“How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Author and Illustrator: Mark Teague

Here’s another fun book to share with your children as you wrap up another summer of creating memories together.

Wallace is determined that this year, when asked in school to share how he spent his summer vacation, his story will not be like the rest of the class.  He is a boy with an incredible imagination and once he gets started on his summer’s adventure, well,  he just continues to increase the excitement!  It begins rather innocently with his parents putting young Wallace on a train to visit his Aunt Fern.

But I was captured by cowboys, a wild-looking crowd,

Their manners were rough and their voices were loud.

The Cattle Boss growled, as he told me to sit, ‘We need a new cowboy, our old cowboy quit.

We could sure use your help, so what do you say?’ I thought for a minute, then I told him, ‘Okay.'”

After reading this entertaining book,  you might just plan a backyard barbecue or an adventure of your own!

Mary Byrne Kline


I am an Illustrator: Apples

Today we are going to do something fun! We are going to paint a green apple like the one in the painting “Son of Man”.


We’re not just going to paint it green though; we’re going to use different values (shades) of green to make it look like the apple is real and shiny.  After you create your masterpiece, be sure to hold on to it for an upcoming “I am an Author” activity.

  1. Draw a very basic apple shape. Think of a mix between a circle and a heart. It doesn’t have to be fancy at all.
  2. If you want to add a stem and a leaf or two you should absolutely follow your heart.IMG_8892 (2)3. Very lightly draw a couple small circles on the top part of the apple shape. (This is where the white paint is going to go.)IMG_8893 (2)4. Add another lightly drawn circular (almost like a crescent moon) shape following the outline of one side of the apple. (This is where the dark green paint goes. If you don’t have dark green you can use a little black to mix with your green.)

IMG_8894 (2)5. Once you’ve drawn your apple and the light circular shapes, carefully put a smudge of white paint in each of the circles on top and the dark green in the bigger shape on the bottom side of the apple.

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6. The next step is a little tricky. Carefully start to fill in the apple by spreading the dark paint towards the other parts of the apple. What makes this tricky is you want to try to follow the outline round shape of the apple.

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7. When you get close to the white paint, reverse the process. Start spreading the white paint around until it meets with the green. Now comes the fun.

8. Carefully blend the two paints together leaving the circled areas close to their original colors. This should leave light almost white spots on the top of the apple and a dark shadowy part around the bottom.

For extra fun I mixed a little bit of yellow paint with my green to make a slightly yellowish green color that I used to add highlights around the edges and lighter areas of my apple.

9. The last step it to paint the stem and leaf/s. I chose to use my yellow/green color so that the leaf would not look exactly like the rest of my apple.

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Notice that I didn’t worry too much about staying in the lines. This was more of a fun exercise, a way to learn about shading and have fun trying to make my apple look as real as possible. I encourage to have fun with this project. Play around with different ways to blend the paints and see which ones work better than others. Once you have a fantastic green apple, maybe try to paint a red one or even switch fruits; I hear oranges are a lot of fun to paint!

For additional activities and resources be sure to check out our TPT store!

Click HERE

Have fun!


Kevin Bartle

Masterpiece Conversations: Donald Zolan

I have been racking my brain. You see, a couple weeks ago I was asked to use “April showers” as inspiration for this Masterpiece Discussion. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? I love the Spring and I love gentle storms. There was only one problem: I couldn’t think of a painting to use. Sure, there are lots of paintings of Spring, but do any have rain in them? And, there are lots of paintings with rain, but it’s usually the furious kind in seascapes that slam on the side of a lighthouse. I thought, and read, and researched… nothing. Then I found this little guy.

touching the sky

He’s perfect! As I looked at him, I couldn’t help but smile. Memories of when I was a kid came flowing in. The wonders of a puddle. The excitement of playing after the rain and especially if I was wearing my rain boots. Then I saw what the boy was doing. Do you know what he’s doing?

               This painting is called “Touching the Sky”. That’s right! The boy is reaching down and touching the sky (well at least he’s touching the reflection of the sky.) How cool is that! I thought to myself, “that boy is very clever”, and so is the artist who created him. That artist’s name is Donald Zolan.

Mr. Zolan was born in Brookfield, Illinois on August 11, 1937. He was born into a family of artist. His parents, grandparents and great grandparents were all artist. Young Donald began to paint when he was only three years old.  It’s no wonder his favorite painting subject was kids exploring the many wonders of the world around them.

Look at the boy in the painting. Do you see how bright and colorful he is compared to the cool colors of the umbrella, sky and wet ground? This helps to create a mood of childlike innocence. It makes me think of easy and inquisitive times. I also love the detail and texture of the water. Using oil paint and mimicking the colors used in the sky of the painting, the water is given the illusion of actually being wet. Do you see how the colors in the reflection bend to create the ripple effect?

I am so happy I stumbled upon this painting. It is cool and refreshing, yet at the same time, makes me excited about the Spring and Summer to come and all the adventures, no matter how big or small, I might have.

For additional activities and resources be sure to check out our TPT store!

Click HERE

Ponder It!


Kevin Bartle

Masterpiece Creations: The Palette Knife

Do you know what a palette knife is? It’s a small tool used by artist to mix paint. They are usually made of metal and look like a butter knife, though they are not usually sharp.


Did you catch my recent post on Leonid Afremov? If not, check it out HERE

What’s so special about Leonid Afremov’s palette knife? He uses it instead of a brush. That’s right, when you look at his paintings and see how detailed and beautiful they are, know that they were all created with a small, dull, palette knife. How cool is that!?

two sisters leonid afremov

Today’s project is a tribute to Mr. Afremov and his palette knife. We are not aiming to make the most beautiful painting in the world. Instead, we are going to have fun and experiment.

The first step is to take a piece of high quality paper and draw a very simple circular shape right in the middle. This will be the basis for our painting.

Our tool today will be a small plastic spoon (a little easier to find for those of you who are running low on palette knives).

I used the spoon to spread around some brown paint in my circle.


Next I added some lighter brown areas by gently tapping the round bottom of the spoon in the dark brown circle. (This is going to be the middle of my flower)


Now for the flowers petals, (being autumn, I decided to go with yellows, reds, and oranges for my petals) I dipped my spoon lightly into some rich red paint. I placed the paint around the brown circle and pushed it away from the middle.


I then repeated the last step except this time with yellow paint.


I continued to play around with different oranges, reds, and yellows until I had a flower I liked.

The next step was a bit challenging; I used the spoon any way I could to create a green and yellow stem below my flower.

I have to be honest. I gained a deep respect for Mr. Afremov’s abilities trying to paint my flower. I decided to reward myself with a more familiar tool for painting the background. I put down my small, plastic spoon and picked up a brush. Different shades of blue filled in my background nicely. (I painted over the edges of my flower petals to create a cleaner look)


Now I have a beautiful, fall flower and a new appreciation for Leonid Afremov. If you would like to see more of Leonid’s work, he has several videos online where he demonstrates how he creates his art.

For additional activities and resources be sure to check out our TPT store!

Click HERE

Have fun!


Kevin Bartle