Science meets art in these amazing Alexander Calder Art Projects for Kids! Play with lines, shapes and colors to make beautiful sculptures and paintings!
“To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there’s no such thing as perfect.”
When you think of artists, we think of slightly eccentric souls, wandering along lakes or forests with their art materials, trying to capture that elusive sun beam or bloom. The last think you’d expect is an artist who’s gone and studied something as practical as mechanical engineering!
But that’s Alexander Calder, American artist. He’s not one to fit into any kind of mould, and his works of art aren’t just hung up on a wall or standing on a pedestal – they actually move! Now you see how the engineering part fits in!
What you see here is Calder’s famous work, the ‘Cirque Calder’ or Calder Circus. What you don’t see here is that all the parts of this circus can move – from the performers to the animals. And that is exactly what makes Calder’s work so special and unique. He was also a man of many talents; along with sculpting and painting, he also designed jewelry, rugs, tapestries and sets – he even painted an entire airplane!
Alexander, or Sandy, was from a family of artists. His father and grandfather were sculptors and his mother a portrait artist. Young Sandy’s first sculpture was a clay elephant, when he was four years old. He started out making jewelry for his sister’s dolls and then went on to design jewelry for other well known artists and their families – Joan Miro, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall and Peggy Guggenheim.
With 22nd July being Calder’s birthday, we think it’s the perfect time to introduce kids to this amazing artist and his works, with some fun and simple Alexander Calder art projects for kids.
10 Alexander Calder Art Projects for Kids
Calder’s sculptures were often in one of two categories – mobiles (those which hung from above and could move) and stabiles ( which were more or less stationery). ‘Flamingo’ is one of Calder’s most popular stabiles, and Barley and Birch take inspiration from this for a spring-theme cardboard sculpture of their own!
The previous project was made using cardboard, now try one with paper! Pink Stripey Socks uses colored paper to make these bright and cheerful sculptures that are reminiscent of Calder’s famous stabiles.
Alexander Calder loved the circus, and many of his works reflect this attraction. The ‘Cirque Calder’ is a piece that features circus performers and animals that actually move! Art Bar Blog brings alive this love for the circus in a beaded wire maze that resembles a roller coaster, where the beads can be moved around.
A mobile is a characteristic Calder piece, and they’re so much fun too! Meri Cherry makes a simple but artistic looking mobile out of bottle caps, in signature Calder style using lots of wire.
Sandy, as Alexander was called, was a big fan of the circus, but how did this love come about? Read about Calder’s amazing life journey in this book by Tanya Lee Stone, beautifully illustrated by Boris Kulikov.
Calder’s kinetic sculptures are ‘performing stabiles’, and look deceptively simple, but are true works of art. Art Smudge shows us that even we can make our own kinetic sculptures with simple materials; even if we don’t have Calder’s mechanical engineering degree!
Alexander Calder was influenced by Piet Mondrian, which probably explains why he liked primary colors. Most of his paintings and sculptures feature black, white, red, yellow and blue. Kinder Art takes a page out of Calder’s book and creates an open ended collage project based on Calder’s work, ‘Glacier with Colored Petals’.
Just like primary colors, Calder also liked shapes – circles, spirals, pyramids and of course, lots of straight lines! Several of his paintings feature such shapes, filled in with bright colors. Lez’arts au Soleil does a simple art project directly inspired from Calder’s circles and spirals paintings and which’ll remind you of fingerprints!
One of Calder’s most interesting works is ‘Brazilian Fish’, made with a base of painted sheet metal and wire rods, with all kinds of broken glass and pottery pieces to add detail. Deep Space Sparkle has a great project for young kids based on Calder’s fish, which helps little kids learn about shapes and colors. For older kids, you can turn this into a mixed media collage.
This mobile project from The New Hope Art Gallery is a great way to study Calder’s main interests – shapes and colors! Kids can create anything from a circus to a playground, using just paper and their imagination.
When you think of it, Calder’s work seems perfect for little kids, what with so many colors, shapes, mobiles and of course, the circus! Calder himself said, “My fan mail is enormous. Everyone is under six”. That pretty much explains the audience that’ll truly appreciate Calder’s work! The best part of all these projects is that they’re all organic and open ended – kids can fashion them in any way they like, and the output is sure to be something bright and beautiful.