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Expressionism Art For Kids

Expressionism Art For Kids Activity

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See more activities in: Middle School, Construction & Sculpture

Everybody knows of the famous painting "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. His work demonstrates the core principles of expressionism, an art form that (you guessed it!) is all about expressing yourself! Sneak in a mini art history lesson as you make your own masterpiece using several different mediums, like sculpting and painting, to express an emotion. It's fun and easy, and you'll end up with a beautiful work of art to hang on the wall.

What You Need:

  • A flat piece of wood, about 9"x12" (to use as a backing)
  • 1 cup of table salt
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • Plastic wrap
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cookie sheet
  • Paint (acrylics work the best)
  • Acrylic varnish
  • Glue
  • Paint brushes
  • Music (any kind of music, as long as it makes you feel something strongly)

What You Do:

  1. Brainstorm: Observe some expressionist artwork. Some popular artists include Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, and Salvador Dali.
  2. Decide what general emotion you want to work with; joy, fear, anger, serenity, sadness, humor, etc.
  3. Think of ideas about how people convey emotions with facial expressions and colors and shapes that might represent certain emotions. (For example, a smile and the color yellow might represent happiness, while a frown and the color blue might represent sadness.) It's a good idea to keep a list of
  4. Prepare and mix: Take the mixing bowl and add the salt and flour together, making sure they're well mixed.
  5. Pour in the warm water little by little until a dough is formed. You don't want the dough to be too wet or too sticky, so be sure to add it in slowly. Be sure the water is warm; hot water will make the dough too soft.
  6. Smooth the dough into a firm, workable ball. Cover it with plastic wrap if you won't be using it right away.
  7. On a cookie sheet, roll some dough about 1/2" to 3/4" thick into a sheet. Keep an eye out to make sure it stays slightly smaller than the wooden background.
  8. Get to work: Use hands, fingers, or other tools (like toothpicks and kitchen utensil) to mold, build, and carve shapes or features that express the emotion you're trying to portray. Try to express yourself any way you please, using spirals, dots, and other shapes. The beauty of art is that it doesn't have to be realistic as long as it expresses something!
  9. When you're finished sculpting the dough, set the oven to 255ºF (125ºC). Bake for 2-3 hours, checking every now and then to make sure the dough doesn't get too brown. Take it out and let it cool.
  10. Once it's finished cooling and is completely dry, paint it! Use color to convey your emotions. Set it aside to dry.
  11. Glue the work of art to the wooden plaque. Let the glue dry.
  12. Varnish and let dry. Then mount your "emotion" on the wall so everyone can see your work of art! Challenge people to guess what feeling you were trying to convey.
Marik Berghs is graphic designer with 30 years of experience. She also illustrates and writes childrens' literature. Jessica McBrayer is her daughter and is a professional crafter.

Updated on Sep 24, 2012
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