Easy 3D Creatures

Easy 3D creatures brought to you by MMA instructor Kim Tolleson!

One of my favorite art supplies around the house is cardboard — specifically, the lightweight cardboard you find used for cereal boxes (or crackers, oatmeal, pasta, you name it). It’s sturdy enough to make cool projects, but it’s also thin enough to be flexible and easy to cut with scissors.


When making cardboard sculpture projects with my students, they often think they’ll need materials like tape and hot glue to make the cardboard stay together. But there are cleaner, more elegant techniques out there too! The following project uses a very simple method called Slit and Slot.

And if you’ve got some paint, you can take your cardboard creature to the next level.

Lightweight cardboard
Paint + paint brushes (optional! Acrylic paint would likely work best)
Step 1: Find some cardboard you can use! I used a cereal box, but there are lots of foods and household items that come packaged in lightweight cardboard. When you’ve found your cardboard, open it up so it lays out like a flat surface.


Step 2: Before drawing right onto your cardboard, it’s good to practice drawing your four-legged animal on regular paper. This project calls for a profile view of the animal — as if we’re looking at the animal from the side. The one trick? Don’t draw any legs on your creature! The legs will be put on separately, so draw a legless version of your animal’s body. Here is an example of a dinosaur and a unicorn. Once I’ve practiced a bit and I like my sketch, I will re-draw it on my cardboard. No legs, no problem!

(I outlined my drawings in pen so they’d be more visible, but using just a pencil is fine.)

Step 3. Next, you’ll cut out those creatures. As always, ask an adult for help if you’re having trouble!


 The creature will be brown cardboard on one side, and colorful on the other side:

Step 4. Now come the legs. The legs look like two thick letter U’s. I recommend cutting one U out, and then tracing it on the cardboard, so your second U comes out even with the first.

Cut out your second U. You should now have all the necessary parts of your sculpture. (You can see I chose to make my dino legs a bit chubbier than my unicorn’s legs!)


Step 5.
Time to cut our slits! Each creature will need 4 small cuts total: one on top of each leg piece, and two on the body, where you’d like to attach the legs. The trick is to not cut too deeply. Draw a little line to help guide yourself. Your slits should only be around a centimeter, more or less (depending on how big your cardboard creature is). See the dino for example:

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Step 6. Those slits you cut are now little openings, and you can use them to slot the pieces together. 


Turn the legs and gently insert into the body. Repeat with the second leg piece. Once the two leg pieces have been gently and securely attached to the body piece, your creature is ready to stand on their own!


Now, you can choose to stop here! This leaves you with a cool cardboard creature. Depending on which way you view it, you can show off its brown cardboard side or the shiny cereal box side.


IF you want to go the extra mile, you can break out your paints and decorate your brand new sculpture.


For my dachshund pal here, I used two layers of acrylic paint, letting it dry between layers.


Making a Plant Press

Brought to you by MMA instructor, Andrew Goulet!

Making a Plant Press

Spring is here and green is slowly returning to the world around us! A great way to appreciate the plants in our community is to take time to carefully observe them. If you look, you will find plants of all shapes, sizes, and colors right in your backyard. Botanists, scientists who study plants, have traditionally dried specimens under pressure in plant presses to preserve samples for later study. Unlike flowers in a vase, plants that have been properly pressed won’t wilt or rot and can be appreciated in any season. You don’t need to be a botanist to appreciate plants, and you don’t need much to press your own plants!

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What you’ll need:

  • 2 Hardcover books (or any similarly flat, rigid objects)
  • Cardboard
  • Newsprint
  • Scissors
  • Pen/pencil
  • Masking tape
  • String
  • Smartphone (optional)

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Step 1
Cut cardboard and newsprint to the same dimensions as your books.  

4 pieces of cardboard and 6 pieces of newsprint are enough to make 3 pressing layers.

Step 2
Go outside and collect your specimens! 

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**IMPORTANT** Before collecting any plants, make sure you have permission from the person whose plant it is or whose property it is growing on.

There are pine trees growing in my backyard, and I found several small evergreen plants that like the acidic soil created by fallen pine needles. See what you can find outside your front door! If you don’t have access to any wild plants, you can press leaves from a houseplant or even from the fridge! 

I highly recommend using the free app Seek by iNaturalist when collecting your plants. It uses your phone’s camera to identify plants, animals, and fungi in real-time! Once identified, you can learn about the plant, whether it is native to where you live, and if it is threatened by habitat loss. If you happen upon a threatened species, leave it where it is and appreciate your good fortune at seeing a rare plant!

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Step 3
Lay out your specimens and gently clean off any dirt that might be on them. To begin assembling your press, place a piece of cardboard on top of one of your books, followed by a piece of newsprint. Arrange a specimen or two on the newsprint and label them with tape if you were able to identify them.

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Next, place another sheet of newsprint on top, followed by a piece of cardboard. Repeat this process with your remaining specimens and top it off with the second book. In the end, you should have a “sandwich” with layers like this:

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Step 4
Finally, wrap the string around the press and tie it tightly. Place the press next to a heat source or fan to help start the drying process before any mold has a chance to grow.

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Allow the plants to dry for at least 48 hours before opening the press. After a few days, check on your specimens. You are looking for them to be totally dry. If they haven’t fully dried, swap out any wet newsprint with dry pieces. 

Check back in a few days to find out how to mount and display your pressed plants like a botanist!

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Here is a pair of traditional wooden botanist’s plant presses loaded with specimens from the rainforests of Panama!




Color Grids with Roz Sommer

Jump in and make your own grid!



White watercolor or drawing paper, pencil, watercolor, plastic palette or tray, watercolor brushes, container of water
Black construction paper, oil pastels
  1. With pencil, draw vertical and horizon lines to create grid. Lines can be straight or wavy. Boxes can be large or small, narrow or wide. They can look like mountains and valleys, oceans. (This can be done with white oil pastel on black paper).


2.  Pick a dominant color (eg. blue). Mix a different color in each box. Include some of the of the dominant color in each mixture. Add a little or a lot. With watercolor you can mix colors on your palette or on the paper. You must add water to your paint. More water will result in lighter colors. Use more paint and less water for darker tones.



3. If using oil pastels, mix colors on paper by layering and blending. The dominant color can be laid down first or worked over other colors. To lighten a color layer with white.

4. Fill the entire grid with colors.

Photo Challenge with Maddie

Photo Challenge brought to you by MMA instructor and Photographer, Maddie Massicotte!

If you enjoy taking photos and have access to anything that can take a picture (android/iphone – anything works!), I have a few fun photo challenges/studies for you! Being stuck at home or in a monotonous daily routine, I can find myself lost in my head, lacking creativity. If you’re feeling similarly, or looking for something new and fun to experiment with, hopefully these activities will help you! For each assignment, I have attached a couple photos I’ve taken while being home the past week for inspiration. 

  1. Shadows and Natural Light 

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While we might be trapped inside our apartments/homes for the moment, that does not necessarily mean we’re unable to go outside and enjoy the sunlight. During daylight hours, look for sunbeams around your home, places where the sun is being partially blocked or obstructed, and or shadows/reflections being cast. Experiment throughout the day, going back to that same spot to observe and take photos as the light moves and changes. 

Be as playful as you want with this idea! Take photos as you go on your daily walk viewing the way the light graces and changes the environment around it, beside your favorite window in your house, explore the way light reflects off of glass, view the conversation between light and shadows, etc. I try to keep these assignments as loose as possible, as to keep them up to your interpretation! 

  1. Experimental Portraiture OR Object Study (or both because you’re a rockstar) 

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Choose one subject, it can be a person/animal, yourself, or an object (still-life). Document them throughout the next week (can do fewer days but time frame allows you to form a deeper understanding of your subject than only observing for a day or two), taking at least one photo a day, from a new perspective. I use the term “experimental” in hopes that you are attempting to view your subject differently every time you use your camera. This could mean that you are experimenting with a surrealist abstraction of your subject, or simply documenting them from different perspectives. 

  1. Black and White or Monochrome Photo Collage

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Take a minimum of two photos and create a conversation with them by creating a photo collage. This could be a physical photo collage, or a digital one, using any additional materials you want. The goal is to form a cohesive composition created from numerous photos which correspond to one another. You can use any subject matter you would like. The only requirements are that it contains monochrome photos. This study is a great way to repurpose old photos you may not know what to do with, or have forgotten about.


Unfolding now: Mini Zines!

Check out this simple technique for making a mini-zine from a single sheet of paper, shared by MMA Printmaking instructor Chris Wallace!

1. Start by folding your paper into eighths and then unfold and flatten it back down.


2. Draw out your images/designs. Then you are going to cut along the two middle panels with a pair of scissors.


3. After the cut you will fold the paper longwise (hotdog) and push open the center fold.

4. Next, close it in half and enjoy your new mini-zine!


Challenge: Can you name all the animals in Chris’ Strange Looking Animals Vol. 1? Take a look back at step two, and see how many you can name, also share your zines with us @maudmorganarts!