Community Projects

Project One: First Step Daycare Fundraiser, Deadwood, SD

This was the quietest they were
all day.
The first project is for the First Steps Day Care Center in Deadwood. This center is having a fundraiser on September 8 and I am working with some of the 8 and 9 year olds in the center.  We are doing paintings of Happy Trees, ala Kadinsky.  A few years back, my friend, and former art teacher extraordinaire, Debbie Thompson, worked with her students with this same subject.  We helped create stairwell murals of Happy Trees for KSB Hospital in Dixon.  It was so much fun, I thought, why reinvent the it again!

I had a budget to get some paint, brushes, and canvases.  Eight canvases to be exact.  Initially I only wanted to work with 4 kids this age, but decided 8 would be the absolute limit.  Kids have a limited attention span and my patience could only handle that many with loaded paint brushes at one time!

Getting their ideas down on paper.
The first day we started with some examples of abstract, fantasy-like trees, and got them to start sketching their vision of Happy Trees.  At first they were stuck in the traditional looking trees, but after 30 minutes, they're drawings became very whimsical.

The second visit entailed just a practice day with the use of mixing paints, applying paint, how to use their brushes, including keeping them clean.  Oh, and NO black or brown paint was allowed on their palettes.  Kids like to overuse those colors and everything eventually looks like mud.

Pencil drawing by one of the kids.  
Painting lesson day: Learning to handle 2 different sized
brushes and how to mix paints.

A problem started happening with the attendance having different kids almost every day.  Trying to have the same children throughout was proving to be difficult.  Also, the new kids wanted to do the project, but they were already behind in lessons.  Hoo  boy.  We made it work.  In fact, one of the kids who started a lesson late, Gavin, proved to be a natural artist.  I liked his work so much, that his drawing replaced one of the original children's drawings (also, this child's schedule didn't allow her to be there when I was...thus, she wasn't able to finish the project).

Enlarged kids' drawings with their crayon sketches next to them.

Base coat of red over all of them. Bring on the kids!
After picking the drawings I thought would be the best paintings for the sale, I enlarged them on professional canvases.  I noticed that there were 9 drawings that were great.  So, I went to my studio and found a canvas that wasn't too big for a child to paint in one sitting, but it was a tad smaller.  Now we have 9 paintings to work with!  After drawing the paintings, I redrew them with a black sharpie and then painted the whole canvas red.  Yes, red.  I paint all of my paintings with a warm color before painting.  It makes it less daunting to face a white canvas.

The third visit, I got in the room, set up the desks, put out the plastic tarps, filled all the palettes, put out water, brushes, paper towels.... You know how many of the original 8 kids showed up?  Three.  So... we got three out of 8 finished. 

The next time I arrived, I managed to get a few more original kids, but the ones whose drawings I didn't choose, were allowed to paint the canvases of the kids who didn't show for the final day.  So, those paintings will have both names on them.

Here are the proud artists with their paintings.  Some of them are the original artist & painter, and some are the painter only. 

For all of the paintings, I took them home and cleaned them up a bit.  Covered up the spills, smoothed out the smears, etc.  Also, since I'm a big girl...I get to use BLACK and some fun metallic paints.   I use the black to lightly outline their tree illustration to make their colors pop.  And a bit of gold and copper is fun.  Just added some whimsy.  And you know what?  When the kids saw their paintings later, they didn't even notice that I nudged them a bit. They just smiled and preened in front of everyone.  I love that part. 


Nyla Griffith, one of the main people to make sure this day care facility became a reality for the city of Deadwood, will be making poster of one of these paintings to advertise the fundraiser.  I'll publish that later!