Saturday, October 6, 2012

Piet Mondrian: And Easy Going Art Study with an SPD Connection

Ask Mike or me if we knew who Piet Mondrian was or what neoplasticism meant two months ago, and we would have readily said no.  Ask us if we ever thought we’d adorn our home with works of modern abstract art, and we would have emphatically declared, “Never!”

Well, you know what folks say about “never say never”. 

For over a month now, our main hallway has paid homage to Piet Mondrian, a famous Dutch painter who is best known for his stark, geometric paintings, which feature strong black lines that make squares and rectangles which are selectively filled in with primary colors. 

How does a family go from being clueless about a style of art to featuring it in a main thruway of their home?  Easy!  Be a family committed to limiting TV screen time, maximizing family time and following children’s interests.  And, in our case, one that has a sensory challenged son who needs some serious calm-down time on certain nights between dinner an bedtime.

The Beginning of Our Piet Mondrian Study
Luke's Piet Mondrian-Inspired Painting
One day after dinner, the children – especially Luke – were rather wired.  So, I suggested we spend some family time doing art.  A quick look through Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning), a book we had borrowed from the library for inspiration for extensions to Charlotte Mason-inspired art study,  brought us to Piet Mondrian.  Although we did not have the supplies suggested in the book for doing art based on Mondrian's style, we knew we could easily adapt the project.

So, first, we looked up a few more examples of Mondrian’s work online as inspiration.  Then, with rulers and Sharpies, Nina, Luke and I drew lines on copy paper.  To this outline, we added primary colors, and – viola—our Mondrian-inspired art unfolded.

Nina's Mondrian-Style Art
Meanwhile, Daddy and Jack explored with the Sharpies and paint in their own way.

Jack's (and Daddy's) Art
The Gallery
Piet Mondrian Hallway Gallery
On another day, Luke helped me pick out selections of Piet Mondrian’s artwork online to include in a sign to hang with our own artwork.  Then, Nina and Luke helped me create our gallery.

Picture Book Connections for Piet Mondrian
Of all the books we looked at, No One Saw inspired the children with its art and message the most.
We also ordered a basket of books from the library to enjoy during read aloud and quiet times:

  • Alphab'art helped us practice our alphabets while spotting letters in Reproductions of famous paintings, including Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930.
  • No One Saw inspired us to see and interpret the world through our own unique eyes, much like Piet Mondrian did with squares in Broadway Boogie Woogie.
  • Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving challenged us through rhyming word problems connected to visual art, such as Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930.  (The problems were a little tough for the kids at their ages, but we enjoyed the artwork in the book anyway and will definitely be getting it out again in the future.)
  • Mondrian (Perfect Squares) presented the children with a visual look at the development of Mondrian’s work and made me “get” his art a bit more through browsing some of its text.
  • Anna's Art Adventure took us on an imaginary journey through modern art, including walking on the black lines of Mondrian’s work.
Knowing When to Stop
Mommy's Exploration
On another evening, I suggested using black electric tape and crayons or markers to do more art modeled after Piet Mondrian’s works.  The children were not enthused by the idea, so I let it go.

Another day, I suggested creating a large piece of Mondrian-inspired art on the floor or outside that we could walk along like Anna did in Anna's Art Adventure .  Again, the response was rather apathetic.

Thus, although I had thought up and bookmarked a number of other ways to explore Piet Mondrian, I realized further study of the artist would best wait for a future point.  When (If?) that time comes, I will be ready with many ideas on hand, such as:
The SPD Connection
Luke's Exploration of Abstract Art, Mondrian-Style
Finally, since I promised to add an SPD connection to all posts this month in honor of SPD Awareness Month, and since the connection between SPD and Piet Mondrian is not obvious above, let me explain: 

Children with sensory processing disorder have a difficult time with emotional regulation and self-calming.  Our eldest son is no different.  When he is over-stimulated or “bored”, behaviors rear up and he has a difficult time regulating them. 

Once we noted our son’s continued interest in creating and viewing art, we began experimenting with art time as a choice for him when he needs to change his focus or calm down.  It worked and is now a staple of daily life here.

However, please be aware, that what works for on does not work for all.  For some children with SPD, doing art work would only exacerbate behaviors and sensory challenges.  For such children, the tactile input and fine motor coordination demanded by the art work could be more frustrating than it is soothing.  Knowing an individual child’s triggers and interests is key to determining if artwork might be an effective choice to use for self-regulation.

Further Exploration by Nina

What self-regulating activities help your child with SPD?
Do you have suggestions for other activities to explore Piet Mondrian or other famous artists?  Please share in a comment.

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Cris said...

What a great post! and full of resources, too. This kind of art reminds me of Friedrich Froebel's kindergarten gifts and how they inspired many artists.

martianne said...

I had not made that connection, Cris. Thank you. Froebel did offer some wonderful materials.


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