The St. Louis Art Museum is fantastic. If you ever get a chance to go, you must experience the grandeur of the building itself and the treasures within. On a trip there with a friend and my son, Fierce, I picked up and bought a copy of the book: If Picasso painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold. As I turned each page a creative whirlwind of ideas swept across my mind and this book became the jumping off point to learn about each famous artist and dive into several art projects based on those artist’s inspirations. I then looked up the artists’ real works of art in the DK book: ART. We also visited the Art Museum again to search for some of the artists work. Fierce took my phone and photo journalized our findings. This has been such a fun learning experience that we have already started doing a similar series through: If Da Vinci painted a Dinosaur. I share out adventures in hopes that you might enjoy our journey and maybe start one of your own.
Pablo Picasso was born in Spain and Fierce and I were there on vacation so of course we went to the Picasso Museum, but it was sold out…hence my pouty face. Ha! We were able to see many of Picasso’s blue period in the St. Louis Art Museum. Again, you must go visit!
Picasso was a firm believer in studying the masters and then painting with a childlike imagination. He said, “There is no abstract art. One must always begin with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality.”
I had Fierce take a photo of himself and then attach crazy animal face stickers to the picture. After reading about Picasso’s life, Fierce dictated a bio for his photo, which makes me smile still today.
Joseph Mallord William Turner “began leaving out details of objects, focusing instead on the interplay of light and shadow through clouds, in storms, and across water and land.” After reading the short bio included at the end of the book, I had Fierce and the neighbor kids use chalk to capture the shadows around them. I drew the shadows of leaves which was fun because as the sun moved so did the pattern of my leaves. It was like moving art. The kids got out a boogie board from the garage and stood it up so they could draw its shadow and then fill it in to make plants vs. zombies tombstones. If you are unaware, plants vs. zombies is a game. I am pretty sure JMW Turner didn’t have that in mind when he painted his paintings. However, he was known to paint the moody side of nature and said, “If there were anything to be had in nature blacker than black, I’d use it.”
Blam! Using paper cut outs as stencils for the backgrounds we painted away. At first, Fierce wrote “Blam,” but it was soon covered in a mash up of kindergarten artistic abilities. Roy Lichtenstein was a comic book fan as a kid and often created his own pictures. So, I feel a sort of pride in Fierce’s “take” on the greats. As an adult Lichtenstein was instrumental in elevating commercial art into the gallery world. Who knows what our kids scribbles will become one day.
Georgia O’Keeffe was an American modernist painter who loved to paint skulls, mountains, flowers and other desert scenes of New Mexico.
I found out coyote skull on ebay. We used paint pens to draw designs on our skull and then set it up in our garden to place it in a nature scene. This was probably my favorite art project of this series. We are also learning the names of the bones so when we talk about the skull, this will be a great hands-on illustration.
I had a glint in my eye when I told Fierce and the neighbor kids that we were going to talk about Claude Monet. You see, he doodled in the margin of his books as a kid and we were going to do the same. I had their attention, that is for sure. I set down a stack of books and let them choose which one they were going to use as their canvas. The neighbor boy who is a few years older than Fierce had an elaborate story that seemed like a parallel spin off of the original Paul Bundy story made all his own. It was really quite good.
Pablita Velarde was a Native American artist from New Mexico. She went to an Indian school where an elder told her the Pueblo tradition did not allow women to paint. She kept on and was quoted, “Have faith in yourself, otherwise it just won’t come out of you.”
She painted in a flat style and I thought it would be fun to paint clay pots and then arrange them in a pyramid on top of one another in order to have the same step like pattern she had in her painting. I tried to copy her birds and Fierce and the neighbor kids painted some pretty neat designs for their pots as well.
Jackson Pollock was known for placing a very large canvas on the floor so he could walk around it and splash paint onto the canvas with a stick. Fierce heard this, found a stick and started snapping paint at the canvas. Hands down, Jackson Pollock is his favorite artist. His neighborhood friend is really into sharks, so that was added as well and I really like the combined effort.
Salvador Dali often painted his dreams so I had Fierce attempt to do this as well. The fall prior to this study we were in Andorra and we had seen this statue of Salvador Dali’s: The Persistence of Memory. After our study, we went to the St. Louis Art Museum with his cousins and Vovo and saw several of Dali’s paintings in a traveling exhibit. I love that as you begin to know about something, you start to see it in all different places solidifying your knowledge of that art or artist. You never know what your kid will remember later in life, but you can definitely try to give them some building blocks to creating a foundation. This is probably one of the best parts about home schooling.
Paul Klee sounds like a fascinating person I wish I could have met. He was ambidextrous and worked in several styles including: cubist, expressionist and surrealist. He is quoted, “All things an artist must be: poet, explorer of nature, philosopher!”
I found this puzzle online and thought it was a fitting project as a childlike pastime combines with an artist who strove to achieve a childlike creativity.
Marc Chagall was a Russian artist living in Paris who had his painting confiscated in the 1940’s because he was Jewish. He said the stars were his best friends and that “the air was full of legends and phantoms, full of mythical and fairy-tale creatures, which suddenly flew away over the roof, so that one was at one with the firmament.”
With this in mind, Fierce and I laid down on a blanket in our front yard and looked up at the sky. I told him to draw what he saw. At first I was a little bummed because there was not a cloud in the sky. It was simply blue. Blue. Searching…more blue. And then Fierce said. “I see trees.” And I smiled, because it hadn’t occurred to me that we could paint the periphery of the sky. It was a beautiful moment.
“Dot upon dot upon dot, here’s a snowman by Georges Seurat!”
This is a phrase Fierce quotes from the book that I hear on a REGULAR basis. I have to admit, it is catchy and I am sincerely grateful it has cemented this artist and pointillism into both of our brains.
Piet Mondrian called his style Neoplasticism. He used primary colors with black lines and painted rectangles and squares to represent real objects and landscapes that he saw. He said, “It is with the aim of portraying universal beauty as consciously as possible.” We were able to see Piet’s work at the St. Louis Art Museum.
His work reminds me of stained glass and at the time I had seen someone paint with glue (add paint to glue and mix) in a stained glass style and thought we should try something like it for our study of Piet Mondrian. I did this with the primary colors and black and let Fierce decorate a frame. He started out pretty good and then started quoting the Georges Seurat quote I talked about above and it all got a bit mashed up. But…we had fun 🙂
“I have always changed everything around me. I have lived my art.” -Sonia Delaunay
Sonia and her husband Robert founded Orphism which is based on Cubism but uses bright colors and overlapping geometric shapes.
I am not really sure where the circles or bright colors are, but perhaps Fierce is changing things too 😉 lol
Jacob Lawrence documented the 20th century migration of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north in search of a better life in a series of 60 paintings. In New York City he painted his neighborhood with vibrancy despite a limited color palette.
Fierce and I painted a canvas together. We both talked about what we saw in our own neighborhood and then added details as we went along. He added a lake next to our house because he thought it would be nice. He might be on to something, but I think our neighbor might have something to say about that.
Grant Wood helped develop the art of American Regionalism. His father had died when he was ten years old and he escaped into art. He grew up Iowa and often painted scenes like rolling hills. His painting American Gothic became famous and depicted his sister and his dentist in front of a gothic window of a farm house. He made the subjects tall and thin to mimic the window.
I am not at all sure how it started, but I told Fierce that the Native Americans had made paint out of berries. So we grabbed some “paint ingredients” out of the fridge and he tried to mimic the snowmen in the American Gothic scene while I read Grant Wood’s bio. I can’t say it is the most beautiful outcome, but the process was certainly fun.
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh developed a Post-Impressionist style using bold brush strokes. He dealt with mental illness, but longed to make beautiful things. He only sold one painting before he died and created 860 oil paintings in total. Many of which are worth millions today.
My sister-in-law is a huge fan of his and for my birthday she took me to the van Gogh travelling exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum. It was very beautiful. She has two boys also studying art history and the three kiddos running around taking pictures and absorbing all things art was such a fantastic sight. I should divulge that Fierce isn’t really into sitting down and coloring so doing these short lessons on art combined with a quick project and a few real life examples has been a good way to dip our toes into art. I found a puzzle of Starry Night and after we completed it, I had it framed and we hung it in his playroom along with all of the other art from this series.