The thing about the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat is that it speaks directly to children's approach to drawing and expression. Great ropes of chunky lines and shapes scrape and trace images above and below. I am not sure there can ever be enough crowns, capes, and roars in a child's drawing repertoire and there is Basquiat drawing more.
Before beginning large panels, the children sketched just crowns to get the feel of the oil pastel across the paper in jagged lines of up and down zig-zags that make up a Basquiat crown. Then they painted figures and shapes using tempera on panels of left-over grocery store signage. Using the signage as background brought us yet another connection to the artist who would drag things from the street back to his studio to paint over.
After painting these panels, the children added embellishments using oil pastels. These added details of crowns, bones, letters, and SHOUTS and ROARS, really connected the child artists to the artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
He also worked on several canvases/surfaces at once, walking over them to get to others leaning against walls. The children also worked on multiple pieces that will all be joined together for a final piece (the background to their self-portraits).
Basquiat once said, "I was a really lousy artist as a kid. Too abstract expressionist; or I'd draw a big ram's head, really messy. I'd never win painting contests. I remember losing to a guy who did a perfect Spiderman. "
That, my friends, is a struggle we will push back against. Art can be found in the arcs of line, in the firm placement of shape, and in the invisibility of the thing that is missing but still very much THERE. Art catches the eye, it moves the heart to a drum beat, it both frightens and brings joy. Sure, we all need a good Spiderman, but I hope we also let the abstract expressionist's ram's head win the next painting contest!
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