Last week on May 12, 2017, I appeared in a segment on Hallmark Channel Home & Family show with my daughter, Julie Steines, along with her husband, Co-host Mark Steines and Co-Host Debbie Matenopoulos. Julie and Mark had commissioned me to create a life size pastel portrait of Debbie's adorable daughter, which was unveiled on the show. Mark is an amazing professional photographer, and I had used one of his photographs as the inspiration for the portrait.
As part of our discussion about art on the segment, Julie showed viewers a hardcover book I made for her one Christmas a number of years ago that contained images of her artwork over time from pre-school through high school.
Look at that beautiful oil pastel painting Julie did in Maine shown on the cover!
In response to numerous requests, I will share some tips about how you can make a portfolio book for your child or grandchild.
But first, why is it a nice idea to chronicle this aspect of your child's development?
A Child's Artistic Development
In our early years, we are filled with wonder and curiosity. Around the world, art for children is a way to explore, discover, imagine, and create. Our young senses are filled with the beauty, magic, mystery, and miracles of this world.
First we make marks and delight in the kinesthetic joy of movement while holding pencil or crayon. Then on one momentous day we see something in our marks and give it a name. We go on to learn the magic of organizing our marks to represent ideas, a major cognitive leap. I will never forget the day my son filled a page with green marks of paint, stepped back and said, "I made grass grow!" What a magnificent moment!
We are empowered as we realize our marks can represent something--our marks can make meaning. Understanding that our drawings can represent idea, we invent symbols that we organize in a multitude of ways through which we can imagine, dream, portray and tell stories.
As our fine motor skills develop, we refine our art. With cognitive growth, we can observe and understand more, and our art also changes and grows. In our elementary school years, direct art instruction can further teach us how to expand and refine our observation and artistic skills. And with encouragement, we can continue to grow as artists. Art education is so important!
Sadly, many people stop this process of artistic growth around middle school years, when art classes may no longer be required, and frustration can set in without educational support. But the creative journey can be picked up again in later years if an individual has a mindset that is open to possibility. I believe our original artist still dwells within us and can be reawakened.
Now, back to the book. The pictures of Julie's art were arranged in chronological order to show her growing capacities of hand, eyes, mind, and heart. Because art represents the vitality of imagination and heart, it deserves to be honored and treated with respect.
Here are the steps I suggest to create a portfolio book of your own:
1. Save your child's art. Store it flat, perhaps in a large folder, box or envelope. Dating the work on the back makes the process easier.
2. Gather artwork, and arrange in chronological order as best as possible.
3. Photograph each piece.
>This is best done without flash, outdoors on an overcast day, or in solid (not dappled) shade. Or take photos next to a large, bright window without direct sunlight.
>The camera must be perpendicular to the art to avoid distortion. I tacked the art to a vertical board on an easel and used a tripod for the camera. You could tack the art to a bulletin board or tape to a wall with painter's tape. If you don't have a tripod, keep the camera steady as you shoot the photo. Or, place the art on a table or on the floor and hold the camera directly over it.
>A smart phone will generally take a good quality photo on an auto setting without flash.
4. Crop and then adjust the contrast each photo. Many smart phones have this option.
The photo is then cropped, either directly on the smart phone, or in a computer photo editing program. Pictures with a lot of white paper may need to have the contrast adjusted so the paper appears white and the marks are dark enough. I used Photoshop on my computer.
5. Save the edited photos to a folder on your computer. You can then save these to a flash drive, if you like, to maintain a digital record of the portfolio. Keep the file size large, such as 300 dpi. Your online book company will give guidance to help with file size (see below).
6. To make your book, you have some choices. You can print the photos and place them in a traditional photo album, or make a hardcover book, like Julie's, or a softcover book.
> Decide on the company that will print your book. For Julie's book, I used Blurb, (No, I am not receiving compensation for mentioning them). I chose Hardcover with Dust Jacket. Just follow their step-by-step instructions online. You can add text if you like, as well.
The link to make a Blurb Photo Book is HERE.
> I've also made gorgeous photo books with Apple Print Products. Once the photos are imported into your Photos app on a Mac computer, while in Photos you just go to File > Create Book. You then just drop and drag your photos to the pages. I like the substantial weight of their pages, and the color quality is excellent in my experience.
Read about Apple Print Products HERE.
>I know people who also use Snapfish
> There are other online companies that also offer photo print books.
7. Title your book, choose a cover image, create a title page and perhaps a few words describing the book, put your name as the author of the book and your child's name as the artist of the works. Add dates if you like or a time frame. If your child has a story about a particular picture, or has some thoughts about making art, write those in as well to make a beautiful keepsake book.
8. Order a book for your child, and perhaps one for you, too!
When the portfolio book arrives and you hold it in your hands, you are holding a record of the magic that is your child's creative life. It demonstrates to your child that you believe this aspect of him or her to be important and worth celebrating.
And if you never make a book, but simply hold on to dear pieces over time that represent his or her artistry, you will be conveying the importance of their art to you, and the importance of their interior life as it is expressed and explored outwardly.
After my beloved grandmother's passing, we found a large envelope with every card and drawing I ever made for her. It was like getting a warm hug.
Your gift to your child is ultimately the gift of honoring the artist within.
Hats off to you for that!