Category Archives: art materials

Product review: Kwik Stix

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I was recently offered the opportunity to try Kwik Stix for review. Kwik Stix, made by The Pencil Grip, Inc., are solid tempera paint sticks that come in twistable tubes, similar to a glue stick. They are billed as a no-mess painting alternative. I was skeptical. No water, no brushes, no mess sounded to me like no fun.

So I gave them a try… and was instantly converted. The paint glides onto the paper so smoothly and the colors are so vibrant that they’re a delight to use. They go on wet, the drying time is 90 seconds, and they dry to a lovely smooth finish. I tried them on a variety of paper types, from thin and junky to heavy and toothy, and they worked well on everything. I also experimented with using Sharpie markers over the dried paint to add details, and that worked really well too.

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I offered them to some kids and teens to sample. One gal, an eighteen year-old with limited hand motion due to Cerebral Palsy, liked them a lot. She loves to work with bright colors, and these fit the bill. The sticks were not too difficult for her to grip, and since they don’t need a ton of pressure to work well, she could do some expressive work. My grandson, a few months shy of three years old, was also a willing tester. They were a great success with him. The sticks are a nice size for little hands, affording young children the kind of control that allows them to be highly expressive in a way that isn’t really possible with a paint brush.

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Children tend to leave materials uncapped as they work, and these paints do start to dry out when they’re left uncapped for awhile. But they can be easily revived by running them back and forth on a piece of paper until they’re moist again. This is also a good way to clean off smudges that accumulate on the ends.

These paint sticks are a product anyone can enjoy, but are especially great for those who don’t have the physical or emotional control to work with wetter paints and with brushes.

Kwik Stix are available in packs of 6 colors ($5.99) and 12 colors ($11.99) from thepencilgrip.com.

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Woodpile

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We accumulate a good amount of scrap wood at our house from various projects. Most of it gets used for kindling, but there’s always plenty for arts and crafts too. When I’m working with kids, I give the scrap pieces a very quick sanding to get rid of splinters, and sometimes I spray paint the scraps very randomly to liven them up a bit.

Here are a few characters that climbed out of our woodpile.

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Staff training: art materials

In a training this past week with a great group of staff who work in a program for adults receiving developmental services, we focus on materials: What are the right materials to offer clients? How might different materials affect different people? What kinds of materials and formats promote organization? Containment? Freer expression? What materials and tools might be helpful in various art situations with clients? Group members explore these questions by trying out a wide variety of materials themselves, noting their own reactions, and thinking about all of this in relation to their clients. Here’s a bit about the group and some of our collective revelations:

Model Magic, Crayola’s air-dry modeling compound that comes in colors, really is magic. It’s a feel-good material, something that seems to relax people and make them comfortable, and is therefore a nice way to start off a group. It’s soft and lightweight, kind of dry like a marshmallow but without the marshmallow gooeyness. The colors mix beautifully so there’s a wide range of colors if desired, and markers look great on it. I buy Model Magic in assorted class  packs.

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In this group, each person takes one packet and fools around with it any way they want. After awhile I offer some decorative elements: feathers, beads, sticks, wires, etc. There is a lot of laughing and general playfulness in the room.

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The two works below are two-thirds of a trilogy with an ancient Egyptian theme. The fact that these three artists choose to make a trilogy of works also seems to contain a metaphor for their relationships as long-time coworkers.

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Model Magic helps to create a comfortable atmosphere and to energize this group, and has the potential to do the same for a group of their clients. The drawback, surprise surprise, is that it’s not a cheap material. Here are some recipes for homemade substitutes, neither of which I have tried yet. This is a Model Magic knockoff and this is more like play dough and is flavored with KoolAid, which sounds gross. But it might be a good answer for the blind client of one of the group members, who has some history of eating art materials.

Later, group members choose from a wide variety of materials set up at various stations and explore them. Markers, pencils, paints, pastels, collage, and more. Some people combine different materials. One person in the group tries every material in the room on a single piece of paper. After an earlier talk about containment and frames, someone creates her own frame to work within. The discussion: Which materials are in your comfort zone? Which feel uncomfortable? What about paper sizes? Some people describe being stimulated and inspired by so many materials, but one group member describes feeling overwhelmed and working her way through the process with difficulty but eventual gratification.  Topics like obsessive perfectionism, messiness, and perseveration are discussed.

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Some people use many materials…

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while others get absorbed in just one.

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And one person brings a cosmic note to the group with an earth/galaxy mobile.

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Some people become very absorbed in the art process, while others struggle to stay with it. All of these reactions are beneficial for understanding how clients might respond.

There are a lot of great questions and observations in the group. A profound one: Is it important to urge someone out of their comfort zone in hopes that they can grow by working their way through the art process? Or should we concentrate on encouraging a comfortable and fun experience?

Well, both. Falling apart isn’t good. Stability is very important. So safe, contained, and comfortable can be what’s most needed. But expansion is good! Growth is good. Trust in the importance of play in all of our lives for development and growth. Trust that staying mindful and attuned to clients will lead you to the answers.

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