March Break Guide: Abstract Art Party
Why blow a fortune on pricey paintings when you can create masterpieces in your very own home? This family plans to make art the fun way, as in the paint-splattered-everywhere, art-classes-who-needs-’em kind of way. We’d recommend renting the film Pollock for inspiration, except it’s not exactly wholesame family viewing. But even better, we’ve wrangled Toronto artist Thrush Holmes to offer tips on producing gallery-worthy work and having fun doing it.
- CITY: Danforth, Toronto, Ontario
- OUR BUNCH: Lisa, 39, former teacher/current chief kid wrangler. James, 40, journalist. Claire, 11, creative cat lover/budding writer. Lucas, 7, awesome building fanatic. Nugget, cat. Sookie, cat. Winnie, hamster.
March Break is traditionally our time to make huge messes, ’cause we’ve got lots of time to clean them up. Our favourite way to make a mess is communal art. We tape huge pieces of paper on the floor and throw paint on them with dramatic flourish, à la Jackson Pollock. Sticks, spoons, ribbons, toothbrushes — we can use anything except an actual paintbrush. Everyone gets a turn! It’s also a great way to repaint the kitchen while you’re at it.
Guest Expert: Thrush Holmes is an artist who has sold paintings to Halle Berry and Elton John. We’d really like to buy one of his paintings for the Bunchland office, but we’d probably need to hold like a million lemonade stands just to be able to afford it. He owns his own gallery on Toronto’s Queen Street West, and we think he is really talented.
1. Kids are inherently superior to their parents with respect to art making. They can more easily make decisions and don’t hesitate due to a nurtured weariness that adults are freighted with. Artists often wait for some divine intervention before striking while kids are just continuously “on”. That said, my first tip to parents would be not to interfere with offerings of guidance or criticism, because kids really do approach art with an ultimate purity and decisiveness. They can teach you a lot about the merits of expressive use of colour and gesture.
2. My second tip would be to safeguard the studio (living room, play room, basement). Protect your assets! Pick up a large canvas drop cloth from Home Depot and cover your walls, floors, furniture, pets, everything. When the project is complete, you can roll up the drop cloth and use it again later. After several uses, this drop cloth could be stretched and presented as a monumental abstract painting (and one with sentimental significance). It’s a good investment and allows the kids to really unleash. Of course the kids will need some old clothes. Long sleeves and pants are ideal. Put some electronic/trance music on and let the kids lose their minds. You might want to join them. If done properly, this should be an exhausting exercise.
3. And finally, capitalize on the little buggers. They make impressive art and have an unusual flair for composition. Commission them to do a family portrait and pay them in sugar — their most coveted currency. Splurge on some nice canvases in a variety of shapes and sizes and get some nice colours — the primaries and then some exotics. Pick up some extra white and black for mixing. Get them a variety of brushes (cheap out, though — dollar store brushes are more than adequate). Primed canvas does not absorb paint like paper, so you’ll go through less paint. You can also reuse the canvas at a later time — just prime over the existing paint and begin again. Give the kids one big canvas so that they can really express their vision. They might decide to work on this over time.
4. One other thing I must mention is that it is important to work on more than one piece at a single time. Let them jump from one to another so that one canvas can inform and encourage the other. Many very successful abstract painters endeavour to channel or reclaim their childish intuition when working. You might be surprised by the quality and depth of your child’s work. Present it well — hang it, light it, cherish it.