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Home » Ideas & Exploration » Mural

Interact, Understand, Expand


Mural: Interact

This is a very simple activity of placing the randomly generated tiles into a grid to make a pleasing design.

A child who does not use the mouse can give you directions as to where to place the tile.

Ask your young player what he likes about the various tiles and how he is making the decisions about placing them.

If you have a printer, print several copies of a finished design. Color each one differently, using different colors or even different media (for example, paint, markers, crayons). If you wish, use the colored pictures for wrapping paper. You can find other interesting designs to color at the Boohbah Web site.

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Mural: Understand

"Whatever idea you have, if you do it alone, it will be only 80 percent as good as it could be. "
—real estate developer and philanthropist William Cummings

This activity highlights two important aspects of contemporary creativity: analysis and collaboration.

Analysis can mean breaking a large problem down in smaller problems. Real-life, large-scale murals are often planned by making a smaller model of the mural and dividing it into several rectangles. Then the wall where the mural will go is marked off into the same number and shape of rectangles. By copying the corresponding pieces of the small painting, an artist or even several different artists can paint the correct rectangles on the large wall until the mural is finished.

Collaborating and cooperating with other artists makes the huge job of painting a mural quicker and more fun. In our fast-paced, information-based age, even creativity is social. Many of our society's creative products like Web sites, computer and video games, movies, fashion, and even books require the combined creativity of many people. Quilts represent another art form that can sometimes be organized in grids and can involve the collaboration of many craftspeople.

Printing and physically coloring the designs is encouraged because the use of the hand is important in brain development. The hand pulls in information that the brain then uses to give the hand new tasks to do. Children, and many adults as well, rely on their sense of touch to help them understand what their eyes see. Think about how you know from a photograph that a tennis ball's surface would feel fuzzy, or how you might gauge the texture of clothing from pictures in a magazine: you recall your past experiences of handling tennis balls or different kinds of cloth. For more information, read The Hand: How its use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture by Frank R. Wilson.

For other physical activity ideas, explore the Expand sections of Uneven Bars and Haiku.

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Mural: Expand

Explore murals, large-scale, and public art further.

Offline Activities

Hunt for paintings or public art during a Safari in your neighorhood. For example, in Somerville, Massachusetts, a Latino youth group called Pintamos Nuestro Mundo (We Paint Our World) decorates the electric control boxes of traffic lights.

Make a Reverse Mural. Because you do not have to plan a large picture ahead of time and because the artists do not have to copy anything, young artists will find a reverse mural easier than the usual kind.

Examine how quilts represent another art form that can sometimes be organized in grids and can involve the collaboration of many craftspeople.

Books and References

Read an adaptation of an ancient folk tale about how artists can help their communities see in new ways or remember important ideas in The Magic Paintbrush by Laurence Yep (ages 5 to 8).

Marvel over the black and white graphics that can be looked at differently in Ann Jonas's book Round Trip. This book can be appreciated on many levels by readers of all ages. Another great example of visual play, this time in color, is her book The Quilt (all ages).

Keep an eye out for the work of ceramic artist Julie Peck, who shows her work nationally and in the Boston, MA, area. Her mural-like method creates large relief sculptures then cuts each into nine or twelve rectangular tiles. The photograph below shows a work that was being painted before being fired in the kiln.

Mural design by artist Julie Peck

After firing the tiles in the kiln, she makes a mold of each and then uses the mold to press many similar tiles. She hand-paints every tile. Similarly, you might have printed several copies of your Mural design to color in lots of different ways.

The dynamic design below was inspired by Julie's four-year-old daughter's drawing of a lollipop tree.

Mold of artist Julie Peck's lollipop tree design

Mural of artist Julie Peck's lollipop tree design

Art lovers can buy any number of tiles, from one to hang individually to a bunch to hang together to reassemble a detail of the original sculpture—just the way you might have reassembled your own Reverse Mural.

Let your child's imagination inspire your creativity, too! To see an age-by-age breakdown of what your child might be ready for, check out the PBS Parents Child Development Tracker.

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