SONY DSCThis week, I have been talking to J and little E about lines, shapes and colours. We have been looking at the work of Piet Mondrian in order to more clearly illustrate the idea of horizontal and vertical lines, as well as the relationship between squares and rectangles.

To start with, I showed them some of Piet Mondrian’s work that from the collections at the Museum of Modern Art (here) and the Guggenheim (here). Whilst looking at the pictures, I talked about primary colours, and how they can be mixed together to form secondary colours.

We also listened to a very short description of a Piet Mondrian painting by a museum curator here in order to find out about the process of making this deceptively simple artwork. J was fascinated by the idea that the paintings could be inspired by musical pieces, with the lines and colours representing the rhythm and the tone of the music.

J really wanted to start painting a geometric painting in the style of Piet Mondrian, so this is how we made it happen:

SONY DSCMaterials:

1. 10 x 10cm 3D cotton canvas squares (I used Pebeo ones for the sake of convenience as they are easy to buy online and are inexpensive.)

2. Tempera paints (you can use acrylic paints for more intense colours if you aren’t worried about it being washable). I like to use premixed temperas so that I don’t have to bother about getting the right consistency of paint. Pebeo Primacolor paints have a nice brilliant finish which I like.

3. Masking tape (I had some leftover from a previous painting project)

4. Paintbrushes (I used flat as well as round brushes. For kids learning to paint, I prefer a good quality synthetic brush as the bristles are fine but do not break easily with rough use. These Pebeo brushes are pretty nice and have held up quite well after repeated use, never losing a fibre. )

Each step in this project doesn’t take more than a few minutes to accomplish (due to the small size of the canvas), so it’s perfect for kids with a very short attention span as you can let the paint dry for one day in between each step.

mondriantape copyStep 1: The coloured boxes

– First, choose the colours that you’ll be using to paint the lines as well as to fill in the boxes. J chose red, purple and green for this.

mondrianE copy

– Then, decide where the coloured boxes are going to go and outline the boundaries with masking tape.

– If you want to be extra-careful, you can put extra tape over the boxes that aren’t getting painted first, then remove those portions of tape as you go along. I did this for Little E as her motor control skills are not so refined yet.

mondrianblocks2 copy

– Paint each box with your chosen colour. I asked J to try and paint using long strokes, all in one direction. We used a flat brush to fill the centre of the box for a more even finish. We then used a round brush for the sides and corners to outline the box and give it a clean and tidy look. An older child can probably be taught t0 crosshatch their brush strokes to get a more interesting textured appearance and bring out the luminosity of the tempera paint.

– Once the paint is dry, remove the masking tape.

Step 2: Applying the first layer of lines (mostly vertical)

– Decide where all the vertical lines are going to be and carefully tape them out, making sure the tape is nice and straight. Some lines can be thick, and some can be thin, so don’t worry about getting all of them exactly the same.

– Paint in the lines and let them dry. We used a round tipped brush for this and tried to make long strokes.

– If you want the lines to be really dark, you can paint several layers, waiting for the paint to be semi-dry first before adding another layer.mondriantap3 copy

Step 3: Adding the second layer of lines (mostly horizontal)

– Decide where the horizontal lines are going to go and tape them out, making sure that each coloured box is fully outlined. Paint them in using a round brush.

Step 4 (optional): More details!

– You can break up the coloured boxes and the white boxes even further using more horizontal and vertical lines, or you can add more coloured boxes. Leave the decision to do so up to your child. You can help them a little bit by pointing out areas that look ‘too blank’ and ask them if adding another coloured box (in the same shade or a lighter/darker shade) or if adding another line would help make the picture appear more complete. Be inventive!

P.S. You can buy all the materials that I used in this post from – don’t forget to apply the discount code ‘WELOVEART’ for 20% off your entire order until the 20th April 2013!

~ Debs

Find all the materials I used in this craft here.