A while ago, my class and I looked the work of British-Guyanese artist Frank Bowling. I was fortuante to able to see some of his work when going to an exhibition at the Tate Britain in 2019. The abstract nature of his work was a great starting point for exploring art with children in my class. They were facinated by the fact that he paints everyday in his studio!
Exploring Frank Bowling’s Artwork With Children
First, we talked about what an ‘artist’ is. This gave children a chance to talk about artists that they know or their experiences of art. Then we looked at some of Frank Bowling’s pieces in books and on postcards. The children had time to talk about what they thought, and what they noticed. We then talked more about who Frank Bowling is – where he lives, where he is from, what he believes about art and how he creates his work.
We used the book Frank Bowling: An Art Activity Book by Helene Baum and Zoe Whitely (2019) to help us explore ‘action’ words we might use when creating the work (and we made some actions to go with the words too) such as ‘drizzle’, ‘splatter’, ‘pour’ and ‘spill’.
Then we looked at some of the materials and equipment we might use to create work: jars, poster paint, pastels, canvas, PVA glue and loose materials for collage work.
Creating our own work involved crushing pastels and talking about the texture created – ‘powdery’, ‘chalky’ ‘dusty’, and mixing crushed pastels with poster and acrylic paint. We talked about more descriptive words – ‘lumpy’ ‘sticky’ ‘messy’.
The children used jam jars to explore how the paint would move across the canvas when tipped up. They loved working together to explore this, learning to take turns in tipping the canvas and pouring from the jar. Crushed pastels were sprinkled onto the dripping paint to change the texture.
Learn More About Frank Bowling
You can research Frank Bowling and his work by visiting the official website: https://frankbowling.com/bio.html
This video from the Tate features Frank Bowling in a discussion about his work: