Mondrian Art

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What You Need:

  • Black, water-based tempera paint
  • 3–4 other jars of water-based tempera paint in strong colors (Mondrian often used primary colors)
  • One long-handled tempera paint brush per color
  • A piece of newsprint or other large painting paper for kids (at least 18" x 22”)
  • An easel or a spot of blank wall you’re willing to risk for a potentially messy activity

What You Do:

  1. Start by showing your child a photograph of one or two of Mondrian’s works. Ask him: How many rectangles can you see? Squares? What colors do you see? How does this painting make you feel? (Many critics have pointed out that there can be a particular kind of “calm” in such structured work, even when it’s quite bright).
  2. When you’ve had a chance to savor Mondrian's work, turn the attention back to your child’s world and explain to him that he'll now have a chance to paint like Mondrian! 
  3. Start with the strong black lines, and expect some challenges; it can be hard for kids to stay in control of a paintbrush. If you’ve got a particularly wild brush-wielder, you may even want to start by drawing some vertical and horizontal lines in pencil, and ask your child to paint over them.  Whichever path you choose, make sure your child ends up with at least three lines, vertical and horizontal, crossing enough to make a few rectangles and squares of different sizes on the paper.
  4. As your child works, encourage strong horizontal and vertical brush strokes; remember that this activity is a beneficial precursor to successful writing.
  5. Now your child is ready for color. Invite your child to paint a different color in every box, and see what emerges.
  6. At the end, you may want to invite your child to go over those black lines one last time; during the color phase they have the potential to bleed or get painted over. 

No matter what happens, however, expect some strikingly attractive results and maybe even some new artwork for your living room. Perhaps Picasso put it best when he said, "It has taken me a lifetime to draw like a child."

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