How to make a Chagall Circus Painting. {Kid's Art Project}

This is a tutorial for painting a Chagall Circus, a kid's art project that will explore space, volume, color, action, and even fantasy elements. Find other kid's art projects and crafts on my Kid's Art Projects Pinterest Board here.
See Chagall in person: Visit the Dallas Museum of Art in downtown Dallas now thru May 26th, to see the Marc Chagall exhibit "Beyond Color" in the Chilton Gallery I. If you are a DMA Partner, your admission is free. Otherwise, you may buy a ticket here.
Who was Marc Chagall?
Marc Chagall was a Russian born fantasy painter who gained popularity among his peers, and then the world, once he established himself in France in the early 1900s. His art has such allure for its whimsy, bright colors, and fun subject matter. Hence, he is an artist for whom children show alacrity.

Little art students will enjoy looking at several images of Chagall's, but the circus painting is a good comprehensive display of all the elements one hopes to illicit in the students' art: fantasy, bold and visible color, and complete use of space. Children have a tendency to place everything on the bottom edge of the paper, so the practice of imitating Chagall's use of the entire canvas will push them to think about all the space available.

Paper, large white or manila, the thicker the better
Large geometric shapes to trace (lids, small boxes, any other shapes you may find around the house)
Colors: oil pastels are best, construction paper crayons are next best, but regular crayons will do as well
Water colors, or very watery tempera paints
Paint Brush

Directions from Stacy, the Art Teacher:
1. View many Marc Chagall circus paintings. Find examples of them by typing in exactly those words into any search engine on your computer. Or check out a Chagall book at your local library. Discuss the circus activities presented, the fantasy element, the use of space (from top-to-bottom, side-to-side of the picture plane), the bold color.

Chagall's Circus (image via Wikipedia)

2. Spend some time brainstorming the types of activities your child would like to have happen in their circus. Then, begin filling the central space of the paper by drawing the main activity using a pencil, and erasers if needed. Using the geometric shapes to trace can help insecure artists draw large items for their circus. For example, a large circle from tracing a coffee can become the body of an monkey or a clown; a square can become the body of a bear or a clown's crazy hat, etc.

Mimic Marc Chagall as much as possible by including the things you will notice most in his works: a large central activity, musical instruments, and animals doing something impossible.

3. Once the main activity is complete, indicate an audience in one or two areas of the paper by drawing a few parallel curved lines with circles in between them (for the audience faces). It's a very simple suggestion of spectators that is effective and doesn't require a lot of detail.

4. Continue to fill the picture-plane with more drawings of circus activities and performers. Fill all of the space of the paper. Push the child to draw in every corner. Justify the air born activity with the fantasy element: flying trapeze artists, floating animals, etc.

5. Once your pencil drawing is complete, use the Oil Pastels or Crayon colors to trace EVERY single pencil line, being sure to apply pressure for a rich, bold line. Encourage your child to change colors often and use as many colors as possible. (Remind them that they are tracing LINE only, not filling in space with the crayons/oil pastels.)

6. Paint positive space (or the people, animals, and things in the painting) first. When painting, make sure paint is well watered down (transparent) so not to obscure the colored line. Follow this rule for filling your line drawing in with paint: when choosing a color to paint an object, pick a color different from the color of its outline. For example, if a clown has hair outlined in green, don't paint the hair green, but any other color will do.

7. Once all positive space is painted, then embark on the negative, or surrounding, space. Follow the same rule when selecting colors, however, this time, your child should avoid using the same color as the colored line as well as the color used inside the object. This means your little artist may need to change colors often when painting the surrounding space. This rule reduces camouflage and increases the visibility of all the items in his/her picture. And it's a good exercise in problem-solving!

Why art is important at my house.
We put a major importance on art at my house. After all, I did go to art school. I've been in an art career my whole adult life, and I'm trying to get back into an art career at this very moment. We take our children to free museums, theater, concerts, and galleries on a regular basis.

The Arts are as important to my children's education as math, science, and reading. The thinking a child uses to create art lays the foundation for and develops their imaginative idea-generating and critical thinking skills, and these skills are key to life long self-confidence and self-discipline says Americans for the Arts.

According to Adopt the Arts, studies have shown that kids who participate in visual arts express their ideas in more complex language than other students. More complex language equals better grades in school, y'all. Quinn and Luka both take art classes, not only at school, but outside of school at our neighborhood art center. I pay for that with change I find in the sofa.

About Stacy The Art Teacher
I'm going to be featuring Kid's Art Projects on Mommy's Wish List this year, with the help of one of our fantastically creative local public school art teachers, Stacy from Rosemont Elementary. Luka is so lucky to have Stacy as his art teacher both at school, and in the summer. She has some great projects lined up for my kids and yours this year. We hope you enjoy making them.

Subscribe to Mommy's Wish List so you don't miss the upcoming Art Projects for Kids series.

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