Art making activity

Like most of us, Vassily Kandinsky’s Lion Hunt is “quarantining” at the Guggenheim. While the museum is closed, here’s a step-by-step of a hands-on art-making activity based on this work.  Lion Hunt is a tiny little gem that offers countless avenues of exploration. Although is an early, representational canvas, and therefore the scene is easily identifiable, colors and rhythms are starting to dominate the composition, in that evocative interrelation between color and form that Kandinsky mastered in more mature works. A wide array of issues may emerge, from the use of color and shapes to convey ideas and emotions to the different art techniques and mediums. Regardless children’s previous knowledge, exposure to art and background, this painting always renders interesting and creative insights. 

Before starting, here are some important reminders: the main purpose of this activity is engaging children and families in a fun and bonding project. Along the way, there are several intentional steps (some of them in the form of questions) designed to spark interaction and discussion about the work itself and artists’ practices. The activity starts with a drawing. The intention behind drawing before seeing the work itself is exposing children to a practice that is common among artists: problematizing, that is, letting them tackle the same problem as the artist before they see the artist’s solutions  – in this case, depicting animals. It may seem intimidating, but it’s a tested strategy that works well.

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Theme: Animals
Subtheme: Movement
Grade level:1st to 4th
Art techniques: Painting, drawing
Materials: paper and pencil (you are welcome to use colored pencils, crayon, painting, watercolor, or whatever art supplies you might have at home)

Step by step
1) Invite children to create a drawing of their favorite animal.

2) After they are done with drawing, invite them to look at the painting below. At this point, do NOT mention its title or author (you can use this or print it if possible).

Image: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

3) AskHow your drawing is different from this? How is similar?” [point to the reproduction]. Children might mention the type of animals portrayed, their features, the colors. The idea is letting them express their thoughts in a freer way.

4) Keep the conversation going by asking other questions like “What seems to be happening here?”,  “What do you notice?” and “What do you see that makes you say that?”. These open-ended prompts require more than yes or no answers; they make children look closely to the painting, make observations and inferences and look for evidences.  

5) The conversation might continue with more open-ended questions like “What might have happened right before this?” and “What will happen afterward?”. Listen to children’s ideas and acknowledge their responses. Feel free to come up with your own questions based on children’s responses.

6) After the children discussed all their ideas about the situation that might have be depicted in the painting, ask: “What title would you give to this painting?”. Listen to children’s ideas and acknowledge responses. It might be the time to say once again “What makes you say that?” – this is the to-go question to encourage children to scaffold their answers, to elaborate their thoughts and ideas.

7) Now is time to give a little piece of information about the painting. You may say “The title of this painting is Lion Hunt”. The idea here is NOT confirm or correct children’s ideas, but rather keep the conversation going, encouraging them to look for answers in the painting and articulate their thoughts. They might have anticipated the title or thematic, they might have said something completely different or even say that “this is not a lion hunt” – it doesn’t matter. The main purpose is engaging children in a fun discussion about art and artists’ practices and as well as providing an opportunity for a hands-on art-making. Regardless their answers, ask for clarification.

8) Invite children to go back to their drawings. They might be interested in drawing again or incorporating new elements to their previous drawing. They are welcome to do so! In closing, let’s play with animals’ movements for a bit. You may say: “What movement does the animal you drawn makes?”, “Are you able to imitate them?” or “Are you able to pretend you are your favorite animal?”. Many adaptations to this game are possible. You can invite children to add noises and suggest that one imitate the other’s animal and so on. For those familiar with yoga, it’s possible to finish it up with some animal’s inspired asanas: cow, cat, downward facing dog, eagle, lion…

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