Activity: Make Your Own Eames Chair

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames are known for the innovative plywood furniture they started making in the 1940s. The LCW, the design in our #chairchallenge, debuted in 1946.

Gather your materials and follow along with this video to make your own Eames chair!

  • Cardboard box
  • Cube shaped box
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Activity: This is Me

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Jonathan Borofsky painted his selfie, which is also called a self-portrait. A selfie is one way to share who you are and what you like. A message may include words or symbols. In this art activity, you’ll write a message describing who you are and the things you like.

 An artwork depicts a face with a book and spring on its forehead, many eyes and a large bright red oval on the mouth. The face sits over a field of swirling color and eyes and dark black lines make a pattern over the face. To the right of the artwork is a column of largely blank space and some of the dark lines spill into the empty space.
Jonathan Borofsky, Self-Portrait at 2,707,902, 1981-1983, Carnegie Museum of Art

See

Jonathan Borofsky, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, is known as a printmaker and sculptor. Borofsky documents his dreams and incorporates the words and images in his artwork. The Self-Portrait at 2,707,902 includes symbols which guide the viewer (you and me) to discover meaning in the artwork. What do you discover about Borofsky from his self-portrait? What will you share in the message about you?

Think

  • List all the things you see in Borofsky’s painting. Can you see connections among them?
  • What do they suggest to you is on the artist’s mind?
  • Can you write a message that might come from the artist?
  • What are three things that you like or are on your mind right now personality.

Do

Materials Needed: Paper and something to write with (pen, pencil, etc.)

  1. On a blank sheet of paper write your name (you are the artist)!
  2. Write a message about the things you like. Your message may include words, sentences, or pictures.
  3. How do these elements come together to say something about you?

Activity: Every Picture Tells a Story

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

In this art activity, take a close look at the sketches in Samuel Rosenberg’s Picnic and use them as a starting point to imagine a picnic of your own.

A drawing depicts people in a variety of poses, alone and in groups. Some are sitting or reclining, others are standing with hands on hips or in pockets. The drawings of people cover the whole page. 
Samuel Rosenberg, Picnic, ca. 1960-1969, Carnegie Museum of Art

See And Think

Just like artists observe the world around them, writers often study visual art for inspiration. Review these sketches by Pittsburgh-based artist Sam Rosenberg.

  • What stories do these characters inspire you to tell?
  • Scan the page to notice that Rosenberg did not compose one scene of this picnic but rather focused on individuals, capturing their gestures and activities.
  • All the picnic-goers are doing something different. What are some activities you see?
  • Which figure do you find most interesting? Why? Describe their posture, clothing, or personality.

Do: Write About an Imaginary Picnic

Materials Needed: Paper and something to write with (pen, pencil, etc.)

  1. Go on an imaginary picnic by taking the perspective of one of the figures.
  2. Write a short story about the picnic in their voice.
  3. What conversations might they have with the other figures drawn by Rosenberg? The setting of the picnic is up to your imagination, as Rosenberg did not provide many details about where these figures are.
  4. Have fun! It is your picnic to enjoy.
  5. Ask a friend or family member to complete the activity with you, maybe someone in a distant location or even a young child.
  6. Share your stories with each other. Did you select the same figure? How do your stories compare?

Reflection: Confronting Implicit Bias Inspired by Quentin Morris

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

The recent murder of George Floyd, among many other Black people, calls again for us to reflect on our own biases and consider what more we can do to fight racism. Artist Quentin Morris has been impacted by years of witnessing racial conflict.

I remember I was influenced by every September that rolled around. You had all these people screaming, hollering, going berserk, because they were integrating the schools. You had these little kids going in with military escorts. That was every September. It stayed with me, growing up in the 50s with the Civil Rights Movement, supposedly starting with Martin Luther King. You have to remember there have always been people who were agitating, all the way back to the 18th century. This is just a continuation.

Quentin Morris, “Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Visual Artist Quentin Morris,” Questions of Practice, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
A hand-brushed circle of deep black pigment is tacked directly on a white gallery wall. The circle is reflected in the gallery floor.
Quentin Morris, Untitled (January-February 1994), 1994, Carnegie Museum of Art, © Quentin Morris

Morris, a Philadelphia-born and based artist, remembers frequenting the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a child with his father. When asked about the role advocacy takes in his work in an Artblog piece, he explains, “part of my work is a social comment about what has happened and what is ongoing, unfortunately. It is not all, but it’s a large part of what I do.”

Morris explores the concept of Blackness and the color black in his painting, Untitled (January-February 1994), which is in the CMOA collection. The unframed artwork was tacked directly on the gallery wall during CMOA’s exhibition 20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Carnegie Museum of Art. The canvas measures over nine feet in diameter and invites viewers to take notice of the shape, surface texture, and color of the hand-brushed circle of deep black pigment. The installation view shows the painting’s reflection on the polished white gallery floor. Talking to the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Morris describes his goal “to present black’s enigmatic beauty and infinite depth; to refute all negative cultural mythologies about the color, and ultimately to create work that innately expresses the all-encompassing spirituality of life.”

As you look at Untitled (January-February 1994), contemplate Morris’ subject, the color black.

  • Find a paper and something to write with.
  • List the words or ideas that you associate with the color black.
  • List the words or ideas that you associate with Blackness.
  • Which do you feel are positive, which are negative? Why?
  • How has society conditioned you to make these associations?
  • Which negative associations are you willing to unlearn to build a more just world?

It is always important to reflect about our personal biases, especially during this significant moment in history.

Implicit bias is defined by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity as “associations we harbor in our subconscious that cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.”

  • Refer to your list again. Do you see evidence of implicit bias in your reflection?
  • Check out the self-examination resources available at Harvard’s Project Implicit.

Activity: Write a Story Inspired by Edvard Munch

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye...it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.

Edvard Munch

Although Munch always painted human figures and recognizable things, it was not their physical appearance in the world that interested him most. For Munch, strong color and brushwork were ways to express the feelings and emotions that surround the events of life. Take some time to explore Girl Under Apple Tree and use it to prompt a creative short story with this art activity!

A young woman wearing a black and white dress and cap stands in front of a large tree with twisting branches. She is standing next to a bunch of wheat and holding some in her hands while looking directly at the viewer. The roofs of two houses can be seen in the background.
Edvard Munch, Girl Under Apple Tree, 1904, Carnegie Museum of Art

See And Think

  • What feelings come through to you in this scene of a girl all alone standing beneath an apple tree?
  • Consider the physical placement of the girl, tree, and surrounding foliage. Imagine what brought her there.
  • What is she doing?
  • Why is she looking so directly at the viewer?
  • Pick three adjectives to describe the tree.

Do: Write a Short Story Based on Munch’s Painting

Materials Needed: Paper and something to write with (pen, pencil, etc.)

  1. Take the perspective of either the tree or the girl.
  2. Consider the setting, mood, and other characters they might encounter.
  3. What has happened? What will happen next?
  4. Write a short story from their point of view.

Activity: Thank Your Teachers

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

While looking at this artwork by artist Mary Cassatt, consider the title: The Banjo Lesson. Whenever the word “lesson” is used, we typically think about learning something new—an exchange of knowledge passed between a teacher and a student, peers, or perhaps family members.

One woman sits holding a banjo in her lap while another woman is seated behind her, looking over her shoulder and watching her play.
Mary Cassatt, The Banjo Lesson, ca. 1893, Carnegie Museum of Art

See & Think:

Look back at The Banjo Lesson. Describe the relationship between the student and the teacher as the teacher models playing the banjo. “Model” is another word associated with lessons and learning. Notice how the teacher is modeling her hand position for the student while the student looks intently. Draw an imaginary line from each figure’s eyes to the teacher’s hand.

  • Think about a memorable lesson you have experienced—was it recent or long ago?
  • Who was your teacher? What knowledge did they share with you?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your teacher?

Do: Thank Your Teachers

Materials Needed: Paper or a card and something to write with (pen, pencil, etc.)

Write a thank you note to someone who has inspired you to learn something new!

Activity: We Collect/You Collect

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

This art activity is all about exploring our collection and your own personal collections—inspired by TOPPS Trading Cards! Shortly after their original trading card debut in 1949, the Topps Company, Inc., released a series of vehicle collector cards. By 1954, when the two cards you see here were published, young people all over the United States were collecting and trading cards. The TOPPS Company, Inc., is known for baseball cards, but they also published many other series of cards including military vehicles, cowboys, and characters from pop culture.

A trading card from the 1950s features an illustration of a large, brightly colored lumber truck. The words “lumber truck,” “straddle type,” and “specialized vehicle” are printed on the card.
The Topps Company, Inc., TOPPS Collectors Cards, Lumber Truck (Trading Card), 1954, Carnegie Museum of Art
A trading card from the 1950s features an illustration of a large, brightly colored street-sweeping truck. The words “Elgin Sweeper Truck” and “Utility Vehicle” are printed on the card.
The Topps Company, Inc., TOPPS Collectors Cards, Elgin Sweeper Truck (Trading Card), 1954, Carnegie Museum of Art

See and Think:

  • Check out Lumber Truck: Straddle Type and the Elgin Sweeper Truck, both in our collection.
  • Take some time to explore the rest of the TOPPS Company Trading Cards in our collection.
  • What kinds of collections do you have? Which objects started your collections?

Do: Create Your Own Trading Cards

Materials Needed: Paper and pencil (or something else to draw with)

  1. Take a few minutes to explore our collection of TOPPS Company Trading Cards. Trading cards are typically small and handheld and include a picture of an object with a few important facts about the object.
  2. Now think about your own collection. Maybe you collect coffee mugs, Matchbox cars, books, socks, pens, umbrellas, or something else!
  3. Create your own set of trading cards to represent your collection!

Activity: Out On A Limb

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Do you sometimes wonder where artists get their ideas for works of art? The answer can be as simple as looking out the window. Enjoy these two very different images of trees, then have fun applying your creative interpretation to a tree in your world.

A drawing depicts a tree with no leaves against a plain background.
Edward Hopper, Tree, Maine, 1925–1930, Carnegie Museum of Art
 The loose outline of a maple tree with leaves appears against a plain background.
Charles E. Burchfield, Maple Tree, 1944, Carnegie Museum of Art

See and Think:

These very different versions of trees were created by two good friends, Charles Burchfield and Edward Hopper. These American artists were both keen observers of nature and sketched the world around them often.

Allow your eyes to trace over Burchfield’s image. Imagine the varied touch of his pencil to paper, from the dark areas of the trunk to the circles and curves that suggest a canopy of leaves floating above the branches. Now imagine Hopper’s process, which resulted in the dark, textured trunk and clearly defined branches. Is one approach more to your liking?

Do: Draw A Tree from Observation

  1. Find a sunny spot outside, or look out a window—anywhere you can find a view with a tree! Sit for a few minutes and study your tree from the roots up: what is the size and texture of its trunk? The shape of the limbs? Are there just a few leaves, or a thick canopy? Take a few descriptive notes.
  2. Using pencil and paper, draw your tree, starting from the ground and working upwards. Try to make your hand follow exactly what your eye sees. Begin with a light, sketching approach. Where will you add more detail?
  3. Keep working until you have represented nature according to your personal style. Are you a realist, like Hopper? Or do you lean toward fantasy, like Burchfield? Make another version using a different approach.

Activity: Who is Your Cat Colleague? 

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

Are you working from home with a cat? Do you wish you were working from home with a cat? At Carnegie Museum of Art, we work with Art Cat every day! Check out some of the feline friends in our collection for some inspiration.

See and Think:

  • If you were to capture your real or imaginary cat’s personality in a work of art, what would it look like?
A seated cat looks up at a point just above the viewer. The cat is covered in rainbow-colored stripes and appears against a plain background.
Ay-o, Cat, 1980, Carnegie Museum of Art
A black cat lies under a flowering camellia bush. 
Inagaki Tomoo, Cat and Camellia, 1941, Carnegie Museum of Art
A dark-colored cat sits in the foreground looking over its shoulder with a vibrant sunset in the background. 
Inagaki Tomoo, Cat in Sunset (Yûyake no neko), 1969, Carnegie Museum of Art
Ten cat heads arranged in four rows appear to float within the image. The background is divided into three sections colored in muted, natural tones. 
Inagaki Tomoo, Cat Faces (Neko no kao), 1966, Carnegie Museum of Art

Do: Profile Your Cat Colleague

  1. Observe your cat colleague’s professional persona (or imagine one for your imaginary cat).
  2. Does your cat colleague have good communication skills?
  3. If your cat colleague were to send you an email, what would it say right meow?
  4. Do you and your cat colleague take lunch breaks together? What does your cat bring to share?
  5. What kind of office style does your cat sport? What is its signature look? Have a look at the cat images in these prints by Japanese artists. Design a colorful, patterned coat for your cat co-worker! Go a bit further and draw your colleague at work!
  6. Write a short story about your cat colleague in an email. Send it to one of your human colleagues as a pick-me-up!

Activity: Find Patterns Everywhere!

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

A pattern is a kind of design that repeats colors, shapes, objects, lines, or symbols in a predictable way. Sometimes, in a complex pattern, it can be hard to discover where the repetition begins and ends. Patterns are not limited to works of art. They can be found everywhere, including nature and everyday objects. You can probably see a pattern from where you are right now! In today’s activity, let’s start by examining the following artworks with our eyes peeled for patterns.

Black-and-white photograph of a groom and a bride wearing a gown with a gathered bodice, sweetheart neckline, sheer veil, and train, posed in a domestic interior.
Charles Teenie” Harris, Groom, and bride wearing gown with gathered bodice, sweetheart neckline, sheer veil, and train, posed in domestic interior with oriental rug and bold leaf patterned curtains, possibly for Hurt and Sammons wedding, another version, 1946, Carnegie Museum of Art
An abstract woodcut on paper with a brightly colored background and seven horizontal lines cutting across the artwork.
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1993–1994, Carnegie Museum of Art
photograph depicts row houses along a slope. A vacant lot is in the foreground of the image.
Zoe Strauss, West Homestead Homes, 2013, Carnegie Museum of Art

Discuss with These Questions:

  • Look at the three artworks provided. Where do you see patterns? Describe what is being repeated to create the pattern. Which are simple patterns and which are complex patterns?
  • Look around your home. What patterns do you notice?

Get Creative: Search for Patterns and Create Your Own Pattern

Materials needed: paper, pencil, crayons, colored pencils, markers, or paint

  1. Sitting wherever you are with your paper and pencil, look around for some patterns. Make a list of everything you see that has a pattern of repeating colors, shapes, symbols, or lines.
  2. Now, go on a pattern search. Look in your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and any other spaces you’d like. Don’t forget to look in your closet or dresser drawers. Clothes are often decorated with stripes, polka dots, or repeating images like floral prints.
  3. As you walk about, make sure to stop in a couple of different places. Take some time to sketch your favorite pattern. What do you like about it? What makes it your favorite?
  4. Count the number of patterns on your finished list. How many did you find?
  5. Which patterns were you most surprised to discover? Why?
  6. Are the patterns you found like the Judd artwork, featuring one repeating element with even spaces in between? Or are they like the draperies and carpet in the Teenie Harris photograph, with multiple shapes repeating in a more complex way?
  7. Now flip your paper over and try creating your own original pattern. What will you repeat? Have fun with the repetition of colors, shapes, objects, lines, or symbols! Challenge yourself to cover your entire page with the same pattern. Maybe you can use your patterned paper to wrap a gift for someone special!