Jasper Johns was born in America, on May 15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia to be exact. As a boy, he knew he would be an artist one day. So when he grew up, he moved to New York and studied art. Jasper Johns became famous for painting ordinary things that people sometimes take for granted…
Using this last Jasper Johns painting as inspiration, our group of young artists learned how paint their ages! It was a great exercise in color, scale, form and composition!
To begin their paintings, each student was given a large 11 x 17 stretched canvas, a pencil, and examples of numbers in different typefaces. You can do this by typing a row a numbers on your computer, changing the font a few times and printing them out large for your children to draw from. Have them look at and observe the nuances of line and curve that different letterforms have.
Next, I demonstrated how to lay down a design first in pencil. Since the entire surface would be covered in multiple layers of paint, it was not so important to create perfect drawings but rather for students to concetrate on their compositions. I encouraged the use of the whole canvas, emphasising size and shape, and having students pay extra attention to white space.
"Make the numerals big so that the negative spaces around the image of your age are really interesting to look at."
Using acrylics, I pre-mixed a palette of bright, complex colors to share so the artists could focus on design and painting technique. I explained how more interesting hues are created by combining a color with a bit of its complement—green has a dash of the red, blue has a dash of orange, yellow has a dash of blue, and so on.
My students then helped me drape the table with a plastic drop cloth, I set out jars of water, and set paper towels at each place for blotting and drying brushes. Then the painting began!
This was a two session lesson, each session taking a little over an hour with a snack and stretch break in between. During the first session the artists drew their composition and blocked in their design, covering all the white canvas with paint.
During the second session the students built up their paint layers. In some of the negative spaces they experimented using dry brush techniques so that the under layers peeked through. And and in the positive spaces (the numbers), the artists experimented laying down wet thick paint onto the design.
The results were fantastic, gestural and bold—a friutful exercise in Abstract Expressionism! Mr. Johns would be proud!