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Clowning Around



Get out your rubber nose, floppy shoes and rainbow wig, we’re going to the circus this week! The circus brings back fond memories; the smell of buttered popcorn and sweet cotton candy, bright lights, colorful stripes, animals and clowns! At Gogh Arts Summer Camp we brought the sights and sounds of the circus to life through art and you can too.


The first project I’d like to share with you is a mixed media paper elephant in a circus train car. To make this work of art you need scissors, glue, construction paper in any colors you prefer, sequins, seed beads, colored pencils, a pencil, eraser and white cardstock. To begin you will draw an elephant on a piece of white cardstock, color it and then cut it out. You will want to draw on a face for your elephant and then color your elephant whatever color you like; it doesn’t have to be gray! Circus elephants are often adorned with a head piece and saddle blanket and you can make these from construction paper and then glue them onto your elephant. Next you are going to choose two different colors of construction paper. At Gogh Arts, we used red and purple. Place your paper elephant onto the construction paper and draw a rectangular shape big enough to encompass the elephant because this rectangle is going to become the train car. You will cut the rectangle from both sheets of colored construction paper. Decide which of the colored papers is going to be the background and glue your elephant onto it. The second rectangular piece of paper is going to become the front side of the train car and it is going to resemble an animal pen. To make the openings and bars of the animal pen you will first fold the rectangular paper a few times using an accordion fold. Then use your scissors to make small snips along the folds, one at the top end and one at the bottom end of the accordion fold, but stay within the ends of the paper. Do this one at a time to be sure that the snips aren’t too close together and skip a fold if you need to. When you unfold the paper you will place your scissors into the snip and cut a vertical line from the top of the paper to the bottom on both sides of each snip. In doing this you are removing rectangular shapes from within the piece of paper making it look like a barred enclosure for your elephant. Attach this piece of construction paper by running a line of glue around the outer edge and then placing it on top of the other piece of paper so that your elephant ends up in between. Next you will want to cut two big circles from construction paper, I recommend black or gray construction paper, to be the wheels of the train car. Then cut two smaller circles from a different color of paper and glue the smaller circles inside the larger circles. To attach the wheels simply squeeze a drop of glue along the bottom edge of the train car, one at the front of the car and one at the back end and press the wheels on. The final step is to decorate the train car and the elephant's costume by gluing sequins and seed beads on wherever you like!


You can turn yourself into a clown with this next activity! Students at Gogh Arts had a lot of fun making venetian style clown masks. Venetial style masks are masks that cover half of the face and instead of being worn in a traditional way they are fastened to a stick and handheld, allowing the wearer to lift them in front of their face. At Gogh Arts we used craft sticks for the handle. Students made big red clown noses from red construction paper and large clown smiles using white construction paper. Each student used a black marker to draw their own mouth inside of the white paper shape. Students glued the red nose onto the white smile and then used tape to attach the craft stick handle on the backside of the mask so that it didn’t show. Please do not attempt this project if you or someone in your home is afraid of clowns!

This next project from Gogh Arts Circus Camp was very popular. Students created a diorama with a circus trapeze artist. To begin this activity you will want to have a sturdy but flexible piece of cardboard. Fold the cardboard to make a trifold so that it can stand up and also support the hanging trapeze artist. You can paint the circus tent stripes onto the cardboard or you can cut and glue colored construction paper but you want it to look circus festive. Using a skewer you will poke a small hole into the top outer edge of the trifold on both the left and right sides. Next, thread a piece of string through the holes so that it stretches across the inside of the tri fold and then tie it on each end so that the string is taut. To make the catch bar for the trapeze artist you can bend a small paper clip into a triangular shape and then slide it onto the string. Before making the trapeze artist from a piece of paper or cardstock, I recommend that you first measure the distance from the dangling catch bar to the bottom edge of the trifold so that you can be sure that your trapeze artist will fit into the diorama. Simply draw the contour shape of a person onto your paper and then color it so that it looks like it is wearing a trapeze artist’s colorful costume. Next, cut out your trapeze artist and attach it to the catch bar by folding its arms or legs, hands or feet (depending on how you would like it to look) over the catch bar and secure it into place with a small drop of glue.


In keeping with the big top theme, students at Gogh Arts also made carousel horses as one of their camp projects. You can make one too! Begin by drawing the contour shape of a horse onto a piece of white cardstock. Then, using colored pencils you can add details to your horse like eyes and ears, but also include decorative details like the bridle and saddle. At Gogh Arts we added a small feather as part of the headdress and sequins to give the saddle some sparkle. Students then created the top of the carousel to look like a circus tent. To do this they colored stripes onto a piece of paper and then folded it into a wide cone shape and glued it so that the paper would keep this shape. For the base of the carousel, we used paper cups. Students decorated the cups by cutting shapes from sheets of glitter foam and glueing them to the cup. To begin assembling the pieces, you will need to use hot glue to attach the top of the carousel to a dowel rod. Next, you can attach the carousel horse with a dot of hot glue as well. Before you can attach the base, you will need to poke a hole in the cup and then insert the dowel rod. To make it more secure you can add hot glue around the dowel rod on the inside of the cup.


One final project that you can enjoy making is a clay clown! At Gogh Arts we used clay and fired our projects in a kiln but you can use any kind of clay to have the same experience. Air dry clay and Model Magic are good substitutes. To make your clown you are going to use slab construction, meaning that all of the pieces are flat. Begin by making a circle shape for the clown's face and then make a few more circles and arrange them at the top to make the clown's hair. Make smaller circles for the clowns eyes and cheeks and nose. Then add a smile shape for the clown's mouth. You can add texture to the clown’s hair, pupils in the clown’s eyes and a mouth in the clown's smile by drawing into the clay with something pointy, like a skewer. When your clay is dry, the final step is to paint it!

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