Professional Practice

5 New Mediums for the Creatives in Our Lives (Ep. 117)

During the holidays, we are always looking for new ideas. Gifts to recommend, gifts to give, and maybe even gifts to ask for ourselves. In today’s episode Nic brings on a couple of friends and they discuss some of their favorite new materials and best ideas for the holiday season. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Nic: Often around this time of the year, I have parents coming up to me and asking me, “Look, holidays are coming up and I am racking my brain. What can I get for my creative kiddo? You’re the expert. You teach art. What can I give to my kiddo that’s going to be beneficial for them to create at home?”

Well, in the past, I’ve written a blog post that just kind of explains the different mediums that I know are intriguing or interesting to the students of my school, and therefore possibly a good addition to your home. I thought I would go one step farther this time around and make a podcast. This podcast is for twofold. It is for the art teachers that I speak to on a regular basis, the art teachers that listen to this podcast for inspiration, listen to this podcast with the idea of maybe introducing some new mediums into your classroom. Secondly, art teachers, go ahead and share this with the families of your school. If families are looking for ideas, gifts to give their students, this is going to be the perfect place to find new and very, very interesting ideas for their creative kiddos.

We’re going to talk about new mediums and tools to add to your toolkit of creativity. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

One of the first mediums that I recommend when I talk to parents or other art teachers is paint sticks. This is kind of a semi-solid tempera stick inside a casing that’s similar to a glue stick, and it works the same way. You twist the bottom, and the paint comes out in a solid form, just a little bit, like lipstick. What I love about it is that it’s very accessible to many abilities, so if you have beginning hands or more advanced hands, this medium is a lot of fun because it is very bright and bold colors. It fills space very quickly. It dries quickly, like I think within 90 seconds. You can easily get this medium online. Kwik Stix is one brand. Playcolors is another, and I haven’t necessarily found one brand to be better than the other.

There are different shapes to the sticks. Some are longer and taller. I wouldn’t say that they give you a lot more detail, but there’s shorter and thicker ones that are, like I said, kind of that big glue stick size, and that covers a large area very quickly. Artists can create with this bright and bold color. You can get neon, metallic, and classic colors. It’s one that I always put on my list to tell parents and other art teachers because students adore them. They always have fun when they’re using paint sticks.

On that bright and bold idea, I love tempera cakes. Now, I have used the traditional tempera cakes. They are tiny, solid pieces of paint that, when you get it wet, it activates the color and you can use it to paint your paper, so much like you would watercolor. The difference with the tempera cakes is that it is intended to be a more opaque covering. So one brand that I really recommend, I do like this one and I would call out the brand for it, is Jack Richeson. We’ll put that in our links of course, or at least on Mini Matisse blog. And Jack Richeson has semi-moist tempera cakes. I know, not my favorite name, but an amazing product. You can absolutely find on Amazon, but I would recommend going to BLICK or Nasco, one of those companies that host all of the amazing art supplies that you could ever want. Watch out if you go there, because you might get lost on the website.

But these tempera cakes, semi-moist tempera cakes are amazing because you can mix the colors easily on the paper. The boldness of the color is beyond. It is phenomenal. And one thing I’ve been doing in my classroom quite a bit lately is using them with kind of the idea of watercolor techniques. So we’ve been using a coffee filter, getting the coffee filter wet and placing it on a watercolor paper, or at least a mixed medium paper. Place that down in any shape that you want, so maybe just the flat circle, but I kind of wrinkle it up a little bit. Then I take the semi-moist cakes and I paint over the coffee filter, and what that does is the paints mix around on that coffee filter because of the medium itself, it’s so nice to flow, and then it stops at the edge of the coffee filter. So whatever shape the coffee filter is, once you let the paper dry, it stays like that and it gives some really interesting texture.

Anytime that you can offer paints to your students at home or in the classroom, they love it because it’s something different than crayons, and these semi-moist tempera cakes are a really safe and clean way to offer paints to your students.

As you know, I never claim to be an expert at anything. Of course, I have some background, and of course, I have some recommendations and some suggestions, but sometimes it’s not what you know, but rather who you know. I brought on two guests today who are going to give us a quick update on what they would recommend for a new medium in your classroom or for your child.

Hey there, what is your name? Where do you teach, and who do you teach?

Sarah: My name is Sarah Krajewski, and I teach kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary art in Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Nic: Great. What is your favorite medium that you would suggest for anyone, a parent or a teacher, to put on their wishlist for this season?

Sarah: I have some really awesome ideas that I know kids would be super, super into. So in our classroom, we actually make a blacklight gallery every year for the art show, and I would suggest making your own mini version of that for your kiddos. So all you really need is anything that’s blacklight sensitive, so neon oil pastels, neon paper, neon-colored pencils, and then a black light. You can get some really super simple blacklight flashlights from Amazon or somewhere online, and then kind of just fill your kiddo’s basket with something that is bright and exciting, so then they can actually create artwork in the dark or make artwork that glows by using neon stuff and blacklights.

Nic: And then just one more thing on that. What kind of substrate or paper or … What would they add that neon to?

Sarah: So it actually works on many surfaces. You can put it onto white paper. Sometimes white paper glows super, super-bright if it has phosphates in it, and sometimes it glows a little bit duller. So you can kind of test it out a little bit, but you can use any type of paper, black paper. You can do it in a journal or even do it on different surfaces like maybe clay or do it on some sort of fabric. So there are lots of cool neon tools that you can use as long as it’s bright, and then you have a blacklight.

Nic: And then do you have the room dark in order to make that all work?

Sarah: Yup. So you can kind of see it when the lights are on, but if you have a super dark room, then the neon effect shows up a little bit more bright and bold.

Nic: Spectacular. Thank you so much, Sarah.

Sarah: Thanks.

Nic: Okay, I don’t know about you, but even at the age of 40, if I found all that neon stuff and blacklights underneath my holiday tree, well, I’d be pretty excited. Great suggestions from Sarah. We are going right into a second suggestion that I think you’ll be equally as excited about.

All right, welcome, welcome, and what is your name? Please introduce yourself.

Abby: My name is Abby Schukei.

Nic: And you teach where?

Abby: I teach middle school in Nebraska.

Nic: Which I thought was really fun to have you join us today because of a couple of things. I know you have some outside-of-the-box mediums that you like to use, as well as you’re working with a little bit older age group, so you might have a different insight as to what mediums you would recommend for the classroom and then maybe for the creative child at home.

So one that I saw was actually recently on the, what was it? The conference recently in the summer through The Art of Education. Can you tell me what you brought to the table in that session? You brought plenty, but the one that we had been talking about.

Abby: Yes. So we love using 3D pens in my classroom, and it’s a really cool tool, and it kind of has the same feel a little bit as a 3D printer if you’re familiar with that. But students can actually create and draw what they’re building in a three-dimensional way with the 3D pens, so students are in full control of what they’re doing and they’re just a really, really awesome tool.

Nic: Tell me, so let’s say that I’ve never heard of a 3D pen. Can you kind of describe how a student uses it, what they need to make it work?

Abby: Yeah. So it’s kind of just, it’s kind of like a mechanical pencil but a lot bigger and you need to plug it into … It needs to have an outlet, an energy source, and instead of having graphite led inside of it, you actually have a plastic filament that it heats up. And then once it’s hot enough, there’s a little button on it, then the plastic actually extrudes through and you can create anything. It’s so amazing for problem-solving and critical thinking, and it really allows students to see how they can take something two-dimensional and bring it into real life, into three-dimensional. One of my favorite things about it that I tell my students is you can draw in thin air and it’s amazing.

Nic: Yeah, that’s cool. So I know what you’re talking about with that, and that is amazing, but you used it for a project in your classroom as well that was kind of mind-blowing to me. Can you talk about the cookie cutters?

Abby: Yes, so that’s one of our favorite ways to use them. We use them for a variety of things, but in one particular class, we just did a simple contour drawing of actually a portrait, and then students would use that as a template, and they traced around with the 3D pen on their drawing, and then they created a 3D printed cookie cutter and we used special cookie dough that was no rise cookie dough so that we could really get the form of the face, and we actually cooked them, and some of them even decorated them. We ate them, and it was awesome.

Nic: As far as in your classroom, are you using this in a normal classroom setting or like in an arts camp? How do you do that?

Abby: So, I’m using it just in a normal classroom, and I actually only have five of them in my classroom, and so it works really well for a little rotation with students to use, but you can totally make it work in a classroom setting.

Nic: Can you talk a little bit to the filament that you’re purchasing as well as the price of the gun itself?

Abby: Yeah, so there’s a variety of options, and my favorite company that I like to work with is 3Doodler, and they have a variety of models. There’s a more beginner one and there’s a more advanced one. And actually, if you go to their website, you can get a starter kit. It’s a kit that has a special teacher discount for you if you just like aren’t really sure about it. But there are two types of plastic. There’s the ABS plastic filament and the PLA plastic filament, and depending on the type of pen that you’re using is going to depend on the filament that you order. But overall, if you’re just having a few of them, it’s definitely an affordable technology device to have in your classroom or even at home.

Nic: Awesome. All right, so if a student’s using it at home, they have free range. Do you have any recommendations for a kiddo that is using it at home besides the cookie cutter?

Abby: Oh, yeah. So you could create so many different things. I’ve had students create glasses before. Now, they’re not functional glasses. I mean, like with actual lenses, but there’s also so many different things. I had a student create a lantern that went over on their holiday lights. They made a bunch of spheres with the filament, and it created these really cool globe-like lanterns that he added onto the holiday lights around his home.

Nic: Oh, my gosh.

Abby: So anything that you want to build, students can create at home, at school, and the possibilities really are endless.

Nic: Great. Great suggestion. Thank you so much, Abby.

I have only had the opportunity to use a 3D printing gun one time. It was pretty darn fun. I was at a conference and I got to give it a try. I think I would definitely enjoy receiving one of these for the holidays as well. Maybe this shouldn’t be a podcast for art teachers and parents, but more for my husband and children to purchase for me. I don’t know. Just thinking.

Anyways, one of the ways that I heard about Abby’s amazing 3D printing gun is by attending the summer Art Ed Now Conference through The Art of Education University. As many of you probably know, they have a bi-annual conference. Our next one is going to be winter 2020 on February 1st. It is not too early or too late to sign up, people. Those conferences are phenomenal, and if you are one of the first, I can’t give you the number, I don’t know, thousand or 1,500, something like that, art teachers to sign up to go to that conference, they actually send you a swag box. So you know when you go to a conference and you walk through and you get the pamphlets and every once in a while you get a freebie? Well, this is 10 times better because you get this package in the mail. You open it up not knowing what you’re going to receive, and it has been some amazing products.

In fact, it’s the last medium that I want and introduce to you I received in a swag box. It was from a company called OOLY, that’s O-O-L-Y. I think they call it OOLY. And it was a pack of watercolor paints. It was called Chroma Blends, Chroma Blends, and it was this pearlescent, absolutely gorgeous palette of colors. Not only did it work beautifully on typical watercolor papers, so I would recommend if you’re going to purchase some watercolors to get some watercolor paper as well, but with this pack, go ahead and get some black paper to give to your students or to your child as well because this pearl watercolor works on black paper beautifully, like really, really stunning. I loved it.

So I have mentioned three different kinds of paints for sure. We are talking about neon everything with black lights and even some technology with the 3D guns. My goodness. If you don’t have some ideas or ways to move forward on your favorite gift list for your favorite creative at home, I don’t know what else to give you. Guys, this is it. Some great ideas here.

All right, guys, I gave you the five amazing suggestions that you can purchase for your classroom or for your young creative in your life, but I’m going to give you a bonus one. This is my absolute favorite suggestion that I give to every parent who asks, “What can I get my little creative for the holidays, for their birthday? What can I get them?” I always suggest tape, cardboard, toilet paper towel rolls, the cardboard in the center. Maybe some tagboard. If you’re adventurous, get your kid a glue gun, one that they can use on their own. Get them a box cutter and a cutting mat to use it on. Don’t just say, “Go create.” Teach them how to use that box cutter in a safe way. Teach them how to use a glue gun so that they don’t have to ask for adult assistance, but better yet, create with them. That is the number one best gift that you can give another creative. Sit down and make with them. If you’re an art teacher, sit down and make with them. If you’re a parent, sit down and make with them.

All right. We’ll chat with you again next week. Thanks for listening this time around.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.