After a field trip that included a trip to a local artists’ collective, the Engineer thoughtfully announced that he wanted to study “more art.” Cue the scramble and freak-out from mommy.
Most kindergartener are doing basic art. Hand print turkeys, thumbprint flowers, smily faces and stick figures. It’s fun, it’s messy: part of growing up. When the Engineer said “art,” he definitely didn’t mean hand print turkeys. He would say thumb print flowers were stupid. No, he wants to make art like what he saw at the studios we walked through.
Relief printing, metal sculptures, and giant canvases swirling in color. Tiny metal figures in their own world, encased in plexiglass and mounted under the stairwell. Giant metal fish swimming on the wall. Life-sized sculptures of animals. Abstract blots of color in tiny squares. That kind of art.
On one hand, I’m excited. On the other hand, I’m completely dismayed.
I am an artist. I have a degree in art, I spent my time pre-kids living and breathing my art. I know this stuff. And because I know it, I’m concerned about how to present it to my son who is 5-years-old. I’m worried that I won’t be able to give him the big picture because I’m so engrossed by the little details.
I’m also really concerned about how to present art in a way that doesn’t sanitize it, but that is age-appropriate. Art isn’t just about beauty, it’s about social change and exposing the ugly underbelly of our lives. It’s about truth.
How am I supposed to teach him about an artist who sprinkles nudes through their work? Pick and chose the nude-free ones? Teach him about nudes at the tender age of five? Either choice isn’t a great one. Plus, how do I even explain the concept of nudes to a 5-year-old? The artist version involves glorying in the magnificence of the human body – the layman version says “sexist pervert.” Do I delve into the concept of Otherness at this age because it requires an explanation to understand the art? His anxieties make these decisions much more important.
Intellectually, he’s ready for a lot of these concepts. Developmentally, not so much.
For now, we’re starting with a solid foundation of terms and techniques. We’ll learn about Matisse’s collage work instead of his nudes. We’ll study brushwork by Impressionists instead of focusing on the concept of Otherness (although Impressionists are probably the least objectionable of the lot.) We’ll look at Lewis Hines’ photographs of children working in factories and discuss how art can be used to change society in a good way. I’ll show him surrealism and let him see that a photograph can’t be trusted to represent truth. We’ll learn about street art, graffiti art, and art installations.
I’m super excited to share some of the really cool stuff I know he’ll love. He’s already done photograms, relief printing, and mixed media pictures. It’s going to be a fun ride!
I’m still in the planning stages, but here’s a brief breakdown of what I’m planning on doing. Each link either shows the artist’s work or an idea for a project:
All about color – pdf link for a free printable on color wheels and color schemes.
Major art techniques: sculpture, drawing, printmaking, painting (and types of paint) and photography. Go here for free art lessons in various techniques.
Matisse: making collage cutouts
Van Gogh: making a still life image and drawing it.
Seurat: Pointillism (art version of dpi) marker project.
Pollock: Drip painting – I doubt I need a link for our version. Just use lots of tarps because splatter goes everywhere!
Concept of self-portrait: Van Gogh, Durer, and Picasso as examples. (note: Durer’s work is excruciatingly detailed in things kids shouldn’t see. Self-portaits and animal studies are kid-friendly. The Picasso link includes a cubist nude at age 85, far down the page.)
Revisit relief printing: styrofoam prints.
I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as we complete projects, get new ideas, and go off on numerous rabbit trails. That’s how we do things around here!