Hands on Activity: Chalk it Up!

Hands on Activity: Chalk it Up!

With VMFA galleries closed we need your help to share our collection across Virginia! Use these artworks for inspiration and decorate a sidewalk near you!

We want to see your chalk creations! Share your drawing on social media and tag it #VMFAchalkitup.

Grade Level:
Adult, College, Early Childhood, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Grades K-2
Collection:
African American Art, African Art, American Art, Fabergé, Impressionism, Modern and Contemporary Art
Subject Area:
Creative Thinking, Fabergé, Fine Arts, Impressionism, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Hands-On Activity

Hands on Activity: Chalk it Up!

Image Gallery

Synopsis of a Battle
Ocean Park No. 22
ibala leSindebele (Ndebele Design)
The Banjo Lesson
Catfish Row

VMFA Chalk it Up!

Making art can help us think about and keep connected to the world in which we live. Artists featured in the galleries at VMFA have done this with each of the nearly 50,000 objects in the museum's collection. With VMFA galleries closed, we need your help to share the collection across Virginia! Use these artworks for inspiration and decorate a sidewalk near you. Share your drawing on social media and tag it #VMFAchalkitup.

You can click on the title of each object to get a closer look and view more information on the object page.

Synopsis of a Battle

Synopsis of a Battle

1968 , American

Medium: Commercial oil-based paint and wax crayon on canvas

Accession ID: 85.451

Let's start with Virginia's own Cy Twombly who made this deceptive oil painting in 1968.

Almost everyone who sees this painting in the Lewis 20th Century galleries is intrigued by how much ...

Let's start with Virginia's own Cy Twombly who made this deceptive oil painting in 1968.

Almost everyone who sees this painting in the Lewis 20th Century galleries is intrigued by how much it resembles a black board with its chalk-like marks and "erasures."

The vibrant, freewheeling compositions of Twombly often relate to historical and mythological subjects. In Synopsis of a Battle, the marks are actually drawn and painted signs and symbols that refer to a specific event—the Battle of Issus (333 BC), in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius of Persia’s much larger army. Let your eyes wander around this artwork and see what kinds of numbers, words, lines, and shapes you can find.

Among the work’s cryptic, graffiti-like markings, the words “Issus” (top left) and “flank” (left and right) provide clues to the painting’s military subject. The radiating, or flanking, form suggests diagrams of troop movements.

Chalk it Up Challenge: Think of an event from ancient history that YOU know about. Can you make an intriguing sidewalk chalk drawing that calls it to mind? What kinds of marks might you use? Are there words, numbers, shapes, or lines that could give a viewer clues to the event you are referencing in your artwork?

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Ocean Park No. 22

Ocean Park No. 22

1969 , American

Medium: oil on canvas

Accession ID: 85.380

Artist Richard Diebenkorn is an artist who took inspiration directly from where he lived.

Shortly after moving to southern California in 1966, Diebenkorn abandoned representation for abstr ...

Artist Richard Diebenkorn is an artist who took inspiration directly from where he lived.

Shortly after moving to southern California in 1966, Diebenkorn abandoned representation for abstraction, focusing on the monumental, sequentially numbered Ocean Park series of which this painting is number 22. Titled after the seaside Santa Monica neighborhood where Diebenkorn lived and worked, these paintings embody his response to his new environment. Their gentle luminosity and geometric structure evoke that locale’s coastal light.

Chalk it Up Challenge: Look around your neighborhood. What is the shadow and sunlight like where you live? What colors and shapes do you see? Use them to inspire your own abstract sidewalk chalk artwork that represents your home.

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ibala leSindebele (Ndebele Design)

ibala leSindebele (Ndebele Design)

2014 , Ndebele

Medium: acrylic on linen

Accession ID: 2014.224

Tessellating triangles dance across the edges of this colorful mural. In 2014, Esther Mahlangu, the most renowned artist of South Africa's Ndebele people, painted it onsite at the entrance of VMFA ...

Tessellating triangles dance across the edges of this colorful mural. In 2014, Esther Mahlangu, the most renowned artist of South Africa's Ndebele people, painted it onsite at the entrance of VMFA's African Art galleries. Like the bold geometric designs traditionally painted on the exterior of rural Ndebele homes, this mural has many lines of symmetry and vibrant colors.

Mahlangu is not only an artist, she is also a respected teacher who has a mission to preserve and bring global attention to this important Ndebele artistic tradition. Through projects like the VMFA murals, Mahlangu has brought the art form into a global contemporary art context.

Beyond the pride Ndebele women take in their painted homes, these residences assumed new importance during the late 19th century. They became statements of identity and resistance when white settlers displaced them from their land. As a young girl, Esther learned the art from her mother and grandmother. For the VMFA project, her granddaughter Marriam assisted. Esther’s vision for a composition arises in her mind’s eye, and she works without the aid of preliminary sketches or straight-edge tools.

Chalk it Up Challenge: Partner with a member of your family to create a sidewalk chalk mural inspired by the colorful geometric Ndebele patterns and designs Esther Mahlangu and her granddaughter brought to us in Virginia.

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The Banjo Lesson

The Banjo Lesson

1894 , American

Medium: pastel over oiled pastel on tan wove paper

Accession ID: 58.43

American Impressionist portrait and figure artist Mary Cassatt spent much of her professional life working in Paris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. At this time, the chalk ...

American Impressionist portrait and figure artist Mary Cassatt spent much of her professional life working in Paris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. At this time, the chalk-like medium of pastels was newly popular with artists who valued the spontaneous experimentations with color and light it enabled.

Let your eyes wander all over this artwork as you study the quality of the pastel marks. Imagine yourself to be Cassatt making this artwork. What choices might you have made about which colors to use? How might you have combined them? What aspects of your subject might you have worked on the longest?

The theme of shared female experience was present in most of Cassatt's work, and it is also here in The Banjo Lesson. Likening “plucking the fruits of knowledge” to plucking the strings of a musical instrument, Cassatt explored the subject in a series of experimental pastels and color prints. The popularity of the banjo, a distinctively American instrument (with African roots), spread across racial, gender, and class lines in the 1880s.

Chalk it Up Challenge: Consider your close family and friends. What activities do you share together? Can you make a sidewalk chalk drawing of one of those activities? How might Cassatt's work inspire your use of color and the way you apply your chalk to the sidewalk surface?

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Catfish Row

Catfish Row

1947 , American

Medium: egg tempera on hardboard

Accession ID: 2013.228

In 1947, the celebrated modernist, Jacob Lawrence, received a commission from Fortune magazine to depict African American life in the so-called Black Belt, a broad agricultural region of the Deep S ...

In 1947, the celebrated modernist, Jacob Lawrence, received a commission from Fortune magazine to depict African American life in the so-called Black Belt, a broad agricultural region of the Deep South. The artist spent a few weeks that summer traveling to Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans, as well as various communities in Alabama. Catfish Row is one of ten works resulting from Lawrence’s journey, all painted on his return to New York. This dynamic painting, with its overall mood of abundance and pleasure, depicts the shared preparation and consumption of food in black communities that offered some respite from the hardships of racial discrimination in the postwar years.

Let your eyes wander all around this artwork. What do you notice about the way Lawerence has organized all the items he has depicted? Look for color, line, and pattern, and think about how they work together to show us the idea of "community."

Chalk it Up Challenge: Think of the kinds of shared celebrations your community enjoys when they are able. What colors and patterns might remind you of those special moments? How might you organize them on your sidewalk to depict the idea of community?

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