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Family Activity Inspired by Norman Lewis's Street Music, 1950

Norman Lewis is an American Abstract Expressionist painter who often portrayed motion in his works. In Street Music, 1950, what first appears to be just lines transforms into figures or music notes, creating a sense of a dynamic urban environment.

In this moderate Family Activity, we'll walk you through how to make a windsock inspired by Lewis's Street Music.

Street Music

Norman Lewis (American, 1909–1979). Street Music, 1950. Oil on canvas, 25 7/8 x 24 inches (65.7 x 61 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2009 (2009:8). © Estate of Norman Wilfred Lewis

Getting Started

  • What was the first thing you noticed in the painting?
  • How many colors, shapes, and patterns do you see?
  • Do you feel any kind of emotion looking at this piece?
  • How would you want someone to feel looking at your finished work?

Materials

  • Paper
  • Oil pastels or crayons
  • Ribbon, fabric, or paper strips
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Watercolor paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Needle and thread
  • Stapler
  • Scissors

Artmaking Activity

1. Start your piece by taking your sheet of paper and adding different lines, shapes, and patterns using your oil pastels. Go over the lines and shapes more than once to make the colors pop more, or use a variety of thin and thick lines. You can also mix pastels; they love to work together to make new colors!

2. Grab your brush and your watercolor paints to fill in all the extra white space with paint colors. Mix them as much as you’d like and experiment! If your colors are limited, mix them to get new colors and expand your options. Blue + Red = Purple. Yellow + Blue = Green. Red + Yellow = Orange.

3. While your watercolors dry, start to cut or rip your fabric into strips. I used muslin cotton lying around the house as my streamers to put below my windsock. If you do not have fabric, you can use paper strips instead. Paper strips can be crimped, cut, and folded in different ways to give your piece even more motion and variety. You can also vary the length of each strip if you wish!

4. Flip your paper over and glue down the strips toward the bottom of the paper. Space them out and allow the glue to completely dry before moving on to the next step.

5. Roll your paper into a tube shape and overlap the edges by about one inch. Ask an adult to staple once at the top of the tube where the edges overlap, and once at the bottom. You can also staple twice more in the middle to help the tube keep its shape.

6. Now for the hanging part! You will need help from an adult for this part as well. I used leftover strips of fabric as my hanging thread. I used a Phillips head screwdriver to make my holes at the top of the tube by slowly making a back and forth twisting motion and putting a solid amount of pressure on the paper tube with the screwdriver, but using a needle and thread would also work. Make two or four holes for the hanging strips, pull the strips through the holes, and make a knot on the end of each strip inside the tube.

7. Tie the threads together into a knot at the top of the tube and hang up your new abstract expressionist windsock!

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

Vocabulary

Windsock: a light, flexible cylinder or cone mounted on a mast to show the direction and strength of the wind

Expressive: being able to convey a certain thought or feeling in different ways

Abstract art: art that does not attempt to show realistic things, but can do so by using shapes, forms, colors, and textures

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