stamped impressions

Saturday’s Family ArtLab stamping workshop was not only almost standing room only, it was also jam-packed with one gorgeous art-making moment after another. Parents and children in the community created their own stamps, made prints on blank greeting cards, and then embellished the printed cards with watercolors, markers, and crayons.

I set out piles of small wooden blocks (thank you for the donation Viking Lumber!), sheets of adhesive foam, palettes, brushes, tempera, and stacks of blank greeting cards and envelopes. Then, working alone or together, children and their parents dove into their work.

Here is one of the many cards made by the father/daughter team above:

A young girl created this series of cards using a positive stamp (the primary shape) and a negative stamp (the piece of the foam from which the shape came).

Many people made positive and negative stamps and focused on composing their shapes on the card.

Others spent a great deal of time painting or drawing on the stamped images. Here is a dreamy card made by a young girl. She combined the two stamp impressions with beautiful blobs of watercolor.

In the background of the photograph below you see the making of that card… In the foreground there’s a red piece of foam, which I later found when I was cleaning up the room…

I took the piece of foam and made a stamp for myself.

And then I printed some cards and brought them home for my husband and son to complete:


collaborative painting : a mirror of a moment

This week in the ArtLab, I set out our second canvas for collaborative painting. The word collaborative (which means produced by two or more parties working together), is the right word to describe our project, but it doesn’t speak to or concern itself with “results.” I’m interested in group paintings for so many reasons, but the least of those reasons would be the physical, material outcome, or the painting itself. Yes of course, sometimes the paintings are really cool (even excellent), but this fades in comparison to what I think is the lasting value of the millions of micro-moments that take place between the painters, and between the painters and the painting itself.

After each child had chosen their color and the order in which they would paint, the child with purple paint made the first marks. Nothing was said about what would be painted or what the “plan” was. There was no plan.

The first child painted her purple swirls and then the second child immediately did the same, but in pink. Still, no one was speaking out loud. Everyone was simply watching…

The swirl theme continued with the third child making brown swirls, and then the fourth child making one red swirl. At that point, it seemed as if we lost the interest of the second child, who decided she wanted to take a nap. She went to the back of the room and began to lay down but instead decided to play with round magnets on the chalk board. Meanwhile, the child painting in red made a departure from the swirls and painted the red three-sectioned form you see above.

Thereafter followed dots and some more swirls by the other two children. They were completely engaged with what they were doing and with each other.

I then asked if I could take a turn, and chose black as my color. I added black lines, and made a point of continuing my lines down onto the sides of the canvas. No one chose to then paint on the sides of the canvas. But the young girl on the left asked to switch to my black paint.

We continued for quite awhile.

Colors were traded, green and blue were added to the mix, dots became looser marks that grew smaller and smaller.

Lots of giggling was taking place at the chalk board, and two more children decided to leave the painting and play with the magnets as well.

One child remained. She painted with all of the colors left behind.


fotoplay for you : complete the zebra

I’m pleased to offer you the first of many free fotoplay pages! Feel free to print it out for your children, your students, or yourself.  When the page is completed, you can email your work to me. I’m creating a gallery of work created by you, which will soon be on this site.

Also, keep an eye on the fotoplay pages link widget on my sidebar. This is where you’ll soon be able to access all of my free pages.

To download today’s “complete the zebra” page, click HERE.

I look forward to seeing your work!


{note: Sale or publication of fotoplay is prohibited without the written approval of M.J. Bronstein.}



BIG inspiration : BIG magazine

A big thank you to Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue, the creative team behind BIG Magazine, for featuring my work and this Playground on their fabulous blog! If you haven’t yet read (or read about) BIG Kids Magazine you’re in for an inspiring surprise. BIG is an Australian-made biannual contemporary creative arts magazine/blog devoted to promoting creativity and innovative collaboration between and amongst artists and children. Each issue of the magazine features a free artist’s print and two key projects: Side By Side which publishes collaborative artwork by children and artists, and The Child Artist Response Project which is an initiative where children and artists respond directly to each other’s work. You can subscribe to BIG here, like them on their Facebook page here, and, you can submit your child’s artwork to BIG as well!

Bravo BIG!


creative flow : power in a group

Yesterday’s Shake Up Your Art workshop at the Center For Maine Contemporary Art was fabulous. With a completely game group of adults, lots of art supplies, a great musical soundtrack, and fotoplay (a separate post on this coming soon!), a full collection of strange, funky, surprising work was made. We began as I often do in a workshop, with pencil on paper, moving in response to the sound of Bach:

Then we moved into crayon

and collaborative drawing and painting with a partner (in silence).

We made stamps based on a fragment of a newly-made painting


and then it wasn’t long before those same paintings and drawings were torn up as material for collage

and for those mesmerizing-to-work-on boxes:

At the end of the day, I too was shaken up… completely delighted by the work that had been created.


collaborative painting

For our second autumn session in the ArtLab Studio, I set up a collaborative painting on canvas for my students. Each chose their color (some colors, like pink, we mixed, which of course is an event in itself) and then the children painted in turn, encouraged to give each other space and to take their time.

As the painting developed, they exchanged colors, brushes, and thoughts. They tried to guess what each was going to add to the painting. They talked about what they might paint next.

At a certain point, I suggested that we circle the painting and paint from both sides of the canvas. The change in perspective led to an even freer approach.


And finally the big question was posed to me: Who gets to take this painting home? This was actually the perfect question. My plan for my classes at the ArtLab Studio is above all, to create the sense of a working artist’s studio, where improvisation and experimentation drive the direction of the projects. I hadn’t planned on making a series of collaborative paintings on canvas, but the idea came as a result of the children’s enthusiasm for what they had made. So we would create at least three more paintings before the end of our session in December, and each child would have one to take home. Now, who will choose which?


shake up your art


There’s still room in my Saturday, October 22 workshop at the Center For Maine Contemporary Art:

This is a fast-paced workshop designed to free the senses, and one’s sense of creativity. Open to artists and aspiring artists, but above all, those who wish to experience a new, improvisational approach to working in the studio. We’ll work with pencil, crayon, paint, and collage, and we’ll create work alone as well as collaboratively. Leaving our inhibitions at the door, we’ll tap into a deep well of inventiveness, playfulness and resourcefulness.

Please join me for a journey back to your kindergarten art class!