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Adult Activity Inspired by Joan Mitchell's Rosebud, 1977

Rosebud is an evocation of Joan Mitchell's garden in Vétheuil, France, a haven she lovingly tended. While the broken strokes and use of complementary colors in this painting may call to mind the quick brushwork of Impressionist canvases, it is devoid of representational elements. Unlike her compositions of the 1950s, in which attenuated streaks and thin smudges form centralized images, and her work from the early 1970s, in which solid blocks of color alternate with gestural areas of pigment, this later tableau develops from a lattice-like application of paint.

Here, Mitchell demonstrates another step in the evolution of her style, primarily her experimentation with figure/ground relationships. Flickering oranges and pinkish reds dominate the lower central portion and top of the canvas, suggesting perhaps a glimpse of young blossoms as seen among painted slashes of blue-violet and aqua-green foliage. The roughly vertical brushstrokes, punctuated by dabs and drips, are knit into a cohesive network that also creates a feeling of depth. As the artist explained, “The freedom in my work is quite controlled; I don't close my eyes and hope for the best.”

In this activity for adults, we'll walk you through how to make your own landscape inspired by Mitchell's Rosebud, 1977.

Rosebud

Joan Mitchell (American, 1925–1992). Rosebud, 1977. Oil on canvas, 102 1/2 x 71 inches (260.4 x 180.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, 1982. Conservation funded by grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project (1982:43). © Estate of Joan Mitchell.

Getting Started

  • Why do you think Mitchell named the work Rosebud? What would you call a painting of your garden?
  • How do the colors Mitchell chose make you feel?

Materials

  • Thick paper or canvas board
  • Paint brushes (different sizes if possible)
  • Paint
  • Water

Alternate materials:

  • Sponges (an alternative to paint brushes)
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Pens
  • Pencils

Artmaking Activity

1. Decide upon a landscape.

  • Are you looking out your window?
  • Can you take a photo to work from? Or source an image from the internet?
  • Is your chosen landscape connected to a memory? Does it evoke a certain mood?

2. Think about what colors you are using.

  • Do they relate directly to your image, or connect to mood or memory? Try using complementary colors like Mitchell.
  • Tip: Start with a thin wash of color and cover the entire surface of your paper. (This sample was created using watercolor crayon for the wash, but you could also thinned down acrylic paint.)

3. Think about the gesture of your brushstrokes (or the movements of your marker/pen) in relation to different elements of the landscape. Use abstract marks.

Tip: Try to capture the feeling of the landscape you see/imagine even if it isn’t realistic. You can also mix paint and crayon together for a greater variety of marks.

4. Keep adding colors until the whole surface of the paper is filled and you are happy with the blend of colors and marks.

Optional: Share your creation on Twitter or Instagram with #AKBeyondWalls and #MuseumFromHome!

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