Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas P-art-y

We celebrated the beginning of Christmas vacation Friday with a festive Christmas pARTy. Sisters Emma and Lizzy and brothers Garrison and Gavin joined my four children for an afternoon of creative fun. Creative friend Katy Larson applied her artist's touch to design adorable party printables -- including invitations, tags, bunting, bottle labels and treat-bag toppers -- that pulled our theme together with festive flair.

Art studios where groups can gather for art classes have grown in popularity in our area. I loved the idea of letting the children paint canvases together, but a studio party can be expensive. So I decided to gather supplies to lead the children in a simple art project at our house.

A visit to the art section of Hobby Lobby yielded all the supplies I needed to carry out our party. Wrapped canvases would work well for this project, but I opted for the more economical three-packs of 9" x 12" artist canvas panels. Along with our canvases, I purchased one tube each of Amsterdam Standard Series acrylic paint in white (PW6), red (PR23) and green (PY74). Squirted into clear paint pots, our three tubes provided more paint than we needed to complete nine paintings. A variety of craft and art paintbrushes gave the children plenty of options -- different strokes for different folks, right?

Here is an example of a completed painting from our Christmas pARTy. I painted the backgrounds green days before the party, thinning the paint a little with water so the color would not look quite as saturated. I gave the children the choice to paint a Santa hat or stocking -- the designs inspired by the graphics Katy used in our printables. Here is a view of the dining room table, ready for our artists in residence to take a seat.

A green plastic tablecloth topped with a runner of thick wrapping paper (Hobby Lobby) provided a worry-free work surface.

I set each place with painting supplies atop the painted canvas.

Festive bunting, party snacks, art supplies and some of the children's school art projects added an artful touch -- united with polka dots in our bright red-and-green color scheme.

My printer is giving me trouble, so I was not able to re-size Katy's stocking and Santa hat graphics as planned. So I asked Garrison and Gavin's dad to draw and cut out patterns for us on card stock. He did a wonderful job, and the children chose which graphic they wanted to use for their painting. The older children traced their own patterns, and I helped the younger. Then with a squirt of red paint into each child's paint pot, we were ready to get started.

The children were bouncing off the walls when they arrived -- so excited to begin their Christmas vacation. But once their brushes touched the canvas, it was amazing how their energy was channeled into their artwork. As they filled in their stockings and Santa hats, you could hear a pin drop! There is just something so relaxing about the stroke of the paintbrush.

As the children finished their first layer of paint, I collected their canvases to dry on the counter while they took a snack break.

A few simple snacks hit the spot for our little artists. A bottled water at each place gave the children something to drink -- not to be confused with the shallow plastic cups for rinsing paintbrushes. To fit all the food on the narrow sofa table that sits behind our dining room table, I filled a vase with tortilla chips and nestled an ice scoop inside. A bowl of spinach dip provided a colorful complement to the chips. Red velvet cupcakes balanced the salty with sweet, and fresh strawberries provided bright spots of red on the buffet. My "stroke of genius" Friday morning was to thread the strawberries onto extra paintbrushes. I put a dollop of Cool Whip into a parfait glass, added red sprinkles, and nestled the fruit skewers into the "holiday snow."  The children loved this snack, and it only took minutes to put together.

After snack time, the children painted the white accents to their stockings and Santa hats. Their personalities really came through at this point. Some of the children used a foam-tipped brush to add polka dots; others sprinkled the wet paint with a dusting of fine glitter; some opted for a clean and simple look. Once the white paint dried, the children completed their masterpieces by outlining the pictures with a black permanent markers.

Here are our artists in residence making holiday memories.

Santa hats provided a sweet favor. To make these, fill a disposable icing bag with a scoop of red and green candies. Secure the bottom with a twist tie, and cut off the excess bag. Hot glue small pom-poms around the base of the hat and a larger one to the top.

Our guests returned home with a gift bag full of goodies. Cute stocking tins from Hobby Lobby held a sparkly ornament from Wal-Mart to remember our time together. Katy designed adorable Santa hat treat-bag toppers (click the collage to get a closer look) printed with a holiday message on the back from Carson, Christian, Mary Ashley and Emma. Filled with sweet treats, our gift bags reminded our guests how much fun it is to make memories together.

And, of course, the highlight of our afternoon was stepping back to admire our gallery of Christmas artwork. Since the party, I have applied two coats of clear acrylic sealer to preserve our canvases. Here are our masterpieces:

Clockwise from top left: Having a ninth canvas allowed me to paint one as well; Mary Ashley's stocking, titled "Sweet Love" and set aside as a gift for her daddy; Christian's stocking; Carson's Santa hat; and Emma's stocking.

Thanks for joining us for all our Christmas pARTy fun. We had a wonderful time, and I am already thinking about what we will do next year to kick off our Christmas vacation.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." -- Pablo Picasso

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