Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Interview with Bar Rucci of Art Bar Blog!

Our interview last month with Absolutely Mindy was such a big hit that I thought it would be super fun to expand on that idea and feature one person each month who inspires us! One of the things I value most about blogging is the community of people with whom we get to connect -- even if it's only via the inter webs. And I thought it would be great to expose the kids to that and have them get a sense of one bit of how and why we do all these nutty family activities we do. So I showed the kids one of my favorite kiddo art bloggers: Art Bar Blog! Art Bar Blog is written by Bar Rucci, a graphic designer, mom of three, and an art teacher who teaches in her lovely home. I'm constantly inspired by Bar's projects -- the beautiful colors, the simple techniques she uses that produce amazing results, the enthusiasm she has for working with kids. I could go on and on. Instead, I'll share our interview with Bar ....

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Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started blogging? 

"Sure! I started my blog Art Bar in 2012. Actually, I am coming up on my three-year anniversary in April. Yay!!

Before starting Art Bar, I only vaguely knew what a blog was. I read an article in 2011 in a magazine at the dentist’s office about Tumblr. It was really the first time I had heard about blogging.

You see I sort of lived under a rock. I was raising my three kids and working as a graphic designer when they were in school or sleeping. I spent very little time on the Internet, other than doing research for my designs. I didn’t even have a cell phone!

So reading this article about a new platform where you could document your life through photos was a big moment for me. I felt so behind on making my kids’ albums. I not only had boxes of photos that were never going to see the light of day, but now I also had many years worth of digital photos that were just living inside my computer.

I started a Tumblr blog called Lettuce Turnip the Beet. It’s still there, although it hasn’t see much love lately. But this first blog of mine allowed me to figure out my purpose in blogging, and to find my voice. When it was clear that my passion revolved around making art with my kids, that’s when I decided it was time to step up my blogging and start a “real” blog!"  

Cam asked: "My favorite art project that I do with my art teacher is making stained glass. What's your favorite project to do with your kids?" 

"What a great question, Cameron! Making stained glass sounds awesome! If you can believe it, my kids don't really love art as much as I do. My girls are 12 and 15 now, and they are very busy with friends and after school activities and homework. It's really only when they have friends over that they do some art or crafting. Their friends literally can't believe how lucky they are to have all of these art supplies out in the open and at their fingertips!

And my son, who is eight, has only recently started to veer away from art. He is really into hockey (as you know) so he basically only does hockey related things all day and night. Sometimes he'll draw some hockey logos, but that's about all of the art he's making lately.

Luckily there are still a few creative activities that my kids and I do together year after year. Here is my top five list:

1. We make sugar cookies every year for New Years (or sometimes Valentines if we didn’t get to it in December) and it’s the best messy afternoon ever.

2. We always make paper snowflakes in December and January. Little white clippings scatter the floors during those cold, snowy months.

3. Halloween is a time where we all work together to make costumes. Sometimes they are bought, but usually one of my kids wants something homemade (thank goodness!). This year my son and I made him a pizza costume. And one of my favorites was when my daughter was six and we made a gumball machine costume together.

4. We always, always make our own Valentine’s cards, and I absolutely love sitting down with them to create together. It might be my favorite time of the year.

5. We also love vacation art. I usually bring a little bundle of supplies with me on a trip and I set them up and leave them out for the week. It’s amazing how art-making takes on a new life when we are away from home and when the kids have time on their hands. My favorites are when we painted leaves and made paper robots."

I understand your teen and tween need a little more encouragement to art freely these days. That's often a comment I hear from friends about their younger kids as well -- that they don't have interest or won't sit still to create art. What's your best advice for parents in that situation? 

"It’s true! Making art has never been my girls’ first choice, even when they were little. Their passions lie elsewhere.

But I have still always had an art room or art area from the time they were young. Starting at about age three I would put out “invitations” to create. Sometimes it would be a new supply, like maybe a cool spongy brush or rock-shaped crayons, or sometimes just a new shape of paper, like ten really small squares, or a big circle. I kept it simple and just told them that it was there if they were interested. There was no pressure to make anything beautiful, it was all about exploring materials. Sometimes it would last five minutes, but other times they would get into it and really focus and concentrate (those were the best times!).

I think the key is in the set-up. Just put it out and maybe they will come. And if they don’t then perhaps a side-by-side mother-and-child experience would help. Or make playdough together then let them explore that sensory experience by putting out tools like potato mashers, or add some googly eyes. Art may not be their passion, but exposing your kids to creativity in any form has such value in their lives. 

My girls don’t think of themselves as artists, but interestingly their friends do! I think it comes from their exposure to materials and hands-on making. They are the ones in their groups who suggest that they make something instead of buy it, or they are creative in their play or in their problem solving. They recognize beauty and aesthetics and interestingly one of my daughters is really into packaging. She looks at logos and shapes. Most importantly, I feel like they are open to new ideas and new people. They understand that everyone has a passion and they appreciate all types of artistry. It’s pretty cool to see."

We like to do science experiments that have an artistic side to them as well. Cameron would like to know whether you "have any favorite science projects" you do with your kids.

"Hmmm, we don’t really call it science but there are elements of science in so many things that we do. What comes to mind first is making flubber. Have you ever made flubber? We’ve made it a zillion times and it never ever stops being the coolest experiment ever!

We also make domes out of straws, which is all about engineering.

We do spin art ALL THE TIME. In fact, that is one of our favorite summer art camp activities. It’s all about the force of the spin that makes the design.

And each time we use watercolor on new and interesting surfaces and watch the paper absorb the color, I am reminded of the litmus paper in my high school science lab!

Science seems to be a part of so much every-day art making which is really cool."

Kane would like to know, "what do you enjoy most about making art with kids?"

"My favorite part about making art with my kids is the time we spend together. It’s different than cooking with them. When we cook so often my kids fight over who is going to pour or measure, and everything needs to be so precise which sometimes it makes me uptight.

But when we paint together, or collage or cut snowflakes, the art becomes individual and natural without any judgment on my part, so it’s just a happier experience. Sometimes the art-making even becomes the background, so-to-speak. It’s not even about what we’re making anymore -- it starts to be more about just talking and catching up. It’s really a perfect time to listen to what my kids are thinking about."

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I love Bar's suggestions for getting kids interested in art and finding projects that reach her kids' interests while maintaining her own. And I can totally relate to art-making becoming the background experience for simply spending time together. Love it. Thanks so much for sharing, Bar! 

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