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Reverse Glass Painting - The Art Equivalent of Comfort Food?

Reverse glass takes a little time, but offers great results.Reverse glass takes a little time, but offers great results.Scribble a heavy black line on white drawing paper and fill the sections with bright colors. Open a new coloring book, take a deep breath to savor the scent of the cheap, toothy paper, and sink into mindless StayBetweenTheLining. Fill the margins of the electric bill with the same cartoony doodles that you've used since the fourth grade while negotiating on the phone. These are all the artistic equivalent of mac and cheese, meatloaf, or chicken noodle soup. None of them (or their fellows - don't tell me you don't have a long, secret line of similar activities) require any new creativity. They're more closely akin to the kinds of reflex actions we employ when washing dishes or driving a car than they are to Real Art. Still, there's a place for comfort in our art palette, just as theBirds were popular choices.Birds were popular choices. occasional dip into foodie comfort is also allowed from time to time.

Some days simply warrant a visit to the familiar.

Such an activity, for me, is reverse glass painting. I was exposed to it during my student teaching year when my eldest daughter's fourth grade teacher led her class through the project. Its most recent appearance was birthed from an overabundance of used frames at my favorite thrift store. The selection of frames had broken out of its usual leaning, stacked bins that are connected to old metal shelving. Odd shapes, garish colors, plastic and wood, Momma Tiger - Art Club VersionMomma Tiger - Art Club Versionsturdy and wobbly, filled with discarded (violently, in some cases, by the quality of the artwork) artwork and stock photos, frames wore some of my favorite prices. As I looked for something interesting, I flashed back to a project I'd done years ago with sixth grade students in a little town south of Albuquerque. I'd shepherded a whole double class full of ten and eleven year olds through a massive reverse glass painting project. My teaching partner, ever the sensible one, nearly had me committed. Oils with sixth graders? Where will you store all those pieces of glass while the paint dries? Are you mad? Yes, everywhere, and again, yes.Proud artist - my favorite flavor.Proud artist - my favorite flavor.

I no longer do projects that require money from children so I bought up all the <$2 frames that met the criteria: wooden, sturdy, removable "innards" and glass face intact. It only took three trips to the thrift store before I had an adequate selection for my fourth and fifth grade Art Club students. I also asked my local flooring store (Thanks, Tuppers!) for a couple of wallpaper sample books for backgrounds and hunted a few more thrift store shelves for small bottles of acrylic paint to add to my ancient collection. (Note: oils really give a nice effect, but storage during drying is a serious issue and the solvents necessary for brush cleaning are And flowers!And flowers!verboten at my level.)

I did a couple of examples to jog my memory on the process and offered the project up as a choice for my early Thursday kiddos. We had a lovely time and the kids were happy with the results.

Self Actualization R Us.Self Actualization R Us.


  • Sturdy frame with glass
  • Acrylic paints or oils
  • Variety of brushes
  • Black India Ink (no substitute - trust me.)
  • Toothpicks
  • Artwork - animals, flowers, landscapes - even non-objective pieces work well. We used pictures from recycled Smithsonian, Ranger Rick, and National Geographic magazines. I know that examples of children's own work would work just as well and be closer to "real" art, but for this first voyage, we went with photographs.


  1. An adult should carefully remove the glass from the frame. It should be thoroughly cleaned and have its edges covered with masking tape to prevent cuts.
  2. Tape chosen artwork to one side of the glass, centering it if it matters.
  3. Using toothpicks dipped in India Ink, trace all outlines and details from the photo/picture. Consider extending lines if the photograph is too small for the frame (we called this "predicting the edges".)
  4. Apply paint after the ink has dried, mixing colors to match those in the original photo.
  5. Allow for thorough drying time.
  6. Choose wallpaper background and cut to fit the dimensions of the glass. That same trusty adult should carefully remove the masking tape and reassemble the frame.
  7. Hand finished work to student and catch pride with the digital camera you keep in your apron pocket.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

Gradebook and Seating Chart - HowTo

Some of the teachers on the TAB Yahoo list were discussing different methods of remembering our students' names and keeping track of their artistic behaviors. I've posted a brief article on the topic. You may reach it either by clicking through the newest piece under Articles (top menu) or via
this link. Enjoy!

One Hundred Reasons I Love My Job: #11-#15

Here is another in my continuing series. Enjoy!!!

Recycling heaven - under temporary controlRecycling heaven - under temporary control

11) Wealth beyond my wildest dreams.

(Note: wealth, as defined by the number of recyclable gifts that come through our studios.)

Yes, keeping an art studio capable of 6.2x10E44 possible art projects stocked and functioning is a 40 hour week all by itself. There's a real possibility that I'm close to the fabled tipping point with my squirreling away of recyclables. Every cabinet in my class is filled. Every corner - who am I kidding? There ARE no corners left. There's one part of the room that used to be a corner in ancient times. It's now the repository of flat cardboard, destined for cutting down into manageable building parts for the 3D center. In that area are also essential extras that we simply can't live without: small sized paper cups, lable-less prescription bottles, clear plastic thingamabobs that make great wheels, flat-folded cereal boxes for medium weight cardboard use, and a thousand extra soda straws. Just in case. Did I mention egg cartons, orphaned socks for future puppets and those great plastic bubble things that protect fragile fruit at Costco? Yep. Rich lady. Me.Proud in his three cornered hatProud in his three cornered hat

12) Sometimes the room breaks out in presidents.

Imagine my surprise when a whole roomful of short, shyly smiling presidents appeared just before President's Day. What a coincidence! Presidents are quite serious about their artwork, is is demonstrated by the quite serious faces that day. There's something about a spiffy three-cornered hat that just lends itself to high levels of decorum.

Presidential play doughPresidential play dough

13) I never know which direction a demo will go.

Contrasting bright colorsContrasting bright colors
In a TAB classroom, we frequently begin the class period with a short (I shoot for five or six minutes - tops) demonstration of a specific technique. Students can choose to do something with it that day, or, if they have other plans in mind for the time, can revisit the topic of the demo during a later session. This week we talked about contrast in paintings. I shared a technique for outlining subjects in heavy black crayon and then laying down thick tempera - while leaving a bit of white between the black crayon and the color. Kids came up with some neat applications.Third graders are studying the Solar System.Third graders are studying the Solar System."That's perfect for doing my name!""That's perfect for doing my name!"

Singing puppets?  Why not!Singing puppets? Why not!

14) Joy.

Like any classroom, we have occasional upsets. Sometimes an issue seeps through from the playground or someone's day is simply too intense to get through art without doing something beastly. But MOST of the time, we have a deliriously good time. I see joy reflected in proud artist faces, in exuberant work, and in kids' reactions to each other. I think they may have figured me out, too. I get several versions of "Gee, Mz. J. You get to do art all day long. Lucky!" I usually smile and say, "Shhhhh. Your other teacher will want my job if he/she hears. Don't tell!"One's first Zentangle is a thing of pride.One's first Zentangle is a thing of pride.

15) Fairy Godmothers (and fathers!) abound.

Our program has recently been gifted with a brand new sewing machine and benefits from steady volunteer help. Thank you, Pat and Paul. Pat brings her projects and sits alongside the older kids, both to help spark ideas, and to show that the love for art never wanes - even after retirement. Miss Nancy comes three or four days a week to help kinderpeople with their art. She began sharing her gentle guidance when her grandson was a kinderartist but has stayed on because she's so fond of short Move over, Frank Lloyd Wright - we're coming after the world of architecture.Move over, Frank Lloyd Wright - we're coming after the world of architecture.people when they're in their creative zones. Thanks, Miss Nancy! LOTS of people cull "artables" as they recycle (western Washington is amazingly green) and bring me cardboard rolls, tidy collections of little boxes tucked into each other, and the aforementioned orphaned socks. This list includes lots of anonymous souls, but there are also regulars like Donna, Step one, build it.Step one, build it.Yvonne, Rachael, Courtney, Conde, Robin, Heather, Karen, the other Karen, and yet another fabulous Karen, Steve, Ron, Kenn, Janis, Merry, and lots of people who just leave gifts outside my door or in my mailbox. Both Sue and Porfirio stop by just to smile at artists at work and to ask questions as they validate kids' efforts, and lotsStep two, get the teacher's attention when she has the camera out.Step two, get the teacher's attention when she has the camera out. of visitors beam their way through our little corner of the school, accompanied by Dr. Warner as he's giving tours related to what we do. Once in a while a visitor will be curious enough to come for a return visit. Voila! The artists at Evergreen have a new friend and advocate!

It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a whole learning community. This is a great one in which to nest.Step three, try out your invention!Step three, try out your invention!

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