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Frank Stella Art Project – Inspired by The Black Paintings

Although craft and process art is fantastic for kids as a home educator and teacher I’ve always loved to learn about different artists from around the world and in different cultures and times. One of the ways we explore it is through “copycat art”, using techniques and examples of their work to produce our own. This art project is inspired by the modern artist Frank Stella and his first series of paintings The Black Paintings to create an optical illusion.

optical illusion art project for kids inspired by the black paintings by frank stella

Frank Stella

Frank Stella was born in 1936 in the USA, early in his 20s he started to paint on untreated canvas but unlike many artists, his subjects weren’t portraits or landscapes he embraced minimalist art and the first series of paintings were The Black Paintings.

Frank Stella’s Black Paintings

The “black paintings” were Frank Stella’s first artworks and MOMA in New York loved them they bought some to exhibit as examples of the new minimalist art movement.

These paintings originally were on square and rectangular canvases and used just black acrylic paint and thin white lines to create the artwork. At first, the images were very straight with the lines following a set pattern, but over time they started to change with sections at angles.

With the angles, the 2-dimensional images start to gain a 3d perspective that appears like optical illusions. There is no information that we have found about this being intentional, but as we looked at those early works it is something that we took away from it.

optical illusion drawing of a hand in black and white inspired by the syncopation and art work of Frank Stella

Inspired by this we have a simple kids art project to do as part of our greater Frank Stella Artist Study.

Frank Stella Art Project

Inspired by the black paintings and our interpretation of it creating an optical illusion of 3D we have a fun and simple art project that you and your kids can do.

Materials Needed

  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Artist Paper
  • Black Marker Pen

How to Create your Frank Stella Black Painting Art Project

drawing around a hand
  1. Lay your hand and arm on the paper and draw around with a pencil

2. With the ruler mark out regular marks along the long edge of the paper (we did ours at 5mm intervals or there abouts

marking out intervals along the side of a piece of paper for a line art drawing inspired by Frank Stella

3. Join up the lines on either side of the page leaving the space inside your tracing of the hand as blank

4. Now using curves* join the lines together either side of the fingers and thumb then across the hand

connecting lines to create an optical illusion

5. Once you have everything joined together use the black marker and colour in every other line so that you have alternate black and white lines

colouring every other line of the paper to create the black painting style of Frank Stella

*Although at this stage Frank Stella didn’t use lines in his work, in a later series The Protractor Series and further work curves were a feature so we incorporated them into this art project

optical illusion art for kids taking inspiration from the black painting series by Frank Stella

Discover More about Frank Stella

Here are a few more links to information about the artist Frank Stella that you can explore with your kids

The Black Paintings by Frank Stella Art Study Project for Kids

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