Feeling inspired by the Olympics, I thought it would be fun to do an artist study of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky for Little Learners in February.
A great new picture book about him just came out, The Noisy Paint Box: the Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré. This picture book biography explains how as Kandinsky painted, he heard sounds. Upon receiving a gift of paints from his aunt, he painted and painted the music he heard. His paintings were unlike anything that had been done before, so his parents enrolled him in art classes so he could learn to paint "real" things. For a while, Kandinsky did this, but eventually, the sound of the colors could not be ignored. Naming his paintings like musical compositions, he painted what he heard and felt. This new kind of art we now call abstract art.
The book would be a fun read aloud, and I think could even work in a storytime setting with older groups, but it was a bit longer than what I wanted for this program. So instead, I just talked my way through the book and showed some of the illustrations.
I also read The Rainbow Book by Kate Ohrt. Tying colors and feelings together, this book is concise and has neat die-cut illustrations. Another good option would be My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.
I started out with a print of the Color Study on an easel. I asked the kids who they thought made it. Then I asked them what title they would give it. Then I explained about the piece, and said we were going to make our own.
I gave them 12x18 sheets of paper and we folded them in half horizontally, and in thirds vertically, so we had 6 spaces to work in.
I warned the caregivers ahead of time that this would test their patience because unless an explosion of frustration was brewing inside their little person, or their scissor skills were bordering on unsafe, I encouraged the caregivers to let the kids do all the cutting. Not only is knowing how to operate scissors an important life skill, it also builds fine motor skills and hand muscles the kids will need when they start writing. The kids cut and glued their circles into layers. (For more on children and scissors from an OT standpoint, visit the Child Association, OT Mom Learning Activities, and Parents magazine)
As we worked, I played a variety of music from classical to jazz to rock to Raffi. Kandinsky had synesthesia and for him sound and color were linked.
Here are some of the results:
Check out these resources to build your own Kandinsky art exploration!
Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (pg 60)
Kandinsky Concentric Circles at Pre K and K Sharing
Kandinsky and the Rainbow Art Project at Deep Space Sparkle
Going in Circles with Kandinsky at Georgetown Elementary Art Blog
Wassily Kandinsky Printing Lesson at wecreate art tutorials