Mark Rothko is an abstract expressionist, specifically known as the pioneer of color field painting.  He was chosen to represent abstract expressionists for our lesson because he spent a number of years here in Portland, OR, and some of his work is on display in the Portland Art Museum.


I had the classes of 4th graders choose a random emotion from a sack, and then write a line or two about what the emotion feels like.  Then they had to choose colors to represent the emotion and feeling.  We used bleeding art tissue paper on watercolor paper, and a tiny bit of water with foam brushes.

The colors aren’t as vibrant as they would be with paints, nor could we really work with shades and tints which I would have liked to do, but our fourth grade classrooms do not have any sinks and using actual paints in those rooms is a real challenge (I brought water in a pitcher with little Dixie cups to wet the tissue paper).  I’ve had to improvise with chalks, and pastels and now the tissue paper, even when other grades are using paint.

This was a challenging lesson for these 9-10 year olds.  The concrete operational stage of development from 7-11 or so is a period where children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts.

Still, the kids did seem to enjoy the art project, and the teachers both seemed pleased with the lesson and the students response to it.