I have always been wildly interested in the later work of artist Jean Dubuffet. His l'Hourloupe series of works have a frenetic energy and simplicity that is unlike anything I've seen elsewhere.
They say that more than two decades of his work in this series all began with a simple doodle. For my oldest son who has the notion he's no good at art because he can't draw objects realistically, this activity proved that realism isn't the only form of great art.
It also played into my son's mathematical/engineering mindset when we got to the construction step.
Prep (FOR ADULTS)
1. Purchase some white foam core from your local craft or office supply store (presentation boards are frequently made of this).
2. Draw organic shapes with pencil on the foam core (think amoebas, paramecium, paisleys, and artist palette shapes).
3. Using a craft night, carefully cut the shapes from the foam core with a cutting board underneath to protect your work surface from damage. Don't worry if they're not perfect, you can trim excess once they're cut out.
Prep (WITH KIDS)
Google "Jean Dubuffet l'Hourloupe sculpture" and click images. Look through the examples of his work and study the shapes, colors, and patterns used.
Invite kids to use the pre-cut foam shapes to color thick black borders around the edges and patterns and color blocks within.
If you're trying to closely mimic the style of Dubuffet, limit the color palette to black, red, and blue. We used SUPER thick black sharpie markers for the outline and started with fine tip red and blue sharpies, but quickly discovered that Crayola wide-tip traditional markers helped us get better coverage of large areas. While the colors are not as vibrant with the Crayola markers, it's a lot less frustrating to complete 2 to 3 shapes.
Once colored/designed as desired an adult will need to cut small tabs in the pieces so they can be arranged as a sculpture. Let kids try to visualize and manipulate how the pieces should fit, then grown-ups can use the craft knife to notch the pieces for assembly. Keep the tabs to the exact thickness of the foam core for a snug fit. If your cuts are too big, you'll need to reinforce the "joints" with hot glue.
The final result is stunning!