Georges Seurat – Painting in Pointillism
Welcome to Artist Month at Play Eat Grow! For the next few Mondays, we will each be teaching our kids about a famous artist, and then creating some fabulous art in the same style. (February is finished now, and we’ve learned about circles and Kandinsky, painting with Van Gogh, and paper cut-outs and Mattise.)
I’m starting us off today with some information about pointillism and artist Georges Seurat.
Georges Seurat was born in 1859 and died in 1891. Pointillism, the style he was most well known for, came after the impressionists. During the impressionist era, artists used dabs of color to create the “impression” of what they were painting. Many children will recognize a picture of Monet’s water lilies as a symbol of this style of art. Pointillism took this idea a step further by using only very small dots of paint.
In pointillism, small dots of pure color are used close together, which “tricks” your eyes into seeing the desired color. The small the dots, the crisper the color.
Seurat’s most famous painting is A Sunday on The Island of La Grande Jette, which took him two years to paint. Make sure to point out to your children that this painting is huge! It’s six feet tall and over ten feet wide! No wonder it took two years to paint!
In this close up you can see the dots that make up the painting.
Here’s an interesting question to ask your children: If you were standing really close to the painting, do you think you would be about to tell what it was, or do you think it would be clearer from further away?
One thing I thought was interesting is that the same ideas used by Seurat way back in the 1800s are how we make color on our computer and tv screens. They don’t have light bulbs for every different shade of blue and green! Tiny pixels containing red, green, and blue light are used in different combinations to create all the colors we see. The smaller the pixels, the finer the image (point out to your kids that on the large digital highway signs they may actually be able to see the pixels).
Now, in terms of creating our own Seurat-like art, I don’t think my elementary aged boys will have the patience for filling an entire piece of paper with q-tip sized dots of paint. I came across this idea of using melted crayons for the dots, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun even though the large dots will not “blend together” the same way that Seurat’s do.
Here’s what we did:
We peeled the wrappers off some standard colors of crayons.
I had the boys make a simple drawing on a small complicated. We talked about why doing anything real complicated would not be a good idea.
Very carefully, they held the end of the crayon they wanted to use up to the flame of a lit candle. It took some experimenting to figure out the right length of time to hold it there, but they figured it out.
Next they dabbed the melted wax onto their canvas to create their very own pointillism picture.
Just a few things to note, the crayons get used up pretty quickly, and you can’t use the whole crayon because you don’t want to create burned fingers along with your art. So having more than one of the same crayon is a good idea. We also figured out that the colors are darker when you melt the crayons than if you are just coloring with them. The blue my son used looked much lighter when we colored with that crayon. I kind of wished we’d had a lighter blue crayon so there would have been more contrast between the sky and the bird, but we did not. I would also mention that this project is pretty time consuming. Our canvases were 8×11 inches, but I would have bought smaller ones had they been available. My older son decided to color some of his canvas instead of using dots, and that was fine. If you hold to tightly to your own idea of what your child’s art should look like, you will both end up being frustrated!
Teaching kids about different styles of art is really fun and rewarding! Sometimes kids (and adults!) get sucked into thinking that things have to be realistic in order to be beautiful, and that’s really not the case at all! I hope you’ll come back the next few weeks to see what artists Christina and Tiffany introduce us to.