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Willingham Primary School

Op Art: KS2

Bridget Riley is one of our Table Label Artists. She is British artist and was born in Norwood, London in 1937. She is famous for a style of painting know as Op Art, a type of abstract art that uses geometric shapes and patterns, often in black and white. The works use optical illusions and will sometimes trick your eye into thinking that they are moving, bulging or flashing. Some of the paintings can even make you feel slightly dizzy when you look at them.

Here is one of Bridget Riley’s most famous paintings. Although it is in two dimensions, it appears to sink into the wall or screen where the vertical lines become closer:

Movement in Squares (1961)

When talking about the development of her style, Bridget Riley said “I couldn’t get near what I wanted through seeing, recognising and recreating, so I stood the problem on its head. I started studying squares, rectangles, triangles and the sensations they give rise to.”  Here are some further examples of her work:

Blaze (1962)                                                                    Fall (1963)

Here is a picture inspired by Movement in Squares created by one of our Year 6 students two or three years ago, using felt pen. I thought that you might like to create an Op Art picture of your own. This is a project which would work equally well on paper in real life or as digital art on Purple mash so I will show you both.

The key to this project is planning and careful drawing. In order to end up with an effective picture, you need to have a clear idea of the pattern you want to create. It may help to draw a small thumbnail sketch or to make some written notes before you begin. If you are using a work of art as your starting point, you could start by describing in words how the picture has been put together as this will help you with recreate a similar pattern. For example, in Movement in Squares, the ‘squares’ remain the same height but gradually become narrower and then wider again, around a vertical line approximately a third the way across the canvas.

If you are working in real life, you could use pencil or felt pen. Whatever medium you choose, you will need to make quite accurate marks so your felt pens should not be too thick. I would suggest starting with pencil to draw out the initial design and you could complete your picture using pencil if you wish. Designs based on straight lines are a little easier to draw. You will need a ruler or something with a straight edge that you can use to make sure that your lines are straight. Here are some ideas to inspire you using only straight lines:

These lines get closer together towards the centre.                             These lines are equally spaced.

As you are likely to be alternating black and white, you may want to make a small pencil mark in the coloured areas to check that your planned design works as you want it to.

Another possibility is to use circles together with straight lines in your design. Do not try to draw a circle freehand! With the permission of an adult, you could find circular objects such as tins, cups and saucers to draw round. You can create a curve by drawing around part of a much larger circle.

Off centre circles and curves are the trickiest but can be really effective:

Although Op Art is often in black and white, any colour of felt pen or pencil could work well. Here is an exhibition of some of Bridget Riley's works in colour:

If you would like to try creating an Op Art masterpiece on Purple mash, the best App to use is 2 Paint. We used 2Paint a Picture for the Spring Art Challenge: 2 Paint is next to it in the art tools:

You need to begin by choosing your 'pen' colour, then moving on to the tools section:

Here you will be able to add lines. squares and circles to create your Op Art design:

Remember that there are also some useful buttons at the top of the screen:

The 'magnet' tool causes the lines you draw to connect to each other more easily so you may also find that button helpful.

The best way to find out how to use 2Paint is to give a go and see how you get on. I have just tried this, as I always do when I ask you to start a new project. At first, I found it difficult to line up the squares in the way that I wanted but after a while, I found a fairly easy way to do it:

  • First, I drew the outer square using the shape tool and the thinnest possible pen.
  • Then, I connected the corners of the square with diagonal lines.
  • Next, I drew additional squares using the diagonal lines to guide me.
  • Finally, I used the 'paint pot' tool to add the black colour in alternate areas.

Here is another version that I have just completed using rectangles and circles:

I hope that you enjoy investigating Op Art and creating some of your own. If you finish some some work on Purple mash, you can send it to me on 2Email. I am always happy for you or your parents and carers to send pictures of your work to my school email address: Have fun!

P.S: Here is an amazing example of Op art done at home. Well done, George!

Here are Amber and Holly's wonderful pieces of art:

These fantastic versions have been created on Purple mash by Owain. Well done to him and to all of you who have been keeping up with your art at home!