The concept of gratitude is a powerful one. In fact, thankfulness is a very important character trait to foster in children. Living gratefully encourages kids to cultivate a genuine appreciation for blessings they already enjoy, no matter how big or small. Children sometimes get caught up in wanting more things – more toys, more games, more electronic gadgets. This creates a vacuum of lacking that is difficult to satisfy. A mindful pause every now and then helps us reflect and re-examine this mindset. It inspires a healthy outlook that honours the present moment and reminds us not to take things for granted.
I like the definition of gratitude as stated by Psychology Today:
“Gratitude is an emotion, expressing appreciation for what one has – as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. We can deliberately cultivate gratitude and increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking – and especially expression of it to others – is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.”
There is no doubt that children’s attitudes can have a huge impact on the overall culture of the classrooms. As teachers, and caregivers, we want to inspire positive attitudes and increase empathy and a sense of community in our classroom. Teaching gratitude is a sure way to do that.
Below is a list of Gratitude-Building Activities, based on my latest picture-book, Lucky Me. Please feel free to download a FREE copy for your personal use at home or in the classroom by clicking on the image on the bottom of the post.
Gratitude Building Activities for Home and School Continue reading
Happy New Year!
I hope 2018 has been off to a wonderful start for you and your loved ones (it’s hard to believe we’re mid-month already).
It seems like forever since I last shared thoughts, ideas and classroom resources. Not for lack of desire, more to do with obligations, commitments and responsibilities that somehow or another find a way to redirect me from the screen (life takes precedent after all).
In order to better balance life and leisure (New Year’s resolution number one), I thought I’d try what the rest of the world has been doing so beautifully already – writing in snippets! Capturing big ideas in photographs and captions – less is more after all!
This year, I am blessed with 27 lively Kindergarten students who keep me busy and on my toes, literally from the moment I step into the classroom. To say there are no challenges would be far from the truth. In the 17 years that I’ve been teaching, there have been ample opportunities for growth and learning from the experiences and circumstances I embarked on in the classroom – as every teacher can agree with, I’m sure.
So I thought the first snippet I’d share is my Cool Down Kit, a behaviour management and self-regulation tool I use in the classroom, which runs parallel with mindfulness ideologies. Continue reading
It’s the most wonderful time of year, indeed.
Many of us now find ourselves singing, whistling, humming along to our favourite holiday tune as we walk around town, excited about the season, the gift-buying, the work parties, often having too many sweets and being covered by the sparkles from all the holiday greeting cards. At home, decorations are up, and plans have been made with family and friends. Kids are ecstatic, the promise of treats, toys, games dancing in their heads.
There is something intoxicating about the holiday season – nothing in the year matches it. No matter your faith, you can find something to celebrate – oftentimes drinking in the joy like a rich, creamy eggnog. But, in the midst of the holiday crowd you can also find pain for many. This time of year can also be a reminder of broken relationships, hard times, less than successful attempts to live the dream of a better life and maybe the empty chairs of loved ones that may have left us too soon.
I recently came across this ad, which struck a cord…
So how do we create a balance, an equilibrium between the joy in our own lives and the lack thereof in the lives of others? It seems the answer is found in our own communities. Why not find a moment to assist those who cannot respectively share in the holiday cheer. Maybe as we scurry through the grocery aisles picking up all the last trimmings for the our special dinners, grab an extra couple of items for the food banks that, during this time, are often under strain serving our needful communities. After all, what is the holiday season without giving and sharing? It only takes a moment, but it can make a great difference in someone else’s life.
Many years ago a beautiful song came out called, “Do they know it’s Christmas”. It often plays in holiday concerts and festivities around this time of year. There is one particular line that stands out for me, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” It is a reminder that there is a world outside our window, and it’s not always joyous. It made me think of something we often overlook, especially as we get all caught up in holiday preparations, and that is acknowledging and being grateful for what we have, however big or small. After all, there is always something to be thankful for.
So amidst all the celebration, the family, the music, the presents, the cheer, let’s take a moment and count our blessings, find something to celebrate – whatever it is that completes our little corner of the world.
I am most honoured and excited to introduce my latest picture-book, Lucky Me, which centres around this concept of gratitude, shedding light on all the small miracles that we sometimes forget to be thankful for. I’d love to recommend it to you.
Lucky Me celebrates the concepts of thankfulness as it explores the world with a series of evocative, one line descriptions of situations wherein a child (or adult), might be inclined to thank one’s lucky star. The extraordinary book shares 36 of these celebrations, each exquisitely illustrated by Jan Dolby.
Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, whatever brings you happiness, may it be yours this holiday season. May your days sparkle with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill, and may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy.
Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday season and a blessed New Year!
The Sensory Impact of Music on Art
Writing Art Series by Al Gord
Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?
~ Wassily Kandinsky
From as early as I can remember, music, specifically rock music has always been influential in my life. The energy of the music, the themes in the lyrics, and even the artists themselves have always caught my attention. Yet interestingly enough, for many years I never recognized the inspiration this genre of music could have in my art.
For an artist to enjoy the creative process and share their soul and for the audience to be able to connect with a piece of art, passion has to be felt in the work. This is the struggle I experienced for years, finding that true passion to fuel my work and support me in creating original works of art. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the inspiration comes to an artist, after years of trying different media and subject matter.
For me it all came together after seeing an unrelated piece of art, dabbling with different techniques – trying to find my voice, and remembering seeing this incredible artist as a child, none other than the amazing Denny Dent, who I encourage everyone to look up if they are not familiar with his work.
Painting people has always been most fascinating for me – to get the proportions and emotions correct is a challenge unto itself. Adding in the extra layer of painting famous musicians, has upped the challenge, one that I embrace. The energy of the rock music can be seen in my art, through the use of a fragmented background, that combines different art techniques. One might even argue that not only does this create movement, and even chaos, but a sense of rhythm and a visual depiction of the music itself.
The music drives me and helps guide my art. What if I was listening to Beethoven or Mozart? Would the piece be different? Would the backgrounds change? Conversely, what if I was painting Beethoven or Mozart but listening to rock music – would that influence the look of the final piece. In time, this may be something I explore. For now, my intent is capturing the emotion of the moment; one where the musician is portrayed in their element – a performance based piece. Sharing my passion behind the music creates a whole different feel to the art – one in which I hope which the viewer can connect.
In the spirt of Kandinsky, see if your eyes can sense the music, the energy, the passion behind the art. Examine the title and see how it is reflected in my work and … stop thinking! Reflect on what the piece means to you and if it has allowed you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, then enjoy the experience for what it has to offer.
Breathe In So I Can Breathe You Out by Al Gord
You Can Have Whatever You Want but You Better not Take it From Me by al gord
Al Gord is an up and coming artist who has been a featured artist twice in Niji Magazine. He has exhibited pieces in shows from Toronto, Canada, and New York to the United Kingdom. He combines abstract techniques with figurativism to create Iconic Rock Portraitures. Other series of works include Modern Romantic Expressionist pieces and pieces which focus on mental health awareness and advocacy. Regardless of the subject matter his signature style is clearly recognizable. His work is showcased on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where he welcomes inquiries, questions, and feedback.
Al Gord and Al Gord Art: All work is the creative and intellectual property of Al Gord and Al Gord Art. No part of my work (specific work, its electronic reproductions or its intellectual property) may be reproduced, copied, modified, transmitted, re-distributed or adapted, without the prior written consent of the artist, Al Gord.
I am excited to announce that I will be reading my new picture-book, Freshly Baked Pie, at Chapters Woodbridge on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Please join me from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM for children’s activities and book signing.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Playful. Mischievous. Impatient.
Meet Emily, the unforgettable star
of the new picture book
Freshly Baked Pie
Released May 13, 2017 by Words Publishing
Freshly Baked Pie is a whimsical tale about five year-old Emily who struggles to do the right thing when she is told to stay away from a cooling pie. Cleverly written by Lora Rozler and beautifully illustrated by Daniela Vasquez, Freshly Baked Pie invites readers along Emily’s imaginary battle with a mischievous pie. Never has examining rules and consequences been so much fun!
AVAILABLE MAY 13, 2017 AT VARIOUS ONLINE AND IN-STORE RETAILERS
FREE Parent and Teacher Resource Kit NOW AVAILABLE
Feel free to use the templates and activities in the Resource Kit for your personal use at home or in the classroom.
Click on the image below to download.
Thank you for stopping by! Stay tuned for Book Signing and Reading Events in the Greater Toronto Area!
The Power of Colour
Writing Art Series by Al Gord
“With the brush we merely tint, while the imagination alone produces colour.”
~ Theodore Gericault ~
One of the most intentional and important choices I make as an artist is the colour palette choice for a painting. The choice of colour impacts the emotion a viewer feels. It can enhance or detract from a work of art. The very essence of colour unto itself is a tool for communication. What is it about this simple concept that makes it quite complex in actuality?
Research has shown that the use of colour can directly impact our mood. Think about the choices we make in our daily lives with regards to colour. The choice of clothing combinations – what does it say about one’s personality, the statement they are trying to make or how one is feeling on a given day? What about other colour choices? Consider the last time you decided to paint a room in your house? Why did you choose the colour that you did? Think about how the colour of food affects one’s appetite and how it can add to the appeal of trying a new dish.
As an artist I strategically consider how the colours will support both the title of the work and the imagery in the piece. My series on mental health, “Walk a Mile in my Head” combines blacks, greys and blues for every painting. Often we associate the shades (blacks), tones (greys) and colours such as blue as being sombre – a way to depict sadness and loneliness. I chose these colours for this series, not because people impacted by mental illness always feel this way – they don’t. Rather I chose these colours to elicit a strong emotional connection for those viewing the pieces.
The incredible thing about colour is that it can have multiple purposes. In a recently completed painting of John Lennon “Saying I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the Only One” I use the colour blue to create a sense of calmness. When combined with other colours in the piece, most notably yellow (warmth and optimism) and pink (love) I am trying to create a mood, a message of hope and positivity.
The beauty of colour choice is that on the canvas there is no right or wrong. Some combinations may be more pleasing, some may seem to be more balanced, but all colour choices have a purpose. The wonderful thing is that there are as many perspectives and interpretations of a painting as there are colour combinations. Whether the colour choices are pleasing I leave up to you; however, next time you view a work of art consider how the colours are impacting your feelings about the piece.
Al Gord is an up and coming artist who has been a featured artist twice in Niji Magazine. He has sold paintings in shows from Toronto, Canada to the United Kingdom. He combines abstract techniques with figurativism to create Iconic Rock Portraitures. Other series of works include Modern Romantic (Uninhibited), Expressionist pieces and pieces which focus on mental health awareness and advocacy. Regardless of the subject matter, his signature style is clearly recognizable. His work is showcased on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where he welcomes inquiries, questions, and feedback.