Monday, June 4, 2012

Mondrian In Low Relief

   Mondrian once said, "A painting should be as flat as the surface it is painted on."  As an art teacher who also holds a BFA in sculpture, I disagree with his theory. Sure, it worked well for him, but it seems to me that not every painting needs to be painted on top of a flat canvas, paper or board. His words got me thinking about a way to experiment with a painted project created on a raised surface.
   An art teacher friend of mine always joked that my projects usually had something that "popped up".  She would share her lesson ideas with me and then without fail I would say, "What if you made this part raised there, or layered another piece here..."  She was right; I do have to fight the urge to build out surfaces, or add extra materials to create depth. Is that a bad thing?  I don't think so.  For this lesson I chose to follow my instincts and I hope you enjoy seeing the results as much as I enjoyed teaching the lesson.
Here I am in front of a large bulletin board  in Room 9; it features a collection of finished relief sculptures hung together closely so they appear to form one large project.
   In my last post I showed a picture of a portion of the wonderful Mondrian-inspired relief sculptures that my students made after debating their likes and dislikes of his artwork.  For this lesson I challenged them to make a relief sculpture that could be no higher than 3 inches in depth using the same limited color palette favored by Mondrian in his later paintings. I have been encouraging students to "create the illusion of roundness" in their work this semester.  So, they were really surprised and perplexed when I presented the idea of making a sculpture with the goal of creating "the illusion of flatness"!
   In fact, we would test out this concept like a scientist tests a hypothesis: would it be possible to flatten out a 3-dimensional work of art?  The students were excited to see if they could "fool" the viewer into thinking that their art was a flat painting rather than a relief sculpture. We set out to see if we could "keep it flat" by creating a composition of horizontal and vertical lines, geometric shapes and colors without value shifts.

The construction was pretty simple thanks to the large quantities of cardboard jewelry boxes I got from  the Rhode Island Recycles for Education Center.  This is a fabulous resource for teachers and you can buy tons of donated materials for just 15 cents per pound.  We also used 12 X 18 chipboard for a background, tongue depressors, craft sticks, Elmer's glue and low temp hot glue when needed.

When the composition was glued in place each student used donated white interior latex house paint to base coat the entire piece.  Using different sizes of brushes helped to navigate through the different terrain of each piece.

Black acrylic paint was carefully applied to the sticks with a small brush.  Most students were inspired by the way Mondrian used the black in his paintings to form angular intersecting grids so they tended to paint the linear sticks with the black paint rather than one of the primary colors.

 A group of projects dries on the floor with the sticks partially painted with the black paint.

Each primary color was carefully painted to form rectangles and squares.  I encouraged the students to think about the placement of the colors.  They needed to consider how much color they wanted versus keeping some areas white and black.

Some students were orderly and strictly composed with their work...

While others created rhythmic, and highly varied compositions that were equally striking!

In the end, the body of work resonates with Mondrian's style while being inclusive of each student's personal vision and direction with making compositional choices.

Thanks for viewing our work!


Christie - Fine Lines said...

Thanks for sharing the process. I LOVE THIS!!!

Hope Hunter Knight said...

Great concept! As a painting major in school, I spent great amounts of time focusing on the "paintings are flat" theory myself, and it's one of my favorite things to ponder artistically. I am not a 3-D thinker, I tend to stick with the graphic, and as a teacher I love seeing new ways to explore sculpture.

one little deer said...

I am glad that you enjoyed viewing this lesson! I have nine days of school left so check in again to see how we finish out the school year!
Thank you for your feedback :)

jessica wilson said...

I love this, it is fantastic. I wish I could have seen it all happen. Love watching the kiddos create and experiment. Thank you for sharing!

Prof. Anderson said...

Amazing work... So beautiful.

Congratulations from Brazil!

Visit our blog:

one little deer said...

Thanks again for your wonderful feedback everyone! Your comments really keep me motivated to keep tryingand blogging aboutthe new ideas that I teach my students! How exciting to receive feedback from outside of the U.S.,too!
Yeah for Brazil!

Anonymous said...

At school this week in Yorkshire, England we are studying Mondrian as a focus for our Art Week. I was struggling for different ideas, so thank you for this!

AnnaMarie DeMauro said...

Fabulous and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing... hope to spend time checking out you blog this summer. Bless you for teaching MS, by the way. It's no easy task!

The Helpful Art Teacher said...

I just posted a link to this post on my blog.I plan to try this next year. Great project.

strunkpup said...

Thanks for sharing. What a fantastic idea.

naabaahii ashkee said...

love this project

Anonymous said...

what a great project! Thanks for the inspiration. I plan to do this with our grade 3,4,5 and 6 students over the next couple of weeks. I'm sure they are going to love it!
from a primary school teacher in the Netherlands!