After they arrived we began to talk about abstraction. We discussed the broad range of different ways artist abstract their work and the definition of abstraction and then I challenged them to find a way to change the shape, color or line (or do all three) to create a painting of the vase of flowers on the table.
To help them along I put on the palettes some orange/red paint and asked them to first just block in the shapes of their composition with only that color
just simple shapes of circles, rectangles, squares, and triangles.
Once finished I handed each of them a palette of primary colored acrylic paint along with black and white to begin painting.
Although I usually always have the students start with painting the backgrounds, in this case I asked them to wait until the very end. I also told them they did not have to paint their flowers and such to the edge of the shapes if they didn't want too. They were more than able to change their minds and adjust their original compositions.
In fact this artist had her vase originally bleeding off the bottom of her paper. She was quite unhappy and I told her she certainly could still change it drastically by just painting the negative space of the background. I don't think she quite believed me at first but was thrilled when she discovered sometimes I might know what I'm talking about.
The other interesting thing both the above artist discovered was that because they had painted these shapes in orange first, they could go back into the wet acrylic paint with the wrong side of their paint brushes and scratch in line work. You'll notice in both paintings how the artist used this technique to abstract their lines in the flowers and leaves.
What I was most excited about at the end of class when I looked at the final artworks is the wide variety of final compositions. I always stress that as artist the students have an open invitation to make whatever artistic choices that please them. This means they can edit or add to their artwork as they see fit.
The students were looking at a simple blue vase of flowers that included a lily, one stem of daisies, three small pink roses, and a variety of leaf stems. Look at everything else these artists began to add!
Abstracting the flowers was not an easy challenge for these students and I was so impressed with their willingness to not only embrace something that was surprisingly difficult for them in the beginning, but work through it and find their own personal way to conquer the challenge.
Just look at this artwork! She was not so sure of the challenge I set forth in the beginning but charged forward with a confidence most practice artist can only dream about.
And finally there was this piece. In a million years I would of never thought to lose the vase entirely and take the flowers and put them in a completely different environment. And I love the red leaves she left from when she originally blocked out the shapes.
When the artwork was finished, the students had left, and I was hanging the paintings up on the walls for the week to dry, I was struck at just how uniquely each young artist resolved the challenge I set forth for them inspired by a very simple vase of flowers.
I was beyond impressed with each of the final artworks they created and very proud of each of them for being open minded, trying something new, and not giving up as they navigated their way through the process.
Their efforts were certainly rewarded in the end.