These Helen Frankenthaler Art Projects for Kids introduce us to the woman who smashed through the male-dominated art scene – with color power!
“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen.”
If an artist had to draw a scene featuring a lake or pond, with swans in it, how do you expect him to go about it? He’d probably use blue and green for the water, and white for the swans, right? Okay, now take a look at the picture below.
It’s not exactly what you were expecting, is it? There seems to be a rather suddenness to the painting, and as if the colors are swishing around. Yet, you can make out the swans, coming out of the water. But these swans aren’t painted on with white paint – they are, in fact, negative spaces left behind by the surrounding blue paint!
That’s the genius of the American artist, Helen Frankenthaler, whose area of expertise was Abstract Expressionism. Helen was born into a privileged environment and was able to study at an art school, but after that, she worked hard to prove herself in a field that was mainly dominated by men in the fifties and sixties. And she did it through the power of color!
Helen Frankenthaler is considered the queen of color, owing to the way she used paints and how she combined various shades. She was a hard worker, staying active for nearly 60 years. All through those decades, she continued experimenting and reinventing her style. Here’s a quick look at her art through the ages:
- 1950s – Most of the art was composed in the middle of the canvas
- 1960s – She began exploring symmetry and involving more of the edges in her composition. She also moved to acrylics from oil paints and began experimenting with printmaking.
- 1970s – She stopped using the soak stain technique and started using thicker, brighter paints. She also started to work with woodcuts.
- 1980s – Her art was composed of more muted, calmer colors, and softer brushwork.
As you can see, Frankenthaler wasn’t one to rest on her laurels; she loved her colors and was constantly playing with them in newer ways. Since December is both the month of her birth and her death, we think it’s a good time to celebrate her colorful spirit with some Helen Frankenthaler art projects for kids. The lessons will be a great way for kids to learn about colors, and also celebrate their queen!
10 Helen Frankenthaler Art Projects for Kids
Helen Frankenthaler is most well known for her ‘soak stain’ technique, which involved pouring thinned-down oil paints on a large canvas. The result was that colors would ‘flow’ into each other and create new shades. She would sometimes direct the flow of the colors with a brush to create specific shapes or outlines. Faber Castell shows us how to experiment with this method, and use it to create some beautiful note cards!
The word ‘soak stain’ refers to how the colors directly soaked into the canvas when she poured paint on them. The materials she used had to be the right ones – un-primed canvases and oil paints diluted with turpentine – to get the desired translucent effect. As a result, the canvas appeared flat and ‘stained’, rather than ‘painted upon’. Learn more about this technique with an art lesson from Masterpiece Society.
The ‘soak stain’ technique became immensely popular and was adopted by artists like Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. However, there was a problem with this method – since the oils penetrated the canvas, they damaged the canvas over time. It’s probably why Frankenthaler herself moved over to other forms of painting later. Learn more about her famous soak stain pieces with this lesson from Art History for Kids.
These Helen Frankenthaler art projects for kids from Art Campla look magical and mystical, don’t they? You could play with colors all day and have fun with them by yourself. Speaking of which, Helen Frankenthaler was an artist who liked working in solitude, without any assistants.
Along with the soak stain technique, another thing Frankenthaler is known for is the Color Field painting style. The book ‘Dancing Through Fields of Color’ is a lovely play of words, and it is a beautiful and concise biography of the artist’s life. Written by
One thing you’ll notice about these Helen Frankenthaler art projects for kids is that there is a sense of playfulness about them. Frankenthaler believed that spontaneity gave the best results, saying, “A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once.” Try out a fun Frankenthaler-inspired tutorial with this video from KidLit TV.
Color field painting refers to the application of large areas or fields of color on the canvas. the intention of such an application is to create a sense of movement on the canvas, and also provoke certain emotions in the viewer. It is this ‘flow’ of color that Crayola explores in this art tutorial.
Since most of Frankenthaler’s paintings don’t have any specific shapes or patterns, it makes the viewer think a little when you view them. It also encourages you to try out your own versions of ‘non-specific’ art forms! Check out this tutorial from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which uses torn paper to create a Frankenthaler-inspired project!
Helen Frankenthaler is believed to be one of the most prominent women artists of all time, but she herself didn’t think of it as a big deal. She said that being a ‘lady painter’ was neither a blessing nor a curse, and all she wanted to do was paint, rather than think about the politics of it all. Think about that while you enjoy painting this beautiful art project by Anita Sagastegui.
If you feel like some of Frankenthaler’s work seems similar to the free-spiritedness of Jackson Pollock’s art, you’re not wrong! Helen Frankenthaler was heavily inspired by Pollock, and the first time she saw his work, she was completely enamored by it, saying “It was all there. I wanted to live in this land. I had to live there, and master the language.” Once you’re done with this art tutorial from Sarah Lipoff, maybe you’d like to check out some Jackson Pollock art projects for kids!
These Helen Frankenthaler art projects for kids have a lot to teach us, especially about the meaning of art. It teaches kids that art has many forms, and they’re all beautiful in their own way. These projects are also great lessons on color theory and encourage kids to think outside the box when it comes to colors and compositions. Frankenthaler’s life also tells us that you can never stop learning and playing, and that’s what makes your work even better!