In the early 20th century Piet Mondrian invented an iconic style of modern art that used vertical and horizontal lines to create squares and rectangles, which he then filled with simple colors (usually primary colors along with white and black). The cubist influenced style, which he called neo-plasticism, has been reproduced around the world in art, pop and fashion circles.
His unique style is also perfectly suited to introduce kids to abstract art. It offers a fun filled opportunity to create a variety of abstract expressions using the simple application of line, shape and color. Although Mondrian worked with oil paint on canvas, the method below requires no paints, special table cloth or liquids of any kind.
- Black electrical tape
- Construction paper
- Glue stick
Most grocery stores carry electrical tape in the same aisle as light bulbs.
Construction paper and glue stick are easy to find in the school supplies aisle. Make sure the construction paper has primary colors: red, yellow and blue, along with black and white. Your kitchen table will work just fine for a location.
What to do:
1. Using a sheet of red construction paper, cut out a few different size squares and rectangles. The lines don’t have to be perfectly straight because later you’ll be covering the edges with electrical tape. Nonetheless, if your child is doing the cutting, use a ruler and pencil to draw the the squares and rectangles so that your child can cut along the lines.
2. Do the same thing with a sheet of yellow and blue paper, and
also with a sheet of black paper.
3. Now, simply allow your child to arrange the squares and rectangles
on a sheet of white construction paper. Make sure shapes are arranged straight up and down. Also, do not fill the entire white paper with shapes. Instead, leave plenty of white space. Colors and shapes will be more sharply defined with the presence of white space.
4. Take a last look at the design. Ask your child if she’d like to add or remove any shapes. When the design is set, allow your child to use the glue stick to secure shapes to the paper.
5. Allow or help your child to apply black electrical tape. Cover edges of the shapes. If you’re unsure of how far to extend a line, simply extend it to the border of the paper. Keep lines horizontal or vertical. Don’t forget the white space—a line of tape down the middle of white rectangular space, for instance, creates two smaller spaces.
(Advanced: start by using electrical tape to create the basic design on white paper. Remember that lines should travel in horizontal and vertical directions only. Now cut shapes to match those portions of the grid you wish to fill in. Secure with glue stick. Make sure that white space is incorporated into the design if you want to achieve Mondrian’s style. Now use electrical tape again to go over the original grid lines.)
These pieces of art look great around the house and demonstrate the extraordinary variety that can come from such simple shapes and colors. Your child will quickly get the hang of the process and take a firm interest in applying new design ideas. Have fun!
Links to Mondrian’s biography: