Mondrian Studies with Our Youngest Artists

Ever wonder how to integrate art history in a fun and engaging way with young students? We recently spent a month working on de Stijl paintings (yep...we sure did talk about that movement!) and the Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930

Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930

We began by using a reduced color palette in red, blue, yellow, black and white along. We did not look at any of Mondrian's work! We talked about what vertical and horizontal straight lines were. And students began to paint straight black lines going vertically and or horizontally in the pure color palette (no mixing this time). The results were GORGEOUS!


The next lesson began by showing kids a Mondrian painting, not sharing much information yet, and asking what they saw. The natural unfolding process of seeing "a famous painting in a BOOK!" reminded them of their work (without copying it), allowing for deeper connections to art and art history. They were certainly eager to see what the next painting was going to be about. We introduced rulers. And further excitement ensued. Where do you place the ruler? Where do you place the drawing instrument (it was Sharpie for this project)? Making vertical and horizontal lines, students were asked to create drawings that used secondary colors (orange, purple, and green) and black and white in soft pastels. How did this differ from the previous art work?

Week three had students working in a watercolor resist method, using contrasting colors. Students learned what contrasting (complementary) colors were and referenced color wheels. They began by using rulers to create their horizontal and vertical lines. Within the shapes they made, students lightly applied oil pastels, leaving textural areas of their white paper where the watercolor would sink through. Students excitedly looked to their neighbors and color wheels and discussed their use and application of color. The results were pretty incredible!


During our final lesson of this incredible unit of study, students were asked to choose what medium (of the ones we'd used in the three previous lessons) to work in. Using 18x24" heavy weight watercolor paper, students then had to create their own line painting. "Can we use curvy lines?" Why, YES! Go for it! After three weeks of horizontal and vertical lines and learning all about color and application of various materials, students worked with such ease and confidence.