new website, new Playground

This Playground is about to make a move! For the past week I’ve been completely immersed in the process of moving my site into another theme, which was, I must say a monumental task. By trial, ridiculous amounts of error, and hours spent in support forums with computer techies, I’ve learned so much about programming and site design. This really wasn’t my intention, but I think it may have been a happy accident. My new perspective on site design (from the inside out) combined with This Playground’s new look, has led to so many new ideas. Stay tuned! Coming soon!


a teen’s vision : filmmaker john loxterkamp

For the past 16 years, I’ve lived with my family in a small town on the coast of Maine. Our community is filled with quirky, independent-minded, rather remarkable people, and my son (now 18 years old) is lucky to have grown up here, with these folks and their children as an extended family. One of those children is now also a high school senior, preparing to move to college, and out into the world. I’d like to introduce you to John Loxterkamp, who, as you will soon see, has a unique sense of visual style and wit, and a sophisticated ear for editing. What are the origins of John’s artistic vision? How did his early drawing skills inform his current work with video and typography?

When John was an eight year old child, I was struck by his highly stylized drawings. As I’ve written before, all children make remarkable things, and many make remarkable drawings. But there are children who are working at another level that really takes your breath away. Perhaps the most striking aspect of John’s work was his way of creating a sense of the passage of time… a rendering of cause and effect. This is no small thing, especially in a child’s work:

At some point, around the age of nine, John turned to video. He and my son made and edited movies for hours and hours, animating many an inanimate object:

From that point on, John made film after film, and at a certain point, his sensitivity as an editor and his innovative use of graphics came to the fore. The lyric video below was created by him this summer. Enjoy this excellent creation, and read through to the bottom of the post for my interview with John Loxterkamp.

Your drawings were always distinctive. Have you drawn continuously since you were a child, or have there been times when you’ve taken a break?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and there have been slow periods where I haven’t drawn as much or as frequently, but I can’t remember ever taking a break from it completely.

What do you love about the video/film medium?

What I love most about film as a medium is that it allows one to tell a story with unlimited methods of doing so, through shots, scores, how the video is edited, etc. I also love the problem-solving aspect of film making. Throughout my history of videography, there’s always been a point during either production or post production where something doesn’t work, either continuity-wise or sound-wise or shot-wise. It is the duty of the filmmaker, especially one who is in charge of most of the aspects of production, to somehow solve or alleviate whatever problem it is. There are several ways of getting to a point where you’re satisfied with the final product and the imperfections are negligible. There’s no specific reason film is my medium of choice, except that I feel a strong passion for it and I am motivated to create short videos frequently, I do it for fun.

Tell us a bit about your Max video. What do you remember about the process of making of it?

Max, as far as I can remember, was a very short stop motion feature Noah and I made for fun; we always created when spending time together, and in this case we had a camera and a lot of time. Though the video was short, only about 6 seconds of stop motion total, I remember there was speculation about how many frames each picture we took should last on screen. At the time, I was all about the fluidity of motion and the final presentation, and suggested that if we made all of the pictures 3 frames long, the video would flow rather than assume a more choppy feel with the more standard 8-frames-per-photo look. It was also challenging to move everything in the shot around with relation to everything else, sometimes we would find ourselves confused as to what we had moved since the last frame and what we hadn’t. In the end, I’d say it was one of our more successful stop motion productions.

Which artists/filmmakers inspire you?

I’ve always been a fan of Wes Anderson. The way he sets up his shots as a Director is very unusual and captivating, and I’ve taken much from his use of lengthy still wide shots.

I know that you’ve found, through the internet, quite an extensive community of other teens making films. How do you think the immediate feedback (likes, repostings, votes) affects your work?

I really learn a lot from how others receive my work, and I learn to deal with the negative feedback I receive. I always pay attention to and encourage the posting of comments on my video because I really feel that constructive criticism from those who scrutinize my work will help me in the long run to improve my craft. I’ve learned some techniques from those making films around me, but I’ve never shaped a video of mine around a fellow content creator’s style.

Tell us about your fabulous Nashville Lyric Video.

Nashville was my first full lyric video, although I had been working with typography and music before. The main thing I learned from working on Nashville was how to budget my time and meet a deadline. Because the video was a commission, the artist’s manager gave me about a three-week period to complete the lyric video, and that turned out to be a very short amount of time. I was working 6 or 7 hours straight some weekends putting the video together, and I had to prioritize; I would stay in rather than hang out with my friends some nights, and I would close out all other distractions to get the project done. It was a learning experience, I’ve never had to do something so time-consuming and intensive.

What are you working on these days? Are you open to taking commissions?!

Right now I’m starting to get back into film, but I have one typography project I’m working on at the moment, which will probably take me about a month to complete. I am always open to commissions!

BRAVO JOHN!


i’ll wait in the car : free books for you

Do you like to read books? Do you like to look at hand-colored photographs? Are you crazy for dogs? Do you like to win things? Well guess what?


A few years ago, my collection of hand-colored photographs of dogs waiting in cars was published by Sellers Publishing. This was a project that all told, took ten years: From the first photograph created in 1996, that made me want to make more:

to years and years of lingering in parking lots with my camera, watching dogs in their unheralded role as guardians-of-the-vehicle

and eyes-to-the-horizon companions.

I’m giving away two signed books, and all you have to do is leave a comment. In a week, two readers will be selected and two copies of I’ll Wait in the Car will be shipped out into the world. 

If you win, you can keep it on your nightstand, read it to your children, re-gift it for the upcoming holidays, or do what I did:

Cut up the pages and use them as an invitation for graffiti.


ArtBuds : Making a Difference

I am so pleased to be featured on this lovely site, in their new “Making a Difference” interview series! ArtBuds is an online gallery and shop which offers a unique selection of contemporary art and educational products created by artists from around the world. The team behind ArtBuds is a passionate art-loving group (an art therapist, an educator, a curator, and an art historian), committed to presenting works and products that nourish a child’s visual and imaginative development. A future goal is to create a foundation that offers art mentoring programs for kids and teens, as well as many other projects where artists and children work together to create positive change through art. For more information you can visit the whimsical, inspiring ArtBuds site, or find them on Facebook. Cheers to my new friends in Australia!


fotoplay : images and hieroglyphs

It’s easy to be wowed by the variety of approaches that students have taken to complete my fotoplay pages. It’s also easy to love these “finished” pages for obvious reasons: they’re unpredictable, clever, imaginative, and very personal.

What might not be so obvious is what takes place while the pages are being completed: the process. Sometimes I’m able to literally watch or hear (some children talk while they draw) what goes on in the process of completing a page. But other times the creative choices (and the connections between them) are more elusive, private, and symbolic.

The page above was completed by an eight year old boy, who very quickly drew his animal in response to the line/leash. This is a deceptive little drawing. So many choices were made! : The scale of the dog; the careful connection of a new (but similar) leash to the one I drew; the direction the dog faces…

The five year old girl who completed this page spent a lot of time interacting with the letters in the words at the top of the page. Back and forth between the sun and the dog, she focused on the words, the spaces between the words, and then the sentence as it’s own visual element.

The eight year old boy who completed this page created a full narrative, with another dog, a man, a far away landscape, a playground and a ball. The connection between the man in the background and the dog on the leash in the foreground is crystal clear.

The page above was created by a five year old girl who is one of my ArtLab students. Week after week I’ve been struck by her work and her repeated use of certain lines and shapes. Like many artists (young or old), she’s created her own alphabet of symbols, her own vocabulary: a personal iconography or system of hieroglyphs where marks made are words and sentences in a private story.


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!


a child’s vision : eliot bee

It’s not unusual for a child to make wondrous, unique creations. (All children do.) But it’s rare for a child to make a collection of works that evolve into a cohesive series. Eliot Bee is a five year old girl who has been creating “fairies” out of found objects since before the age of four. In Eliot’s words: I use materials that I find when I’m walking around, or toys I’m not using anymore. I use wooden bodies a lot, but sometimes I use other stuff. I made one from a penny and my daddy’s guitar pick. (See image above.)

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Eliot many times at the Starrett Center, a wonderful multi-age daycare center in my town. While I’ve never made fairies with her, I’ve watched her approach every other project with the same clear sense of focus and inner direction; a total connection to the materials and the process of creating images or objects.

Eliot began making her fairies at Starrett with her teacher Linda Stec (who is the Executive Director of the Center, as well as a funky and fascinating ceramic artist/puppeteer). It began without fanfare one day, when, not wanting or needing to sleep at nap time, Eliot simply asked: Can I make a fairy? Linda gathered some materials and heated up a hot glue gun.


Then every day like clockwork, for many days and weeks and months thereafter, Eliot made fairies while Linda assisted. Linda’s words to her from the outset were: You’re the artist. I’m just the gluer.

Eliot continued making fairies at home, with her Mom and her Dad. No matter where she worked, the adults were there solely as assistants, ready with a glue gun, but without “suggestions” or directions.

When I first saw Eliot’s collection (months before her one-person show at Waterfall Arts in Belfast last year), I was moved not only by the works themselves, but by the sense that this completely personal work was born of an open environment, where a child’s vision was given infinite space to grow.

{ Many thanks to Eliot’s father, Ethan Andrews, for the photographs in this post. }