An Effortless Roll-A-Kandinsky Expressionist Art Lesson

This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can do the Roll-A-Kandinsky exploration with your whole family together.

1st thru 4th grades
5th thru 8th grades
9th thru 12th grades

Layers of Learning Unit 4-8
Unit 4-8: World War I, Plains States, Earthquakes, Expressionism

The Roll-A-Kandinsky art exploration is from Layers of Learning Unit 4-8 about the art movement called Expressionism. Within the unit, you will find lots more hands-on projects and explorations to help your family learn all about the Expressionist movement, painters, and how all of it tied into the world being at war during this time period. 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.

The Expressionist art movement was a modern art movement that gained momentum at the beginning of the 20th century. It coincided with World War I and was a creative expression of the turmoil of the times. Expressionist art was based on emotion. Artists of the time didn’t feel the need to paint a lovely scene or an accurate portrayal of a person. Instead, they wanted to paint a feeling, and they wanted their viewers to feel the same thing.  

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter who pioneered completely abstract paintings. Abstract paintings aren’t pictures of objects at all. Kandinsky was a spiritual painter who wanted everyone to feel deeply poignant and personal feelings when they looked at art, much in the way that music often reaches into us. He believed color held symbolism that could create a spiritual experience for artists and viewers. The longer Wassily Kandinsky painted, the more colorful and abstract his paintings became. He began including geometric shapes more and more in his paintings, as you can see in Circles in a Circle, created by Kandinsky in 1923.

Step 1: Library Research

Before you begin the project, read a book or two about Expressionism. You don’t need to find these specific titles, but here are a few we recommend. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.

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The Noisy Paint Box

by Barb Rosenstock

A story about the way Kandinsky painted colors and sounds.

Name That Style

by Robert Raczka

Introduces basic -isms in art movements from the 1430s to the 1970s.


by Norbert Wolf

Excellent descriptions of each painting accompany large, vivid paintings. This is an excellent resource for view many Expressionist paintings.

Step 2: Roll-A-Kandinsky

You’ll need markers, dice, your Art Sketchbook, and the Roll-A-Kandinsky printable.

Art Sketchbook cover

Now, make your own Kandinsky-style artwork in your Art Sketchbook. First, you will roll two dice. Then, use the roll to determine what you will draw. For example, on Roll #1, if you rolled a four and a one, you would use a yellow marker because yellow is shown on the number four die. The second die you rolled, the one, tells you to draw concentric circles (column #1) using that yellow marker. The first die will determine the color you use and the second die will determine the shape or line you draw. Roll six times, each time adding another colorful element to your Kandinsky-style artwork in your Art Sketchbook.

Step 3: Show What You Know

Finally, show off your Kandinsky-style art to an audience and tell about the difference between representational and abstract art. Share some things you learned from your reading about Wassily Kandinsky and other Expressionist painters.

Additional Layers

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.

Writer’s Workshop

Blue Horses by Franz Marc, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons n Pike (1990).

Franz Marc was another Expressionist painter who used color creatively. Choose your favorite animal and draw it. If you could have that animal in any color, which would you choose? It doesn’t have to be realistic. You could have a purple bunny rabbit or an orange and pink striped zebra. Maybe it’s a yellow monkey. Write a little about your choice and what that animal and color mean to you.

Additional Layer

Memory of the Garden at Etten by Vincent va Gogh. Public domain, shared via Wikimedia Commons

Vincent Van Gogh did much to pave the way for Expressionism. Compare some of his paintings to some of the paintings of Expressionists. Can you find any similarities in style, color, line, shape, or tone?

Fabulous Fact

Wassily Kandinsky, Photo by an unknown author, Public domain, shared via Wikimedia Commons

Kandinsky had been a teacher of law before he went to art school. He kept teaching after becoming an artist. He founded an art association that included an art school. He continued to teach classes and workshops on painting and color theory throughout his career. He studied and wrote about color, line, and shape, painting all the while.

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