Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sitting under the tree with Gustav- not K-I-S-S-I-N-G: an art lesson focusing on Gustav Klimt.

Again, I am bringing out "the best of" anthology...

I have been checking my friends blogs and lamenting that they have not posted in a few days. Then as I was updating my blog, I realized it has been more than a week since I've written anything either. Summer is almost over and as usual, most of my grand intentions for all my free time went unfulfilled. Of course I did do some things that I hadn't planned to do as well and am better for it.
I have had a great time with my art classes this summer though, and here is our latest project.
This past week we learned about Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. If you know Klimt's work, you may think that not an appropriate choice for a kids class. For the most part, I would agree, but he does have several family friendly pieces and his contribution to the art world is still significant. Not to mention he is one of my favorite artists. Though his life was not one we Christians can admire for his high morals, he had few, his work is still exceptionally beautiful. He used a lot of gold in his paintings, being the son of an engraver helped him to become an expert at the gold leaf process.
For this project you will need examples of Klimt's work. is a good resource. There is even a children's book called Klimt and His Cat by Berenice Capatti and illustrated by Octavia Monaco.

The narrator is the cat and Klimt's world is seen through its eyes. It is in no way a complete biography but it is a kid-friendly way to introduce this particularly controversial artist. There is some nudity in the book, so be prepared. I take no shame in my censorship and placed post it notes over questionable images. I also did not let kids view the book on their own so they could not "peek".

Materials needed:
Print or photo of Gustav Klimt's "The tree of life".

Metallic gel markers (we used Prang, purchased at WalMart)
Black or other dark toned paper (pastel paper would be good, but I used scrapbook paper)
oil pastels(brown and black)

1. Have kids decide whether their composition will be vertical or horizontal.

2. Once they decide this then they should find the middle of their page on the bottom edge. Just to the left of this have them draw a curved line with a metallic gold or silver marker that starts at the bottom edge of the page and ends in a spiral. Have them move to the right a bit and repeat this curve in the opposite direction, still ending in a spiral.

3. In the middle of these two curves they should draw a "V" shape. This will create a tree trunk.

4. Now the kids get to make their tree grow. Continue to have them add spiral branches, some growing from the first spirals moving outward and some moving upward until they have just about filled the page. Encourage kids to make some spirals larger and some smaller, some going right and some left. Hopefully they will leave some room though as there are lots more details to add.

(note)There is a lot of detail to this project, so younger kids or ones who aren't into art that much may benefit from breaking this project up into 2 or 3 shorter sessions instead of one long one.

5.Have the kids fill in the tree trunk and then thicken some of the branches on the curves only. The actual spirals probably won't need to be thickened.

6. At this point the kids should add a horizon line. Have them draw a line from the right side of the trunk to the edge of the page and repeat on the left.

7. At this point have them draw in pink and purple flowers with green stems. They may add as many or as few as they like and they should be on the ground and in the tree.

8. Next they will add green triangles, stars(any color), circles, and dots. All these shapes look better when they are done in a grouping and not just by themselves randomly scattered. The dots especially look nice if they follow along the edges of the spirals. Then have them add green and blue swirls on the ground in between the flowers. Encourage variety in sizes, making some bigger and some smaller.

9. At this point have the kids start putting black and brown rectangles on the tree trunk and thicker branches of the tree. They can also add some gold or silver rectangles here depending on whether they started with gold or silver. Again encourage variety in the rectangle pattern. Some should be vertical, some horizontal, some filled in, some empty. The cloak of the male figure in Klimt's "The Kiss" is a good example of this.

When all is said and done these pieces are beautiful and very dramatic especially if mounted on lighter paper and then on black.

This was the example I made.

This is from an 8 year old student.

This was from a 6 year old student.

This was from an 11 year old student.

This was from a 5 year old student.


Jacquelyn said...

love klimt too, mostly because he is such a master of pattern. I'll have to check out that kid's book.

Joanna said...

Sorry I haven't posted for awhile. I can't believe Summer is at an end already. It went so fast! I will have to try the art lesson with Elijah.

Rae said...

This is just wonderful! I found your page through the Crafty Cow and wanted to thank you for this wonderful tutorial! I can't wait to try this with my girls!!

Patty P said...

I lOVE this lesson. I'm definitely going to try it!

Jessica said...

I hadn't discovered that book. I'll have to check it out. You're right about Klimt and the kid-friendly factor. I had a hard time writing about his life on my site. But there are plenty of artists like that. Salador Dali, to name another. The art is still interesting and important.

Snippety Gibbet said...

These are amazingly gorgeous. I just am floored by how well they turned out by such little kiddies. jan

Ms. Julie's Place said...

I think they are beautiful too. The one my 7 year old did is framed and hanging in my hallway!

Jessica said...

Hey, Julie. Did you see the article about doodling that was on the front page of Yahoo this morning? Made me think of you.

Lisa said...

I volunteer teach art to my kids classes at school and did this project with the 5th graders. I didn't have black paper or the pastels-we used white paper and markers and they all turned out great!

Caroline van Scrap2be said...

They are splendid! I can't wait to try it out with my kids. Great result and it seems to be very funny to do too! I like the work of Klimt very much!

Anonymous said...

I am planning on doing an art exhibition with my year 5's at school and this is perfect! I love Klimt and have 2 of his paintings up at home. The Kiss is my all time favourite. I am not a fan of some of his work or morals, but the colours and pattern in his creations are beautiful. I hope some of his selected paintings along with your inspiration and my passion is passed onto to my children. I can't wait! Thank you x

MarinaL said...

I am writing to you from the International Tree Foudnation. This is a wonderful lesson plan! We would love to include it as part of our school resources. Please let us know if this would be possible, we would of course credit you. Please get in touch with Marina and to let us know.
More info about us here:

Thank you!!


Tree Of Life said...

What a fabulous way to encourage both art and the 'lessons' of the Tree of Life - you are to be commended - I will make a link to you from my website