Monday, January 22, 2007

Artist Study: Mondrian (Part I)

Mondrian, Piet~ Composition A: Composition with Black, Red, Gray, Yellow, and Blue (1920)

Part I of our new art study, Piet Mondrian and his work. Mondrian was a Dutch painter with a very distinctive and recognizable style. It was difficult tracking down information about Mondrian, though at Kinderart (a great site for all kinds of art studies for preschool through high school) we found a Mondrian lesson plan which was the springboard for this study. Our best source for information about Mondrian and his art was The Annotated Mona Lisa, which explain succinctly and clearly about Mondrian and his art well enough for all of us to grasp the general principles. Mondrian noted that straight lines do not exist in nature, and set out to create an abstract representation of universal harmony and order. Vertical lines represent vitality; horizontal lines, tranquility; the angle created by the meeting of the lines create a balance between the two. Lovely lady and I had a sort of "Aha" when we read this. It made viewing the compositions more interesting, more than simple lines and shapes.

For me the main attraction of Mondrian from an art education perspective is that his art is different from some of the other art we've done so far, and it's easy to imitate. A fascinating aspect of Mondrian's art has been looking at his progression as an artist from this:

To this:

To this:

(In order, Red Tree, 1908; The Blooming Apple Tree, 1912; Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue, 1921) For a nice overview of Mondrian's development as an artist, try this site.

My favorite Mondrian:

Broadway Boogie-Woogie, 1942-43. It seems more dynamic and vibrant without those stern black lines holding everything so still.

Today we tried our hands at some Mondrian-inspired art. We plan to brush paint on canvas soon, but yesterday I got a flash of inspiration and decided to try something fun. A batch of sugar cookie dough, black shoestring licorice (which loving husband was kind enough to drive all over town to find), some cookie paint, and the neighbors to play along....Voila! Edible Mondrian!

Edible Mondrian

You need....

A double batch of your favorite sugar cookie dough. If you don't have a favorite recipe, try this one.

Black shoestring licorice (optional)

Light corn syrup

Red, blue, and yellow food coloring

Paper square for a cookie template

Cookie sheets, rolling pin, extra flour for rolling, spatula

Small containers for mixing the paints, clean scissors and paint brushes (and not the cheap-o brushes, either, unless you like bristles in your cookies)

Make the cookie dough. Before you roll out the dough, cut a paper square to the size you'd like your cookies. (Ours was 6"x6") You'll use the square for a template. Roll out the dough. When rolling, use just a bit more flour than you otherwise might so that the dough will be easy to handle. I found that it was easiest to take a piece the approximate size I wanted, finish rolling it on the cookie sheet, then use the template as a guide for trimming the shape into a square. Trying to transfer the large squares intact was nearly impossible. I also cut smaller squares, 3"x3", which were easy to pop onto the sheet using a spatula.

Use your clean scissors to cut the licorice into the desired lengths so that you can make horizontal and vertical lines on your cookie. Appreciate the dynamic balance at the intersections of the lines. (This is an art lesson after all.) Gently press the licorice into the cookie to help it stay in place. It may curl a bit while baking, but who cares? You're going to eat it, not hang it on the wall. (If you can't find shoestring licorice or can't abide it, you can use black cookie paint to create lines.)

Cookie paint: In your little containers mix some light corn syrup with several drops of the desired color. (No idea exactly how much corn syrup, we didn't measure. Maybe 1/3 cup? You'll have to use your common sense.) Make red, blue, and yellow cookie paint. To make black, mix a lot of blue, some red, and a few drops of yellow.

You'll have to let your cookies dry for at least 24 hours before you can eat them. That gives you time to admire them, and allows the paint to set so that you don't get all sticky when you eat your art.

No comments: