Art Project by Elaine Luther, showing a preschool finger painting project in the style of Sonia Delaunay. A mustard yellow color banner shape says the title of the post. On the right is a canvas board, painted in concentric circles in contrasting colors.

I love the vibrant art of Sonia Delaunay, who was inspired by music and this idea that by using contrasting colors next to each other, she could create paintings that looked like they have movement to them. We call that visual movement.

She did oil paintings, and also took her signature shapes, which included lots of radiating circles, and applied them to quilts, clothing, theater and ballet costumes, playing cards and even a car!

Her style of painting is called abstract, meaning it’s not supposed to look like anything specific, the idea of the painting is that it’s all about colors and shapes. (Some of her paintings do have recognizable people, animals and structures in them.)

Here’s what she said about how she came to abstract painting,

“About 1911 I had the idea of making for my son, who had just been born, a blanket composed of bits of fabric like those I had seen in the houses of Russian peasants. When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.” (source: Tate.org)

Sonia lived from 1889 to 1979.  She and her husband, who was also a painter, met in Paris and lived in Paris, Spain, and Portugal.

Her art has been on stamps in France and the U.K., and she was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government.

Here is one of the paintings by Sonia Delaunay, co-credit is given to a poet, you can just barely see some words on the lower left.

By Sonia Delaunay, Blaise Cendrars - State of the Modern Art World, The Essence of Cubism and its Evolution in Time

By Sonia Delaunay, Blaise Cendrars – State of the Modern Art World, The Essence of Cubism and its Evolution in Time, Coldcreation, 30 Nov. 2011, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49954250

Here are the car and the playing cards!

Sonia Delaunay Custom Painted Car and two women

Photo of a car painted in the style of fabrics by Sonia Delaunay. The two women are wearing clothing designed by Sonia Delaunay. Photo is in the collection of the Tate Modern Museum.

Playing Cards by Sonia Delaunay

Playing Cards by Sonia Delaunay.

Make a Finger Painting in the Style of Sonia Delaunay

A friend of mine is a preschool teacher and I wanted to share some ideas with her on art projects inspired by women artists that she could do with her students.

Even though I’m a grown up, professional artist, I made this project by painting with my fingers! It was fun! Parents and kids can try this together, it’s fun to do the painting with your fingers, even if you’re not in preschool!   With older kids, feel free to try another variation by using a paintbrush. Older kids can use acrylic paint. You want it to be “heavy body” paint or “medium body” paint. In general, that means it’s in a tube and not a squeeze bottle. Paints in a squeeze bottle may be labeled “fluid acrylics,” which is not what you want for a finger painting project!

For preschoolers, buy actual finger paint, which is nice and thick and safe for little kids.  Or you could mix up your own finger paint.  Boil equal amounts cornstarch and water, and add food coloring.  Here’s a link to the recipe.  I did my painting on a canvas board, these are affordable and readily available at art or craft supply stores.  Heavy art paper would also work.

If you already know how to quilt, you could design a quilt using paint and then sew it up!

Here’s a single circle, in my sketchbook:

Art Project by Elaine Luther, showing a preschool finger painting project in the style of Sonia Delaunay. Concentric arcs radiate out from a central circle. In the corner, some tubes of paint are visible.

Here’s a really good lesson plan for middle school kids for making a painting in the style of Sonia Delaunay:

https://leahnewtonart.com/2020/04/28/sonia-delaunay-art-lesson-project-for-middle-school-kids

To learn more about the artist, the Tate Modern website has an excellent set of pages on her life and art:
https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-sonia-delaunay/delaunay-introduction