Painting with Pointillism

This pointillism art project will be a favorite for your kids.  While they paint, you should be prepared to show some famous paintings made using this technique, and share a bit about Seurat, the artist who made it famous, as well.  Utilize craft project time well and it will really become learning time.  Over and over again studies have shown that most kids learn best when they are physically engaged in the learning process.  They will actually remember the lesson better because their hands are busy learning too.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 This well-known work of art by French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) is one you’ve probably seen before, but did you know that it was painted with a special technique called pointillism? A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte is painted using only tiny dots of paint. Look at the detail below:

Detail of a painting by Georges Seurat [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 When you look up close you just see a series of colorful dots, but when you stand back the colors all blend together into a cool work of art.

Georges Seurat [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Seurat developed this pointillism technique after his study of color. Below is a printable Color Wheel.

Color-Wheel

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.  Fill in the color wheel and pay attention to how colors mix together.  Look at the colors that different combinations make.  Seurat used the 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.

Georges Seurat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Make Your Own Pointilism Painting

Now try your hand at mixing color with your own pointillism painting.

You’ll need:

  • Washable paint
  • Q-tips
  • Paper
  • Pencil

Start by sketching your picture in pencil.  Make sure it’s not too detailed.  You can also start with a printable coloring sheet or a page out of a coloring book.  Then using Q-tips, create dots of color to fill the spaces. Use lots of layers of colors to create new ones. Remember basic color mixing:

Red + Blue = Purple

Blue + Yellow = Green

Red + Yellow = Orange

Painting-With-Pointilism

Additional Layers:

  • Seurat usually sketched several versions of his paintings before actually beginning the painting.  You may want to sketch your design several times before beginning as well.
  • Seurat painted around the same time as Vincent Van Gogh.  Compare some of their paintings and talk about their differences in style.
  • A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte took him 2 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?
  • He 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.
  • Paul Signac was another famous pointillism painter.  Look at some of his paintings.
  • Printers, televisions, and computer monitors use kind of the same method that pointillist painters used.  They combine just a few colors to make your eye see the desired final color.  Learn more about this.

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