Fine Art for Kids: Etching with Klee

© Sarah Lipoff 2011


Paul Klee was an interesting guy. He had a great imagination that shined through in his child-like paintings. But, you’d never know when you met Klee that he had so much going on in his head. He was pretty reserved and kept to himself. I guess you could say painting truly was his way of expressing himself, and in his cubist abstract paintings, line, color, and excitement shined through. Klee was best-buddies with another expressionist – our friend Kandinsky!

We have fish at our house in a big tank and they’ve been swim-swimming around for almost seven years having a great time and getting bigger and bigger. The wee tot just started taking notice of fish one and fish two, and loves feeding them every morning. So, this early am, while she was sprinkling the fish food, Paul Klee’s The Golden Fish popped into my head. I knew we had to create our own rendition!

Although Klee was a painter, your child can replicate his fishy painting through an art process called etching. An etching is made by using acids to cut into unprotected metals – not really a safe project for kiddies – so using black paint and paper works just as well! Creating a layer of crayon offers a kick of color hiding under all that black.

I started the babe out with a sheet of white paper and a bunch of crayons. If you’ve got a little one like I do, it sometimes helps to tape the edges of the paper to the work surface so she doesn’t get frustrated with the paper moving. I encouraged her to scribble and scribble, filling her entire paper with color. If you’ve got an older child, she can create patterns of color on her paper, which will make the etching part of the art project really exciting.

Once the entire paper was filled with scribbles, I offered my daughter a paintbrush soaked with black tempera paint and invited her to cover her paper with that paint. At first she wasn’t sure about hiding all those lines and looping circles she had just created, but painting is fun – and she was more than happy to continue covering her paper until there wasn’t any white showing through. Try to encourage your child to do the same, too!

While waiting for the paint to dry, take a closer look at Paul Klee’s work and his life. For the older set, Klee was living in Nazi Germany, which directly impacted his life. For the younger ones, it’s as simple as chatting about shapes and colors found within his paintings!

Now offer your child the end of a paintbrush, or a really dull pencil, and invite her to etch (draw) into that black paint, revealing all those bits of color underneath. She can create a fish, just like Klee’s painting The Golden Fish, or any kind of design she’d like! I helped my wee tot by making an outline of a big fish, some smaller fish, and then invited her to make fun lines and shapes around them.

Your child’s finished Klee creation can be proudly displayed in your home – we put ours right next to the fish tank!

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