Art in the Shadows
Have you ever tried to create shadow shapes on the wall at night? In the story of Peter Pan, Peter is able to remove his own shadow and store it in a dresser. Imagine if you could do that! Shadows are a silent but powerful presence in our stories, films and our everyday lives—and they may have even inspired the first cave paintings. Today, we'll explore the science of light and shadow, meet artists who use shadows in their work, and check out wall-sized creations inspired by graffiti artists working in the shadows. Get ready to spend some time in the light because today we're painting with the dark!
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- Paper (large if possible)
- Large, interestingly shaped object
- A strong light source (sun or lamp)
Ask About Today
What did you learn about shadows today? Why do you think the size of shadows changes over time outdoors?
What items in our house could make the most interesting shadows?
Skip the Ads
Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.
What's in a shadow? Artist Vincent Bal learned that shadows have a lot more to offer than meets the eye, and even created his own style of art using them! Watch these videos to learn about "Shadowology" and see some of his creative work.
Shadows and the Sun
Why do we have shadows and why do they change? Find out in this Crash Course video!
Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.
Meet Vincent Bal and learn about "Shadowology."
Shadowology Short Film - Part 1
Watch artist Vincent Bal as he creates new Shadowology artworks right before your eyes!
Shadowology Short Film - Part 2
Looking for more Shadowology? (We don't blame you, it's fun to watch.) Find more right here.
Street Art Out of the Shadows
Some art, like Vincent Bal's, is made OF shadows. Other art, like street art and graffiti art, is often made IN the shadows, appearing overnight on empty walls, abandoned buildings, or train car sides. In New Orleans, aerosol artist Brandan "BMike" Odums creates giant, graffiti-inspired murals that celebrate Black history and culture. Get to know him and take a look at his warehouse Studio Be in this video.
Ready to make your own shadow art? You'll need paper (the larger the better), coloring utensils, an interestingly shaped object, and a strong light source.
Make Some Shadow Art
Start with a strong light source, like a desk lamp. Feel free to use the sun as your light source if it’s sunny.
Then find a large object with an interesting shape that can stand on its own. A bike, a plant, or a cup or vase are great options! Find something with gaps or holes in it so the light shines through.
Finally, place your object where there is a strong light source and shadow. Lay down your paper where you see the shadow and carefully trace the outlines of the shadow your object creates, or use the edges of the shadow to create a whole new image, like Vincent Bal does. (Click the button to see more examples if you want some inspiration!) Color it in if you like, or leave it as a simple outline.
For younger explorers
Positive and Negative Space
Read Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "My Shadow." How do you feel about your shadow?
The Science of Shadows
Why do different light sources create different kinds of shadows? Why do shadows change with the seasons? Check out this article to learn more about the science behind light and shadows.
Explore the World of Street Art
Steep yourself in the history and culture of street art around the globe in this interactive feature from Google Arts and Culture.
For younger explorers
The Day I Met My Shadow
The day this little boy meets his shadow, everything gets a little crazy.
For younger explorers
One bare wall, one great big idea.
Street Art with Tate
Make some street art of your own with this online tool from the Tate Modern. Try different styles, colors, and forms. What would your name look like in graffiti? How about Camp Kinda's logo? Show us what you can do!
Have you ever tried to make shapes with your shadow? For this activity, you can go outside if it’s sunny or find a strong light source, like a lamp, in your house.
Make sure you can see the shadow of your body clearly. Use your body to create a shadow that looks like each letter of the alphabet (and make sure to use your whole body, not just your hands!).
Can you spell your name with your shadow? How many words can you spell? Bonus points if you can get someone in your household to guess what word you spelled!
more to explore
Can't get enough of shadows? Enjoy more shadow fun here!
Create a human sundial! Watch this video to see how, then grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside. Make sure to go out an hour apart each time and write the time in the outline of the shadow. See how shadows change over time!
What Is Light?
When you start thinking about shadows long enough, you start asking questions like, "what IS light, anyway?" Find out all about it in this video.
Create Some See-Through Shadows
Some things are transparent, but still cast shadows. Try putting water and food coloring in a clear, glass cup. Go into a dark room and shine a flashlight through it. What kind of shadow does that cast on the wall? Experiment with changing the colors by adding different colored drops to the same cup of water.
What about Light Artists?
We've spent today looking at art made of and in the shadows, but there are also plenty of artists who use light in creative ways. See their work and read about a few of them here.