Gustav Klimt and Kindergartners

Gustav Klimt is a favorite artist of mine. I enjoy finding ways to share his work with my students. Take a look at this work of his.


It is beautiful! Clearly it’s a masterpiece, and yet in many ways it is a work accessible to my kindergarten students. It is a combination of shapes – both in the detail and the figures.

I always have the girls work on a mixed media project when we are inspired by Klimt. I find it helps them express the detail he expresses when they have many mediums with which to work. Plus, it allows them to explore various mediums at the same time.

Typically, I bring in some of my art materials to share with them. They love the chance to use “real art mediums and tools” and treat all my things with the utmost respect. I love that my sharing expresses my respect for them as people and artists, and, hopefully, encourages them to be generous with the things they value.

This year I introduced them to Klimt while we were exploring shapes in math. I showed them full pieces, but spent most of the time drawing their eyes to the details and shapes found throughout his work. The girls enjoyed finding spirals, circles, squares, triangles, diamonds, rectangles and the many combinations of shapes Klimt created.

I decided to have the girls work on a trio of small art-pieces instead of one large piece. I hoped it might help them be more able to fill the paper with shapes. While I love having them work on large canvases, sometimes the size overwhelms them. We worked on 3×5 inch pieces of multi-media paper. When the girls were finished I mounted their work on a black background to create a triptych.

It was fabulous to sit and work with them. We shared pencils, artist markers, sharpie markers, a travel water color set, gel pens, crayons, pastels and security envelopes (fabulous idea I learned from Dar Hosta and Deb Barends).

“Oooh, I like that!” “Can I try that?” “How did you do that?” “Oh I never thought of that!” flowed across the tables as we admired each other’s work, and were inspired to give the new ideas a try. While they sometimes need a reminder, they are learning to see “copying” their ideas as a compliment rather than a transgression. I encourage those who “copy” to truly be inspired, and to make subtle, or large, changes in order to make the work their own.

I was, as always, impressed by their process and product. They have great, big, beautiful hearts and often it seems that beauty just flows out onto the paper. We learn from each other to be free with our work, loving the process and each other.

While I was working on a piece, one of the girls asked if I would like her to help me. “Sure!” I said, although I wasn’t sure what might be created. Her additions to the piece were wonderful, and made the piece much more beautiful than if I had done it alone!

I’m not sure anyone would realize we were inspired by Klimt, but we were, and we too created beautiful works of art. Here are a few from six of my students. Enjoy and be inspired!



Klimt Museum


Writing and drawing … or, Kindergarteners tackling the blank page!

I enjoy the “mixed media” of writing and drawing. They compliment and enhance one another, making my art more satisfying and beautiful.

After working on my blank page art project I knew I wanted to try it with my kindergarteners. I wondered if they would have a similar experience of comfort using the magazine as a scrap paper journal, and their words as the background for their drawing.

It was fascinating to be part of their experience!

I began by sharing my own work – both my process and my product. I shared my reluctance to work on the beautiful, blank pages, as well as how free I felt using the magazine as scrap paper. I told them I loved being able to experiment on the magazine pages. I showed them my magazine drawings and talked about my thoughts – what I liked, what I didn’t like, how I studied the faces I found in the magazine, and how I eventually developed a face that I liked. I commented that I didn’t think it was perfect, but that I really liked it just the same.

I encouraged them to relax as they worked. “Don’t worry making mistakes. It’s all part of the process. Look at what you did. If you see something you don’t like, don’t fret, just do it again until you do like it.

I asked them to be free and soft – in their minds and in their bodies – as they used sharpie markers to make the faces. I reminded them there could be no erasing but assured them they would be fine.

They were very funny in their interpretation of my words. I had to explain to some of them – as the pen almost fell from their overly relaxed fingers – “Oh no, that’s fabulous, but you really do have to hold the pen with a nice grip. What I meant is relax your arm, make your strokes easy and smooth. Like this.”

I started by giving them a drawing technique that would allow them to be successful while at the same time, giving them the freedom to create “their own faces.” I told them they would be able to make as many faces as they liked, but asked them to make their first face by following the steps with me.

The technique was quite straightforward.

  • First a large oval for the head.
  • Then a column for the neck, with two small hills on either side to form the shoulders.
  • One long curved line for the eyebrows and sides of the nose came next. We noticed that the shape of the eyebrows really changed the emotion of our faces. We had a really tough time with the tip of the nose, so many left it out.
  • The eyes were almond-shaped with circles. We experimented with different sized almonds and circles. We placed the pupils in different places. Some of us added glasses. The faces had great character – even without lips or hair!
  • Lips were a bit tricky and some wanted to just make a smile. I told them they had to give the lips a try. After a bit of “ugh” and a sigh, they relented and tried. They drew awesome lips.
  • Some of us added ears – amazed that they actually go from the center of our eyes to the center of our lips. Finally we added hair.

mag work 3

My students seemed intrigued by my thought process and used my words throughout their work. One student drew something she didn’t like and said “Well, that’s ok, I can just go to the next page.” Another told me “I’m trusting myself, Miss James. I’m being brave, doing it and just believing it will come out alright.” It was absolutely amazing to see my words empower them!

After a good bit of drawing, it was time to fill a page with words that made them happy. I suggested they think of their handwriting as a beautiful part of their art piece. They worked hard choosing words and then filled the page with their handwriting. (It’s a LOT of work for a kindergarten student.) When every line was filled they were ready to make their final face.


I gave them the option of practicing in their magazine again before working on their art piece. Some did, some didn’t, but either way, they were all engaged, confident, happy, and successful!

Our bulletin board is filled with different faces – each unique and fabulous – just like the artists who made them. Occasionally I shake my head, amazed that the artists are kindergarten students.

face 1

Why were they able to be so successful? I’m not certain, but I have some ideas.

I believe they are fantastic and capable. I value them and their work, and my behavior and language reflect that value.

  • I share my expensive art pencils with them (and they treat them like treasures).
  • I give them the best paper I can, and even if it is simple, inexpensive paper, I make sure it is worthy of their work – clean, cut straight, and unwrinkled.
  • I treat them as fellow artists.
  • I ask them to do art that I do – not just “kids” art.
  • I share my thoughts and work with them.
  • I don’t hide my struggles. I consider their suggestions and offer my own.

And, wow, there is something powerful about the process.

  • The technique is easy to remember but still rich enough to express the wishes of each artist.
  • There is a nice balance of structure and freedom.
  • There is the comfort of the non-blank page of the magazines and word filled pages.

And some how, that all combines to be magical, powerful and emboldening. I dig it!


Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression by Diana Trout (2009)