Influences and Inspiration at the de Young Summer Art Camp

As guest blogger Kelsey Linton reports, this week at the de Young Summer Art camp, the goal was to encourage our campers to examine the sources of their creativity with the theme "Influences and Inspirations". Each day of class focused on a new artistic medium or a particular artist's work, which made this one of the busiest weeks yet! The Masters, the oldest group of the campers; the Artisans, the middle age group; and the Apprentices, the youngest group, all gathered inspiration from famous artists in the de Young’s collection throughout the week.


On the first day of camp, the Masters visited the Ruth Asawa sculptures in the base of the tower, where they sketched Asawa’s hanging wire constructions.


They then participated in a “paper bag challenge,” in which an unknown object was placed in a paper bag. After feeling the object through the bag, the young artists were asked to draw what they felt, which resulted in imaginative and creative sketches. The artists then pulled objects out of the bags—a fun surprise—and used ebony pencils to draw the full object.


Using the work of well-known artists Gerhardt Richter and Wayne Thiebaud as inspiration, the Masters painted realistic and abstract watercolor landscapes, which started a dialog about realism and abstraction. Moving into a three-dimensional format, the Masters created paper, cardboard, and wood sculptures. They produced wood sculptures depicting military tanks, flowers, buildings, and more.


On the fourth day of camp, the focus was on printmaking and exploring how artists convey the notion of self. Inspired by the art of Chuck Close and Nathan Olivera, the Masters made self-portrait prints using Styrofoam. On the final day of camp, the young artists visited the Impressionism and Realism Gallery to sketch and study lines of the human figure, which formed the basis for collages.


During week six, the Artisans studied famous buildings designed by Herzog and de Meuron. Inspired by their work and our de Young building, the Artisans constructed their own civic institutions (restaurants, theaters, museums, etc.) using stamps, cards, glue, and tape. One Artisan said, “My favorite thing was making the buildings!”

The next day the Artisans focused on Albert Bierstadt’s landscapes, and how one can paint nature to inspire awe. The Artisans sketched outdoors and in the landscape gallery, where they learned about value scales and how to use the pencil effectively.

Outdoor sketch

The Artisans viewed Vik Muniz’s photograph of a collage, Absinthe Drinker, after Edgar Degas, as well as multiple depictions of George Washington, which encouraged them to investigate the theme of mixed media.


These young artists then created their own mixed media pieces inspired by landscape and still life paintings in the museum using acrylic paint, felt, fabric, tissue paper, glue, and more. The Artisans wrapped up their week creating their own hanging wire sculptures after a seeing the lines and shadows of Ruth Asawa’s wire sculpture.

Wire flower

The Apprentices began their week by reading the book, There Was an Old Monster, which inspired them to produce colorful mixed media monster collages that they decorated with markers, feathers, tissue paper, rhinestones, and sequins.

Monster collage

The next day began with a visit to the New Guinea Galleries, where the young artists sketched masks. They used clay and tools to create their own masks with a favored technique they dubbed the “scratch attach!”

New Guinea inspiration

In the afternoon the Apprentices used oil pastel and watercolor resist to create cityscapes, inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s Diagonal Freeway and Ponds and Streams . Wednesday’s visit to the Japanese Tea Garden inspired garden sketches with zoomed in and out perspectives.

The Open Studio afternoon program was very busy, too. Projects included handmade paints on canvas, fabric pennant flags, mixed media masks, and foil sculptures. The kids were always very enthusiastic about their projects!

Talk about art

At the end of the week, artists shared their work with their peers. It was great to see how accomplished the campers felt—they really enjoyed presenting their work!