The Italian Street Painting Festival


Last weekend one of the hottest (in more ways than one) events in the Bay Area made its way back to the streets of San Rafael after a two year hiatus. We’ve been connected with the Italian Street Painting Festival for awhile and it’s an event that really draws people from all over the globe. Downtown San Rafael is taken over with artists transforming busy streets into sections of fine art that are eventually washed away  — which seems so sad (but traffic accidents would ensue if they weren’t).

We joke every time the Italian Street Painting Festival rolls around it is the real beginning of summer in Marin because the temps are usually the hottest after the change of  season. And this Street Painting Festival delivered in all ways. The temps were way up there (we’re talking upper 90s and over 100) and the street paintings were some of the best we’ve seen. Here’s a collection of favorites (thanks to Dean Lipoff) of the wonderful event.

Want more information? Please learn more about how to get involved.

Italian Street Painting - kids

Italian Street Painting Festival

Italian Street Painting Fest

Italian Street Painting

Italian Steet

San Rafael

Street Painting Fest

San R. Street Painting

Sunny crafts perfect for summer!

It’s been a crazy couple of days over here, but I can’t complain. The sun is shining, the tot makes mud daily, and I’ve been enjoying it all. Summer is a time for soaking up the sun, and these awesome crafts that I put together for totally deliver. From making sundials to sun prints, click on over for the full slideshow — and their fresh, new website design!

Happy Summer!

Outdoor summer art activities

Outdoor summer art

The other day temps were in the mid 80’s and the last thing the tot and I wanted to do was anything in the house. Sure, it’s always fun to bring markers and crayons outdoors, but there are also lots of fun ways to get crafty with summer outdoor art activities that keep everyone cool. Along with helping hone fine-motor skills, these toddler tested (and approved!) projects can be done over and over and over and over….

You know what I’m saying.

Frozen edible paints – This is so simple – and so fun! Fill small popsicle molds 3/4th of the way full of lemonade and then add a few drops of food coloring to each, creating several different vibrant colors. Pop the tops on the popsicles and freeze overnight. The next day, release the popsicles and take outdoors along with a several sheets of white paper. Enjoy drawing with the popsicles along with taste testing! Your child can see if the various colors of popsicles taste the same – or different! Just be prepared for a very colorful face and mouth once finished….

Magic mist – Select three colors of washable paint with your toddler and add a scoop of each to three small spray bottles. Small misters are around $1 at your local everything store. Add about 1/2 cup water to each bottle, screw on the top, and shake, shake, shake to mix the paint and water together. Pick a spot outdoors to tape the paper on an wall, fence or even flat on your driveway. Now your child can spray and mist that water-downed paint all over the paper watching as the colors blend and drip together. Encourage color theory skills by having your child yell out colors along the way! Make sure to use washable paint and avoid working on untreated wood, which does stain (which I discovered while doing this project (oops)).

Driveway painting – Draw large shapes, letters, or objects with your toddler on the driveway or sidewalk using sidewalk chalk. Once finished, offer your child a small plastic container filled with ice-cold water and a medium-sized paintbrush. Encourage your child to paint over the top of the chalk drawings and see what happens! And, if your child gets more interested in painting themselves with that cold, cold water – so be it. Experiment by doing the activity in reverse – draw with the water and then cover with chalk. Does the chalk look different? What happens with the water? Along with being plain fun, this activity encourages letter and shape recognition.

Sand play dough  – Mix together 2 cups sand, 1 cup flour (you may need a bit more), 1/2 cup water, and a glug of vegetable oil. Mix and kneed the mixture together to create a fund play dough that makes for hours of fun outdoors. And you can leave it in the sun to dry, creating really fun shapes and forms.

Found object sculpture – Have fun with the natural objects in your yard by creating a small structural sculpture using twigs, leaves, or even flowers. Help your tot start by forming a teepee like base using small sticks. Now your child can add to the creation by embellishing with leaves or adding bigger sticks. Creating a balanced form takes focus and concentration! Make sure to take pictures of the finished sculpture to remember the experience.

What’s your favorite summer outdoor activity to enjoy with your toddler? Share a link!



Flower sun prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The last couple of days have been nice and warm at my house, almost as if summer is making its last-ditch effort on some hot, sun-filled days. I figured we’d take advantage and head outdoors to use that sun for an art activity with an end result we would both love.

The sun is hot, and along with offering us warmth and energy, it also has the ability to fade items left outdoors basking it its glow. So using a piece of construction paper as a base for some flowers is a simple way to create a sun print that will remind your child of the long summer days.

This project is super easy and can be accomplished by any age level. Just offer some assistant with the second part of the project if working with younger kids. Start by heading outdoors and collecting any summer flowers that your child thinks will leave a nice print. Once she’s got a nice collection, she can place a sheet of construction paper (any color works fine) in a sun-filed spot that isn’t breezy – you don’t want everything to blow away while the sun is doing its job!

Now she can think about placement of those flowers. Sure, she can plop them down willy-nilly, but encourage your child to think about how the flowers can be positioned to create an arrangement of shapes that move the eye around the paper.

Leave the paper in the sun for at least two hours. Once time is up, your child can carefully lift a flower and check how much the paper has faded. If she’s happy with the results, she can remove, and save, the flowers and then get ready for the next step. Or, if she wants things more faded, let the paper sit for another couple of hours – if you are all that patient!

Create a fun frame for the sun print by glueing together four craft sticks into a square and then positioning and then gluing (or hot gun glueing) the flowers around the craft stick frame. Using a hot glue gun is hot, so offer adult supervision as needed with the older kids if wielding hot glue guns.

Once the frame is dry, invite your child to cut out her favorite section of the sun print and glue to the frame. Tie a length of ribbon or wire to the top corners of the frame and find the perfect place to display. Everyone will remember what a sunny summer it was when they look at the flower sun print art work!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Fine art for kids: Getting messy with Kenneth Noland


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know about you, but this “back-to-school” talk just doesn’t seem right. I see the kids shuffling about with their overloaded backpacks and wish there were a couple more weeks of summer to enjoy. We’re heading back to the preschool in September, so I figured we would take advantage of the time we have left and do some super fun – and messy – art projects.

Kenneth Noland is the last artist that might come to mind when thinking about making a mess. His paintings of circles and other geometric shapes are precise, edged, and clean. A few of his creations venture a bit into the crazy painter arena with some smudged lines and coloring outside the lines. But, for the most part, Noland’s artworks are all about detailed and crisp creations showcasing shapes and lines – mostly circles. And, you know how much we love circles at my house!

The perfect messy art project came to mind while I was gathering up a few random lengths of string. One of Noland’s paintings, Heat, 1958, popped into my head while I pulled out some vibrant tempera paint – and held onto that string.

This is an excellent outdoor art activity perfect for kids of all ages – even the little ones like mine. And you don’t need much to make things happen. A few lengths of string, a couple of paper plates, and colorful tempera paint offer hours of Kenneth Noland inspired fun.

Take a closer look at Noland’s artwork (there’s some funky jazz playing during the slide show – bonus!) with your child and encourage her to point out the colors and shapes she finds, honing her recognition and creative skills. Now grab some white paper, along with the other materials (paint, string, paper plates) and head outside. You might want to bring some paper towels for clean-up if you don’t have access to a garden hose!

Find a nice level spot to get working. A picnic table or even the driveway works perfectly. Help your child put a bit of each color of tempera paint she selected on the paper plates. She can use any colors she likes and then add a few drops of water to thin the paint out for the project.

Help your child place a sheet of paper on your flat work surface and get ready to make a mess! Invite your child to place a piece of string, about 1-foot in length, in each of the plates of color. She can squish the string in the paint, really soak up lots of paint.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now she can lift the paint-filled string from the plate and squiggle and squirm it into a circle on the white paper. She can do this by standing or kneeling over the paper and using her arm to make a big (or small) circle movement while positioning the string.

She can continue sliding strings out of the plates and positioning them until she has a paper full of painted strings. Now she can place a fresh sheet of white paper over the top of her strings, gently give things a bit of a press, and then remove the paper. Now she can lift up the strings, place them back in the correctly colored plate, and check out what’s left behind. Both papers reveal fun and vibrant radiating circles!

While her messy circle Kenneth Noland creation is drying, she can experiment with making more string art in any style she’d like! The finished artworks can be displayed in her room for a pop of crazy color.




Mushroom spore prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While playing in the yard the other day, the tot stumbled upon some mushrooms growing in a happy moist corner of the garden. Yeah, some “wild” mushrooms can be harmful if eaten or even touched, but, these were the safe kind – pretty much what you pick up at your grocery store. But, I wasn’t about to toss them in a sauté pan with some garlic. Nope. I had other plans for those mushrooms.

We carefully picked the mushrooms and then went on a garden scavenger hunt searching out any others. We took our happy little discoveries upstairs and spent a little time taking a closer look at those mushrooms. These fleshy earthy flavored fungi are a favorite of many. And mushrooms aren’t just for slicing and dicing, they can create art too.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Packed inside the delicate gills are tons of spores, which help propagate more mushrooms. And those spores can be turned into a really cool experiment with totally creative results.

Mushroom spore prints.

Hey, if you aren’t up for hunting for mushrooms in your neighborhood, just head to the grocery store and select a few nice big white button mushrooms. They’ll work just fine. After you’ve picked out your mushrooms, invite your child to investigate a little closer with the help of a magnifying glass. Maybe she’ll be able to see a few of those super small spores!

After your child’s taken a nice long look, she can remove the stems of the mushrooms leaving just the nice round caps. Now she can place those mushrooms with the gill side facing down on a sheet of white paper. Help her find a nice spot to place them where they won’t be disturbed for several hours – overnight is perfect.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The next day, invite your child to remove the mushrooms from the paper and check out what has happened. Those spores all released from the mushroom and created a delicate print of the underside of the mushroom! She can cut out one of her favorites and glue onto a sheet of construction paper.

Then she can take things a bit further by writing out the word mushroom under the print in her own handwriting or by using letter stamps, popping two holes at the upper top corners, and then stringing with a length of twine. The spore print is really delicate, so encourage your child to avoid touching – otherwise everything will turn into a smudgy mess, and that’s no fun. You can help protect the print with a spritz of hairspray, which will help stick those spores to the paper.

Now she can display the print in the kitchen for the whole family to enjoy!

Sun melted crayon creation

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know about you, but the sun is shining strong at our house. Sure, we have a bit of start-of-the-day fog, but by mid-morning, our sky is free of any clouds and the sun holds its own high in the sky. The other day while we were outside playing, the tot left a crayon outside, resulting in a big melty mess for me to deal with later in the day. Crayons are mostly oil along with an itty-bit of color pigment mixed in. While I was slaving away cleaning that mess, I got an idea for a fun way to explore the wonders of melty crayons.

Science and art really go hand-in-hand. They both often use the concept of experimentation and sometimes the result is unsure. Artists try new materials to create interesting artworks and scientists write out a hypothesis when testing theories. I figured we could do the same with this exciting summer art experiment.

This is a great project for kids aged 6 and up. You may have to offer a helping hand at some points with the younger ones, but, for the most part, kids can use the basic materials to explore and create all on their own.

Have your child go on a scavenger hunt searching out all those bits of crayons they aren’t interested in using anymore. Once she’s got a good pile, she can prep those crayons for the art experiment.

Offer your child a grater and invite her to shave those crayon bits. She can keep the colors separate or make a big mongo pile of crayon shavings. Either way is totally okay. Grating those crayons helps hone your child’s fine motor skills, but also has the potential to grate little fingers. So, offer adult assistance as needed.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now get out a metal pie pan and line the bottom with a circle of white drawing paper. She can trace around a small plate or bowl and then cut along the line to create a circle that fits perfectly.

Once the round paper is in place, your child can sprinkle the crayon shavings around the paper. She can create a random color creation, or group those crayons shavings in a specific way.

Place that pie pan in a nice hot spot where it will sit in the sun for an hour or so. Invite your child to create a chart using a sheet of scrap paper documenting increments of time and sections for writing results. She can also write out what she thinks might happen with her crayon shaving art experiment at the top of the paper.

Invite your child to come back and check in with her crayon shavings every 10 minutes or so. What happens to the crayons? Is it what she expected? Encourage your child to write her notes on the cart and then hang her finished creation in a window for others to see.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now your child can take the experiment further by exploring what might happen if she uses different materials in the pie pan. Does the experiment work using a circle of tinfoil, waxed paper, or different colors of construction paper? How about if she drew with crayons on the paper instead of sprinkling the shavings? Invite her to try the experiment again but in a different way and see what happens.

Happy Summer!

*Don’t have a nice summer sun? This activity can be done using a 200 F oven, too!

Fine Art for Kids: Pepper prints with Edward Weston


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

There’s nothing cooler than when you look at something in a new way. Edward Weston turned simple things into superior works of art by changing up our idea of perception. Weston was an American fine art photographer taking pictures of just about anything in the 1920’s. His close-up images of various items from nudes to heads of lettuce (really) gained the attention of the art world – and regular people who found his pictures stunning. And let me tell you, Weston’s ability to grab you by your eyes and suck you in is addictive. Once you see one photograph you like, you just want more.

One of his most iconic images is of a pepper. His ability to focus on the graceful angles, curved textures, and light and shadow of the simple natural form proves his talent. I can’t deny that Weston has been a big influence on my interest in photography and inspiration to keep searching for unique ways to turn the norm into something spectacular.

So, the other day when red peppers were on sale two for a dollar, I had an Edward Weston moment. Sure, we could take a couple home and photograph them. But, that’s been done before, right? Instead, we hurried those curvy peppers home and prepared for creating pepper prints.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

This is a simple activity perfect for younger kids aged two to eight. It’s a bit messy, but hey, that’s what art is all about. Older kids could take things further by setting up a pepper still life, just like Weston, borrow the digi camera (or load your actual film camera with some black and white), and take pictures of the peppers before getting printing.

Start by taking a closer look at Edward Weston’s collection of natural studies photography. Discuss all the shapes and lines your child finds and see if she can recognize the object in each photograph. Some of them are a bit tricky! Taking a closer look at artwork encourages your child’s creativity and self confidence.

Now help your child slice a pepper in half. If you picked up the pepper at the store, encourage your child to select one that has an interesting shape to it, which will result in a unique print.

Pour a few drops of black tempera paint on a plate and help your child water it down with a bit of water. Offer her a paintbrush and encourage her to move the paint around the paper plate so the whole base is covered. This way the pepper can be pressed evenly, helping to create a solid print.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Get out a sheet of white paper and get printing! Invite your child to gently press the pepper into the paint, then press onto her paper, and then lift up. Does the print look like half a pepper? She can keep pressing and printing creating a random design or a pattern.

Once she’s finished, check out how other veggie prints look! Slice stalks of celery, cucumbers, onions, or use individual lettuce or cabbage leaves to create artful prints.

Fine Art for Kids: Color mixing with Helen Frankenthaler


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

There’s nothing more soothing than looking at an abstract artwork and letting your mind enjoy playing around with the color, line, and shape of it all. There’s no right or wrong, and that’s the best thing about it. Creating abstract art is second nature to the very young, but can be a bit challenging for older kids that are more apt to want to create realistic representations of the world around them.

Using an artist as influence makes things more interesting – and everybody usually learns something new along with creating a fun and interesting artwork. Color theory isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When teaching high school, just saying the words, “color theory” caused my class to groan with discontent. But, I usually found ways to get them interested – and maybe have some fun in the end.

Helen Frankenthaler is the queen of Color Field painting, a movement that included some of our previous friends like Rothko and Louis. The focus of the Color Field painting style is color and how the colors in the artwork move and stir an emotion in the viewer. Helen Frankenthaler is one of the prominent painters in the arena – and also a woman in a male-dominated art world, which makes her even more awesome.

Frankenthaler pours paint on fresh un-treated canvases, which was also something no one else was doing in the mid 1960’s. Her technique creates moving blobs of vibrant color that snuggle up with each other and sometimes wetly blend and pull into their neighbor. Watching how those colors blend and bleed together to create other colors is an example of color theory and how colors work together. For younger kids, they can learn what colors are made when one is mixed with another and the older set can take things a touch further.

And, there’s nothing quite as fun as making a big mess while creating something artistic – and this project doesn’t disappoint!

Start by helping your child select a couple of colors of tempera paint she’d like to use for creating her color mixing creation. She can pour a small amount of paint into individual small containers and water it down so it is easier to pour.

Before she gets started, take a closer look at Frankenthaler’s work and how she pours paint, creating defined areas of color and also mixed paint areas. For younger kids you can encourage color recognition by pointing to colors and seeing if your child can guess them correctly!

This is a total mess project, so either set things up outdoors in a spot that can be hosed down later, or cover the indoor work area!

Offer your child a sheet of white paper alongside a small dish of water and a big brush. She can coat her paper with water, creating a wash ready for pouring paint.

Now she can begin pouring the paint and exploring how she’d like to position the areas of color. Older kids can manipulate the paper by tipping and pulling the paper, encouraging specific colors and areas of the paper to blend together. Younger kids will enjoy dumping that water-downed paint, which can get a bit messy, so stay close!

Let the color-mixing Frankenthaler creation dry overnight and see how it turned out. What colors did your child create?

© Sarah Lipoff 2011


Fun summer science experiments


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Summer is here, which means hitting the pool, spending time outdoors, and relaxing with friends and family. That doesn’t mean learning something new is out of the question! Kids, and adults, are always looking for something new, interesting, and educational to keep busy and occupied. Why not experiment with some simple and engaging fun summer science projects? With the help of basic materials, creativity, and lots of enthusiastic hands, these fun science projects are a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Science activities should be an exciting way to bring learning and fun together, and these activities do both. Not only are basic scientific method concepts brushed upon, these projects can be easily added to and adjusted for different age levels. It is all about how far you want to take the experience, and how much fun you want to have with science!

Invisible Message on a Paper

The art of secrecy has been around since the dawn of time, and creating invisible ink was just another step in creating ways to get secret messages from one place to another. The idea of sending top-secret information during the American Revolution gained much popularity, causing the mystery of invisible ink to hit the mainstream!

To create your own invisible ink, all that is needed is a liquid acid and some sort of writing utensil. The best and safest option for an acid is lemon juice, and using a cotton swab works wonderfully as a writing utensil.

Your chid can start by squeezing the juice of a lemon into a small container and adding a couple of drops of water. Now he can dip the cotton swab in the mixture and use it to write on a sheet of paper. The message will be visible until it dries and then stay invisible until it is held over a heat source, such as a light bulb.

Invite your child to give the super-secret note to a friend and see if he can figure out how to decipher it. Take the experiment to the next level by trying different colors of paper. What happens if the paper is used with a different heat source, like leaving the paper in the sun?

Bubbling Blobs

The wonders of liquids can be explored with this simple and fun science project, creating the opportunity to discuss different weights of fluids and how they interact. The end result is enjoyable and can be observed for days and days!

Your child can start by filling a washed and dried liter plastic bottle with ¾ cup water. Using a funnel, invite him to add vegetable oil to the water until the bottle is almost full, leaving about an inch of room at the top.

Now your child can slowly drip several drops of food coloring into the mixture and watch as the water, oil, and food coloring mix and separate.

For the final effect, drop half a seltzer tablet into the mixture and see what happens! Alka Seltzer works really well.

Because oil is lighter than water, the water sinks to the bottom, and due to intermolecular polarity, the two do not mix. The fizzing tablet makes everything even more interesting due to its ability to create gas. The activity can be taken to the next level by using different sized containers or oils. Create a chart with the discoveries.

Solid Milk

When one thinks of milk, what comes to mind is a white liquid that is somewhat sweet and commonly poured over morning cereal. But, milk contains ingredients that interact with other elements causing interesting results.

Have an adult help heat 1-cup milk over medium heat until it is warm, but not boiling. Place the warm milk into a mixing bowl.

Now invite your child to measure 4-teaspoons of white vinegar and add it to the milk and then stir for about a minute. Position a strainer in the sink and pour the milk through the strainer.

Investigate what has been left in the strainer. Once rinsed and cooled, your child can squish and squeeze the white blogs together into a form and left to dry for a couple of days.

This activity can be taken to a whole new level by investigating how this fun science activity leads into the cheese making process, and by making a batch of your own cheese in the comfort of your own kitchen!

Summer Flower Fun

Head outdoors for a nature walk with your child searching for white flowers. Daisies work wonderfully for this interesting science project. While on the nature walk, discuss how flowers grow with the help of sun, water, and soil.

Invite your child to find several clear glass containers to fill with water and different colors of food coloring. Now he can put the daisies in the glasses and observe what happens.

Help your child create a chart on a paper to document the science experiment and the changes in the flowers every couple of hours.

After 24 hours, discuss what has happened to each flower helping him mark the changes on his chart. He can also take photographs of the flowers to visually show the results!

Cut flowers pull liquid through their stems and up through the flower’s petals. The water with food coloring changes the colors of the petals, showing how water moves through the flower.

Whether rain or shine, fun summer science projects are a great way to spend an afternoon learning and experimenting. Along with discovering new concepts, these projects offer end results that can be enjoyed over and over!