Inspire

To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible! Here we will post all things inspiring: Artists, authors, music, movies, quotes, and whole lot more.

Gift Guide // Top 10 Basic Art Supplies


Gift Guide // Top 10 Basic Art Supplies

I teach art to small children in my house. Every week I set up new art experiences and carefully pick out my materials. I often get asked by moms which materials they should buy to create their own art area at home. This question always gets me excited for two reasons: 1) Maybe I’ve influenced them to keep the creativity flowing at home! And 2) I’m a huge advocate of keeping things simple. Kids don’t need much to keep them happy and busy.

This list is really the bare necessities. I kept it to 10 to keep the costs down and to minimize stress! However, I did include a few extras at the end, I couldn’t help myself.

basic paper to stock for your home art area

PAPER

The first thing your art area needs is paper. I use sulphite paper in art class. It’s a little bit denser and the colors are more vibrant than construction paper. It holds paint beautifully. I would suggest getting the 12″ x 18″ size in white, and then the 9″ x 12″ colored. You could always cut the white down and I find that larger paper encourages them to draw big!

white sulphite paper // colored sulphite paper

basic paints to stock for your home art area

PAINTING

You can’t have an art area without paints! In art class we use paint almost every day. I love watercolor palettes and this brand is my favorite. Teaching them to use watercolor is one of my first lessons: Wet your brush then count to 10 as you swish it in circles on a color. It’s important to tell them that they need lots of water! As for tempera paints, there are so many different brands and colors. I use a variety of brands, usually whatever is on sale. Although some are definitely more watery than others (I prefer a thicker more opaque paint), you are pretty safe with just about anything. To stock your art area you will just need the basics – three primary colors and white. I mix colors for my classes using mostly these four. But I also LOVE gold and neon paints. Mix the neon paints with a teeny bit of white to give you a more opaque consistency.

watercolor paints // tempera paints: red, yellow, blue, white, gold , neon

basic drawing materials to stock for your home art area

DRAWING

This category was the hardest to pick. There are so many great drawing materials out there! But the two that my kids gravitate to the most are colored pencils and markers. These are the work horses of drawing materials. You could really choose any brand of colored pencils and not go wrong. I chose these because they were relatively cheap on Amazon. As for markers, I do find that Crayola markers last the longest. Plus…these are scented! Your kids could spend 20 minutes just sniffing, I swear. Mine do!

colored pencils // markers

basic art supplies to stock for your home art area

GLUING + CUTTING

I literally agonized over which glue to represent here. Glue stick or Elmer’s? Both are used all the time in art class and with my own kids. (In fact, glueing and cutting might be a 4yr old’s all time favorite activity!) But I’ll tell you why I went with glue stick: It’s less messy, easier for little kids, and doesn’t need a day to dry. I love this brand the best, they really work well. As for scissors, my favorite is actually from Ikea. These are a close second.

glue stick // scissors

basic art supplies to stock for your home art area

BRUSHES + COLORED TAPE

These two don’t really go together, but I consider them essentials. This brush pack is the best value. I’ve bought many of these packs over the years. I really also love Ikea brushes if you are ever there. And tape…I could go on for years. WE LOVE COLORED TAPE!! My little students just love ripping and cutting tape. They make beautiful “drawings” just with tape. Tape is a must!

paint brushes // colored tape

5 BONUS ITEMS:

These materials were left off the list, but barely. You might already have some of these in your home so just bring them on over to the art shelf!

Elmer’s glue // pencil sharpener // stapler // crayons // scotch tape

You can literally create hundreds of projects with these simple materials. Here are a few that I’ve done that use no more than what I’ve listed (except for some recycled materials…I am a huge cardboard fan!)

cardboard paintings // small paintings // scrape painting // puffy hearts // invitation to paint // cardboard animals // sunburst paintings // scrap paper collage

In my next post I’ll tell you about my top 10 basic crafting supplies. That one will be REALLY fun. Think…pom-poms!

xo, Bar

 

13 Halloweens


13 Halloweens

Warning: Halloweens make me cranky.

When we celebrate Halloween this Friday, it will be my 14th one since becoming a mom. Every year I moan about it. Do I really have to retrieve that box of crap in the attic with all of the witches and skeletons? Do I really have to drape spider webs over the bushes and scatter the yard with tombstones? How do people even like this holiday? Black and orange aren’t anywhere close to a pretty color combo.

And most tiresome of all…what are my kids going to BE for Halloween?? The conversations start early, like in August when the Halloween catalog appears in the mailbox. But I’ve learned my lesson not to buy (or make) costumes too early. Kids change their minds, don’t they.

The first Halloween with our new baby daughter, I made her a cow costume. The photos are somewhere in an album, taken with a real film camera. I’m pretty sure we stayed at my mom’s during the trick-or-treating hours so that little baby girl could sleep undisturbed by noisy doorbell ringing. Those were the days! No decorations to put up or take down. If not for the little cutie pie cow, it’s like Halloween never happened.

Then she was two, and I don’t remember what she was. At three, her baby sister was born. Again, not sure if we did any trick-or-treating. I still think I might have been able to pretend it didn’t exist.

Then she was four. Four-year olds talk to other four-year olds. She started asking about Halloween, and so it was all over. No more pretending it didn’t exist. Bring on the cavities!

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

She wanted to be a princess, so I made her a beautiful Cinderalla costume. I bought shiny blue satin, sequins, tulle. It was quite magnificent. We gathered as a neighborhood, all of the little kids in their adorable costumes. It was 4:30pm, just before it would get dark (daylight savings time). As we were about to move as one big unit to knock on the first door, my daughter decided to run inside to change. CHANGE?! I totally acted cool because that’s what I was supposed to do. But seriously, I spent like 83 hours sewing her costume, gluing on sequins. I wanted to lecture my four year old, if you must know the truth. And badly. She came back down in some polyester piece of garbage from Toys-R-us. Whatever! Lesson learned. Spend minimal time on costumes, and leave it until the last minute.

{Photo above of my second daughter wearing a costume made by me, the only other one I ever sewed again.}

trick-or-treat

I should say here that Halloweens in our neighborhood are epic. Picture a cul-de-sac with houses close together in the center of town. It is a mecca for all of the people outside of town with their four acre properties and no neighbors. Without exaggerating one bit, we have about 450 kids come knocking on our door each year. (Now you might understand my need to flee those first few years.)

Each year after that Cinderella fiasco, I learned to embrace Halloween more and more. How could we not? We would make it a party with beer, wine, hot toddies, chili, pumpkin muffins, crafts. And TONS of candy. So much candy that I just had to let go and accept the fact that I would not be able to control my kids. I didn’t know what they were eating because most of the time I didn’t know where they were!

Some years the costumes were made (bubble gum machine, Annie), some years they were slapped together the hour before (worker guy, cowboy, mini me), but more and more they became store bought. I embraced this, too. Less work for me! And another addition to the dress-up closet, which was becoming legendary.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

Even my husband and I dressed up from time to time. Bjorn Borg and Billy Jean King, if you’re wondering.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

Pumpkin carving became a family affair, and every year I felt the need to out-do myself. Our house was becoming known for the artistic pumpkins. With 450 people each year, the word was out.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

I scoured the internet for the best vintage decorations. I went with a Star Wars theme one year which we used over and over again for, like, five years. Star wars stayed around for a loooong time. (How cute is little Han Solo?)

So here is the clincher: We moved. We no longer live on the most famous street in town. We now live in a house that has no neighbors. It’s a rented house that has only one outside light. It’s old, very old. It’s actually….well, kind of creepy. The perfect house for Halloween.

If I’ve learned anything over these fast thirteen years it’s that KIDS LOVE HALLOWEEN!!! My own three would be heartbroken if that box stayed in the attic. They never want to stop being a kid, they want to dress up forever and eat candy like there is no tomorrow. How can I end this now?

I have not decorated yet. But I will. I will do it while they are in school. I’ll surprise them. I will buy candy and put it in a big basket, even though we won’t have anyone come knocking. I’ll fill the house with the smells of apple cider and chili. I think this year it will be more important than ever to keep the traditions alive.

I wonder if nostalgia will drive me to decorate even after the kids have moved out? It’s ironic that my least favorite holiday might some day be the one I can’t let go of. Or at least, the one that will fill me with the most happy memories.

In truth, Halloween lives on as the best holiday because of one reason: the photos! Every year there is that one photo that tells a thousand words. The pacifier in my sons mouth, the snow on the ground, the two lost teeth, the year Halloween was canceled! It’s impossible to look at Halloween photos and not smile.

Time to go to the attic.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

xo, Bar

PS: To find out what my kids will be wearing, or if I stay true to my promise to decorate this creepy, old house, follow me on Instagram. My other happy place.

 

Typography: 10 Tips for your Blog Photos


Typography: 10 Tips for your Blog Photos

I am a font snob. It’s true. As a graphic designer, I am a total geek about typography. I even read type journals. People who design fonts are rock stars in my world. The reason I love fonts so much is because they are the foundation of good design.

Sometimes I get asked how I choose fonts for my blog photos, and what are my go-to tricks. My usual answer is that I wish I had tricks! Typography is an art form to me. There is no easy way to lay type over a photo. It’s as hard for me today as it was when I first started out. It takes time. But you can build your confidence with practice, and you can learn to make the right choices. It’s all about developing your eye for design.

{Yes, I ended both of those paragraphs with the word design. It’s my most important message here.)

There is a reason I’m interested in elevating the quality of your work…so I can pin it! I am pretty picky about what I curate for my Pinterest boards. I see so many amazing projects that are ruined by type. Sorry, I hope I’m not being mean. It’s just that…well, there is room for improvement!

So here we go… Blog Typography 101. My ten tips that will help you make better choices and put you on the path to good design.

start with a good photo composition ~ then you don't need any type

Tip 1: just say no {to fonts}

Let’s be clear. The only reason any of us put type on our photos is to make it stand out on Pinterest. So people will pin it. Because they can see it, in theory. But here’s the interesting thing, I believe that pins without type actually do better than pins with type.

My best pins this month have no type on them at all. In fact, they aren’t even necessarily my main post photo. Above are four of my best pins lately:

painted leaves // weaving with kids // cardboard paintings // animal templates

Except for the leaves, none of these were the main photo in my post. Here is the reason they work so well without type: because they speak a thousand words. The colors and composition are pleasing to the eye, and there is nothing more to say.

TAKEAWAY ~ Use type for two reasons only:

1. If you need to explain a bit more about your photo. If your photo is of a child running down a beach and your post is about sensory processing issues by the shore, then you should add type.

Or…

2. If your photo would just look cool with the added design element of type. Then go for it! The only reason I use type is to add to the design.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Tip 2: fonts are people too {make good choices}

You’ve decided to put some type on your photo. Time to pick a font! I bet you have a few that are your “go to” choices. The ones you feel comfortable with. Well, I am here to tell you to stop using those fonts! They are boring. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone a bit and start being creative.

Every font has a personality. Like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. It’s your job to figure out which one goes best with the tone of your photo. This is actually the most important job, and the part that takes the longest. I can’t teach this because it just takes practice and intuition. But I can share with you my thought process.

Above are four images with type. Here is why I chose the fonts and the colors that I did, and the name of the font that I used.

Washer Necklaces: I loved how the necklaces looked a bit rustic on the kraft paper, and how you could see the nail polish left on the paper. To me, it called for a stencil font, something with a rough, handmade feel. This one is called Portago. I paired it with a more modern font called Monod Brun. It’s good to have a ying and a yang when pairing fonts. The colors I chose reflect the middle three washers, creating a very satisfying design because of the balance.

Bird Nests: There was a perfect space above the nest, but it was at a weird angle. So after trying type straight across, I decided to put it sideways. The type isn’t really needed anyway, it’s just a design element so having it go sideways is cool and ads to the aesthetic. I chose another stencil font called Hogwild (not quite as rough), and a cleaner script called Pacifico. I used colors from the nest to create balance.

Watercolor Garland: I love this post, it is one of my favorites of all time. The work that these 4-yr olds did was so amazing and free. I loved the garlands on their own, but I did want to add some informational words at the top. Not to distract from the beautiful garlands, I chose to make the font very clean and subtle, all caps and in white so it almost fades away. This font is called Orator. I also hand drew little circles at the sides just to loosen it up a bit.

Weaving with Kids: This photo did not need a title, I just wanted something fun to add to the photo because it just looked too plain. The font is Peach Milk, and I used the colors from the weaving to create balance, and decided on a curved placement to create movement and interest.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Tip 3: follow my lead (10 hard and fast font rules)

1. Figure out the tone of your photo. Is it happy, serene, playful, serious, goofy? Once you figure out the mood, then you can start selecting your font.

2. Keep a list of your “go to” fonts (some new choices, take it out of your comfort zone). I have about 10-15 that I use the most, which are a mix of simple and playful.

3. Use script sparingly. It’s harder to read.

4. Just because your post is for or about kids doesn’t mean you should use kinder fonts. Child handwriting fonts are one of my biggest pet peeves. It degrades your hard work and it’s generic. And please, no Comic Sans.

5. Use black prudently. I use almost no black for fonts, but my photos are very colorful and kid-oriented. I like black, don’t get me wrong, but don’t have it be the only color you use because you’re afraid to try other colors. Embrace color!

6. Don’t use fonts on a photo that already has words. I made a birthday banner, it already says “Happy Birthday”. I don’t need more fonts.

7. Pair two fonts together (but not more than two). Mix and match. It adds interest and makes some words stand out more than others.

8. Learn a few font vocabulary words, like serif, sans serif and display. (Read this helpful article on fonts for starters.)

9. Apply for rich pins through Pinterest. This allows your logo, profile name and post title to display under your photo. Once you have this tool, it becomes redundant to put type on your photo with the same heading. Rich pins keeps you disciplined. You will rarely even have to worry about typography!

10. Less is more. Don’t add long sentences to your photo, just a few key words. Let your post title and description do the talking. (This is where rich pins are so important.)

fonts are the foundation of good design

Tip 4: you get what you pay for {free fonts vs. paid}

I did a somewhat loose survey of font usage within my blogger community. It turns out that about 85% of bloggers use free fonts. Bloggers who are also graphic designers are about the only ones who buy fonts. I guess this makes sense. I mean, why not choose something that is free?

As someone who pays for most fonts, I do have a position to take on free vs. paid.

Think of fonts as tools. Wouldn’t you rather use a good tool than a bad one? Your tools determine your level of design. Paid fonts have more characters, like math signs or ampersands (glyphs), and they have better kearning (the space between the letters) and spacing. Their edges are more rounded, which makes it look better when small. With a paid font, your risk of looking “generic” (because everyone has free fonts) is much lower. And at the very least, you are supporting designers when you buy a font.

In fact, you could even go further as ask… why pay for photographs when you have Google? Why pay for music when it’s free on the web? Why pay a designer when there are many websites who will design your logo for peanuts? The point is this: Paying for fonts elevates your design.

With that in mind, I do download free fonts from time to time. Not very often, but sometimes I like what I see.

Bottom Line: Try buying a font or two. Mix it up. Some free, some paid for. It will make you feel like a real designer! And sometimes, what we really need is a new attitude before we can accomplish great things. Fake it ‘til you make it!

(See Tip 10 for font resources.)

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Five: the eye has to travel {design is everything}

The 2011 movie about Diana Vreeland, the famous Harper’s Bazaar magazine editor, was called The Eye has to Travel. I love this phrase and I want you to love it, too. Let it be your mantra from now and forever. This phrase is about design. Design is everything.

But what does design mean? When I was in art school, the one word used above all others when talking about design was balance.

Balance.

You know good design when you see it. Yes, you do! Whether it’s a smart phone, a car, or an old-fashioned soda bottle, we all have the ability to see the difference between good and bad design.

Take this one step further into two-dimensional design, and it gets a bit murkier. From blog pages and ads, to invitations and magazines, we are bombarded with images from every angle. It gets harder and harder to sort through the noise. But when we find something that is designed well, we will stop and stare and appreciate the beauty.

When you appreciate beauty, as we all do, you are tapping into your own taste and aesthetic. Developing that eye for design is something that takes time, but you can start by noticing what you like and what you find beautiful in what you see every day.

Notice that when your eyes land on something aesthetically pleasing, there is always a resting spot. And then your eye brings you around, and then it rests again. There is something there, something that makes you continue to stare. I am here to tell you that this something is balance.

When you love the way something looks, it’s because the balance is perfect.

Above are four photos from my blog where I added type specifically to create balance. Usually, I find a space and then use that space to reflect a shape or color from the photo. I will also share the font name with you.

monster patches (Limoen & Papercute) // cardboard animals (Ever After & Papercute) // ice cream cones (Tire Shop) // pom-pom napkin rings (Orator)

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Six: shape up! {shapes are your friend}

When in doubt, add a shape and put some type in it. But don’t be reckless. I almost want to reach out and shake people sometimes when I see a giant shape covering their whole photo with big type all over it. This is not what I mean. No, no, no!! When I see this it tells me that this person either didn’t like their photo, or couldn’t find the right photo. It’s like when I turn my cell phone on in the middle of the night…I’m blinded! Definitely don’t write big words all over your photo. For me, as a devour-er of Pinterest, it makes me not even look at that pin. I will be scrolling away, and fast.

What I am talking about is using shapes aesthetically, to draw your eye in and to create a pleasing composition. Maybe you want to repeat a color that is at the bottom of your photo and you have a nice space at the top. Or maybe your photo needs a punch of color.

I personally like my shapes to disappear off of the edge. I don’t do that all the time, but more than half of the time I do. (I will put shapes in the middle for collages, read more about collages and round-ups in Tip 8). I also will make sure that the font doesn’t crowd the edges.

I usually draw my own shapes, but I also download some dingbat fonts which are helpful when I’m feeling like I’m in a rush. Visit my Fonts & Dingbats Pinterest board for ideas.

Here are the fonts I used for these photos:

pencil eraser art (Papercute) // bird garland (Papercute) // henna hands (Veneer & Pacifico) // scrape painting (Peach Milk)

Seven: composition is king {photography tips}

Taking good photos comes before anything. For a good marriage between type and photos to work, you must have an idea of composition, styling, and lighting. Top of my list is composition, because if you have a totally awesome composition…you don’t even need to add type!

I have teamed up with my fellow Rockin’ Art Moms so that we can give you the best, most well-rounded advice on taking photos and adding type. There are so many elements to consider in photography!

The Rockin’ Art Moms (RAMs) are 16 mom bloggers who believe in the power of creativity as a necessary part of family life! We developed this blog series in response to a question we hear often: “How did you take such a great picture?” Each RAM participating in the series will be speaking about a different photo related topic.

Find all of the RAM links at the end of this post.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Eight: round ‘em up {type on photo collages}

Ok, this one needed lots of examples. The following points are my own guidelines for creating collages and adding type. There are lots of successful bloggers who get tons of repines and traffic to their blog making collages in a way that I wouldn’t. For me, and also for you now that you’ve read this far (you’re almost done), it’s about design and aesthetics, not about creating an ad and getting a message across.

~ Most round-ups are put together like a patchwork quilt, square or rectangular photos fit together like a puzzle. Make sure you create a white border in between each photo, and that this border is a consistent size. It should be an equal white border in between each photo.

~ One way to find space for your type is to create a block of color, instead of a photo, as one of the collage “patches”, as in the Paint Chips example above. In this collage, I also used blocks of color in some spaces. This is a good trick when the photos are not fitting together very well. Use the extra space as a design element.

~ Another way to make space for type is to add a block of color on top of your collage, as in the Leaves and Etsy posts above. Make sure to not crowd your type inside your block of color. I just think it’s more pleasing to the eye to have a lot of color around your type. A place to rest your eyes.

~ A third way to place type on a collage is to create a fun shape, like a banner or a circle. This more whimsical approach, like in Princess Castles and Paperbag Crowns, is just fun and creates a mood.

~ A super cool (albeit time consuming) way to make a collage round-up is to “tape” or “scrapbook” photos onto a neutral background. I have done this several times and it’s very eye-catching and makes a statement. The Easter Eggs post was one of my faves.

~ Still another idea for a round-up is to use only four photos from your list of 10 or 20, and then create a block of color on one side where you can add your type. I did this with a Wall Murals post, and also a Book Nooks post.

~ One other thing that I do sometimes is I don’t add any type at all, just some numbers. I let the rich pins title do the talking. And the numbers act as a design element. You can see this example with my Pop of Color post.

~ Try not to just add a block of black or white to the top of bottom of your collage and add type there. I know it’s the easiest, but it’s not the best. Try and integrate your type more with your collage so that it looks like it has been cared for and designed well.

~ On that same note, try not to add a big band of white space in the middle to put your type. It makes the image choppy with photos above and below.

~ Try not to clog your collage with tons and tons of type. Less is more. The photos will speck for themselves. And…if you have rich pins, you won’t need to repeat every word of your title in your collage.

~ I have a new pinterest board that I started called Round-ups & Collages where I am curating the best collages I’ve seen on Pinterest. This board will be a good reference for you when working on your collage.

if you have a great photo composition you do not need type!!

Nine: don’t mess with me {remember rule #1}

Ok, this is technically not a new tip. But I feel so strongly that most photos do not need to be messed with that I had to re-iterate my first point. Here are four more photos that I chose not to add type to that have done very well on Pinterest.

weaving with kids // poppy art // snowflake table runner // cardboard castles

I’m feeling uncomfortable at this point with all of this self-promotion. I am not the queen of everything and I certainly have had some flops. But I think that the more examples I can give you, the more you can learn.

many helpful tips for creating memorable and pin-able photos

Ten: a pep talk {and resource guide}

You can do it! You can do it! It’s hard, there is no denying this fact. But typography is soooo satisfying when you get it right. Just remember these three things, if you remember nothing else:

1. The eye has to travel. Make sure you leave some space for the eye to rest. Don’t make it too busy.

2. Balance is the key to good design.

3. Less is more. When in doubt, leave it out.

And now, here are some links that will help you tremendously:

MAKE BETTER BLOG PHOTOS: Tips for Creating Memorable and Pin-Able Photos brought to you by the ROCKIN’ ART MOMS:

Photo Editing: Ana from Babble Dabble Do

Composition: Meri from Meri Cherry

Styling: Gina from Willowday

Lighting: Jeanette from Tiny Rotten Peanuts

Backdrops: Melissa from Mama Miss

(Follow Rockin’ Art Moms on Pinterest….we have a really cool board that is sure to fill your lives with tons of creative ideas.)

FONT SHOPPING:

Paid FontsMy Fonts This is where I shop. I love it the best because you can type in your word or phrase and then all of your searches will be with that sample text. This is such a helpful tool, I can’t express it enough!! // Font Spring  // FontFont

Free Fonts: Font Squirrel // DaFonts

PINTERST BOARDS FOR FONTS, PHOTO STYLING, and COLLAGES:

Fonts & Dingbats (my board) // Font Obsession // Fonts // Type & Lettering // Photo Styling // Round-ups & Collages (my board)

OMG, that was really too long. Hopefully it will help those of you who want to be helped!! Ask me any questions.

xo, Bar

{PS: As if there is more to say…but actually, there is! Follow me on Instagram where you can see my creative ideas percolating.}