How to turn your kitchen table into an art studio

Pablo Picasso once said that “every child is an artist” – and now children are encouraged to “turn their kitchen table into an art studio”, while using their homes and the objects they contain as sources of creative inspiration.

Budding young artists should take inspiration* from 20th century masters like Picasso and Georges Braque and use their imaginations to transform ordinary objects – like cereal boxes, old magazines and shopping bags – into extraordinary works, the curator* of children’s programs at the National Gallery in Victoria, says Kate Ryan.

Ms Ryan said the Covid lockdowns had familiarized children and families with ‘being creative at home’ – and there was no reason not to continue this practice now that life was a bit more normal .

“Drawing, painting, playing and making are recognized by leading educators for instilling confidence and cultivating* a sense of well-being in young learners,” she said.

“Making art, whether it’s drawing on paper or building with blocks, (provides) children with opportunities to express themselves, discover new ideas and collaborate* with others, while developing critical thinking* and problem solving.”

Ms Ryan said it was more important than ever for children to learn these skills as many jobs needed people who excelled in these areas. Thus, mastering these skills “will help prepare today’s learners for future success”.

Collage was a great starting point for all home artists, she said.

French artist Braque pioneered* the technique, alongside Picasso, creating one of the first collages in 1912, titled Fruit Dish and Glass, by pasting pieces of wood-grained wallpaper onto a drawing in charcoal.

“Braque’s family had a house painting and decorating business, so he took advantage of that,” Ms Ryan said.

DOWNLOAD THESE COLLAGE PATTERNS

She said children could create their own collages using materials like old shopping bags, wrapping paper, magazines and newspapers – as long as they checked with their parents first.

Some of Picasso’s works could also inspire art at home, Ms Ryan said – particularly the paper cuts he made “from an early age”.

“There’s a wonderful story about Lump, the dog who ate a Picasso,” she said.

“When he found out that this little dachshund that had moved into their house had never met a rabbit, he cut a cardboard rabbit out of a cereal box and the little dog ran off with it and ate it in the garden.

“Creating cutouts using recycled paper and cardboard, in the spirit of Picasso, is another great activity people can do at home.”

Ms. Ryan also suggested a favorite game of surrealist artists*, horribly titled “Exquisite Corpse”.

A player draws a head on top of a piece of paper, then folds the paper to hide it. The second player draws a body and folds the paper again, then a third person draws the legs.

“When the design is revealed, you get a surreal image,” she said, noting that players can also cut out body parts from magazines to play.

“The game becomes something you do as a family – and you can find out who the real entertainer is in the family.”

Ms Ryan said children can also play a digital version of the game at Melbourne’s NGV International as part of its free exhibition for children of all ages, Making Art: Imagine Everything is Real, which runs alongside the big exhibition The Picasso Century until October 9.

“Making a Creature” is one of four hands-on activities reflecting techniques invented or used by 20th-century European artists featured in the children’s exhibit.

The others are “Make a Collage”, reflecting the invention of collage by Braque and Picasso, “Make a Poem”, inspired by the works of Russian artist Natalia Goncharova, and “Make a Sculpture”, which is inspired by the creation of paper sculptures by Picasso.

The exhibition is complemented by activities at the Chadstone Mall in Melbourne, through July 10, which also include the ‘Make a Creature’ game and an ‘Emerging Artists Space’ where young artists can explore portraiture and sculpture.

GLOSSARY

  • clues: clues, clues, signals
  • conservative: person responsible for objects or works of art in a museum or art gallery
  • cultivate: grow, develop
  • collaborating: work with others on an activity or project
  • Critical mind: a kind of reflection where you question, analyze, interpret, evaluate and pass judgment on what you read, hear, say or write
  • pioneer: developed, was the first to use
  • surrealist: to do with art in which unusual or impossible things are shown happening

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What gallery is Kate Ryan from?
  2. Name two of the everyday objects in your home that Kate Ryan thinks could be used in a piece of art.
  3. What is the name of one of the first collages made by Georges Braque in 1912?
  4. What is the name of the dog that ate Picasso’s cutout?
  5. What was the shape of the cutout?

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CLASS ACTIVITIES
1. Budding artists
In groups of three, play the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ drawing game mentioned in the article.

Fold a sheet of A4 paper into three parts. On the upper part, the player draws a head, then folds it up so no one can see it. The second player then draws a body and folds it. The third player then draws the legs.

Open the drawing and see your creation. Show off your work to your class if you’re playing at school or to your family if you’re playing at home. This is called a surreal image. Discuss other people’s creations and your favorites.

Time: allow 20 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts

2. Extension
Make a collage or draw someone’s portrait to express your artistic abilities.

What are the benefits of being creative?

Time: allow 20 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts, English

VCOP ACTIVITY
Exquisite Corpse goes on an adventure
Have you heard of Flat Stanley? He’s a book character who’s been flattened and decides to make the most of being flat and going on a lot of adventures. With a partner, why not play the art game Exquisite Corpse and create your own unique character that could come to life and go on their own adventure?

Give your character a name. Decide how it will come to life. Decide what adventure they will go on, what problem will arise and how it will be solved.

Share your adventure with another pair and see what adventure their character had.

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