Explore Modern Artists: Print Like Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

Today we’re joined by illustrator and art educator Amanda E. Gross, who’s here to share another fun episode of Explore Modern Artists! 

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

In the spirit of modern artist, Ellsworth Kelly,  your child might enjoy exploring nature’s shapes to create a stencil and make a painting!


Ellsworth Kelly (1923 -) is a master print-maker.  His plant drawings and screen-prints of simple shapes in brilliant hues are based on a deep reverence for nature.  Inspired by the Kelly retrospective currently at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, this activity is about noticing details, abstraction, and investigating new ways of expression.  

Ellsworth Kelly Prints

Artists use elements – or ingredients – in different ways, and abstract artists use them to express how they think and feel.

To begin, you might discuss the lines, colors, and shapes in pictures with which your child is familiar.  You could even do a tableaux vivant to physically explore the forms.  Next, you might read a book such as Leo Lionni’s Mathew’s Dream, about art appreciation; the illustrations, in which bright, abstract shapes are used to create representational images, can be a good way to introduce abstract art to children.  You may also want to show your child a few of Kelly’s images and ask such as:

  • What do you see?
  • Do these pictures look like things in real life?  Why or why not?
  • How do they make you feel?  Why?
  • What colors / lines / shapes do you see?
  • How do the colors make you feel?
  • Do the colors seem different when they are right next to each other?

Step 1: Draw

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

Kelly began each image with a drawing.

Set up a still life of plants or fruit, or go findflowers outside.  Because this is an abstract drawing, observe what you see and pick out the basic shapes.

Draw large since you will cut these out.

Step 2: Stencil

Kelly 2

When your child is finished drawing, use scissors to cut out the shapes.

If you have cuts in your stencil that you don’t need, feel free to tape them up.

Step 3: Paint

Kelly 3a

Put a piece of paper (or cloth) under your stencil.  Choose a paint color.  So that your painted shape retains the outline of the stencil, try holding it down as you paint inwards from the stencil’s edge (or, you could tape down your paper and stencil instead of holding it).

Step 4: Design

Kelly 4

Use your imagination to experiment with how different colors act when placed next to each other, and explore making symmetrical and asymmetrical designs.

Alternatives

Ellsworth Kelly Printing Activity | Tinkerlab.com

If you’d like to do the project sans water and paint, try cut-and-pasted shapes.  For a new challenge, try screen-printing; to construct your screen, staple a nylon stocking onto a frame. Draw your plant forms onto the back of shelf liner paper, cut out these shapes, and adhere the sticky part to your screen.  (See image above) Paint!

Explore modern artists with kids: Ellsworth KellyResources:

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Paint like Jasper Johns

Painting with Edward Hopper

Ellsworth Kelly Images

Top Row: Grape Leaves III, 1973-74. Lithograph on 300-gram Arches paper, 47¼ x 31½ inches. Edition of 50. © Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Red White, 1962. 80 1/8 in. x 90 1/4 in. (203.52 cm x 229.24 cm, Acquired 1966. Collection SFMOMA, T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase

Bottom Row: Red Blue Green,  1963, 83 5/8 x 135 7/8 inches (212.4 x 345.1 cm), Oil on Canvas, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jack M. Farris.  Colors on a Grid (close-up), 1976. Screenprint and Lithograph on 350-gram Arches 88 paper, 48¼ x 48¼ inches. Edition of 46. © Ellsworth Kelly and Tyler Graphics Ltd., Bedford, New York. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer.

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

 

Explore Modern Artists: Painting with Edward Hopper

learning art masters edward hopper

Welcome to the first project in our newest series: Explore Modern Artists. Today we’ll take a look at one of my favorite American Artists, Edward Hopper, with a preschool-friendly painting technique.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

The Q-tip painting technique that we used could be applied to the work of just about any 2-D artist, so definitely take this as inspiration and run with it in another direction if that works better for you. If you’d like to connect the technique with the artist, take a look at the work of Georges Seurat, who painted with dots of paint.

 

Explore Modern Artists: Edward Hopper

I thought we would begin with Edward Hopper because it’s been warm and sunny around here and my kids and I have been looking at some of his paintings as we talk about an upcoming visit to Cape Cod, which is where Hopper had a home and studio. Edward Hopper’s iconic seashore paintings masterfully capture light and evoke a sense of calm, while transporting us to the Eastern Seaboard.

My children are preschoolers and I wanted to make this a project that would be fun for them while encouraging them to look closely at Hopper’s work. This technique has little to do with Hopper’s work, but it got my kids talking about what they saw in his pictures while inventing their own patterns of color.

set up edward hopper art project

Materials:

edward hopper kids art

Set-up:

The project itself is easy to set up and children will enjoy learning about an artist while layering paint on top of his images. Give yourself 20+ minutes for set-up, the activity, and then clean-up.

When we paint, I cover our table with a plastic tablecloth. Each child had a paint palette filled with dollops of tempera paint, and a big cup of Q-tips, which we used as brushes. You could use brushes instead, but they thought the Q-tips were fun.

We selected a few paintings that we enjoyed. I’m adding links to the images in case you’d like to use these too.

Before the painting began, 4-year old N and I talked a little bit about Edward Hopper while looking at some of his art. I gave her an age-appropriate synopsis of his life and then we talked about what we saw happening in his paintings. This bit was under 5-minutes because she was excited to paint. Fair enough.

ground swell edward hopper inspired

More on Art Looking

I’m a huge fan of an in-school program called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which helps children build visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the process of looking closely at a work of art. A facilitator sits in front of a group of children and leads an interactive discussion about one work of art. I’ve led many of these discussions myself, and the energy around these conversations is palpable. To see VTS in action, there a some great videos on the Visual Thinking Strategies website. 

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Paint like Jasper Johns

Explore Modern Artists: Paint like Jasper Johns

kids art jasper johns

Today on Explore Modern Artists, we’re taking a close look at the work of American Artist Jasper Johns.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

For the art historians out there, Jasper Johns is technically a contemporary artist, but the piece that my four-year old and I looked at falls into the time-frame of modern art. I spent years working in modern and contemporary art museums, but love this kind of art because it breaks rules, the materials are often surprising, and the work is often as much about ideas as it is aesthetics.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids: Jasper Johns

I flipped through a 20th century art book in search of something that would appeal to my preschooler and had a feeling that Jasper Johns’ White Numbers would do just that. My daughter is obsessed with writing letters and numbers, which helped her dive into this project, and ultimately made it her own.

Materials

  • Image of Jasper Johns’ White Numbers
  • Acrylic Paint (FYI: acrylic paint will stain clothes so wear a smock or nothing at all)
  • Paint brushes: Flat, Foam, Make-up sponges
  • Paper Plate
  • Stick-on foam or paper letters and/or numbers
  • Foam core, wood panel, canvas or other substantial surface to paint on
  • Paper to cover work area

Jasper Johns. White Numbers. 1957. Museum of Modern Art. Encaustic on Linen. 34″ x 28 1/8″.

Art Looking

Begin with a short discussion about the artwork. Try to use open-ended questions, although this can be more difficult with preschoolers who are just getting their bearings with vocabulary. These are some of the questions I used:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. How did the artist organize the numbers? Are they in order or random? What do you see?
  4. What colors do you see?

Through this line of questioning, my daughter was able to figure out that Jasper Johns created a random series of numbers in rows and columns.  She concluded that Jasper Johns may have been trying to confuse people with his meaningless series of numbers.

peeling stickers

After about five minutes of this, we talked about the materials that we would use, and I asked N if we should use numbers, letters, or both. I also asked if we should use the same palette of paint as Johns. She chose to use numbers and letters, and requested “all the colors.

preschool jasper johns

As we peeled them, my daughter wanted to sort them by color.

Despite Johns’ neat rows of numbers, N also wanted to place her’s randomly on the board “to confuse people.” And then she walked all over them to make sure they were stuck down properly.

We added paint to a paper plate.

This whole activity was set up on the floor, which I highly recommend as it gave N a lot of freedom to move around.

And then we painted. I offered her three different brushes and we talked about which one she preferred (foam brush).

We worked on this together and she really enjoyed the camaraderie. When the painting was dry we hung it up to enjoy. The foam core buckled a bit as it dried, which is something to consider if you’re thinking of hanging this in your home. Wood or canvas would be a far better choice.

More on Art Looking

If you’d like so tips on how to look at art with kids, you can check out one of my more popular posts: Five Easy Steps for Talking with Children about Art.

I’m also a huge fan of an in-school program called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which helps children build visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the process of looking closely at a work of art. A facilitator sits in front of a group of children and leads an interactive discussion about one work of art. I’ve led many of these discussions myself, and the energy around these conversations is palpable. To see VTS in action, there a some great videos on the Visual Thinking Strategies website. 

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