Susan Schwake is an artist with over two decades worth of experience teaching in a diverse number of educational settings, running her own art school and creating and curating a permanent installation of children's artwork for a new wing of her local library. As a bookseller, I was immediately drawn to her first book, Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper and Mixed Media because well written, visually appealing art books for kids are rare. As the title tells you, Schwake covers a lot of ground in this book. Even more rare are good art books for little kids. Happily, Schwake has also published Art Lab for Little Kids: 52 Playful Projects for Preschoolers. All three of Schwake's books, Art Lab for Kids, Art Lab for Little Kids and 3-D Art Lab for Kids are highly readable. From the layout to the photography (done by Schwake's husband) to the text, these books are very engaging and highly readable. Both books are divided into 6 units, each with 10 "labs," with Unit 1 in both books serving as an introduction. In Art Lab for Kids, Schwake covers "How to use this book and make art with others," which includes a master list of materials needed and how to set the stage for creativity. Her tips on how to make art with others include ones I especially like, "Promote fearlessness," and "Don't worry about wrecking a new paper or canvas. These items can be reused - torn up for collage, primed over with gesso, or printed over." Art Lab for Little Kids also gives great instructions for setting up a creative space that is well stocked and ready for action. The design of Schwake's books are filled with excellent step-by-step photos that show how to create the labs and a superb feature for each lab titled, "Meet the Artist" where a work of art and a bit of biographical information about artists who created works that inspired the labs.
While Schwake covers familiar ground, which is important, and she also brings interesting methods and media into her projects. Art Lab for Kids has labs like "Dream Animals," where kids are encouraged to create whole families of imaginary animals and"Painting Like a Fauvist," and labs where watercolor and salt and watercolor and plastic are used for technique. In Unit 5, Paper, Schwake has intriguing labs like "Collage Tissue Self-Portriats," "Torn Paper Landscapes," "Map Collage," and "Text as Texture," which I am going to try out myself!
3-D Art Lab for Kids: 32 Hands on Adventures in Sculpture and Mixed Media continues on with the inventive ideas and excellent step-by-step photos. Instead of "Meet the Artist," we are treated to "Artist Visits," where we get a glimpse into the artist's studio and a Q&A with the artist. Chapters in 3-D Art Lab for Kids cover paper, clay play, textiles, sculpture and jewelry. Projects range from rain sticks, mood masks, wall pockets and pinch pot birds to soft sculptures, paper merpeople, little worlds and frozen jute sculptures. The chapter on jewelry has projects made from clay, paper and wire that are really fantastic. There is definitely more mess potential with the projects in 3-D Art Lab for Kids, but it is worth the results.
If you buy any art books for kids, whether it is for use at home with your own children or for use in organized situations like play dates, birthday parties or school environments, Art Lab for Kids, Art Lab for Little Kids and 3-D Art Lab for Kids are the books to buy!
Source: Review Copies