It happened overnight. My tot went to sleep last night totally clueless and today is a letter genius. Well, okay, not a total genius, but she’s pointing at letters everywhere and yelling them out — sometimes correctly (and mostly not). She sees letters on a sign, she yells them out. She sees letters on the TV, she yells them out. Most of the time she’s pretty sure she’s got it right, causing her to become a bit annoyed when I attempt to correct her.
So I’m letting her think a D is whatever she’s calling it at the moment for now.
But all this letter yelling did remind me of a painting that I love by Jasper Johns. Yes, we’ve visiting with Johns in the past, but due to the tot’s letter recognition excitement, we are revisiting. From iconic images to big splashes of color, Jasper Johns has been a respected for years. Johns is an Abstract Expressionist artist that uses things that are totally familiar like colors, shapes, or maps, and transforms them into amazing works of art. His lithograph, False Start 1, 1962, tricks the brain with its splashes of color with mismatched color printed names.
This is a fun art activity to explore with kids that are just starting to notice letters as well as those beginning to read. My tot isn’t at the reading stage yet but she’s definitely ready for building her letter recognition skills. Gather together a sheet of white paper, some scrap paper, paintbrushes, and red, yellow, and blue paint. Take a look at False Start 1 together and notice the big areas of color and the words written around the artwork.
Squeeze a bit of each color of paint onto a piece of scrap paper and invite your child to paint big splashes of color around her paper without blending them too much. Once your child is satisfied with the creation, let it dry while getting out a set of letter stamps.
Waiting for paint to dry is no fun, but use the time to go over the letters with your tot. Sing the ABC’s, practice making and stamping words, or go outside and play or something.
Once the paint is dry, squeeze a small amount of red, yellow, and blue paint onto a piece of folded paper towel. This is your child’s stamp pad for creating those words on top of the areas of color. Now the tricky part — seeing if your tot can find the right letters to spell a few words!
Pick a color to spell out and see if your child can select the letters needed for stamping it onto the painted paper. Go ahead and help out as needed. Now select a color to use for stamping that is different from the area of color. So, if you picked the word “yellow” to stamp, press the letters into the blue paint and then onto the yellow paint.
Keep stamping words until your child is happy with the artwork and then let dry. Find a spot to display your Jasper Johns inspired creation for the whole family to see.
My tot started out strong and then got caught up with stamping the letter W just about everywhere she could.
Oh well. I think things turned out just fine.
Summer is here and with it long, warm afternoons perfect for a languid art activity using water. While cleaning the house the other day, I discovered a whole collection of circle shaped objects begging to be used. From cans ready to be recycled to my daughters sippy cups, we had circles of all shapes and sizes perfect for an art project.
And, Wassily Kandisnky came to mind. If you remember, we explored his artwork awhile back with some collaging, but along with creating beautiful abstract linear works, he also really got into circles. Several of his works solely focused on the swirling, looping circle, and I figured we could re-visit Kandinsky though another fun art activity.
Kandinsky was truly an abstract painter, masterfully turning shapes and lines into moving and colorful artworks. His style was vivid and exciting, which encouraged the viewer to look all over his creations, taking in all it has to offer. During the early 1900’s abstract expressionism was popular, and Kandinsky was finding his niche as an appreciated and respected artist – and is still today. I couldn’t help thinking of his painting, Several Circles, 1926, when I came across all those circular shapes, and knew my wee tot would love using them for an engaging, expressive artwork!
No matter the age of your child, this is a fantastic art activity that hones shape and color recognition skills. Older children can explore the concepts of balance and design, along with discovering more about color theory. But, mostly, this is a wonderful way to learn more about an artist and be creative.
Take another look at Several Circles by Kandinsky and discuss with your child how Kandinsky created all those perfectly round shapes. Invite your child to go on a circle scavenger hunt around the house and get ready to start circling!
Offer your child a sheet of white paper. Kandinsky’s creation used both black and white as a background, For this project, a white paper will create vibrant results. Now your child can position all those circular objects on her paper and draw around them using a black marker. She can use a permanent or non-permanent marker – either works just fine. A black permanent marker won’t wash together with the watercolor paints in the next step.
(Just remember, a black permanent marker stains, so be careful what your child is circling on – and where!)
Encourage your child to have a couple of those circles overlap, just like Kandinsky did. While she is busy circling away, you can quiz her on color theory, such as what color yellow and blue create when mixed together.
Now she can get out the watercolor paints and start painting in those circles. In the overlapped areas, she can experiment with her new color theory knowledge and see what colors she can create!
To finish her Kandinsky inspired circle creation, she can paint the background a solid color – or leave it white, just the way it is.
The moment a child figures out how to pick up a crayon, she begins an adventure through art from scribbling to realistic creations. Just like with learning how to read or write, children go through levels of development in art – and it is a fun and educational journey. And, with summer right around the corner, there are lots of exciting ways to keep those little hands busy – and out of trouble!
The Scribble Stage
Viktor Lowenfeld, an art education professor at Pennsylvania State University, published Creative and Mental Growth in 1947, detailing the development of art in children. His writing teaches the Stages of Artistic Development, which ties together the intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic growth of art in children. According to Lowenfeld, the first stage of a child’s art development is the scribble stage. Youngsters, from birth to the age of four, explore their abilities to make marks using various materials, including that pen you left out on your home’s walls.
Lowenfeld breaks the scribble stage into four sub-stages titled the disordered, longitudinal, circular, and naming. During the disordered sub-stage, a child creates light or dark scribbles with little or no control over her motor skills. Longitudinal scribbles show the beginnings of controlled repeated motions and understanding of movement. During the circular sub-stage, a child further explores her control over mark-making implements. In the naming stage, she begins to tell stories about her scribbles along with naming them, even though they are non-representational.
Innate Learning Instincts
Marvin Bartel, a retired professor of art at Goshen College, finds the scribble stage to be about how things sound and feel, along with the pure joy created for children when drawing. Bartel calls scribbling a child’s “job” which, “grows out of their innate learning instincts.” This means those unsuspecting walls are at risk of being covered with scribbles, as a child does not understand, that the family’s walls are not for her mark making. Bartel suggests placing pads of paper on easels, or directly on walls, for a child to comfortably, and wall harming-free, create scribbles when she so feels inclined.
The early desire to scribble enforces Lowenfeld’s thoughts that a child’s brain is developing and learning from their first artistic creations. Dr. Susan Sheridan finds scribbling to be “ an artifact of the evolutionary connections between speech and literacy.” These simple marks are a way for the brain to synchronize activity in the multiple layers of the brain tissue for language processing and problem solving. When a child is concentrating on her mark making, she is training her brain to be attentive, encouraging her brain to visualize shapes and forms, and organizing patterns of thought.
The scribble stage may seem to continue for years. But, this stage eventually turns into the preschematic stage. Those looping round circles will become somewhat representational potato-head bodies with small protruding lines for arms and legs. While a child is so fanatic about scribbling, do engaging art activities that show interest in her artistic expression, along with creating some wall-worthy art, even if it is a bunch of scribbles.
Tape and Crayons
-During the scribbling stage, a child is experimenting with grasping, holding, and pressing objects, which develops the small muscles of her hands. Use masking tape to create an artwork that boosts fine-motor skills and expressive line making.
-Offer the child small strips of masking tape and encourage her to press them onto a white piece of paper. This encourages her hand to grasp and press the tape.
-Once she’s positioned the tape and ready to move on, give her a selection of crayons and have her cover the entire paper. While she is coloring, test her color recognition skills by holding a crayon and asking her what color it is.
-When the child’s finished, have her remove the lengths of tape and discover what lies underneath.
-Allow a child to scribble using washable markers on a piece of white paper, inviting her to use the markers on the paper and not in her mouth.
-Although it looks like a lot of scribbles, ask the child about her creation. Susan Lemons, Child Development specialist, reminds parents that the scribble stage “isn’t about the product, but the process.” Encourage her to make big looping scribbles and small round scribbles, motivating her to explore the way she can create marks.
-Give prompts, when necessary, about holding a mark making implement or how to use it properly, such as reminding her that markers belonging on the paper. This benefits her understanding of different art materials.
-When she is ready, remove the markers and provide her with a wet paintbrush, showing her how to paint over her scribbles. Re-wet the paintbrush as needed as she continues to cover her marks.
Edible Finger Paint
-Separate a prepared batch of vanilla pudding into small cups, adding drops of food coloring to create a selection of colors.
-Touch is one of the five senses and doing art activities that allow a child to explore how things feel benefits her early sensory development. The five senses are how a young child learns about the world around her.
-Place spoonfuls of the pudding finger paint onto a white paper and invite the child to use her fingers as line making tools, and enjoy tasting them while she works.
-Along with exploring her sense of touch, assist the child’s understanding of her sense of taste. Do a taste test with the pudding finger paint, asking the child if the different colors of finger paint taste similar or different. Ask her about words she feels describe the taste of the pudding.
No matter the activity, allowing children to explore their budding creativity during the Scribble stage encourages brain development and builds self-esteem. Spend time creating with children – you might find yourself enjoying some scribbling, too!
*This is an article I originally wrote for Funderstanding.com, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!
Spring is here along with a whole palette of new colors. Fresh flowers are popping up all over the place making those bare trees bright with blossoms and yards burst with brilliant hues. This time of year reminds me of the vibrant paintings of Gustav Klimt and how he captured the freshness of spring in his dreamy artworks. When most think of Klimt, his famed The Kiss comes to mind, but in actuality, Gustav loved the flowers, and many of his artworks were filled with them.
Our friend Gustav Klimt grew up in Austria and was one of the founding fathers of the decorative Art Nouveau style. His expressive and moving artworks were based on his life experiences with love, death, and more and more love. Let’s just say many of his paintings are sensual in style, full of rich color and soothing lines. With all those spring flowers popping up all around, I figured it was a wonderful opportunity to create a beautiful blossoming artwork with the wee tot!
We started by examining some of Klimt’s flower paintings up close and personal via the Internet. On of my favorites, Farmergarden with Sunflower is a sea of green with brilliant dots of colorful flowers shining through. We had fun trying to count all those flowers and naming the colors, too. This is a great way to promote language and math skills with your child, too!
Then it was time for making our own Gustav Klimt painting to showcase all the spring flowers around our home. Before hitting the paints, I shuffled the babe outside for an interactive walk around the neighborhood to see what colorful flowers we could see. I even brought along a cutter to trim a couple of stems to use for inspiration.
Back at the house I put our spring flowers in a vase and got out a sheet of white paper. But, instead of using plain green paint, I had the babe tear some shades of green tissue paper to make things a touch more interesting. Not only is tearing fun, it hones your child’s fine motor skills!
Once you’ve got a nice pile of green shreds, you can offer your child a small dish with a mix of water and glue along with a paintbrush for slathering the stuff all over the place. Invite her to wash her paper with glue water and then press those pieces of tissue around her paper. She can paint over them again securing all that green to her paper.
Once she’s finished with tissue and glue, invite your child to select some of her favorite colors of paint to use for making her spring flowers. Now she can dab, dab, and dab her paint filled brush all over the green tissue paper to create a garden full of flowers, just like Gustav Klimt!
Her finished flower creation can be put in a frame and proudly displayed in the home reminding everyone, no matter the time of year, how wonderful spring can be.
Just last week, the wee tot’s favorite shape (heart) was replaced with the star. She walks around yelling, “staaaaaaah” and pointing at any stars she sees around her. So I figured it would be fitting to create a few stars with some motivation by famed painter, Jasper Johns.
During the mid 1950’s, Jasper Johns broke onto the American art scene and helped move the art world from Abstract Expressionism into the land of Pop Art and Minimalism. His canvases were layered with thick paint, covered with big, bold shapes, and sometimes even came right out at you through his style of building canvas on top of canvas.
A couple of Jasper Johns’ paintings are right here in San Francisco at the SFMOMA, which I took the wee tot to visit just about a year ago. Sure, she had no idea what she was looking at, but I stood in awe while looking at his paintings. I knew one of my favorites, Flag (1954), would be the perfect inspiration for an afternoon star painting project with the babe.
My daughter’s not old enough to really understand the motivation behind Johns’ flag paintings, but older kids can do some research to learn more about Jasper Johns and what intrigued him so about the American flag. Stars are also fairly prominent in Johns’ works, so I figured the wee tot could cozy up by the computer while enjoying counting stars in his paintings.
I offered the babe a sheet of white paper and plopped a couple of dollops of blue paint on the paper. With the help of a big paintbrush, she had the whole paper covered in no time. Finger paint would also be a great option for creating the textured blue background for those stars.
While the paint was drying, I helped the babe with the next step by cutting a star out of cardboard. Older kids could do this step themselves by tracing around a star shape, or using a ruler to create and cut a nice edged star about 3 inches in diameter.
Now tape a small item to one side of the cardboard star to create a stamp. I found that a die worked great, but a wine cork, or plastic bottle cap would be perfect, too.
Once the paint was dry, I poured a small amount of white paint on a paper plate and encouraged the tot to press and stamp stars, and stars, and stars. Older kids could create a star pattern, or even replicate rows of stars, just like in the American flag.
After my daughter was satisfied with those stars, we proudly displayed her Jasper Johns’ inspired artwork on the fridge. She loves walking by, pointing, and yelling, “staaaaaah!”
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!
Morris Louis isn’t an artist you’ve probably heard of. You probably haven’t seen any of his artworks either – but maybe you have and didn’t realize it. His paintings are so soothing that your eyes just glide around them while leaving a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy. If Louis Morris’ paintings were blankets, I’d envelope myself in as many as possible and feel complete on so many levels. The color, the blending, the softness, the movement and line….
There’s not much to know about Morris Louis. He was a Washington D.C. native who lived a short life, painted sporadically, and now has artworks in famous museums all over the world. He kept to himself, but rubbed elbows with some of the other Color Field painters in the 1960’s, such as Helen Frankenthaler. Basically, Louis covered an un-primed canvas with lines and spots of watered down paints creating bold and vibrant areas of color, along with dark and moody abstractions. What’s not to love?
Morris Louis was on my mind the other afternoon while the wee tot was drawing and drawing with her markers. She’s all about making long lines with her marking implement, creating these lengthy scribbles of color. So, Louis got me motivated to turn those scribbles into something more.
Just about everyone has a set of markers, paper, and water, so there’s no excuse not to do this fine art activity. And, what’s even better is that a two-year-old can do it. Really. Because mine sure did!
Start by taking a look at examples of Morris Louis’ work. Our inspiration was Untitled A, 1960. The lines of color that blend and bleed into each other really create something special. And, those markers with a little help of some water will do the same thing.
Invite your child to coat a piece of white drawing paper with water under the faucet. You’ve got to use drawing paper – construction paper breaks down and printer paper tears too easily.
Now she can place that dripping-wet paper on a work space that’s good-to-go for an art project. Markers can stain, so either put a piece of cardboard under the paper, or a plastic or paper bag.
Go ahead and offer your child those markers and encourage her to create long lines of colors. The markers will hit that watery paper and blend together just like a Morris Louis painting!
Your child can keep making long lean lines or create areas of color – whatever she prefers. Once the paper is covered, let the creation dry for an hour or so before moving it. This way you won’t tear that really cool artwork.
I happily posted our dry, finished Morris Louis marker wash on the fridge. It sure helps brighten my day!
One of my favorite stories about Georgia O’Keeffe is that she would often walk her property in New Mexico with a garden hoe cutting the heads off snakes that got in her way while looking for interesting things to paint. I can’t say if it’s a true story or not, but it sure seems fitting. Georgia O’Keeffe led a long and amazing life. Really. This woman was a true artist – ringing in photography as Alfred Stieglitz’s muse and then continuing on to be a celebrated artist all on her own.
O’Keeffe’s artworks often depict flowers at their best – really close up. She morphed those pretty lilies into things that transported the viewer from looking at a plain-jane flower to looking at something really outstanding. And, it was different. AND, she really was a character. I only have the utmost respect for Georgia and all she created and accomplished.
Well, the other morning at 6:20 am when the wee tot awoke and called, “mamammammamamama,” the sun had a nice warmth to it and there were a couple of flowers that had popped in the pre-spring happiness. It was time to head outdoors and go for a walk, just like Georgia did (hopefully without the snakes – I’ve had enough of those buggers).
So, we went outside and picked a couple of morning glories that had opened on our deck. I figured they were perfect inspiration for our own O’Keeffe inspired flower artwork!
I shared one of my favorite Georgia O’Keeffe paintings with the wee tot that looked just like our morning glories, Purple Petunias, 1925. My daughter oohed and awwed over the cool, cool colors. Often Georgia used sets of either cool or warm colors for her large-scale paintings. The cool colors are blue, green, and purple – colors that make you think of ice and crisp air. Warm colors are red, yellow, and orange, which bring to mind fire, heat, and excitement.
After I put the morning glories in a vase close by for us to look at while we worked, I got out the chalk pastels and a nice big piece of paper. Your child can pick a flower from the yard to use as inspiration, too (or you all can take a trip to your local flower shop to find a special flower for the art activity).
Offer your child a black piece of chalk to outline the shape of the flower and then either use warm or cool colors to color the flower in. She can experiment with layering and blending the pastels on her paper. Encourage her to take her time and think about how to fill her paper with her flower.
My wee tot is a bit young for the whole “taking your time” thing, so I drew an outline and let her go crazy with colors of pastels I handed to her.
When your child is satisfied with her flower, offer a paper towel and let her blend, blend away! This gets a bit messy, so have some fresh, clean paper towels ready to clean up!
Now she can go back in with pastels to add details and additional bursts of color to her O’Keeffe inspired flower!
Once she’s finished, her flower creation can be displayed alongside the flower she used as inspiration so others can take a look at the real thing, and then her close-up rendition.
Andy Warhol was kind of crazy. I think that’s what people liked (or didn’t like) about him. He was a bit cooky, hung out with lots of famous people, and made these hyper-modern paintings that used the popular culture that surrounded him. And, with all that nutty behavior and interesting art, Andy Warhol became an icon himself. Along with using repeated imagery, he tied in bright vibrant colors. Warhol often placed complimentary colors next to each other (complimentary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel – red and green, blue and yellow, orange and purple) to really make things super dramatic. Along with others, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol was part of the exciting Pop Art movement of the 1960’s.
Well, yesterday afternoon, when the wee tot decided she wasn’t going to nap, and I needed to figure out a way to stay sane and get through the afternoon, I figured we may as well create a fun artwork with Warhol as influence. My daughter is just starting to figure out shapes and what they are all about. So, using her favorite shape – a heart – seemed like a fun way to make a repeating, colorful artwork in the style of Warhol! I shared with her some of my favorite Warhol paintings and enjoyed watching her point out all the different things she saw.
First, I divided a 9 by 12-inch piece of white construction into a grid forming six equal sized squares. If you’ve got an older child, she can get out a ruler and pencil and do this for herself, honing her math skills.
Now invite your child to draw the shape she selected in each of the squares, trying to make them all the exact same size. My daughter’s a bit young for drawing her own hearts, so I helped her out with this step by tracing around a heart cookie cutter (which your child could do, too!).
Once she’s drawn her shapes, give your child a black permanent marker to go over her pencil lines. Offer help as needed and keep a watchful eye on that permanent marker – you don’t want it to wander off…
Now get out the watercolor paints and encourage her to paint the inside of each shape a different color. Then, she can paint the outside of the shapes its complimentary color – or use whatever color combination she would like! My wee tot started out strong, but after two or three squares got distracted, so I helped finish her creation.
Your child’s finished Warhol artwork can proudly be displayed in her room – or on her door welcoming others to come on in!
There are several art activities that are fun, easy, and doable for just about any age that I use as good-ol-go-to projects when something needs to be done. Paper cutting in the style of Matisse is one of those awesome activities. Just about any age can get into this engaging project, and you can put a spin on things to connect with other learning areas – such as math!
So, the other day, when the babe and I were really getting sick of all that rain, I figured it was the perfect time to get out the scissors and see what we could do. The majority of Henri Matisse’s life consisted of creating colorful and vibrant portraits, landscapes, and still-lives. Matisse started painting while recuperating from appendicitis in childhood and things evolved from there. He hung with van Gogh and the other Impressionist artists in France and then comfortably moved into the modern art movement with buddies such as Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin. Matisse’s real claim to fame is as the father of Fauvism, a movement that embodied color and movement – which is what Matisse’s work is all about.
It wasn’t until the end of Matisse’s career that he began exploring the art of paper cutting. And, we’re not talking cutting on a dotted line, here. Matisse turned simple cut paper into colorful, masterful artworks that grabbed the viewers’ attention and didn’t let go. His organic shapes and color combinations jumped off the paper, seeming to move and dance.
While the rained poured down outside, I cuddled the babe up to the computer and shared with her some of my favorite paper cuttings by Matisse. While we looked at them, I pointed to colors asking her what she saw, challenging her color recognition.
Now, my wee tot isn’t ready to wield any type of sharp implement yet, but she sure can create some crazy organic shapes! We picked out a set of complimentary colored construction paper (complimentary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel – red and green, yellow and purple, orange and blue) and folded them in half. Then I helped by cutting each of the papers in half along the fold.
I gave the babe some glue and a sheet of white paper. After she had coated the backsides of each of the orange and blue papers, we slapped them on a white paper.
Then, I offered her a marker and let her create some funky free form organic shapes on the other half of one of the papers. (I’ll be honest, her shapes turned into some pretty serious scribbles, so I had to make some organic shapes for us to use for our finished Matisse creation on the half sheet of orange paper.) This is a great opportunity to chat with your child about shapes, and the difference between organic (free-form) and geometric shapes (hello, math concepts!).
If you’ve got a good-to-cut-with-scissors child, he can now place the paper he drew his organic shapes on top of the other complimentary color construction paper and cut – so he will have two shapes exactly the same. He can cut out as many shapes as he’d like to create his creation. And, that cutting is giving all those itty-bitty muscles in your child’s hand a work-out, great for helping with coordination and building hand writing skills!
Now he can go ahead and glue those organic shapes on his paper, thinking about making a symmetrical creation. Symmetry is when something is the same on both sides – like a butterfly. Or, your child can go off on a tangent and create his own design layout.
Once he’s finished cutting and pasting, your little Matisse can share his finished paper cutting with friends and family!