the table where they worked.

In the painting class, the kids had been boisterous with their ideas, but here they were so quiet.  At first I thought they were bored with the project.  But it became clear partway through that they were silenced by intense focus.  Most of them were incredibly intent on having perfectly lined up pages with perfectly placed staples.  I had to remind them that the only essential measurement was the 1.2 centimeters apart holes so the staples would fit.

Once their books were folded and stapled, I used the guillotine cutter to trim the far edge.  Many said ‘thank you’ and proudly left to show their parents.  A few kids came in after class and apologized for missing it.  They had been playing Yu-gi-oh in another room and lost track of time.  I told them not to worry, that if they wanted they could take some paper home with them to make a book there.  One person was very excited at the prospect of a DIY hardcover book, as I explained that I’d post a link to Baylee’s video on their group’s Facebook page.

All in all, it was a good time.  I’m glad the kids enjoyed making the books, and overcame the challenges of it.  At a few points they looked a little overwhelmed with the measuring and sticking staples through, but there were enough parents around to make sure everyone had a helping hand.

My next class is in April, and will be a bit unlike these first two.  Instead of a craft or painting, it will be a drawing lesson on some cute and funny chibis.  You can read all about it in a month, and I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures of their adorable drawings.

Are you interested in following Baylee’s tutorial?  I found it a lot of fun, and am tempted to make my own sketchbooks from here on out.

A while back, while searching through the depths of Pinterest projects, I found a lot of simple yet modern paintings. I felt inspired to try it myself. So I grabbed my easel and my new set of Grumbacher Academy Acrylics and played around.

You may have seen the style before: they usually consist of one to four solid colors with dynamic white lines. The way it is achieved is you first put painter’s tape on the canvas where you’d like the white lines. You could make different colored lines by first painting a layer of the desired color on the canvas and then put the tape (but make sure it’s dry first!) Then you simply fill in the shapes left between the tape.

Essentially, the concept is to mask sections using straight lines, then paint the exposed canvas surface. I didn’t actually have any painter’s tape on hand. Instead, I used some washi tape and hoped it would work. Before starting, I had the general idea to use spring-like colors and that’s it. Sometimes it’s best to ‘give in’ to the artistic process and just see what happens. In the end, I think it turned out pretty well.

A couple weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to teach a class at a local homeschool group. It was a fun opportunity, but I wasn’t sure what exactly I could teach. In many (practically all) ways, I feel like a student myself. My mom suggested the painting above, and it was the perfect project.
I have to admit I was a bit nervous going in. I had teaching experience from being a Girl Scout and some school projects, but this felt a little different. Many of the families who are in the group are good acquaintances, so I really wanted to make the class fun while educational.
There were about eight kids, and they helped make it an awesome experience. After a brief introduction about the history of Abstractive painting (specifically cubism, and the evolution of geometry in modern design), I showed them my painting as an example. Then they all raised their hands. One by one they all had compliments on my “cool” painting. My confidence more than boosted, I actually had to redirect the attention from mine so they could get started.

What they did with the concept of ‘geometric abstraction’ –a versatile term anyway—was great. They each interpreted this idea of shapes and white lines in a unique and surprising way. Some of them went beyond just coloring them in, and experimented with various textures and patterns.

One adorable little student finished early (his painting is above) and wanted to make a second one. I only had limited supplies, so his mom prompted him to ask where I bought them. They made plans to make more at home. Later on, more kids said they wanted to paint this again at home.

As class ended, things got a little crazy as their families came to get them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get many pictures of the paintings without the tape. But I did get a little on video!

Throughout the hour, the kids were enthusiastic and super imaginative. It was a genuine pleasure sharing this project with them.