Today we’re joined by illustrator and art educator Amanda E. Gross, who’s here to share another fun episode of Explore Modern Artists!
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.
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
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
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
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
Use your imagination to experiment with how different colors act when placed next to each other, and explore making symmetrical and asymmetrical designs.
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!
- Ellsworth Kelly Prints exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
- “Let’s Talk About Painting,” The Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge
- National Gallery of Art Kids
More from Explore Modern Artists with Kids
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 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 Website, Art Portfolio Website, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Great post on Ellsworth Kelly! Love the boldly inspired art you created and screen printing idea.
Ana, I’m loving those bold shapes and colors as well!
So very excited to try this with my little ones! Not knowing too much about art, this will be very helpful, and I can see the kids loving it!
Hi Chelsey, I bet your kids would love this too. It’s pretty novel and not the kind of project that a child would make everyday. I’m excited to try it with my kids too!
I love this!
Here is an Ellsworth Kelly project we did last fall.
That’s so fun, Amy. Thanks for sharing.
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