Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frank Stella

I needed a project that would get my eighth graders excited to be in art again (I hadn't had this group for over a year and now I have them during their LAST TRIMESTER AT THE SCHOOL! IN THE SPRING...hormones are running rampant and many brains are on vacation already, to say the least!) and have wanted to try a project inspired by Frank here it is!

To make these 3D paintings, low-relief paper sculptures...or whatever you want to call them, we started by spending 2 days making painted paper using tempera on drawing paper, thin cardboard and corrugated cardboard.  This was my hook - low stress, high success, and oh-so-messy painting!  Each student painted at least 3 pieces of 12 x 18" paper, one cereal box (thank you to my Mom, sisters, and many teachers at school for collecting boxes for me!), and one rectangle of corrugated cardboard (the corrugated cardboard is what we used as the "base" or "canvas" that we later built upon).

Next, we did A LOT of cutting.  I had some sets of French curves (Stella is known for having derived his forms from cones, pillars, French curves, waves and decorative architectural elements for some of his works in the 1980s) that the eighth graders traced and they also cut out some of their own shapes.

Before constructing, we watched a short video of Stella talking about his process and viewed images of some of his works.  For our projects, we did it backwards (we painted THEN cut our shapes instead of making what we wanted to paint on first as Stella does) but I still thought it was valuable for them to hear the artist talk about his work.  To put all of the pieces together, we used thin strips of cereal box cardboard folded into accordions and hot glue.  To quell my fears and protect fingers, each glue station also had a pair of inexpensive garden gloves for the kids to wear.

The eighth graders did a beautiful job and our school community was enthusiastic about seeing some abstract work on display!  They've been up for several weeks now and I still see kids, parents and teachers checking them out everyday! 


  1. You know I'm gonna have to steal this idea! It's sure to be a blog classic. Great work!

  2. Hi,
    great idea, great work. Frank should be proud.
    I was trying to send a photo of a Stella I got from his trash when I used to dumpster dive Gemini while he was there printing.
    I also got a Johns on newsprint!
    I donated a big bag of Lichtenstein torn scraps from his "Peace Thru Chemistry" series to a preschool. The made cool collages from his scraps. They were wonderful. I wish I had one.
    Please go to my site and leave an email and I'll send some photos if you like. Great art!
    If you would like a quarter of a Stella, let me know. Free; but you'll have to do your own framing.

  3. Hi! I am so inspired by this project and I can't wait to try it out. I am curious about the specific paint techniques that you used with this project. Did you use any specific objects or steps to achieve all the different patterns?

  4. Hi there, LOVE this Frank Stella project! I was wondering how many layers
    the students put on their project? Are the shapes on top of eachother? Thanks, will I have always loved his stuff!

  5. I keep coming back to this page, this project. It is brilliant. I used to dumpster dive in Gemini G.E.L's dumpster, and found lots of Stella fragments that had been torn up, as well as a huge garbage bag of Lichtenstein scraps from his large Peace through Chemistry lithograph. The pieces were about 3-4 x 6-7" I gave the whole bag to a Headstart school and they made collages. I wish I had one of them; they were wonderful.
    I love your blog.