The first work we'll explore is Cat and Bird. This is a great example of balance versus symmetry in art. The cat's face is not symmetrical (exactly the same on either side), but it is balanced. If you divide the composition into thirds, either horizontally or vertically, you can see that there is a point, counter point or weight to balance the planes. This could definitely lead to some math work in symmetry or fractions, homeschool moms!
Point out to your kids that the face is composed of two tear drop shapes that overlap in the middle like a Venn diagram (oh, that math again!), with a u shape for the mouth and that same tear drop shape, pulled out on either side, for the eyes. Add a heart nose, whiskers, and whatever is on the cat's mind! Trace over your picture with Sharpie, then erase the pencil lines.
We did our pictures with chalk pastels, choosing three colors for the cat's face and a few additional for the background. The key to working with pastels is blending and layering, blending and layering.
Our next project was inspired by Castle and Sun.
In this painting, Klee works with more rigid geometric shapes, appropriate for a strong castle. You could have your kids draw a castle free hand, with a ruler, or even pull out classic wood blocks and trace around them. Once they have a satisfactory castle, trace with Sharpie and erase the pencil. Make sure you use a waterproof ink to trace with, not Crayola markers!
Next, wet the paper with a brush dipped in water and apply squares of colored tissue paper, then go over the tissue once more with a wet brush. The dye from the paper will bleed onto the paper after a few minutes. Please test your tissue ahead of time - some papers have fixative that prevents bleeding, and some colors are so light that they don't leave much on the page.
After a few minutes, remove the paper and it looks like watercolor!
Since Klee uses such strong, identifiable geometric shapes, this is a great project to do with a geometry unit!
The last project is inspired by the painting Senecio. In this painting, Klee combines the organic, balanced elements from Cat and Bird with the hard geometry of Castle and Sun.
We followed the same steps as above with drawing in pencil then Sharpie, tracing a paper plate for the head and adding a center line to divide the face and aid with drawing in the features. Next, grab an old gift card or one of those fake credit cards that come in the mail, and a little tempera or acrylic paint. Load a little on the edge of the card and scrape it down the paper.
Create the background the same way, then cut out the face and glue it on your background:
Max chose to color his face with oil pastels instead. I must say that I have not been inspired by the kid's art books about Klee that I have seen, but there may be some good ones floating around out there. However, there are some great internet resources, including this video for grade school kids, and this slide show for any age. You can catch my Periscope about these projects and my thoughts on instruction vs. creativity here. Great art, math and music tie ins - you can't go wrong with Paul Klee!
Hi Casey--I know it's been a very long time, but I was looking at an old post and remembering from a comment and link back that you'd made it and enjoyed it, so I had to come over and visit. I'm glad I did because I love this post. Such terrific art projects and I love that the tissue paper can be used to create a watercolor effect. I might try that myself!Reply
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