Wednesday, September 14, 2011

playing with piet and philip.

For a number of years I used the work of Piet Mondrian to introduce my younger students to different types of lines and primary colors. I love his work and how he broke down the image to the purest of elements and was still able to create endless variations within the self imposed restrictions of his visual world. That said, his work doesn't necessarily translate to keeping young kids engaged in the content of a lesson.

Well, I was scrolling through t-shirt designs on the threadless website  and came across an image that immediately made me both smile and want to revisit Mondrian's visual vocabulary. It was a design by San Diego's own Philip Tseng.
Same vocabulary of line, shape, and color, with a few added visual hooks to get my young ones engaged. Score!

I briefly showed the classes some of Philip's illustration work from his website and we noticed that many of his images use contour lines. When we got to the monkey bars image we also talked about the use of simple shapes, vertical and horizontal lines, and primary colors in art.

I have a Mondrian reproduction in the front of my room, so we also talked about how Philip modified the concept of paintings that were made almost one hundred years ago.

This is how the hands on project went-
1. Drew a large rectangle and then added a few vertical horizontal & vertical lines. Some were short and some were long.
2. Added contour line joints where lines met.
3. Added 3 or 4 shapes inside the squares/rectangles present in the monkeybars.
4. Added different expressive faces and limbs to each of those new shapes.
5. traced the monkeybar lines with a black marker and filled in the joints.
6. Used primary colors to fill in our characters.
7. Added a ground line and colored the ground.

The kids loved it. 


  1. This lesson demonstrates how children understand concepts and how beautifully they translate them into their art.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. I like the element of size (large and small colored areas) and I love the expressions!!

  3. I had a long, tough day and when I got home and saw this project I just smiled and felt a whole lot better. Thanks,D!

  4. I saw that piece of Philip Tseng's on Tumblr years ago and fell in love with it. Tonight I was looking around the interwebs for inspiration for a 1st grade lesson I need to teach tomorrow to a class of over achievers that are way ahead of everyone else. This is perfect!

    1. awesome! it is a super fun piece. I hope your class has a blast with it:)

    2. I posted on my blog with my students work doing this lesson. Thank you for the inspiration!!