Saturday, January 12, 2013

Frank Stella: "Make what you want to paint on."

Using the dimensional art of Frank Stella and this great little video clip of the artist explaining how he began creating the shapes of his "canvases" (click here for video), our 5th graders set out to make the shapes that they were going to use to make their art on.
Everyone started with a rectangle of white drawing paper. They were to make 2 cuts (one long and one shorter) to create 3 interesting shapes to design. I asked that they either make 2 straight cuts, or 2 curvy cuts -- but not to mix them.

Next, after reviewing what complementary colors were, and why artists often use them together (for contrast), I asked students to design each of their pieces using 2 complementary colors or black and white.
The next step was to glue the pieces on a piece of foam core board (paper would work, too) manipulating them to stick out from the board and off the board, too, if they wished.

Here are a few that are drying.

Next week we will be using watercolor to extend each of their designs onto the boards.  This part of the lesson will focus on trying to match the colors using a different media and brush control.
For this piece the background is done with watercolor and we can talk about the fluidity of the paint vs. the more solid feel of the dry medium.
This background is done with pencil as the 2nd medium. It presents the opportunity to discuss different gradations of color.
Here is another sample that varies from the complementary color requirement. It also has black crayon lines defining the designs, which makes it easier to paint without the colors running into each other. This would be good for emphasizing repetition of color, line direction, etc.

I originally saw this project done at Whittier International Arts Program using oil pastels and watercolor and more than 3 or 4 pieces of designed papers. The results were fabulous (but, unfortunately would take more time than we have allotted.) Please check out their results here.

I'll post our results next week. I can't wait to see them!!!!!!


  1. Awesome! I have to bookmark your site and add it on my "daily reads" because I am inspired by your artworks! If you won't mind I'd love to copy some of you activities so I can try it with my son :) Thank you!

    1. I hope that you and your little guy have fun trying them!!!

  2. Ooh, what fun! I love Stella's huge shaped pieces and this was a great way to bring it to kids. The kids should enjoy this, too. Nice!

  3. what a great post. I like this idea alot. Loved the video of Frank Stella too!