Black Artists Matter

In light of todays’ conversations about race, we want to share with you the work of some of our favourite Black artists. Some have featured in past LoLA boxes, some will appear in boxes in the near future, while others are artists that we ourselves are inspired by. They have all motivated us to create small projects with our kids at home – and, hopefully, these will help you to teach your children that creativity is colour-blind!

Alma Thomas

Alma Woodsey Thomas was an African-American Expressionist painter and art educator best known for her colourful abstract paintings. Her work has often been compared to Byzantine mosaics and to the pointilliste technique of Georges Seurat (whose paintings are made up of patterns of small dots). But her art is unique; she developed her own distinctive style – large, circular abstract pictures filled with patterns of bright colours – when she was in her 70s! Her inspiration was her garden, and she was mainly a colourist – that is, an artist who focuses on using colour in new and interesting ways.

Thomas believed that creativity should be independent of gender or race, creating works with a focus on accidental beauty and the abstraction of colour.

Why not create your own Alma Thomas-inspired art?

Cut out a circle from some nice thick paper;

Have a look at Thomas’s beautiful circle mosaic paintings; 

Using any kind of paint, start from the outside edge of your circle creating mosaic-like spots or dashes in circles of rainbow colours until you reach the centre of your shape! 

You can use a brush. OR why not try it with your fingertips..?!

Faith Ringgold

African-American artist and author Faith Ringgold became famous for her innovative “story quilts.” Each of these artworks, which are made out of painted canvas and fabric, tells a story. The quilts feature narrative images and texts handwritten on sections of fabric. Many of them have political themes, especially concerning racial equality and feminism. In 1963 the artist began a series of paintings called American People. These portray the civil-rights movement from a female perspective. 

Ringgold lectured frequently at feminist art conferences and fought fiercely against prejudice in the New York art world, which was dominated by white male artists. In 1970, she co-founded, with one of her daughters, the advocacy group Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation.

In 1991 Ringgold wrote Tar Beach, a children’s book that tells of a young black girl in New York City who dreams of flying. The book was named as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1992.

Why not create your own Faith Ringgold-inspired story quilt?

Listen to Faith Ringgold herself on YouTube reading her beautiful book Tar Beach which is inspired by one of her famous story quilts

We talked about the places we would like to fly to today – if you could fly where would you go..?!

Draw yourself flying over where you would like to be – colour it in markers and use blue paint to cover your sky! Why not use glitter too.?!

Stick your picture to a big piece of cardboard, leaving a frame around the edges

Find some scraps of colourful fabric around the house and cut them into small squares

With lots of glue stick the scraps of fabric around your picture to create your story quilt!

Jean-Michel Basquiat

American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, an American of Puerto Rican descent, encouraged his interest in art. He incorporated graffiti-like images and scrawled text on his works. 

He began a graffiti campaign with fellow artists Al Diaz and Shannon Dawson. They created the persona SAMO© and painted anonymous messages on walls and on subway trains in New York City. In the late 1970s, their work began to receive notice in the art world and Basquiat emerged onto the mainstream New York art scene at the age of 20. He participated in his first formal public exhibition in The Times Square Show (1980). From there, his career rocketed; he became a celebrity and was represented by major art galleries in New York and Germany.

Lacking any formal training, Basquiat created highly expressionistic work that mixed graffiti and signs with the bold and intuitive approach of Abstract Expressionist painting. He made many highly stylised self-portraits that addressed his personal anxieties. His paintings also alluded to African-American historical figures, including jazz musicians, sports personalities and writers. Basquiat freely mixed themes from African, Caribbean, Aztec and Hispanic cultures. He also mixed references to “high art” with images from popular culture, especially cartoons.

Why not create your own Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired art?

Basquiat’s style was childlike and he was self taught. A lot of his work expressed difficult uncomfortable emotions and feelings.

Find a big piece of brown paper or old postal envelope at home.

Start covering it in abstract marks and colours, using maybe watercolours, acrylics, paint sticks and oil pastels.

Leave your abstract piece to dry.

Now you can start to draw things that scare you, maybe things that make you angry… We thought of bears and sharks, skeletons and monsters… Use your oil pastels and paint sticks to draw or colour these in and define them.

With markers and Sharpies we added graffiti, writing and words, numbers and symbols, to finish off!  Both kids felt the experience was very cathartic, although initially quite difficult to freely express such negative emotions.

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