Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Art Lab for Kids 
52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media – For Budding Artists of All Ages
By Susan Schwake

Trim: 8.25 x 8.75
Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 275
Format: Flexibound
SRP: $22.99US/$24.99CAN/ £15.99UK
ISBN-13: 978-1-59253-765-5
ISBN-10: 1-59253-765-0
Pub Date: February 1, 2012
From the Quarry press release:
"Art Lab for Kids will bring out your own creative style and voice with 52 fun, refreshing, and creative art projects that are great for children and set into weekly lessons. The exercises include drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media. Such open-ended lessons as these can be explored over and over – with different results each time! Each lesson is inspired by the work of a contemporary artist, including:

Rebecca Emberley
Lisa Congdon
Megan Bogonovich
Amy Rice
Georgia O’Keefe
Chuck Close
And author, Susan Schwake

Colorful photographs illustrate the step-by-step process of how different people using the same lesson will yield different results, bringing out each artist’s personal style. Great for children and their parents who wish to explore their artistic sides!

This is the perfect book for creative families, friends, and community groups and works as lesson plans for both experienced and new art teachers. Children of all ages and experience levels will enjoy these engaging exercises!

Susan Schwake is an art instructor in her own art school, where she has created her own curriculum and offers workshops and retreats most every day of the year with her adjunct teaching staff of three. Her vision to teach and share art on her own terms has grown into artstream studios, which includes a contemporary gallery, and a full media design firm. Susan has curated over 70 shows in her gallery and 50 shows of children’s work in her local area. She lives in Rochester, NH. Visit her online at and"

Many of you may not know that I have an after-school art program for elementary age kids. We meet once a week to work in our visual journals, try new art and craft techniques and generally just have a an limit-free space to explore our creativity.

So when Quarry Books emailed me a press release for Art Lab for Kids and asked if I would like to review I jumped at the chance. After three years with a lot of the same students I’m always looking for new lessons to spark their inner artist.

Art Lab for Kids is the latest in Quarry’s Lab Series of books that include:
Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim
Collage Lab by Bee Shay
Print & Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers
Jewelry Lab by Melissa Manley
And coming in December 2012:
Drawing Comics Lab by Robyn Chapman

The book is divided into 6 units: How to Use this Book and Make Art with Others, Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media. The first unit covers how to set up a studio, a master list of supplies and tools, setting the stage for creativity and so on. Units 2 through 5 each then contain 10-11 “labs” that explore a project within a certain medium. Schwake says, “The Labs are set up loosely to build skills upon the previous ones; however, you may begin anywhere. Each Lab is a stand-alone project.”

Each lab starts with a “Think First” section explaining what you’ll get from that lesson and a helpful hint or two. A materials list is included as well as detailed instructions and clear photographs for each step. Then students are encouraged to “Go Further” with different ways to use the technique they learned. The lab concludes with a “Meet the Artist” section that highlights information about the artist who contributed that particular lesson. Most of them also include quotes from the artists about how and where they get inspiration, something I find endlessly fascinating.

As someone who has been making art for over 25 years I didn’t find any groundbreaking techniques. But (and this is a big one) the lessons are so nicely put together and illustrated that this book is a must for any creative kid. Many of them will be new to those just starting out and occasionally one of the labs puts an interesting spin on a classic standby. Once set up, most of them can be done without a lot of supervision. Also, there are times that I am just plain stuck for an idea and I know that this will be the book I pull off the shelf first to help me.