Art BFFs: Getting to Know an Artist

A young artist inspired by the work of Georgia O'Keeffe

Has your child found an artist “crush?” Most of the kids I see attending the family classes here at the museum love a particular type of art or subject matter. There are the kids crazy about dogs or those who love anything involving their favorite color. Every now and then, I’ll meet a child who has found one particular artist who seemingly has become their art world best friend. The other day a mom told me that her daughter loves everything about Monet ever since she spent time in a museum sketching from a water lilies painting. For those children who show an interest in a specific artist, doing your own artist study is a great way to make a visit to the museum even more meaningful. Here are some tips and tricks for helping young children get to know an artist.

Look at the art! This might seem a bit obvious, but when a child discovers an affinity for an artist, that love affair usually begins with close observations of the artist’s work. Take a trip to the museum specifically to visit works of art by the artist. Collect postcards of the artist’s work, create a virtual art gallery using images found online, or search for exhibition catalogs that will give your child rich visual images to pore over. Talk together about what your child likes about the artist, how they think the artist made his/her work, and how the artist got his/her ideas.

Read up on the artist. Kids love a good story, and learning more about the artist as a person is a great way for a child to connect with an artist. There are many excellent pictures books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the lives of the artists that offer fun facts, tales of the artist as a child, or insights into the artist’s particular style. Some of our favorites are below, but there are hundreds out there to choose from!

  • Claude Monet: Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork; The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt; Charlotte in Giverny by Joan MacPhail Knight
  • Jackson Pollock: Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg
  • Henri Matisse: Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Connor; Matisse the King of Color by Laurence Anholt
  • Georgia O’Keeffe: My Name Is Georgia by Jeanette Winter; Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez
  • Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series offers humorous takes on more than forty famous artists from Botticelli to Whistler
  • Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull

Create art in the style of the artist. Nothing can quite compare to splashing paint on your canvas like Jackson Pollock or using a magnifying glass to see a flower the way Georgia O’Keeffe might have. As Atticus Finch famously told Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Giving children the opportunity to create in the style of the artist is not about creating carbon copies of the world’s masterpieces. It’s about trying to see the world as the artist did and feeling what it was like to create art as he/she did. If you need some advice on materials or processes, check out Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters and Great American Artists for Kids by MaryAnn F. Kohl. Or look at some of the ideas compiled on Red Ted’s Art Blog Exploring the Great Artists: 30+ Art Projects for Kids.

Enjoy getting to know your art BFF!

Posted by: Leah

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Filed under 6 to 12 year olds, Art Projects, Children’s art, PreK

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