It's funny how the first time we pick up a pencil we are abstract artists. Then somewhere around the age of 3 we start to form images from our own observation, though these images are usually still imagined. We draw what a dog looks like, without actually looking at it; or a house, or our family. Usually the sun will be hanging out in the corner somewhere.
Maybe our early abstract images aren't meant to be abstract at all. They're the presumed scribbles of an untrained hand that grips a marker awkwardly. But maybe that very young person sees a dog, or a house or his family with a sun hanging in the corner of his picture.
I like to introduce abstract art to my class of 5 and 6 year olds by showing them the art of the Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, often called the father of abstract. I show them the progression of his work. Earlier, colourful Post-Impressionist pieces like this, and this; through to art with less distinguishable features like this.
Lastly I show them his vibrant pieces with harder edges and a lot of geometric forms and we look at how Kandinsky used bright colours and contrasts throughout his career.
The fact that the same artist has painted the two images below astonishes them. The fact that they can make this kind of art too delights them.
"Murnau: Top of the Johannisstrasse" and "On White II" both by Kandinsky
This is how we make our Kandinsky inspired pictures.
Supplies: Water based paint, card stock, geometric shapes cut from cereal boxes, a pencil, large and small brushes
1. The children choose from a variety of shapes then trace around them on to card stock.
We choose four or five because more shapes will take longer than we have during our class time.
2.Then the shapes are laid out so they overlap to create interesting combinations. (You can see the shapes here on a painting by Angus. He chose eight shapes and ran out of time but I like the combination of lines and blocks of colour as it is, also very Kandinsky.)
3. The shapes are then filled in with paint using bright colours and contrasting darks.
The children did a brilliant job, they understood how to use light and dark colours for contrast and how to combine the shapes to create interest. Amazingly, this year most of my class is only five.
The children had limited time and they only had large round brushes because I couldn't locate the smaller ones. In the top picture by Joshua, the shapes disappeared due to the brushes, but he still had a lovely result due to his free use of colour.
We also had 30 in the class this week instead of 15 so they worked very independently!
A few notes:
- I share this project because every child in my class enjoys it. Those that are afraid to draw as well as those that are confident with every task and medium. They enjoy the freedom of abstraction and the use of bold colours.
- This project is fun for everyone to do anytime, children and adults alike and not just for school.
- With more time children could create their own shapes to cut out for templates.
- The bold colours of these pieces look especially good scanned and reduced for use as cards.
- This site has a lot of information and links to original Kandinsky art.
I hope some of you try this one, you'll love it.