I was noticing recently that lot of my art classes are subtly or overtly positive:

  • Random Acts of Kindness Art
  • Daruma Dolls (part of Japanese Dolls)
  • Blessing Banners/Kirigami Prayer Flags
  • Making Mandalas

and even my “negative” classes, such as Rock the Protest Poster or Activist T-shirts, are also positive, because they are about making positive change in the world.

Okay, some of you might be wondering WHY I teach these things?

It’s a choice to be positive, attract positivity and spread positivity and goodness in the world.

I used to be a bit of a complainer (a couple people who know and love me are at this very moment, going, “Noooooo, what? You?” in a sarcastic fashion) and was a gifted ranter.

At some point, and I don’t really remember why, but I decided to stop being a complainer and make an effort to be more positive. As I worked on putting more positivity out in the world, apparently that flowed into my art teaching as well.

I honestly don’t remember why I made this change, but it was probably in part due to the years of loss, when so many people in our lives died. That kind of loss knocks your heart wide open and makes you a more compassionate being. That’s what it did to me.

Making art at all is being positive, creating is an inherently positive activity, it means you believe in your skill, in building your skill, in the value of time spent in the zone. Creating equals hope.

Want to get started making positive art projects, like some of the ones I teach?

Here are some ideas and resources to help you.

A friend of mine has a neighbor who writes jokes on the sidewalk! Like silly knock knock or other short jokes, on the sidewalk on her block. Read the joke, keep walking, get to the punch line! Fun and easy!

We do chalk art in my Random Acts of Kindness Class, the image above is an example of what some students have written.

I was inspired by projects by Jenny Doh in the book Art Saves as well as by the book, the Art of Abandonment Project by Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng.

Both books include projects that are about abandoning little gifts of art to surprise, delight, or encourage someone. In Art Saves, there’s a project about making messages with wings. We make those in class, as well as messages on paper feathers and here’s a whole mini book of encouragement:

Random Acts of Kindness, little book of encouragement, student work.


In my Japanese Dolls class, one of the dolls we make is a Daruma doll, here are some by students:

Student Daruma dolls.

The idea of the Daruma doll is that it was inspired by a Zen master who achieved enlightenment and he is so perfectly balanced that you cannot knock him over. And you can’t, no matter what you do, these little dolls bounce upright again. Another feature is that traditionally, if you buy one in a store, they lack pupils. You draw one in as you set a goal, and the other in when you achieve your goal.

Want to make one? The instructions are in this Blick Art Supplies Lesson Plan.

What’s inside? Daruma Dolls.

Here’s a picture of my class prep, hot gluing in the weights into a whole bunch of plastic eggs. These are the largest size you can find for Easter (buy plastic eggs year round online). These are smaller that the old L’egg pantyhose eggs, but larger than standard Easter eggs. I like this size for being a bit easier to work with — smaller can be difficult.

The Blick lesson plan has you cover the plastic egg with their instant paper maché, but I couldn’t get it to work for me. Mine turned out lumpy and unbalanced. And this project is all about being perfectly balanced, so that really mattered!

In my classes when we make these, we use old fashioned strips of newspaper and Elmer’s Glue-All mixed about 50% with water. Be sure to get Elmer’s Glue-All and not school glue. You can find it at some grocery stores and most good hardware stores.

Paper Maché and Newspaper Strips.

Kirigami Prayer Flags by Elaine Luther as installed on porch.

This project combines upcycling, blessings to share, silkscreen ink and the kirigami.  I was inspired by Tibetan prayer flags, which are printed with wood blocks of prayers.  The monks hang them up and as the wind blows, the prayers and blessings are spread out to the community.

We use the Japanese art of folding and cutting, or kirigami, to create beautiful patterns, and create a space to write a word, phrase, blessing, prayer, hope or wish.

I’ve written up complete instructions on how to do this project, with oodles of clear step-by-step photos, you can buy that here.

Banners are super popular right now, you can buy blank ones at craft stores, you could create your own variation using those and some Sharpies or fabric markers.

I’d would LOVE to see your projects, if you take the positive action of creating and make one! You’re invited to post an image or a link to an image in the comments!

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