Art In Progress (Part 3)

I’ve been working as a Teaching Artist for five years now. Wow! I can’t believe it’s been that long! I started out applying for grants through the Nevada Arts Council. I designed creative exploration workshops for adults and children. Then last summer I applied for a Youth Collaborative Art Workshop and Temporary Installation project through Clark County Public Arts. “Songbirds Of Hope” was born! I created a design and wrote a detailed proposal and lesson plan for the project. I was interviewed a few weeks after the submission period ended by a selection committee who eventually chose me and a dozen other artists to facilitate workshops throughout the county. I didn’t know where my project would land, but luckily it ended up at the Desert Breeze Community Center which is only a few miles from my home.

A few months ago, I attended a meeting with the program coordinators at the community center, and we discussed the location of the artwork, the schedule for the workshops, and how to prepare according to their COVID safety guidelines.

Then I got to work preparing the background canvases, vinyl lettering, sound recorder, and of course, 50 cut-out birds to be painted by the children.

After 50, I’m getting the hang of drawing birds.

Drawing fifty unique bird silhouettes might sound challenging, but the more I drew, the more variety I found was possible. Birds are amazing animals.

Note: Unpleasant finger posture.

Probably the biggest challenge was the actual cutting of the mat board. Having had a past career in exhibit design, I am no stranger to the x-acto knife. But, as you can see above, that finger posture is tough on these fifty-year-old artist’s hands. Owwwwwweeee! I had to take lots and lots of breaks.

Luckily, no blood was drawn. Just joint pain and a temporary indentation.

As all artists know, there is always some sort of suffering involved when it comes to the creative process.

After the cutting, I prepped each bird with a coat of gesso (white paint) on both sides to hopefully prevent warping. It’s been my experience that kids can lay the paint on pretty heavy. I don’t blame them one bit. It’s fun.

And if you ever wondered what 50 cut-out birds look like on a desk, well here’s the money shot!

And this is what a bag-o-birds looks like, ready to go to the workshop today. And a bag of stand-offs. What’s a stand-off, you might ask?

That’s exhibit talk for something that makes your display more three-dimensional. I’ve got a bunch of these prepped for the install on Friday. I’ll be gluing the birds to these and then gluing the stand-offs to the canvases. It will help the birds stand-off and stand out!

And just when you might think I’m ready, well, here’s an inspiration board for kids who want to see what birds look like as they paint them. And, of course I’ll need a few book references about symbols in art history…

Okay, now I’m ready. Next part, pack the car and get everything over there early, so I have time to set up supplies and workspaces. I’m glad I wrote these posts, because I don’t think many people realize how much effort goes into art workshops. My next post will hopefully show the best part of the process. Stay tuned!

Happy Spring everyone,


Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. A lover of nature and travel, she can be found wandering about outside with her family whenever a good opportunity to do so presents itself.

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