This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can do the Painting with Pointillism art project with your whole family together!
The Painting with Pointillism exploration is an art project from Unit 4-7 about Post-Impressionism. Layers of Learning has hands-on explorations, experiments, and art projects in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.
Pointillism is a painting style that uses lots of tiny dots of color on a painting. Pointillist painters rely on the viewer’s eyes to mix the colors rather than on actually blending the paint colors and then applying them to the canvas.
All colors are made up of the three primary colors – red, yellow, and blue. All other colors can be made by mixing those primary colors, and by adding black or white. Georges Seurat was the most famous pointillist, and he used thousands of tiny dots of color to make his paintings more luminescent, and require the eye of the viewer to mix the color instead of premixing all the paint.
This well-known work of art by French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) is one you’ve probably seen before, but have you ever spotted the tiny dots of color? A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte is painted using only tiny dots of paint. Look at the detail below:
Step 1: Library Research
Before you begin the art project, read a book or two about Post-Impressionism, the style of painting that encompassed pointillism. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, or Seurat. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.
by Mike Venezia
Van Gogh and the Post Impressionists
by Carol Sabbeth
by Colin Wiggins
Step 2: Painting With Pointillism
You’ll need tempera paints, paintbrushes, and the pointillism printables. You can also use any simple coloring book pages to do this art project in addition to the printables.
First, choose one of the printables to use and pour the tempera paint into little puddles of paint. Dip the back side of your paintbrush (the handle tip) into the puddles of paint and dot the paint on to the printable. Create dots of color to fill the spaces on the printable page. Using various colors nearby to each other can help create new colors as the viewer’s eyes blend the hues together. Remember basic color mixing:
Red + Blue = Purple
Blue + Yellow = Green
Red + Yellow = Orange
Putting colors in close proximity with each other will create visual color mixing. For example, if you put red and blue next to each other, your viewer’s eyes can finish the color mix and see purple.
Keep adding dots of color until you fill the printable. You can use various colors and various sizes of dots as you practice pointillism.
Step 3: Show What You Know
Show off your painting to an audience (even if it’s just your family at the dinner table!) and tell about how you created your picture. Next, explain your color mixing and compare what your piece looks like close up and far away. Then choose one of the pointillism paintings made by Georges Seurat to show off too. Finally, tell about the painting and something you learned about Seurat, pointillism, or Post-Impressionism.
Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte took Seurat two years to paint. It’s about ten feet wide and only painted with tiny dots! What is the longest you’ve ever spent on a painting? Write about a painting you’ve made that you’re proud of.
Printers, televisions, and computer monitors use kind of the same method that pointillist painters used. They combine dots of just a few colors to make your eye see the desired final color. Learn more about this.
Seurat lived in France and often painted the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Find that country on a map and search out some of its landmarks.
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