This Piet Mondrian Abstract Art for Kids is a simple art project and lesson suitable for many ages.
Piet Mondrian was a talented and versatile artist that is known mainly for his geometric, clean pieces like “Trafalgar Square” & “Broadway Boogie Woogie”. His art is a fun one to introduce to kids because the style he homed in on as his life went on is so different than so many other artists and it is fun to create and look at.
When teaching this art lesson to your children, or to a group of kids, it’s good to give them a little background on Mondrian himself and I will give you some brief history to make it easy, so you have all you need here in one spot. You can decide to add anything more to it if you like. Then all you need are the supplies and you’ve got an art lesson planned.
Starting the Art Lesson with Information About Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian was born in 1872 and died in 1944. He was Dutch and born into an aristocratic family who ended up escaping World War II and heading to New York City around 1940.
Mondrian studied art while still in Amsterdam. His early works were more of your typical paintings from that time frame and in an impressionistic style, like Monet.
He showed talent very early on but at this stage, his more developed style that he became famous for was not yet shown.
Cubism was a big influence on his as well, after seeing an exhibition that featured Braque and Picasso around 1910, and then in 1912 he moved to Paris to work on his painting style more and his became focused on making the color in his paintings as pure as possible.
He wanted simple purity to come across and this is when he began to change from trying to do what other painters did and do his own thing.
After moving to New York, he grew a fondness for the big city, the skyscrapers and the pace there. He produced many pieces and was very productive. He had given his work his own term of “Neo-Plasticism” and in his last few years of life his paintings used primarily primary colors along with black and white and echoed the city streets and patterns.
Many people refer to Mondrian as the original abstract artist.
For creating a Mondrian piece, for each student you will need:
- small canvas or canvas board in a size anywhere from an 8” x 8” to an 11” x 14”
- black tape (I have used both a thin and a thick style and I prefer the thin, but either works fine.)
- acrylic paints in primary colors, plus any you’d like to allow in addition to those
- pencil, ruler, and eraser
- paintbrushes in a 1” size and a thin one as well
- palette or paper plate, water cup, and paper towels
- disposable table cloth
Step by Step Instructions for Piet Mondrian Abstract Art for Kids
Explain that the kids are going to create a series of squares and rectangles on the canvas, lightly in pencil. If they make too many of them though, that means a lot more time painting.
Many get caught up in the fun creating process of using the ruler. They don’t think through the time factor and how they still have to paint them all in.
For my classes, we ended up splitting this lesson into two. This way the paint had time to dry well before we put on the tape. This part will depend on how much time you have to work with. The taping part doesn’t take too long, but it will not stick if the paint is wet.
Use the ruler to make the squares (or freehand it with older kids)
Have them use the ruler to create the squares. Have them leave at least one or two larger in comparison to the rest. This helps break up the design and keeps it from looking more like a checker board.
Before they begin painting have them hold the canvas out and look it over to make sure they like the layout they chose.
Let them choose about 3 colors. An odd number looks better, and many will stick with the primary colors, but some will want to use more. Too many colors take away from the Mondrian feel.
Have them paint the main larger squares in first, choosing the color they want to be the main one. If they start with smaller squares it is more difficult to find the focal one. They may end up not liking the outcome.
I reminded them to paint all the same color first, choosing 3 to 5 squares of one color at a time. For example, if red was the focal color they chose, they would paint the largest one red, and then choose a few other random ones to also paint red before moving on the next color.
They can use the small brush to paint the outline of the square in first, to help keep the lines inside the areas easier, and then change to the larger brush to fill in.
At this point, they just need to choose which squares to paint and get them filled in.
An important thing to be sure they know before going too far is to leave white ones between. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but the white is what makes this really pop and echo the Mondrian style.
Another important thing is to be sure you do a second coat on the colors of paint. He stressed the importance of solid, pure pigments in his paintings and if you do just one coat on most of these colors, it will be see-thru and look faded and unfinished.
I advise them to let the paint soak in well and be nearly dry before going back to do another coat, so then they can tell where they really need it filled in.
Let the Paint Dry
Once the paint is all well covered and solid, they need to let it dry.
Adding Black Tape
The last step is to add the black tape in between. This works so much better than trying to paint lines or draw them, which looks messy.
The tape is what gives the piece a clean, finished look and this is when it all comes together nicely.
If you are teaching multiple kids, let them share the rolls of tape and pass them around, taking turns. If you allow them to cut long pieces of tape and then try to cut and fit them, you will have a lot of wasted tape and in one class I taught, we had several kids waste tape and a couple who ran out because of this.
It seems faster to let them do this but it’s not worth it. I had them stretch out a tape piece over the canvas where they wanted it and then cut. I then passed the tape on to the next person, and then smoothed it out while they waited to the tape to come back to them again.
Make sure if the canvases are the standard style and not the boards, that you extend the tape around the outside edges too and then fold it around the back side.
This makes a big difference in the finished product.
It is fun when they are done to put them all together and get photos. Each person’s creation will be so different and yet tie together too.
This is a good illustration of how everyone has their own fun and creative spin on things.