Saturday, September 16, 2017

Little kids: Basquiat-Inspired Self-Portraits with Free Association

You either love or hate Jean-Michel Basquiat (Haiti 1960-New York City 1988). Our featured artist grew up in Brooklyn and began his career as a street and graffiti artist in the streets of NY. He became good friends with Andy Warhol, who supported his artistic endeavors. His art makes political, personal and social statements, often using free association texts, drawings and statements. Basquiat died of a drug overdose when he was 27. Sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing, his art is every bit as fun as it is heavy. 

My 6-7 yrs olds beautifully channeled Basquiat in their self-portraits with free-association elements. Take a close look and get inside the complex minds of my littlest artists.

Aditri 7
Rune 6 

Elena 6

Mei Mei 7

Daniel 7

Yiming 6
We began by looking at and discussing several of Basquiat's paintings. The kids pointed out that there are faces, words, sentences, drawings, nonsense text and lots of colors. We then talked about creating our own self-portrait, and thought of some words or drawings that might accompany our portrait (these can be anything you freely associate with yourself). 

I decided to forgo the usual crisp white paper for this project and instead had the kids paint their portraits on painted paper. I cut brown packing paper, which had previously served as table protectors and were full of paint and scribbles from previous art classes, into 12x15 sizes. This added to that Basquiat look of a scribbly, random, messy background. The kids chose the paint paper they wanted. We 'drew' our face with a tiny brush and black acrylic paint. Then added some areas of blue, yellow and red to frame our face and add some bursts of color. Next, we got our our black permanent makers and fine liners, our white gel pen, and our acrylic paint pens and added our free-association elements. We were mindful of thinking of balance and harmony - placing our elements thoughtfully around the painting. Lastly, we 'traced' along the black edge of our portrait with a white gel pen to make our face pop out and give us the contrast and focus it needs to stand out against a busy background. These turned out so beautifully, and each is so unique to my students.