Jean Michel Basquiat Art History Lesson for Kids

jean michel basquiat art history project for kid

Spray paint your homeschooler’s art history education with the edgy, bright, and sometimes childlike art of Jean Michel Basquiat.

This creative lesson plan includes kid-friendly ideas to bring Basquiat’s work to life. 

Perfect for lower elementary!

Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat was a 20th-century New York artist known for his bold colors and unique technique of incorporating poetry, paint, and drawing into his work.

He famously befriended Andy Warhol and collaborated with him frequently before Warhol’s death in 1987.

Basquiat’s art was profoundly influential in the neo-Expressionism movement and continues to inspire artists today post-humously.

The Book

Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little People, Big World) book for kindergartners and lower elementary.

I taught this lesson to my art history students at our homeschool co-op and they loved (affiliate link—>) Little People, Big Dreams:  Jean Michel Basquiat by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara.

I love the Little People, Big Dreams series and turn to it frequently for our history lessons in general.  But in particular, this series excels at biographies of contemporary artists for kids.

(We also used one from this series for our Frida Khalo lesson).

Focus Piece

jean michel basquiat art history project for kid

Rather than overwhelming younger students with too many examples, I try to focus on getting them to commit one painting to their memory.

This artist’s body of work contains a myriad of exceptionally kid-friendly pieces.

His usage of bold colors and abstract perspective are accessible and evocative for even the youngest children.

But I found his piece, Pez Dispenser (see above), especially appealing to the littles.

Who doesn’t like dinosaurs?!

The Project Idea

Try this clever idea to use spray paint safely with young kids.

I LOVE how these came out!

It’s my favorite kind of project:  process-based and simple.

They all come out unique and you can’t mess them up.

It gives the kids plenty of opportunities to express themselves individually.

Plus, the end result is just so gallery-worthy!

Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever been to the New York Museum of Modern Art, you’d probably agree, these are at least as interesting as about half the stuff in there.

It’s fun but messy, so consider doing this one outside with aprons!

I really wanted to capture the liberating feeling of painting big with spray paint.

However, the toxic nature of spray paint made me nervous about using it with kids.

So, I came up with an idea to avoid it!

It’s simple.

Step 1:  Go to the dollar store, pick up some cheap spray bottles and some cheap acrylic paint.

Step 2:  Thin the paint with water until the consistency is thin enough to spray through the nozzle.

Step 3:  Put it in the child’s hand, stand them in front of the canvas and let them go to it.

You can use one huge canvas and let your whole crew spray the same one (makes for some great hallway art for your home or school!) or give them each individual, small-scale canvases.

Our homeschool co-op class had so much fun with this.

Just make sure you rinse the bottles (and especially the nozzles!) if you want to use them again.  Flush the lines and the spray nozzles with plain water until they run clear or they will clog when the paint starts to dry out!

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