books for creative kids
  • Contemporary Art in the Classroom: Unconventional Markmaking
  • Sarah Heffernan
Contemporary Art in the Classroom: Unconventional Markmaking

Introducing children to art should be a constant process of learning and unlearning- exposing budding artists to new ways of seeing and creating while encouraging them be creative and original themselves.

Yves Klein used the human body as a painting tool in his series Anthropometries, sparking controversy following its debut in the early 1960s. The French artist covered women in blue paint and directed their movements against a sheet of paper on the wall, effectively turning their bodies into “living brushes” to make his paintings.

Yves Klein, Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue (ANT 82), 1960

Danish artist Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen utilized the entire space in her Mobile Mirrors exhibit. The markmaking was created by light reflecting off of mirror fragments on mannequins, and the canvas upon which the marks were made was in fact the room itself.

Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Mobile Mirrors, 2013

Japanese postwar painter Kazuo Shiraga used his feet to create his paintings which, despite their relative obscurity during his lifespan, have become increasingly valuable with time. Shiraga used a rope to suspend himself above the canvas and used his feet to paint, creating visually stunning pieces.

Kazuo Shiraga, BB64, 1962

Cai Guo-Qiang, a Chinese artist now living in New York City, explores his memories of explosions during China’s Cultural Revolution by utilizing gunpowder and explosives in his art work. Guo-Qiang’s explosion events are visually stunning displays of color and form.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Remembrance, 2014

Cy Twombly’s large scale drawings are perfect for validating the scribbly nature of early drawing attempts- his works could appear random to the viewer but become cohesive masterpieces upon further examination. The free flowing nature of Twombly’s pieces lends itself to the work early artists whose expressive drawings don’t look exactly like what they intended.

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1961

The turpentine and oil soaked canvases of Helen Frankenthaler represent an inventive age of expressionism where conventional means of painting were abandoned. Frankenthaler’s technique of “soak staining” involved pouring turpentine diluted paint onto canvases, creating a flat but evocative space within the painting. 

Helen Frankenthaler, Road Trip, 1957

Fabienne Verdier’s giant brush, made from the hair of 35 horses and capable of holding up to 60 liters of paint, allows her to create massive calligraphic paintings.

A common Japanese practice, Gyotaku, is the art of painting a fish and laying a piece of rice paper over it, ending up with its body and scales imprinted in detail on the page. This originated from fishermen recording the size and species of their catch and has evolved into an artform practiced by all ages.


Introduce your little one to these inventive ways of markmaking and then encourage them to think creatively about how they want to leave their mark. Find materials in and around the house or their schools, in art supply stores or grocery stores, wherever they feel inspired. Provide some ideas and then watch their imaginations take over!

  • Sarah Heffernan

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