Let’s face it. It is difficult to escape our current situation, specially for those of us who are quarantined in our own homes. And while I’m avoiding having to succumb to the pressure of hyper-productivity during this stressful and mentally troubling time, I also see the wisdom in making use of all the extra hours learning new things, specially with my kids. To be honest, we are simply trying our best to go about our usual routine prior to the lockdown and working on art projects has always been part of it. It has definitely brought extra comfort and entertainment to our family in these challenging times.
MEET THE ARTIST
So for the month of March, I picked an artist who captured domestic life in a lively and appealing way. I came across David Hockney’s still life paintings and portraits, then I saw a couple of short film features about him and his work. I’m familiar with some of his pieces, specially his 1977 work, “My Parents,” but I’ve never actually read up about his life and career til now.
What I love about him is his commitment to be in the present. If you carefully observe his work, you will notice how he fully appreciates what he is experiencing at any given moment, wherever he may be. I read that he lived both in London and California which are two very different places with contrasting cultures and climates. These stark differences are very evident in the way he paints them. I can imagine you would have to truly immerse yourself in your surroundings to properly illustrate these differences in shape, composition and color.
When you’re painting, it’s now. I like to live in the now. That’s all there is now, isn’t?David Hockney
Even the portraits he made of his friends tell that he spent a good amount of time knowing them inside and out because there is an undeniable realness in the facial expressions and body language.
Studying about David Hockney with my kids gave us the opportunity to stop and appreciate the moment we find ourselves in no matter how mundane or unideal it is. We looked at his painting of a water bottle and discussed how a very regular object can be made so attractive and interesting because of the different shades of blues, the light hitting it in the corner and the vibrant colors surrounding it. The artist’s attention to these often ignored little details of regular life help him create authentic, soulful pictures everyone can relate with. So the last few weeks, my daughters and I pushed ourselves to embrace the moment and open our eyes to the beauty of the regular.
You are most welcome to take this journey as we did right in the comforts of your home. All the materials we used are things you most likely already own. To begin, you can check out these two videos about David Hockney (parental guidance is required as he is frequently shown smoking in the videos) and then read the following article from Tate Kids with your children.
PROJECT 1: INDOOR SKETCHING
Materials: Paper, Pencil, Any set of coloring tools (markers, colored pencils, crayons, etc)
This activity can be done by anyone who finds themselves stuck indoors! It encourages us to pay close attention to a corner of our home we probably often ignore and perhaps find beauty in it. Here’s how.
- Pick a corner of your home you would like to draw. If there is more than one of you working on this project, you can assign a different area or corner of the house for each one.
- Get a piece of paper. If you find an A3 size, that’s better, but a regular letter size paper will do. Cut a rectangular hole in the middle. This is going to be your framing tool. Hold it up to that corner of your home that you picked and you will only draw what you see within the frame. This is a technique to help you, specially the little ones, to zone in on the area and not be distracted by everything else. Just make sure you hold it up from the same distance and at the same height.
- Get your sketchbook and a pencil then start drawing. Look closer than you ever have before. Notice every line and dot, every piece of furniture, figurine, electric cord and fabric fold. Don’t worry about it beinf perfect. The goal is not to make it look exactly the same but to make sure every detail is included.
- Once you’re done with the pencil sketching and more confident with your lines, draw over it once more with a black drawing pen, marker or crayon.
- Lastly, pick 2 or 3 colors from your corner and color only the objects in those colors. This is just a style I added inspired by some of Hockney’s sketches I found online where color is minimal and subdued. The coloring served to highlight the objects instead of overpower the overall picture.
Let me fully disclose that my kids did struggle with this project at the start because it seemed boring (Like, what’s exciting about our old bookshelf?!) and also a lot of work (There are too many books to draw!), but along the way, with some encouragement, they got more absorbed by the details they were drawing and in the end found satisfaction in their hard work. I’m so proud of them for sticking to it and they produced wonderful pictures too! I even told them that one day, when we don’t live in this apartment anymore, they will appreciate that they took time to draw a corner of it and will be thankful to have something to remember it by.
I hope you and your kids enjoy this drawing excercise too! We have two more David Hockney inspired projects to share with you, coming right up.