Thursday, May 6, 2010

Elements and Principles of Design

Elements and Principles of Design
Line, Shape, Form
Christy Hartman

To become fluent in any language one needs to learn the vocabulary. The same can be said for art vocabulary, a child needs to become familiar with the terms that their teacher will use throughout their art education. The Elements and Principles of Design are the components of any art form whether it is two dimensional or three dimensional. Color, value, line, shape, form, texture, balance and space. These principles are taught so that they spiral throughout the curriculum with concepts becoming increasingly more complex as we build on prior knowledge.

When a child learns something as a "hands on" lesson it has a better chance of becoming a part of their regular repertoire.

I teach Kindergarten through 5th Grade students, I introduce or reinforce these art principles throughout the year so that by the time my students have completed 5th Grade they are prepared for the Middle School curriculum and are well versed in all the vocabulary and skills. I always begin each year with a project that incorporates the use of line, shape, and form at each grade level. A large part of any quality curriculum is basing the lessons on a predetermined set of standards. A standards based curriculum ensures that each child acquires a similar set of skills and knowledge no matter where they live. The National Visual Art Standards define what students should know and accomplish at any level K-12.

Kindergarten begins the year becoming comfortable and familiar with the rules and procedures. Kindergarten students tend to be nervous and are certain they cannot complete the project until I reassure them that I will walk them through the project step by step thus giving them a safety net. I introduced them to a character from the book Splat the Cat by Rob Scotten. I often incorporate literature into my lessons for my primary students; it sets the stage for the project and allows the students to focus in on the job at hand. Splat the Cat is a charming tale about a young cat that goes to school for the first time and how he works through his fears. After reading the story we draw Splat the Cat using basic shapes and a variety of lines making sure that this project is age appropriate and fine motor skill appropriate. When designing lessons for each grade level I take into account the fine motor skills that each age level is capable of doing. Nothing is more frustrating for a child than to be expected to do something that they are not developmentally ready for. By the time that we have completed this project the children are comfortable in the art room and have begun their art journey.

Second Graders begin their review of line, shape, and form by drawing monsters. What child doesn’t love a monster? The wealth of literature that is available to be used with this project is incredible including Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. After a quick review of the design elements we draw a charming monster’s face using basic shapes and a variety of lines. Because each child is different each monster will begin to develop its own personality as well. After the monsters are completed we add a series of line and shape patterns to the face and fringe of the monster. The children typically want these monsters to be brightly colored and because of that we use oil pastels to color the monster’s faces adding a color pattern to the line and shape patterns that have been incorporated into the design. This is a perfect opportunity to include a quick color review by encouraging the students to use complimentary colors somewhere in the design.

At the elementary level art production is an integral part of the process, during the production process the student develops fine motor skills, higher level thinking skills, and problem solving skills. This encourages individual creativity and self expression that they will use throughout their school career as well as in their lives. As teachers we need to teach the continuum of skills, expose our students to a variety of materials while still allowing for opportunities for self expression.
Art Camps
Christy Hartman

I was listening to a popular morning news program the other day and heard that because of the economy families are looking for alternatives to sending their kids to summer camps. I had to laugh because I was that “alternative to summer camp” for years providing summer art classes and programs for my students and my own children over the years. I have taught countless students over the years in my summer art classes’ enhancing their art education and providing fun meaningful activities for students who were interested and motivated. Little did I know that my attempt to make a little extra vacation money would become the new in thing to do, if you are interested in providing quality children’s programs for “children” of any age let me help with a few suggestions.

Over the years I’ve developed projects that I’ve used in my classroom at school as well as in my summer programs that are engaging as well as age and fine motor skill appropriate. I’ve listed some of the criteria that I’ve developed that I feel make a successful program work and run efficiently.

A Few Suggestions to Ensure a Successful Program
1. Design projects that have a high level of interest but allow for individuality. Nothing stifles a child’s natural creativity than doing a cookie cutter one size fits all project, include project requirement that describe materials used, techniques to accomplish the project, proper use and care of materials, and safety. Each child should be aware of these in advance of beginning the project. Integrate a wide variety of materials and art forms to keep the interest level high always making sure that you respect the child’s right to be creative within the project requirements/guidelines.
2. Projects can be developed around a theme or a general idea.
a. Pirate Theme: treasure maps, treasure chests, masks, pirate faces.
b. Nautical Theme: design sailing ships based on historical facts or can be whimsical as well, sea monsters, animals of the deep.
c. Fairy Theme: more appropriate for girls but can include characters from popular books and movies, environment that they live in.
d. African Theme: design African Tribal Masks, musical instruments, animals from the different regions, puppets and toys.
e. Caribbean/Tropical Theme: palm trees, dances from the region, tropical fruits, animals, clothing.
f. Nature Inspired: Trace around a variety of leaf shapes found on trees or plants repeatedly to form an abstract design or a leaf character. Use actual leaves and plants in the design.
3. Bring in anything that can motivate and inspire children’s creativity, books, art
prints, stuffed animals, movies.
4. Design projects using the National Art Standards as your guide. These are designed to aide teachers in developing projects and accessing achievement and progress but would also be beneficial to anyone interested in developing a well balanced program and can be found online at
5. Supply good quality materials, as you can afford, such as paints and brushes. Children are no different than adults, they appreciate good quality materials. The job of being an artist can be frustrating if they lack the appropriate materials.
a. Prang makes Metallic and Glitter Watercolor Paint sets that are fun for kids to experience and experiment with.
b. Watercolor Pencils. As I stated in my previous column watercolor pencils are an inexpensive way for kids to easily paint on site.
c. Digital Cameral to record images for later reference and there are many inexpensive options.
d. Field Guides to identify plants and any animals/birds that you might see on a nature walk. Identifying native plants is a fun educational opportunity.
e. Dynasty Brush carries a wide variety of brushes that are kid tested and teacher approved. I’ve tested many of these brush sets with my students at school and I know that they are teacher approved.
6. Have a behavior plan decided upon before a student sets foot in your space. Discipline should be minimal but having a well thought out plan alleviates the stress of “what if” for both you and the student. This should be discussed with the students in advance and follow through is necessary to be successful.
7. Be well organized. Nothing creates chaos quicker than spending too much time looking for your materials.

If you are a parent/teacher and are looking for activities for your child/students over the summer look online at any educational supply company, many of them have a variety of quality activities designed by teachers using a wide variety of materials that meet the criteria listed above or go to to find projects that I have designed for children of all ages. Have a wonderful summer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


By Christy Hartman

I’ve always loved the whimsical world, don’t get me wrong I love realism as well but for some reason I truly enjoy the whimsical side of life. Who couldn’t resist the work of Walt Disney. The imagination and originality that it takes to bring a cartoon to life, whether it is animated in the traditional sense or done via computer, has always just fascinated me. To be able to bring something that is obviously not real in our adult minds to life and give it a personality takes someone who understands the intricacies of non verbal communication and human dynamics. Then to be able to portray that personality through facial expression, gestures, as well as the spoken word is a master of their craft.

Maybe that is why I chose to be a teacher in my professional life; children truly live in the whimsical world. Recently one of my Kindergarten students told me that the minute cut on his hand came from a shark bite. He had the entire story with all of the detail added to it; including when his mother told him to get out the water otherwise he was going to get bit by that shark. He told me this story as he entered the Art Room for his twice weekly art class and in a matter of literally seconds he drew me in, had me as a captive audience for the few moments that it took to relay that story. I now ask him every time that he comes to the Art Room how his day is going because he always has an incredible story for me. Is he lying? It depends on how you define a lie; I choose to wonder at the incredibly creative mind that this child has. Someday he might be the next great author or illustrator of his generation. I’d say that most animators and book illustrators have only lost a portion of that childlike creativity that exists when we are young. As we age and the demands of life take over we tend to lose that childlike wonder and creativity that children possess. As I so often discover, isn’t it fun to escape back into that creative world, if even just for a few minutes as a child relays some fantastic story to me as he walks into my classroom.

When I begin to design a project that is going to be based on a whimsical theme I immediately begin to imagine the story that could be told. Sometimes they start as a doodle as I am sitting in a meeting, watching TV in the evening, or even talking on the phone. More often than not they remain a doodle and go into the trash but occasionally something appears that I like and I file it away for future reference. That recently happened to me as I was beginning a plan for a new pattern that was to have a spring theme. That “Aha” moment occurred when I remembered the bugs that had started out as doodles. Could they possibly work into something for spring? As I began to envision this project I remembered a Burl Ives song from years ago called the “the Ugly Bug Ball” and thanks to the wonder of Google I was able to find that song and an animated version of it. The clip was short and the animation was obviously from years ago but from that I began to imagine bugs out for an evening with their special someone. You can now see that pattern on my website

Sometime things have a life of their own and the ideas for these bugs began to multiply. I thought why not design cards using the buggy characters to send out to friends throughout the year. I’ve included a simple plan for the “Night Light Bug” that I’ve put on a card for you to enjoy as a free download on my website.
I've decided to use this blog as a way to not tell you all about my daily life because that is pretty mundane. LOL. Instead to publish information that is pertinent to painting and my design work in particular. I hope that the information that I will share with you will help you paint my projects as well as understand my design philosophy. Education is the key to success for most of us in our painting lives as well as practicing, take the time to practice the techniques that I will share with you and ask questions if necessary. You can always reach me through my website if you have any questions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This color worksheet is a portion of a free project that I did for the SDP Treasure Box Program called Fishing Boy and Girl. They were designed to be used specifically for the Treasure Box Program.
I'm often asked how I do my faces and this worksheet should help show the step by step process how a face is slowly built using layering techniques.
The filbert wave brush is invaluable in helping to layer paint to further enhance shading and highlighting. I use this brush in all of my design work when I want to quickly add a shadow or a highlight, it is quicker and easier than "walking" paint out into an area when floating. It can either be used prior to shading or highlighting or after. I thin the paint to a "washy" consistancy, thinned down so that when applied the paint very lightly washes into the area. This is a thinner application than the paint consistancy used when loading a script liner. Using crosshatching slowly build the color allowing each layer to dry prior to applying the next. In this way you can slowly add paint color until you have reached your desired intensity level either building the same paint color or changing your paint color to aid in the process. This is very similiar to glazing techniques. If any of you have done watercolor you are familiar with washing color into an area slowly building each layer prior to adding the next layer and this process is very similar. You do not necessarily need to just do crosshatching in fact I often just literally wash paint into an area and if the application is too dark I use the mop brush to soften the paint applicaton.
Remember that if you want to make a curved area look round you have to curve the line when applying paint. That gives the appearance of a rounded surface, your line application of paint can either round a surface or flatten it out depending on how you develop your line.

Getting Your Design Work out to the Public

Getting Your Work out to the Public
Christy Hartman

I was asked that question recently by a designer interested in promoting their patterns and I recall asking fellow designers that same exact question not too long ago. What a wonderful question to hear, for too long we’ve been concerned about the decline of Decorative Painting and now it seems to have had a slight resurgence. I for one think that is a bonus. So I started asking myself if I were to give someone ideas for getting published or getting their work out to the public what would be the steps that I would suggest. Then it came to me, in the shower of all places, I seem to have inspiration come to me in the most unlikely places, write a step by step quick guide to help prospective designers get their work out to the public. I keep hearing that the public is clamoring for new designs so why not encourage prospective designers. Keep in mind that these are the steps that I used; they may or may not work for you.

Draw, draw, and draw some more. Paint, paint and paint some more. It sounds repetitive I know but practice your drawing skills; you practice when you are going to try to learn a new skill why not practice when you are trying to learn to paint or draw. You need to activate that creative area in your brain that we as adults tend to lose as we age. Learn as much about basic drawing skills, perspective, color theory, composition and design that you can. Go online, to your local library, or to your local book seller and find the books that will help you understand the concepts that will make your designs stronger.

Once you’ve gotten to the point where you are feeling comfortable with your designing ability test the waters by giving the designs as gifts or selling them at craft and art shows. I found that designs that I thought were darling were not always well received by the public and what I discovered was that I was designing for myself. I needed to think about what was popular at the time and I needed to learn about the trends in home d├ęcor as well as the current color trends. Folks who work in retail understand that perfectly, go to furniture stores, clothing stores, fabric stores and see what is out there that is selling, we may hope that we can design what we like but the truth is that if your goal is to design for the general public you have to keep what they want in the back of your mind. Look at magazines and see what they are forecasting for the upcoming season. A great resource is the online fabric companies as they spend thousands of dollars keeping up with the newest hottest trends.

Find your visual voice. That means find your own style. This is how folks can identify your work immediately. I know that when I see designers work I can immediately tell whose work it is without even seeing a name. You want your work to be easily recognized, find something that you always include or a technique that you use frequently that is something that defines your work.

Protect yourself by copyrighting your work. You can go to to find out how to copyright your work. Talk to designers who have submitted for copyrights to find out how they submit. Once you submit a work until it has been either accepted or rejected you are considered to be protected under copyright law. Remember that copyright infringement exists and we all need to be vigilant to make sure that we as well as our friends are protected. Fighting a copyright infringement case can be expensive and lengthy.

So you’ve done your homework and you have a set of patterns that you think that the public will enjoy, start making the rounds of the online or local craft stores that sell surfaces, books, and patterns and find out their policies for taking your patterns. They may offer to buy them outright at a wholesale price or they may take them on consignment and pay as they are sold. Businesses are often interested in taking on new artists if there is some guarantee that they won’t be stuck with patterns that haven’t sold for them. Only send your work to a company that has a good reputation and has been in business for a lengthy time period. Try to be as proactive about your patterns as you can be. Call the companies, without making a nuisance of yourself, to inquire as to how the patterns are doing and to find out if they have any suggestions that might make your patterns more marketable.

We live in the age of information due to the computer and the internet; take advantage of those opportunities to network with painters at online painting groups. There are so many of them available you should be able to find a few that you feel comfortable participating in. Many of them have requirements for promoting your designs consequently look at those rules before you market your patterns.

Go to national conventions; take your portfolio around to the various surface and pattern companies that are at the show. Have color copies of a sampling of your pattern photos to leave with the companies with your company letterhead and business card attached. Have a plan for wholesale sales ready to present to them and discuss the opportunities. Find out their policy for surface samples, some companies will just give you the piece with no questions asked but others will want to sell to you wholesale. Never take more surfaces than you can actually paint on, it lowers your credibility to not complete and publish a project. Many conventions do not allow attendees to sell on the trade show floor but you can promote yourself and then follow up with a phone call a week or two later. Apply to both paint and brush companies to participate in their artist support program, understand their requirements for receiving payment for both patterns and magazine articles. It is so frustrating to be waiting on a payment to only find out that you didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly. Make sure that when you apply to either of these two that you love the product and can live with the payment format that they have established. Don’t think you can afford to go to a national convention ask for money for birthdays and holidays instead of gifts and save your money to go. You will never regret going to one. You will come home with a renewed creative spirit.

Network!!! I can’t stress that enough, meet fellow designers that are working, teaching, and publishing in the field. Don’t be shy about asking questions of them, I can say that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many talented designers who are ready, willing, and able to share their experiences with you. This is a very generous industry. I was recently at a convention and was asking a fellow designer questions about promotions on her website. She mentioned to me that the key was to keep trying until you found something that worked for you personally. There is no one size fits all in this industry, what might be working for me might not work for you depending on your situation, but to keep trying new things.

Submit to magazine editors, they also love to publish new artists. Many designers get published on their first try but many of us submit repeatedly until the editors find something that they feel is magazine worthy. Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t accepted on your first try. I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had over the years, more than I can count. As I was told many years ago you need to develop a thick skin if you want to participate in the industry.

Develop a website. There are so many “do it yourself” sites that are now available that are an inexpensive way to promote your artwork. If you don’t want to do a full blown website offer your patterns on some of the free photo hosting sites. Your customers will need to contact you directly to purchase your patterns but it would be an inexpensive way to start developing a customer base. Keep track of your customers and develop a newsletter through one of the companies that offer inexpensive or free newsletter opportunities. Or collect the addresses of your customers and send out your newsletters via your email address. You can have promotions on your website such as BOGO, purchase 5 patterns get one free, or even dollar days.

Freebies are an excellent source of self promotion, offer to demonstrate for your paint or brush company if they encourage their artists to do so at a national convention or even at your local SDP group. Do free projects for either your own website or for the companies that give you free surfaces, it is a great way to thank a company for supporting your artwork and is an excellent way to get your name out to the public, who can’t resist a freebie.

Submit to teach at national conventions, your local SDP group, or even through a local Adult Ed course. Teaching is a great way to promote yourself as a designer and get yourself known as well as giving you the confidence to speak to a large group. It is also a wonderful opportunity to promote an art form that you love.

Occasionally you might be an overnight sensation, which has not happened to me. I’ve found that it takes hard work, determination, and jumping through some hoops to get to the point where you want to be. I’ve not reached that point yet so there is still work to be done, contacts to be made, painting friends to learn from, and opportunities to be discovered. Who knows where this endeavor might take you but I’m sure that you will enjoy the ride as much as I have. Happy Painting.