Tricia Hodges is a homeschooling mother of five and the co-creator of the art curriculum You Are an Artist. Tricia is all about a stress-free approach to sparking a love for art in our children, and she joins us on this episode of the podcast to talk about weaving some easy art projects into Morning Time.
Tricia’s go-to medium for simple, forgiving projects is chalk pastel, and she offers a multitude of free chalk pastel tutorials at her blog Hodgepodge. She gives us step-by-step instructions for set-up, clean-up, and everything in between, including some tips for encouraging the reluctant artist (even if that artist happens to be mom). So grab your art smock and get ready to enjoy a great interview!
Pam: This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring Truth, Goodness and Beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone, and welcome to the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy you’re joining me here today. We have a fun episode for you today. It is all about incorporating a little bit of practical art in your Morning Time. We are going to be encouraging our children to be artists using a very simple art medium, chalk pastels. Tricia Hodges is here from ChalkPastel.com and she’s going to tell us all about how easy it is to encourage the artist in our child during Morning Time using something so simple as a little bit of paper, a few baby wipes, and some beautiful chalk pastels. I love Tricia’s no-fuss philosophy of art, and I think you’re going to love it too, so now on with the program. Tricia Hodges is a mother of five with a flair for art. In collaboration with her own mother affectionately called Nana, she has created the You are an Artist curriculum which makes the beautiful medium of chalk pastels accessible and manageable for even the most non-artsy homeschool mom. You can find Tricia on the web at her blog, HodgePodge, where, in addition to plenty of great art tutorials she also talks about homeschooling, faith, health, and family. Tricia, welcome to the program.
Tricia: Thank you, I’m happy to be here.
Pam: Well, let’s just dig in to the art topic. What is your philosophy behind doing art with kids?
Tricia: Basically, we just want to grow a love of, spark that interest in the children and I’m a very practical person so whatever we do has to be simple. So we found chalk pastels are just successful, they’re forgiving, and easy for all ages. And so, if we just practice a little bit, not necessarily every day, but just with practice we will just all realize we have that gift, that wiring for creativity.
Pam: And your motto is You Are an Artist, with the emphasis on the ‘Are’. But so many moms don’t necessarily see themselves that way. What’s your advice to moms who might have a little bit of trouble getting in touch with their artistic side?
Tricia: Well, I was that mom. And because I was raised by my mother who is a master artist and I felt like I just didn’t get the art genes, but my mother started teaching us just in simple five minute lessons whenever she would stop by. I would just watch what they were doing and I would take pictures, and the more I watched, I realized, ‘You know what? This really is simple.’ My children are enjoying this and I started sitting down and doing the tutorials myself, and I found that I am indeed an artist and it just took getting over that fear, and just a little bit of practice with simple shapes and objects and things that I enjoy to look at and to paint, so I would just encourage everyone to try. Give it a try.
Pam: Well, you know, that’s interesting that you talk about it that way. So you didn’t really do art lessons with your mom as a child, it wasn’t until you were an adult and she started with your own children that you felt like you could do this.
Tricia: That’s right. I do not have an art degree. And my mother, she would work with me now and then as we were growing up, she was a single mom and so she was working a lot, and I was in school, and now we’ve had this opportunity to have this multi-generational learning together, and it’s just been a great blessing.
Pam: Oh, that’s awesome. And it’s awesome that you had the courage to sit down as an adult and say, “You know what? I’m going to give this a try.”
Pam: Well, let’s talk a little more specifically about chalk pastels because that’s basically what you guys focus on. I know you’ve done a few acrylic tutorials on your site, but chalk pastels is your big focus. So what makes them such a great art medium for families to explore?
Tricia: Well, when you think about it, chalk is one of the early things that a child picks up and uses in the driveway. It’s big and chunky. It’s easy to hold. So when my mother came with her pallet of chalk pastels, they were just beautiful to look at, to start with- all those colors. And then they were easy to hold. And once you start working with them you can be as detailed as you want to but what we found is they’re forgiving. So, recently I was doing a tutorial of the BB8 Star Wars droid and I went and did a little line around for the top part of the droid, and I realized, ‘No, I don’t want it exactly that way’ so I just took another color and went right over the mark that I did not like, and was able to make it into what I wanted. So, with chalk pastels, you can layer the colors, you can show depth, you can blend with your fingers, you can get all messy, or you can not get messy; we’ve just found that they’re a delight, and they’re also very frugal. You can get a pack for the entire family at your local arts and crafts store for about $8.00 and you can use those with all your ages and see if you enjoy them before you invest in any other types of bigger sets of chalk pastels.
Pam: A lot of times homeschooling families have a very broad range of ages of kids (teens all the way down to elementary or even preschool) and you have a pretty wide age range too, so chalk pastels can work in that situation, right?
Tricia: Yes, I’ll raise my hand as one of those families. When we started with chalk pastels my littlest was not even two, and then I had all the way up through the start of high school. So we now have my youngest is eight. We’ve grown with them and we’ve seen how to use them with little ones up to the older ones and whenever we do a tutorial we do it altogether. So when my youngest was real little, what we’d do is sketch off the start of what we were doing and, sort of, help him along and then the older ones would move forward in the subject we were doing, and then they would add the details that they wanted and the way that we do that altogether it just gives each child opportunity rather than having specific directions, they each have the chance to add the details that they want and the little fine tuning, and each have their own individual creativity, and we’ve also had times when we’ve had to stop and let someone go take a nap, so it’s just really an easy medium to work with.
Pam: Do you find that even though a lot of times you guys are working on the same subject, whether that be the droid, or a fall tree, or a shark, that what the kids end up with really looks different from the picture from the person sitting next to them?
Tricia: Absolutely, because they each have their own interpretation of it. Some of them might look exactly like something we were copying out of a book, we sometimes incorporate literature or a science subject and we will look at a picture off the internet or in a book and we will copy that, but yes, everybody has their own individual talent.
Pam: I have one girl I think would probably put like pink on everything she did.
Tricia: Right, that’s the artist.
Pam: That’s her own flair coming out in it. Walk me through how I might use one of your tutorials. Now, you have just a number of free tutorials on your site, and we’re going to link to those in the Show Notes, and then you also have some lovely eBooks where people can purchase those centered around a specific theme, and use the tutorials in the eBooks as well. If I were going to go to your site and I was interested in doing one of those tutorials that was there, can you walk me through how I might do that? What should I do before, during, and after that tutorial to help things go smoothly?
Tricia: OK, well you might decide you want to go to the site and print out the tutorial so that you just have it on the table, or you can pull that tutorial up on a laptop or an iPad and have it close by if you were comfortable with that, that way everything is right there. You can place that in the center of the table and then I like to, just so I don’t get sidetracked, I like to prep the area first, especially when mine were a lot younger. I would have a plastic tablecloth so that it would be easier for me. And baby wipes close by or wet paper towels because chalk is a little bit messy and it can get all over your hands and you’ll want to wipe your hands in-between colors and that sort of thing. Really, all that you need is to the tutorial, some paper (we often use printer paper or construction paper), and then a set of chalk pastels. So then the tutorial will lead you through different steps and techniques for using shading and painterly affects and skumbling and all these things we’ve learned about using chalk pastels. You’re encouraged to sign your name in the corner because you’re an artist and you can name your picture – give it a name, and usually most of the tutorials last less than five minutes. Some of them are more detailed, if we’re doing something and the technique of a certain artist, but we like shorter, simple, and successful.
Pam: And so the tutorial itself consists of written steps and then model images for the mom to look at?
Tricia: Yes, and photos.
Pam: Photos of the art that Nana as has done and the art that your family has done, too. A lot of times, I have to say, I will just bring up the tutorial on the computer screen, and so if I’m doing this during Morning Time I’m reading from a book, so I really don’t have time to necessarily read out each step of the tutorial so I’ll put the picture up on the screen and just let them go to town, drawing the picture, and then when I get to a place that I can pause, I’ll say, “Oh, it says on here that you might want to use the side of your hand to swirl the colors together,” or “It says on here be sure how to shadow behind the vase,” and so I’ll come in and get those later, but I really let them look at the picture that you’ve got there and have at it.
Tricia: I like that. And we also realize that children learn differently. Some are visual learners, like you’re saying- just using the pictures we provide. Some are auditory learners, so they will like the mom to read out the tutorial. And some just simply like to read it and do it independently if they’re older.
Pam: And so a child could do that with one of your tutorials? They could take it themselves?
Pam: That’s great. And the baby wipes- let’s talk about the mess for a minute because I know this was one of my hang ups about the chalk pastel tutorials at first, was ‘I’m going to have chalk pastel stuff all over my house’ so you’ve mentioned a couple of tips- you mentioned having a table cloth though I have found that the chalk does really just take one of those baby wipes and wipe your table and you’re done. The baby wipes were a big one for me. Do you have any tips for making the clean up more manageable?
Tricia: Sure. I would just say take a deep breath and give yourself a pep talk beforehand because if you focus on the fun and the smiles on your children’s faces you really can deal with any sort of mess. Also, that little bit of prep work that I mentioned; you really don’t have to have a table cloth if you have a table that you can just wipe off with a baby wipe. Sometimes when my children were younger (this was more for acrylics than for chalk pastels) but I would put towels down that led to the sink that way we could just walk that way and immediately wash our hands, but with chalk pastels, really, you just need the baby wipes and you can wipe up the chalk very easily with those afterward and then we keep some of our finished pictures and notebooks and we just put a piece of paper between them or we hang them up on the chalkboard or we mail them off to grandma.
Pam: Now, do you ever spray yours with affixitive?
Tricia: We do, and that is something that is very cheap and easy to do. You can buy a really expensive one at the arts and crafts store but you can also use a simple can spray hair spray, like Aqua Net or something like that, just really cheap and do a quick, fine coating over it. It’s best if you were to take the finished picture outside and do that, just so you don’t get all that inside.
Pam: And that helps the chalk adhere to the page and keeps it from rubbing off onto other things, but also smearing your picture too, if you’re going to stack pages.
Pam: And what about clothes, Tricia? I’m sitting here and can see my six year old now with just chalk pastels all down the front of his shirt, how does it do with clothes?
Tricia: We’ve found that it washes out from clothes, but if you are concerned about that you can always put a smock on or use an old shirt like you used to in kindergarten when you painted, just anything that would make you feel better about the mess.
Pam: I’ve found it hasn’t really been all that bad. Once we get started with it’s something like, “OK, well, that’s no big deal.”
Tricia: It’s chalk. If you think of chalk that you would use on the chalkboard, there’s little dusty things that fall down on the chalkboard, so you will have chalk dust.
Pam: Right. I know with colored pencils, people are like, ‘Well these colored pencils are so hard. They’re cheap but they’re not soft enough, they’re not going to blend together’ but really that’s not an issue with chalk. You could start with an inexpensive set of chalk pastels and not be frustrated.
Tricia: We’ve found that the very inexpensive kinds that you can order from Amazon or find even at Walmart are very easy, and you can break them in half and share them around the table.
Pam: OK, and that’s great too, because a lot of times you don’t have to worry about breaking because they’re meant to be broken so everyone can have a little piece.
Pam: Now, I’m talking specifically about doing art in Morning Time, and whenever I break out the art supplies my kids really get excited and they want to just do art all day. Some days that would be great but a lot of days I don’t want art to completely derail my school day. So, do you have any tips for how art can work into a set period of time and not necessarily take over the entire day?
Tricia: Well, I would say that you can just remind your children that you can have art every day, you can practice every day if you want to, but we’re going to build this art time around a certain literature book. We actually have some challenges, art tutorial challenges, where you do an apple in less than a minute. So the tutorials as I mentioned before that we share are usually short within five minutes. So another thing that we do is we have an art box that we keep in the pantry close to the table. And if we start getting really carried away with art, and we do need to get some other subjects then I’ll remind then, ‘We can put this away for now but there’s the art box and this afternoon ya’ll can get it out and do it on your own.’
Pam: I love that, and I love the one minute challenges too. That sounds great.
Tricia: Those are fun.
Pam: You’ve mentioned a couple of times about doing art around literature. So, how might that look in a home? Could you give me a few examples?
Tricia: Well, we always loved the Five in a Row books. We’ve used those with all of our children, and so one that comes to mind right away is Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, and so we would read that book and then we would follow up the time with some art. Maybe flip open the page to one that is just really interesting and appeals to everybody and we would just sit down and use the chalk pastels and copy what we see. My Blue Boat with a lighthouse that shines across the water and then there’s the blue boat, so using children’s books that are already beloved just draws in that creativity even more because you just have that love of the words as well.
Pam: Have you ever done any art pastel projects based on poetry or Shakespeare?
Tricia: No, we have done art in the style of Monet, we’ve done some Picasso, not specifically poetry, I did mention the Robert Frost but that was based on the book.
Pam: Well, there’s my challenge for you?
Pam: Give some poetry chalk pastels! Well, how can we use chalk pastels and art projects like these to study specific artists?
Tricia: Well, I would suggest if you’re using a certain curriculum or just studying a particular artist, then you look up on the internet some of the famous paintings by that artist, and you use that as inspiration, you use that for invitation, you just learn about the different techniques or the medium that that artist used, and then you just do some artwork in the style of that artist, that’s what we’ve done in the past, and we of course love Monet because he has that painterly affect, and that paints the light, and that very much is what chalk pastels do. So, I would encourage you to pick something that you’re interested in and just practice.
Pam: I love that. And so you take what the artist has done in a different medium and then you re-create it using the chalk pastels?
Pam: I love the flexibility of that medium. Let’s talk for a few minutes about different mediums. What are some other artistic media that lend themselves well to a homeschool setting (mom and the kids around the table and a mixed aged group)? What are some of the ones you like?
Tricia: Well, one I absolutely love is paint with water. It’s hard to find these days but you still can find them. It’s just fun to have even the littlest ones in a high chair with a paint with water page and that little paint brush just going at it, it’s just fun. And we also love acrylic, and the way you can build and blend with those, but you would definitely need a smock for that. We like fine-tip felt pens and using those for nature journaling. That’s another wonderful thing. Also, all those adult coloring books, they’re the rage these days, are fun because you can use those great pencils and color in all those wonderful designs. So those are just a few of our favorites medium. Also, I think it’s important to have bright canvases around, just also the opportunity to have something that’s blank just to start with, and I’d say also an art journal is a good idea to have.
Pam: OK and what kind of things might you encourage your child to put in an art journal? How would I do that as a mom if I’m excited, I’m going to go down to Michael’s and get my chalk pastels and while I’m there I’m going to pick up some art journals. How might I present those to my children?
Tricia: Well, you could decide to make it just a certain subject, like all of your literature art, or you could decide to have it be your nature journal, or you could decide to have it be a mixed media. There’s lots of freedom there. For your older children you could just ask them what they would like to do.
Pam: Now, explain to me exactly what mixed media is for somebody who might not know?
Tricia: OK, that would just be one page you might have done in chalk pastels, another page you could have a collage of all sorts of paper, on another page you could have acrylic, and then turn the page again and you have all of those together, where you have torn pieces of paper mixed in with the acrylics, there’s just the sky’s the limit.
Pam: Now, if we were going to create a journal like that and it were not going to be a nature journal or a literature narration journal from our literature but more of a creativity practice, would you give prompts for that to help them along?
Tricia: That’s a good idea. That’s not something I have actually done. I know that there is a year of art journaling and we have used that in our afternoon time doing some art journaling.
Pam: If I have a limited space and budget in my home, what do you think are some of the essential art supplies I should make room for?
Tricia: I would say, well, of course I’d say chalk pastels…
Pam: Of course you would!
Tricia: … they’re just so cheap and easy, a long list of art supplies really intimidates me, and it makes my pocketbook groan, but I would want my children to be able to experience as much as possible, so I would say lots of paint brushes, a good mixture of acrylic (you can get small tubes at an arts and crafts store), I would say felt-tip pens, and blank canvases, a big stack of construction paper. You might want to invest in some good watercolor paper just so that they have that experience of how that paper works with that medium. I would just start with a few things that maybe appeal to you and your children and just work from there, and as you see that they’re enjoying something then you can look more in that area and get more supplies along the way.
Pam: We are actually pretty big watercolor fans around here too, so we usually keep a pretty good stack of watercolor paper, and I cut it in half because typically it comes in those really big pieces and I find that they don’t necessarily fill up that entire space and so I’ll cut it in half for them a lot of times, but they really love the experience of painting on that thick paper.
Tricia: Yes, that’s a smart idea to cut it in half.
Pam: And, Do-A-Dot markers are really popular. Do you know the ones I’m talking about? And so they’ll get those and they’ll paint rainbows and pictures and some of them have form to them and some of them don’t, but it’s a forgiving medium, I think. The experiences that your children get from doing art, how does it spill over into the rest of their academic subject areas? How do you think it helps them?
Tricia: Well, I know that there has been multiple research studies done on how art blesses all the other subjects, and I have seen it happen when we’re having a time struggling in math or another subject where we just take a break and go and have a little bit of creativity time, and then come back and it’s better. It’s those two sides of the brain that you’re exercising and if there’s a lack of art, art just complements all the other things is what I’ve found. I can’t explain it scientifically but that is just what I have seen in my home.
Pam: I love the idea of if you’re struggling with something that’s hard, just taking a break and stepping over here and doing some art and then coming back to what you were doing before.
Pam: Yes, I think that would probably work in many, many situations. Well, other than repeating to my child, “You are an artist” what do you about the child who’s very dissatisfied with their work, maybe they’re a perfectionist and they always want it to be perfect, or they don’t even want to try because they feel like they can’t do it as well as their sibling or something of that nature? How do you encourage them?
Tricia: Well, I actually have a child like that, and what we have done is we have created a little bit of art time separate from everybody else. Children do tend to compare to each other if they’re all sitting around the table, so we have chosen some subjects that really appeal to this child and just given some separate art time, so this child has the opportunity to just grow and develop that creativity on his own. Just a little bit of that time has really helped him to see what all he can do, and then he’s slowly started to come back in and do things with all of us, and so it’s a little bit of experimenting and lots of praise offered. You don’t want to actually push it you just want to offer that opportunity. Sometimes I just make art time appealing by sitting a big bowl of popcorn in the middle of the table and sitting down and starting to do it myself, so modeling that art time is something that you could do. Those are some things that have just came from the top of my head.
Pam: You mentioned the Star Wars robot earlier. You guys have never been afraid to jump in to those popular culture subjects for your art tutorials and I know you’ve done the Star Wars, I’ve recently seen those. You’ve done shark week. Did you do lego themes?
Tricia: We’ve done lego, how to train your dragon, there’s ‘I Have Seen the Light’ there’s lanterns that rise up for the Repunzel movie.
Pam: OK, so this is a way that you can approach those kids who might be a little more reluctant to sit down and do art and approach them with a topic that’s really going to be fascinating to them, and kind of pull them in, so I love that a lot. So, how do you display your art work in your house? Once we’ve created a few pieces, do you have any suggestions for display?
Tricia: Well, we do have a lot of magnetic chalkboards around right in our kitchen so whenever we finish a paper we turn around and just automatically put it up on the chalkboard. For them, of course, there’s the refrigerator, and I like a plain string with some clothes pin on it, and then I have mentioned the journal where you can actually three hole punch your paper and put it in a notebook, a binder, and keep a whole year’s worth of your art. And then you can also send it off to grandparents, that’s always really fun to get in the mail.
Pam: Oh yeah, that’s a great idea too, because I have a feeling that they’re going to come back and praise that artist for the art that they’ve received.
Pam: Well, Tricia, thank you so much for coming on today and talking to us about simple, easy ways that we can bring more, non-intimidating art, into our homeschool day. Tell everybody where we can find you online.
Tricia: You can find us at hodgepodge.me, and we have all sorts of tutorials, we have the regular written tutorials and we also have video tutorials on our youtube channel, and then we have eBooks all on a particular theme at chalkpastel.com.
Pam: Well thank you so very much for joining me and I just loved having you on.
Tricia: Well thank you for having me, I enjoyed it.
Pam: And there you have it. Now for our Basket Bonus this week, we have for you the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Chalk Pastels. This is a web resource that you can click on and there will be links there to chalk pastel supplies and other supplies you would need to get started as well as some of Tricia’s easiest and best tutorials to help you get started doing chalk pastels with your family. For that and the Show Notes to today’s episode, you can go to EDSnapshots.com/YMB17, there we’ll have links to all of the resources that Tricia and I talked about today as well as to your Basket Bonus. And if you would like to leave a rating or review in iTunes for the Your Morning Basket podcast, you can do that there as well. We really appreciate the ratings and reviews that you leave because it helps us get the podcast out to more people. We appreciate you being here today listening. We’ll be back again in another couple of weeks with another great interview and until then keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.
Links and Resources from Today’s Show
- You Are an Artist curriculum
- 100+ Free Art Tutorials for All Ages at Hodgepodge
- A Year of Art Journaling by Christine Hiester
Key Ideas about Art in Morning Time
- The goal of doing art with children is to spark their interest and creativity, and to grow a love in themfor what is beautiful.
- Chalk pastels are an easy, forgiving, versatile, and affordable medium that can be applied to a vastnumber of projects.
- Using chalk pastels, siblings of a wide range of ages can do art together at the same table. Little onescan simply grasp the chalk and go to town on a blank piece of paper, while older children can refinetheir drawings and work on layering, blending, and shading
Find What you Want to Hear
- 2:35 tips for non-artsy moms
- 4:10 what’s so great about chalk pastels
- 5:47 chalk pastels with a wide age range of kids
- 7:55 how to use the tutorials step-by-step
- 11:22 what to do about the mess
- 12:42 fixatives
- 14:21 breaking the chalk
- 14:43 fitting art into a short period of time
- 15:52 art and literature
- 17:07 chalk pastels and artist studies
- 18:02 other art media
- 19:17 art journals
- 20:40 essential art supplies
- 22:36 the connection between art and other subject areas; taking a break from a tough subject to do some art
- 23:29 tips for the reluctant artist
- 25:34 displaying kids’ art
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