I didn’t see this coming. A full month without posting. Here’s what happened.
Sometime after the pandemic isolations began, I slowly began noticing postings that were actively and enthusiastically bringing people together to fold, draw and build things together. For instance, Anne Perkins demonstrated a hundred days of projects on her blog https://arbitrarilyclose.com/ and Clarissa Grande introduced monthly twitter hastags like #Maydala #GeometricJuly which were introduced with video tutorial support, and other little groups seem to pop-up here and there to work on something together, What’s happened with me is that I was swept away with learning new stuff from so many other people. Rather than creating content, I’ve been happily devouring it.
I think I will be writing at least a few posts, sharing some of the cool stuff I’ve been looking at, starting with knots.
No question about it, I like knots. Have been drawing them, on and off, for decades.
I started getting carried away. What I realized was this: Even though starting with a standard grid makes total sense to me, I realized I could make knot that had, well, wonky grids. I loved discovering a way into creating my own grids. This means that if I have just a pencil and paper, I could amuse myself indefinitely making these knots. I can’t tell you how much this idea appeals to me.
These wonky knots were really hard to do. I’d spend a great bit of time trying to figure out how to get them to work out just right. Sometimes I’d fail to get them to work out. The knot above has five separate strands.
Here it is, close up.
The next one is based on a larger number of crossings but is just one continuous strand.
I tried lots of ways to color this one in. I was happy with it once I was done, but wasn’t happy with any of the photos, except for this one:
These have been great fun for me. I feel like I am never going to be finished doing them, though I have slowed down a good bit.
It’s dawning on me that it might be a good thing to do a little video tutorial on how I go about making these odd knots. Besides enjoying making these myself, I think that making these would be great activity for kids as they could be as complex or as easy as is appropriate for each child. They are so much fun.
Ok. So fully intend to post a video. Here. Within a day or two.
I’ve always loved coloring books. Is this true for every kid? I really don’t know. Are coloring books for kids even around much anymore?
When the coloring books for adults became all the rage a few years ago, it made perfect sense to me, although most of the titles on the market didn’t interest me much. I like sense an underlying rigorous structure, but one that is not simply symmetrical. Naturally, then, I fell in love with the books by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harris.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have not been asked to write this post by anyone connected to these books. In fact, the reason I am writing this now is because I am working on something else that won’t be ready to write about for awhile, so I thought that, with the holiday season upon us, the colorfulness of writing about these books seems timely.
I love these books for all the same reasons that I’ve always loved coloring books. They let me mess around with color without having to think too much about form. Just experimenting with color combinations without thinking about much else is a great thing for me to do when I’m wanting to make something but not feeling particularly ambitious. I think this cascading waves is my favorite of all the pages. If the authors happen to be reading this, please make more versions of this one for me, please.
I do not recommend using crayons in these books. The image above in started as crayon only, but it didn’t have a look that I liked until I added those crackly lines made with markers. Crayons are amazing when used on paper that is a bit rough, just like the newsprint paper in traditional coloring books, but seems to me that they aren’t well suited for the smooth papers of adult coloring books.
Colored pencils work well on these pages, but be advised that not all colored pencils are created equal. The best value for colored pencils are the Crayola brand, but Prismacolor Colored Pencils are just about the only upgrade that makes sense. If I’m using colored pencils on these pages, it’s Prismacolor that I’m using. However, If I am making drawings of my own, using my own designs, I generally use my absolute favorite colored pencils, made by Caran D’Ache.
Sometimes mixing up the Prismacolors with markers works out best. This page above, which references color bands used by Georgia O’Keefe in one of her paintings, was done with both Prismacolors and brush markers (an expensive Japanese brand, SAI).
I love the way Sharpies look on these pages. Yes, they bleed through like crazy, so I always put a protective piece under the page that I am working on. Otherwise, I don’t care that they bleed through the page. The publishers of these books were kind enough to keep the verso side of the spread mostly blank, so I don’t lose anything that I’m not willing to lose in the interest of using exactly the materials that I want to use.
My favorite pages, so far, are one that are not full of tiny, tiny details, like the one above, These tiny details require more attention than is comfortable for me.
This Kolakoski Sequence has just about the right balance for me of detail and broad areas of color. I’m generally more interested in the description of the form after I’ve colored it, but in this case it was already obscured by the bleed through from the previous image. Oh, well, I still have the internet.
Here’s another one done with both markers and pencils. I didn’t find this uncolored page very compelling, so I challenged myself to use color to make it more interesting to me.
I was pretty happy wit the way this one turned out.
The thing I like the most about these books is that I can pick them up and put them down with impunity. I don’t have to remember what I was thinking about or where to start. During the years of raising children and never having any extended amounts of time to work on anything, it still makes me feel happy to have something to do that doesn’t suffer from interruptions.
This spiral is the first one I did in these books. Took quite a few sitting before I considered to be finished, but that’s fine.
Here I got to play with trying to create a illusion that these circles were not in a precisely straight line. Sadly, in this photo that illusion seems to be mostly lost, but on the page they do look wiggly.
Not all drawings that I do come out great. Some come out well but don’t photograph well, like this one, which I love, but doesn’t seem to like the camera much. Sharpies love the camera.
Those funny shapes to the right of the page are called Sphericons. They are peculiar, funny, and I will making some to give away and some to hang on our tree. They are pesky to try to make out of paper, hence it will be many more days before they get a post of their own. But am happy to have finally made a post about my favorite coloring books.
OH, and if the editors or authors are taking requests, how about a coloring book along the same themes as these, made for kids and printed like old-fashioned coloring books, on newsprint, so that crayons would be the preferred medium? A mathy coloring book for kids, with large, not-particularly detailed patterns sounds like a great idea to me.
OMG Have I got a teaching tip for anyone who has ever pulled their hair out trying encourage students to make their drawings bigger, to fill up the page. It’s only taken me like 25 years of working with students to figure this out. This is big.
There’s this variations of a bookmaking project that I do with mostly first and second graders that includes a drawing. The bigger and bolder the drawing is, the better it looks in the book. Needless to say, it’s such a struggle for this age of student to make their drawings big enough.
Usually I give the students the paper that their drawing goes on and do everything but beg them to draw bigger. Well, sometimes I beg. Then, yesterday (Friday) Carter, a 7 year-old in my first class of the day, suggested that, before they start their drawing, I lay the paper inside the frame that will surround it. It had never occurred to me to do this, so I tried it out in my next class of the day.
Unbelievable. In my next class, after sliding the paper behind the frame before the drawing began, every single student filled up the paper with large bold drawings to go along with their stories.
Never has this happened before.
Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe this class had been bribed enough times to fill up the page that they now did it instinctively. I had one more class to go.
Next class, same thing happened. They filled up the space with big drawings.
Some students lifted the frame away after the first part of the drawing was done so that they could make their drawings even bigger. OMG I was so happy. My conclusion: if you want students to make a drawing to fill up a space, FRAME THE SPACE with a dark frame! I don’t know why it works, but far be it from me to ever think I can fathom what goes on in the mind of a 7 year-old.
Now here’s the part that gives me chills…I have to ask myself, why did Carter put forth his suggestion? I give credit to this: recently I was impressed by reading Malke Rosenfeld’s book about engaging students in whole body learning. While I teach different subject matter than Malke, I am deeply impressed by how she gives her students permission to explore the learning space before she begins her lessons. I took this to heart, and this week, for the first time, within certain boundaries, I encouraged students to fold and unfold, then explore and examine the materials that we were using together. In some way I think this sense of engagement with the materials led Carter to making a suggestion that was based on what would have worked better for him. I already know that my best teaching tips come from the single digit crowd, I just don’t always know how to tap into them.
So thank you Malke, thank you Carter, and OMG I am so happy.