I used our study of Paul Klee to teach my sons about the colour wheel and the way in which artists can utilise colour theory in their artwork. They knew about primary, secondary and tertiary colours already so we had a quick refresher on those. We then discussed colour values changing tones and shades depending on the addition of black and white and their use in monochromatic colour schemes; analogous and complementary colours; colour triads; and warm and cold colour schemes. I then introduced the boys to examples of Klees paintings and we looked at the way in which he had deployed colour theory in each painting, sometimes using more than one kind in the same painting. We chatted about what impact each colour scheme had on the viewer of the art work, their interpretation of and response to the imagery.
My 12 year old decided to draw a Minecraft Creeper which is predominantly green. It usually has black detailing but he decided to use complementary colours and so those details became red.
My 9 year old also used complementary colour theory. He dashed off a quick abstract drawing using blue and orange markers. I think the shapes were also inspired by Klee.
My 8 year old drew a trio of dancing zombies, each one using elements of a different type of colour theory: tonal values, triad and analogous.
My 6 year old just had fun exploring juxtapositions of different colours. He drew a monster onto a book page I gave him.
Googling “colour theory” and “Paul Klee” had led me to find a website with a fun lesson for kids involving them creating versions of Paul Klee’s cityscapes using book pages as a substrate. I decided to use that as the basis of an art journal page – hoping that I might inspire the boys to try something similar. I used the complementary colours of green and red since both are colours I don’t use much.
My kids returned to school at this juncture in the project so we will be picking this History of Art project up on weekends and breaks from school until we complete it. We just plain ran out of time. The best laid plans of mice and men – or of mothers and art supplies.
Staying with non-representational art, next up in our History of Art project was Piet Mondrian. The boys immediately grasped the elements of his distinctive style and they do seem to be more enthused when an artist has a strong, clear style they feel they could replicate. They liked the use of primary colours against stark white and bold black and the way in which many of Mondrian’s later works were reminiscent of street maps.
Again, my 9 year old invested minimal effort in his art work. I think it is very much time for him to return to school. His drawing, therefore, was a simple smiley face. He wondered what the effect would be of using any three random colours instead of the primaries so dipped his hand into the bag of pencils with his eyes closed and ended up with blue, brown and orange-red.
My 6 year old started off not using a ruler so that gave me the opportunity to teach him how to use a ruler for drawing straight lines rather than just for measuring or underlining. He used Sharpies which created very bold, vibrant colour but he found it difficult to stay within the lines – though I suspect partly that was by choice.
Given that Mondrian worked in straight lines and geometric shapes, a homage to his style lent itself perfectly to my oldest son’s love of drawing Minecraft characters. He opted for a Ghast because the tentacles form rectangles. Like his youngest brother, he opted to use Sharpies. I think it is a really effective drawing. Maybe Mondrian would have loved Minecraft.
My 8 year old unleashed his imagination and drew the outline of a small monster which he then filled with free-hand drawn squares and rectangles. I think it’s great.
I decided to paint a female face using Mondrian’s use of line and primary colours. It looked like a terrible mess until I added the black lines. That pulled the piece together.
Any lesson on Edvard Munch was bound to be dominated by The Scream: not only is it Munch’s most famous painting but it has become iconic, the subject of many pastiches and homages. It has also been stolen a few times so clearly it appeals to people both honest and dishonest. The kids and I, therefore, spent some time discussing why we thought the painting captured people’s interest and imagination to the extent it has. We also discussed Expressionism and the ways in which The Scream conveyed emotions. We then looked at a few of Munch’s other works but it was clear to me that the boys were likely to work on drawings inspired by The Scream.
My 12 year old of course had to Minecraftify his version of The Scream. I think the focal figure is an Enderman. It is interesting to me the way he has flattened the perspective when it comes to the depiction of the fence. He would benefit from looking at how to work with angles to create an accurate perspective.
My 8 year old turned The Scream around and used its visual structure as the basis of a drawing depicting joy instead of anguish. Because horses make him happy, his figure is strolling along a path past a horse. I think he dashed this drawing off in under five minutes.
My youngest son focused on the concept of conveying emotion. Having not long since seen the Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’, he liked the idea of characters representing different emotions so he drew some quick, simple figures. The blue one is sadness – as his writing explains – and I suspect the yellow one is joy, as in the movie. I am not clear about what the triangular one is.
My 9 year old decided to fuse two different Munch works – The Scream and the Self-Portrait with a Skeleton Arm – for his drawing. His, therefore, is a screaming skeleton. I think the drawing is quite effective, including the frenetic mark making in the background which I think was unintentional and is just a symptom of him rushing but which actually works within the context of the drawing.
Like my second son, I took my inspiration from Self-Portrait with a Skeleton Arm. I was originally going to create a version of his lithograph titled The Brooch but then I decided I should challenge myself to draw a self-portrait. It’s an ink and wash drawing using India ink. The proportions are out of wack – the arm being too close to the head – but otherwise I am pretty happy with the drawing.
Continuing our History of Art project with the Post-Impressionists, we turned to Cezanne. I particularly drew the boys’ attention towards his non-naturalistic use of colour, his use of bold outlining of figures and objects and his approach to still life. I was particularly keen that the kids have a go at drawing a still life but we also looked at The Bathers and The Card Players. In the end, two plumped for still life and the other two chose to take their cue from the latter paintings. And I am still losing my battle with getting them to explore different media, especially wet media.
I think largely because he was looking for something he could transform into Minecraft, my oldest chose to work from The Card Players. He used coloured pencil. Yet again. But at least his insistence on replicating a painting meant that he was paying close attention to all the detail. I need to encourage him to work bigger, however, as this was a very small drawing.
My 8 year old was in a “minimal application” frame of mind. He was like a grizzly bear. I, therefore, decided not to push his buttons and try to persuade him to try adding colour when he drew a line drawing of various sea creatures. Apparently inspired by The Bathers, it looked more like a casting call for Adventure Time. The hashtag is a family in joke because my youngest brother’s nickname is Octopus and we all take photos of any octopus things we find to tag him as on Facebook.
My 9 year old and 6 year old did decide to take me up on the idea of a still life. They scurried off to collect objects to organise so they could draw them as a group. The youngest chose a handful of his Gogo toys and the 9 year old chose an Iron Man mask, his Iron Man Disney Infinity figure and a rubber spider. Despite rushing, the 9 year old did a pretty good job of producing a still life sketch. The 6 year old, however, found it a real struggle and was not happy with his outcome so asked me not to share his drawing.
I decided not to work in a Cezanne style and instead to take my cue from the subject matter of The Bathers. I need practice with rendering water with watercolour paint so I decided to draw a female figure floating on the surface of a pool. I had a hard time getting the paint to look remotely like water but finally, after many glazes of watercolour and after almost chucking the whole thing, I finally got an effect I could be content with.
Our History of Art summer project moved forward from the Impressionists to the Post-Impressionists and first up was Vincent Van Gogh. We looked through my book of Van Gogh paintings, exploring the thick brush strokes, the vivid use of colour, the use of fluid line and pattern and we discussed the emotions each work seemed to convey in order to fix the connection between Van Gogh’s style and the Expressionists he influenced.
We all love ‘Starry Night’ so it hogged the limelight for discussion and in terms of inspiring our art work. While we listened to Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’, we got busy creating. My 9 year old used metallic and glitter gel pens to draw a night sky filled with comets, my 8 year old used the same pens to draw a castle with a swirling sky above which he created by painting with his fingers and my 6 year old painted a swirling sky using a brush and then finger painted the yellow stars.
My 12 year old was the only one who took his inspiration from Van Gogh’s flower paintings. Of course, he had to channel his inspiration via Minecraft. He also worked on a very small scale to produce his drawing.
I went with the majority and based my art journal page on ‘Starry Night’. I decided not to reproduce a landscape or even skyscape but just to use it as inspiration for pattern and colour. I used various blue acrylic paints, including a pearlescent and a metallic, and then dotted yellow and gold paint for the stars. The journal page lacks a focal point so it doesn’t necessarily work asthetically but I enjoyed swirling the paint around.
After my scheduling flub of introducing the boys to Winslow Homer before we had finished with the French Impressionists, we whizzed back to Europe with our History of Art project and turned our attention to Renoir.
Renoir was one of the first artists who really captured my interest and imagination. I remember the thrill of being allowed to borrow a book of his art work from the grown up section of my local library and then poring over the full colour illustrations. I have owned a hefty book about Renoir for over a quarter of a century so that seemed like a good place to start. I showed the boys a few of my favourite Renoir paintings and then they looked through the book and told me which paintings they were drawn to and why.
When it came time to create something inspired by Renoir, three of the wee horrors insisted on working in coloured pencil. Again. I am definitely setting myself the personal challenge of getting them to explore a wider variety of media by the end of this project. The most persistent offendor in the “stuck in a pencil rut” brigade is my 9 year old. He was inspired by the painting ‘The Umbrellas’ and drew a little figure sheltering from the rain. I like the way he has drawn the downcast face. I note he has used the same colour palette as he did for the Winslow Homer lesson.
I don’t readily associate Renoir with still life – though perhaps that is because I am drawn to figurative art work more – but it was a still life that caught my 8 year old’s attention. He drew a fruit bowl. Minimalist much?
You know with my 12 year old it is either going to be Minecraft or penguins by now. Today it was Minecraft. Inspired by various Renoir paintings depicting couples dancing, he drew two Minecraft characters engaged in a jig. I think it is rather charming and at least he is working in a themed series I suppose.
My 6 year old is definitely emerging as the one most likely to try something different or approach the lesson from a different angle. Rather than being inspired by a particular painting or even subject, my youngest was intrigued by the soft blending and brush strokes evident in so many Renoir paintings. He, therefore, used some chalk pastels to blend his own soft colours. I just managed to stop him adding and smudging more colours before he made mud – though that would have been a lesson learned too.
I too took my inspiration from ‘The Umbrellas’ which has always been one of my favourite Renoir paintings. I decided to work on an ink drawing of a little figure in the rain. I kept it quite child-like and whimsical as that was the creative mood I was in.
An umbrella also features in today’s Crazy Critter painting. I am at #88 in the series. Getting there!
Note: This blog post contains a photo of a life drawing depicting a nude female.
Next up in our History of Art studies was Sandro Botticelli. We especially explored his use of fluid lines, use of pastel colour and the distorted, elongated proportions of the figures populating his paintings. We used Primavera and the Birth of Venus as our primary exemplars of Botticelli’s style of painting. The children were then given free rein to decide what elements of Botticelli’s work would inspire them in their own art work.
The composition of the Birth of Venus inspired my 12 year old and he decided to create an homage to the painting but using Minecraft characters.
Inspired by both his oldest brother and the original Botticelli painting, my 8 year old chose to paint a Minecraft version using watercolour.
Meanwhile, my 6 year old liked the winged figures from the same painting and drew his own version.
My 8 and 9 year olds have an obsession with Greek Mythology – hence the subject of my 40 Drawings in 40 Days challenge – so the mythological, narrative element of the Birth of Venus was the basis of their drawings. The 8 year old inverted the idea of the Goddess of Love by depicting Death instead and had him emerging from a skull rather than a shell and the 9 year old drew his favourite Greek myth which is the story of Orpheus’ visit to the underworld.
My 6 year old then created a second art work, an abstract piece using watercolour. He was unable to explain what about Botticelli had inspired him but the main thing was he was inspired and he enjoyed using the paint.
I have not done any life drawing since I left Britain almost two years ago. I, therefore, decided to use the nude figure of Venus in Botticelli’s painting as the jumping off point for me to draw a nude female figure. Without access to a life class or a model, I instead turned to YouTube. There I found a channel – the New Masters Academy – that includes videos of timed life drawing poses. Perfect! I found one of a standing female nude and paused it so that I could make a longer study rather than a short, gestural drawing. I used ink and wash. My skills are definitely rusty – and the composition on the paper went wrong so that I had no space for feet – but I am excited by the prospect of being able to practise my drawing skills using YouTube videos.