Folksy Winter Animal Plaque

A step-by-step guide, with pictures, to create this folksy winter clay project!


You will need:

  • Amaco self hardening clay (view here)
  • Clay tools (needle, stylus, water, rolling pin)
  • Paper cut outs of forest animals
  • Mod-Podge
  • Paintbrushes
  • Glitter
  • Acrylic paint
  • Twine, or leather strips to hang plaque


Before you get started, keep in mind that the clay will stick to your table, making it hard to pick up and move around. Try working on a piece of flat canvas, or wax paper.

  1. Gather a chunk of clay and roll into a ball. The more clay you have, the larger your plaque will be.
  2. Roll out a clay slab with your rolling pin. It should be about half an inch in thickness. (If it’s too thick, it won’t dry very quickly).
  3. Use your stylus or needle to cut out a square or rectangular shape. Don’t worry about making it perfect, the variation in your shape gives this project character!
  4. Make two holes at the top with your stylus to hang the plaque. Remember not to make them too close to the edge.
  5. Find photos of forest animals online, and print them in varying sizes. Then, cut them out to use as stencils.
  6. Choose your animals, then roll out clay slabs for each of them, making them slightly thinner than your rectangle slab.
  7. Trace / cut out your animal with the needle tool.
  8. Remember, to attach your animal, you must score and slip the back of the figure. To score, you create small hatch marks with your needle all over, and to slip, use your finger to wet the surface. This will bind the two pieces together.
  9. Now, use a joining tool to press the edges of the animal into the slab tile. This will give it a smooth appearance.
  10. Add minimal, winter trees using this same method. Or, draw snowflakes into the background with your stylus.

  11. To decorate the plaque, we have used white acrylic paint in the background (but feel free to use whatever color you choose… midnight blue, or purple would be charming too), mixed with Mod-Podge. This keeps the paint from flaking off of the clay. 20160128_135005-1
  12. Then it’s time to add glitter to the animals! You can add as little or as much as you prefer. What’s neat is that the red of the clay still shows through, and gives this piece a folksy look!
  13. Mix the glitter with Mod-Podge, and use a small paintbrush to cover the animals.
  14. Don’t worry if it looks cloudy, the Mod-Podge dries clear!

    15.  Once the paint in the background is dry, apply a layer of Mod-Podge, and add the glitter! Choose whatever color you like, we’ve used both turquoise and white in our examples. 20160128_145901-116.  Once painted, cover your tile with plastic (a grocery sack works well), and let dry thoroughly. This may take a few days.
    17.  The final step is to tie a piece of twine, or a leather strip through the holes so your plaque will be ready to hang!

    Project created by Julie Talley, AMoA’s Curator of Education

Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection


Romero, Frank-City at Night (8x8)
City at Night, 2010
Acrylic and oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches
Collection of Cheech Marin

Many of us know Cheech Marin as part of the colorful Hollywood duo “Cheech and Chong”. Others followed his career as he branched out into writing and directing. But over the last 20 years, Marin has also been gathering a pretty sizable collection of Chicano art. He has been championing the Chicano art movement of the 60s and 70s, as well as promoting up-and-coming artists.

The Amarillo Museum of Art will be honoring The Chicano Collection of Cheech Marin as part of our Achievement in Art Exhibition. You can see some of these works on the first and second floor of our museum from January 31st – March 27th.

Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection showcases 70 paintings from this noted art collection averaging 16 inches square, and smaller, in size. In contrast to the large works in the collection, the content of the small paintings leans more towards the artists’ internal or personal statement rather than as a response to political, or social situations. With styles ranging from photo-realism to abstraction… portraits to landscapes, we see a glimpse of the artists’ lives. In these paintings, we find that each artist is sincere in his or her life experiences, personal interests, culture, and heritage. And that they entice us with a little bit of mystery.. a little bit of humor… and true individuality.

This will be a particularly significant exhibition to share with students on school tours – we hope to expose them to diverse cultures, while helping them consider their own identities, and how they relate to the world around them.

Lozano, Jose-Wrestlers, Centauro

Centauro, 1997
Mixed media on paper, 10 x 8 inches
Collection of Cheech Marin

Marin explains that he discovered his love of small paintings when he first saw the works of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer in person. Although he had studied the paintings in books, he describes that seeing them up close he could sense the way Vermeer captured intimate scenes, as if he were eavesdropping. After this encounter with Vermeer’s work, Cheech Marin sought out small paintings wherever he went.

Johannes Vermeer. The Milkmaid, 1657-1658. Oil on canvas, 16×18 inches.
Garcia, Margaret-Urban Field of Green
Margaret Garcia, Urban Field of Green, 2009. Oil on canvas, 12×12 inches. Collection of Cheech Marin.






In the article below, Marin explains how his love of Chicano art developed, the underlying ideas of the movement, and the way it fits into the art world today.

CHICANO SCHOOL OF PAINTING-01  “The first time I stood in front of a Chicano painting – it was George Yepe’s Amor amatizado – I had the same feeling as when I first heard a tune by the Beatles. It was a sense of experiencing something very familiar and very new. The Beatles had built their music on the backs of their rock ‘n roll heroes, but their interpretation was fresh and distinctive. As the Beatles started writing their own songs, their own roots were clearly evident, and yet they were moving beyond the influences around them to create a whole new musical landscape. The same can be said about my appreciation of Chicano painters: The more art I looked at and thought about, the more that initial feeling of something new and “known” was reinforced, and with it a recognition of something powerful at work.

Having been self-educated in art from an early age (I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade), I recognized the various models from which the Chicano artists drew inspiration: Impressionism, Expressionism, the Mexican Mural Movement, Photorealism, Retablo painting are all examples. But the common link of course was the central “influence” common to all the artists – they were Chicanos and looked at the world through Chicano eyes. Over time, this so-called common link begat something broader and more important. A much larger picture was emerging, and that picture was a new school of art in formation.

If a school can be defined as a place where people can come to learn, exchange ideas, have multiple views and different approaches to the same subject, and influence each other as they agree and disagree, then a Chicano School of Painting more than qualifies for such a definition. What distinguishes this body of work is of course not simply that it has no interest in rehashing the familiar landmarks of Impressionism, say, or abstraction or pattern & decoration. Nor is this art whose mandate is a reaction against other stylistic precedents in the history of art. Rather, it is a visual interpretation of a shared culture that unfolds in one distinctive painting after another.

The art movement developed outside of the national or international spotlight, and in separate locations, notably Los Angeles and San Antonio. In its earliest days, three decades ago, this was a movement that developed organically, with little communication among the artists. What bound them together was the DNA of common shared experience. Yes, there were a few very important groups (Con Safo, Royal Chicano Air Force, Los Four, and Asco), but in general many of the artists shown in these pages never even met before their work was collected in the exhibition “Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge”. With little commercial encouragement, these artists have struggled to gain acceptance in the gallery world. Many painters show their works in restaurants, coffee houses, or wherever there is a wall and an audience. What matters is that they continue to create.

Overwhelmingly university or art-school trained, these artists were exposed to art history and major contemporary world art trends in addition to the constant and surrounding influence of Mexican art and culture. Indeed, it is this blending of influences – traditional Mexican and American Pop – that defines the school. Simultaneously naive and sophisticated, the art mirrors the artists’ own experience of a bicultural environment. Chicanos “code switch” amongst themselves all the time: they go back and forth almost at random between languages and cultures both spoken and visual. Code switching allows for total immersion, the creation of a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Going into its fourth generation of artists, the school continues to grow without losing its essential characteristic – the visual interpretation of the Chicano experience. Whatever the means – historical, political, spiritual, emotional, humorous – these painters each find a unique way to express their singular point of view. And just as Chicanos have been influenced by their predecessors, so now they exert an influence on American pop culture. From hip-hop dress to the predominance of salsa as the number one condiment – over ketchup! – the Latin experience is not just recognized as something “interesting”, a “colorful sidelight”, but as one of the main threads that makes up America’s cultural fabric.

In the end, however, it is the lone art lover standing in front of a great painting with his jaw dropped, transported to a place both timeless and immediate, that provides the ultimate validation for this new movement in art. For more than twenty years, Chicano painters have done that for me. I pass along this world with love and affection, y con amor, carino y besos. 

-Cheech Marin
San Francisco, 2002


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In addition to the exhibition, Cheech Marin will be joining us in Amarillo on Tuesday, February 9th at the Globe News Center to speak about his passion for collecting art. Click here to purchase tickets. We’re excited to be hosting someone with celebrity status, who brings with him an awareness to the importance of Chicano art.

We hope that you find this exhibition as compelling as we do.


[The Amarillo Museum of Art]