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Family Activity Inspired by Karel Appel's Cats, 1978

Karel Appel was a Dutch artist whose work is characterized by his use of bright colors, simple forms, and expressive brushstrokes. His work emphasized a move away from formality in artmaking and an emphasis on creating a sense of dynamic energy.

In this moderately easy Family Activity, we'll walk you through how to make a portrait of your pet (real or imagined) inspired by Appel's Cats, 1978

Walking Cat from the portfolio Cats

Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921–2006). Walking Cat from the portfolio Cats, 1978. Color lithograph on Arches paper, edition 115/125, 24 5/8 x 32 1/4 inches (62.6 x 81.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of C. Stanley Waggoner, M.D., 1979 (P1979:28.2). © Karel Appel Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Sunshine Cat from the portfolio Cats

Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921–2006). Sunshine Cat from the portfolio Cats, 1978. Color lithograph on Arches paper, edition 115/125, 24 5/8 x 32 1/4 inches (62.6 x 81.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of C. Stanley Waggoner, M.D., 1979 (P1979:28.17). © Karel Appel Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Getting Started

  • How do the colors in the images above make you feel?
  • How do you think the cats in the paintings feel?
  • What do you think the cats are doing?

Materials

  • Paper
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Mixing tray
  • Water cup
  • Sharpie/marker pen to draw outline with
  • Alternatives to paint: markers or crayons

Artmaking Activity

1. Pick your pet.

Things to consider in the design of your artwork:

  • What do you want your pet to be doing?
  • How is your pet feeling?
  • Where is your pet?
  • What colors would highlight what your pet is feeling?

Tip: Find an image of an animal on the internet or take a quick photo to work from like this snap below.

An orange cat curled up in a gray cat bed on a wooden floor

2. Draw your pet on the paper with a sharpie or dark marker pen, use quick, dynamic lines.

3. Pick a base color for your background and another for the body of your pet.

4. Draw or paint the body of your pet using quick lines or stripes.

Tips: Use different kinds of lines: thick lines, thin lines, curvy lines, or any other kind of lines you like! Try using a variety of colors that capture your pet’s emotions. Karel Appel focused on capturing the energy of cats, not creating a realistic picture.

5. Add some patterns or marks to the background to complete the picture.

A bird's eye view of two people painting shapes on the backgrounds around their cats

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

Vocabulary

Portrait: a painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person

Brushstroke: mark made by a paintbrush across a surface

Formality: in art sticking to a set of rules, methods, or process of working with materials

Dynamic: characterized by constant change, activity, or progress

Abstract: nonrepresentational, nonrealistic in nature

Background: the area or scenery behind the main object of an image

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