It feels very natural to do an abstract workshop with preschoolers because most of their art is already abstract. We were simply leaning in to a style that is developmentally appropriate.
While I wanted kids to feel free to create in a way that feels good to them, preschoolers tend to go overboard when given free rein of too many options. Like when they have all the paint colors and it just becomes brown. With this in mind, I built lots of layers into my lesson plan so that there were natural stopping points and there was no need to verbally limit.
Cardboard Shape Collage
For our 'Cardboard Shape Collage,' we worked on each layer separately. On Day One, Mini Makers worked as a collective to paint variously shaped cardboard scraps. Students were allowed to paint the scraps any color they wanted. I only asked that they try to paint the entire shape. We did not try to keep track of who's shape was who's. I wanted to kids to be able to freely pick through the shapes when they were dry.
At another station on Day One, Mini Makers worked on the background for their 'Cardboard Shape Collage.' I wanted to give them an opportunity to try out a new technique, so for our background, we did scrape painting. The kids used spoons to make blobs of paint on their cardboard. Then they used a smaller piece of cardboard to scrape the paint across the board. Students could choose to scrape again using the paint they still had on their scraper, or wipe the scraper clean and add more blobs. I again encouraged the kids to completely fill their background with scraped paint.
On Day Two, when kids arrived, I had the dry cardboard shapes out on the table - ready for another layer. I demonstrated on the board how to make some simple patterns. I encouraged students to draw lines, dots, or simple patterns on top of the dry paint using metallic sharpie markers. When kids were done, they could choose any shapes that appealed to them and glue the shapes to their dried scrape painted background.
Abstract on Canvas
Our second project, an 'Abstract on Canvas,' started with Modge Podge and crepe paper. On Day One of the workshop, Mini Makers were invited to freely glue crepe paper on a canvas. Because of the linear nature of crepe paper, this project led to a discussion of 'line.' Which way do lines travel? Do they go up and down? Can they go sideways? Can they go in a few different directions? Do they have to be straight?
I encouraged kids to glue both underneath their crepe paper and on top of their crepe paper. This really sealed the crepe paper onto the canvas.
The dried crepe paper created a really nice texture on the canvas. On Day Two, students were invited to add glitter glue, sequins, and tissue paper in any way that appealed to them.
When I was brainstorming our third project, months before the workshop, I couldn't get the idea of melting crayons out of my head. I think it's because I had cleaned out my own kid's art station at home and was wondering what projects I could do with a bunch of crayon nubs.
Most crayon melting projects I found online involved an oven, which wasn't going to work at the studio. I thought about my embossing gun, which is a tool used to melt a special kind of glitter. It's bit like a hair dryer, but blows less air, so as not to disturb what it is melting. I got to thinking, "What if I grated crayon really small and we melted these small bits?" When I tested it I thought, "This looks very galactic." And the project started forming from there.
On Day Two of our workshop, I gave each child paint within a pallete of space colors. Students used a sponge to apply the paint. This gave the painting a nice, soft texture. It also blended the colors really well.
Once the whole page was covered in paint, the kids were ready for the crayon. It didn't matter that the paint was still wet. In fact, the wet paint actually helped the crayon stick to the paper instead on blowing away.
Before class, I grated the crayons and sorted them by color it in little plastic cups. Mini Makers simply grabbed pinches of crayon and sprinkled it all over their paper. Once satisfied, they were able to use the embossing gun to slowly melt the crayon bits into what looks like stars and star dust.
It was a super fun process and I'm sure to repeat this technique in the future!
Our two-day abstract art workshop was a hit. Mini Makers were invited to follow their creative intuition, rather than attempt a recognizable reality. A lot was gained from this workshop beyond just their beautiful work. Playing with the idea of abstract allowed Mini Makers to explore, learn, and grow in imagination.