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Find Spooky Inspiration Everywhere

Local artists suggest Halloween crafts to make with your kids.

Kathryn Horn Coneway, of Art at the Center, in Mount Vernon, implements a spooky optical illusion project that is ideal for Halloween.

Kathryn Horn Coneway, of Art at the Center, in Mount Vernon, implements a spooky optical illusion project that is ideal for Halloween. Kathryn Horn Coneway

— Local artists say one of the best things about the month of October is the opportunity to find inspiration in nature and create spooky crafts that stretch from now through Halloween and beyond.

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Pumpkin painting is a great early fall activity for young children. With washable paints, the same pumpkin can be carved later in time for Halloween.

Samantha Marques-Mordkofsky, of the Arlington Art Center, suggests finding inspiration in nature, such as the abundance of falling leaves in vibrant colors like red, orange and yellow.

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Anne Ross, a visual arts teacher at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, teaches elementary school students to make “spooky houses” using basic craft materials.

“We’re collecting leaves and other natural materials. You can take paper plates [and] decorate them with leaves and feathers, which is a cheap and easy thing to make,” she said.

“Pumpkins have round surfaces that are fun to paint on. With washable paints, paint it now and the same pumpkin can be carved later in time for Halloween.”

— Kathryn Horn Coneway of Art at the Center in Mount Vernon.

Kathryn Horn Coneway, of Art at the Center in Mount Vernon, believes in getting out into nature while temperatures are still mild. “Fall is a great time for taking art outside,” she said. “Let kids paint outside. If you use washable paint, it doesn’t take a lot of parental supervision.”

Marques-Mordkofsky is running a class now where students are learning about trees native to Virginia. “Students are doing leaf rubbing,” she said. “Basically you get a sheet of paper and crayon and put the paper over the leaf and rub it with a crayon and you get a relief image of the leaf. The students are learning about native trees in Virginia and compiling all of their projects into a book.”

One of Coneway’s favorite activities is painting pumpkins. “It’s a great early fall activity for young children. Pumpkins have round surfaces that are fun to paint on,” she said. “With washable paints, paint it now and the same pumpkin can be carved later in time for Halloween.”

Anne Ross, a visual arts teacher at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, makes spooky houses, a project designed for elementary school students. “I use a paper lunch bag and very basic materials: construction paper or card stock, markers or crayons, glue or a glue stick, scissors, a stapler and newspaper stuffing for ‘the house.’”

Coneway implements a spooky optical illusion project that is ideal for Halloween. “Ever wondered how those portraits in scary movies seem to follow you with their eyes?” she asks. Coneway has developed simple instructions for creating such portraits.

“Have an adult help you cut two oval holes in a paper plate,” she said. “Cut off the handle of a white plastic spoon and draw an eye with permanent marker in the spoon. Tape the spoons to the back of the plate so the eyes show through the holes. Turn over to see the eyes peering through your plate. Decorate your plate with a unique character drawing. Notice how the eyes seem to follow you as you look at your portrait from different sides.”