How to Paint Like Kandinsky, Picasso, Warhol & More: A Video Series from the Tate

Learn How to Print like Warhol… in five min­utes?

That sounds like fun! My Saturday’s pret­ty open…

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, The Tate’s How To series is a bit of a mis­nomer. This is not the any­one-can-do-it approach of PBS leg­end Bob Ross and his Hap­py Lit­tle Trees

Yes, the short video demon­stra­tions come with sup­ply lists and step-by-step instruc­tions, but with­out an exist­ing fine arts back­ground, you may feel more than a lit­tle bit daunt­ed, pin­ing for the sort of kid-friend­ly mod­i­fi­ca­tions that help sec­ond graders mim­ic famous artists with such aplomb.

Rather than rel­e­gate your fresh­ly-pur­chased screens, roll of acetate, and econ­o­my-sized con­tain­er of pho­to-emul­sion to the same clos­et where your cross coun­try skis, for­eign lan­guage cas­settes, and beer-mak­ing kit are cur­rent­ly spend­ing eter­ni­ty, we sug­gest that you not buy them at all.

Instead, appre­ci­ate the way these videos bridge “the gap between Art His­to­ry and Art Cre­ation,” in the words of one view­er.

So THAT’S how Warhol and untold thou­sands of oth­er artists, includ­ing this segment’s guide Mar­i­anne Keat­ing, make their prints! A lot of equip­ment! A lot of pre­cise steps. Maybe some day you’ll take a stab at it.

’Til then… Keat­ing picked for­mer Jamaican Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley as her sub­ject. Who would you choose?

Artist Sui Kim’s seg­ment on Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky’s approach to paint­ing inspires a semi-abstract scene from her South Kore­an child­hood, using the same col­or palette as Kandinsky’s Cos­sacks.

What would you paint?

Though before blithe­ly slap­ping a sec­ond-grad­er rain­bow on your vision and assum­ing you now know how to paint like Kandin­sky (whether or not you know how to paint), check out the Tate’s descrip­tion of the orig­i­nal:

Paint­ed between 1910 and 1911, Cos­sacks is an expres­sion of Kandinsky’s belief in the pow­er of art “to awak­en this capac­i­ty for expe­ri­enc­ing the spir­i­tu­al in mate­r­i­al and in abstract phe­nom­e­na.” The dynam­ic ten­sion between abstract form and con­crete con­tent may be read as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the wider con­flict between the forces of polit­i­cal oppres­sion – Kandin­sky had been deeply moved by the strikes and upheavals in Odessa a few years ear­li­er – and the hunger for spir­i­tu­al reju­ve­na­tion con­se­quent upon the rise of soul­less moder­ni­ty. Like his con­tem­po­raries Piet Mon­dri­an and Hen­ri Matisse, Kandin­sky saw paint­ing as an exten­sion of reli­gion, capa­ble, as he wrote in his Rem­i­nis­cences (1913), of reveal­ing ‘new per­spec­tives and true truths’ in ‘moments of sud­den illu­mi­na­tion, resem­bling a flash of light­ning.’ The echo of the Ancient Greek writer Longinus’s notion of sub­lime speech, which sim­i­lar­ly strikes like a bolt of light­ning, is car­ried over into Kandinsky’s descrip­tion of the spir­i­tu­al mis­sion of the mod­ern artist. In his 1911 essay On the Spir­i­tu­al in Art, he com­pares the life of the spir­it to ‘a large, acute-angled tri­an­gle,’ at the apex of which stands the soli­tary artis­tic genius dis­pens­ing spir­i­tu­al food to the mul­ti­tudes below.

Pret­ty com­plex stuff!

Per­haps Picas­so is a more straight­for­ward propo­si­tion.

Reck­on you could rope a friend into mod­el­ing for a Cubist por­trait a la Bust of a Woman (1909)? If so, which friend, and what might you do for them in return?

Oth­er artists in the Tate’s How To series include J.M.W. Turn­er and sculp­tor Rachel Whiteread. Watch them all here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Paint­ing Free Online: 403 Episodes Span­ning 31 Sea­sons

The MoMA Teach­es You How to Paint Like Pol­lock, Rothko, de Koon­ing & Oth­er Abstract Painters

What Makes The Death of Socrates a Great Work of Art?: A Thought-Pro­vok­ing Read­ing of David’s Philo­soph­i­cal & Polit­i­cal Paint­ing

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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