On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, The Getty Museum issued a challenge to recreate a work of art with materials at home.
They said, it’s easy:
- Choose your favorite artwork
- Find three things lying around your house
- Recreate the artwork with those items
They encouraged people to find artworks at their online collection at getty.edu/art/collection and to use the hashtags #betweenartandquarantine and #tussenkunstenquarantaine.
Many creative and bored artists and everyday people have taken up the challenge. And why not? We’re all stuck at home for weeks and need some fun way to distract ourselves, right?
Well, my husband saw this challenge floating around his news feed, and said we should do it as a family for our Family Home Evening this week (if you are unfamiliar with that term, you can learn more about what it is and its purpose here).
We had such fun doing it, that we have continued doing a few more art recreation challenges the nights following!
We have selected various artworks from the past, many less famous, because they’ve already been recreated so many times.
This Getty Challenge is especially fun for us because I majored in Visual Arts at Brigham Young University! While I don’t really use that degree, I do still love and appreciate art.
Plus, my husband and I went to the Getty Museum together when we were expecting our first kids (twins), while visiting his sister who lives in LA. So, it already has a special place in our hearts.
Two years ago, in 2018, we also braved taking our five young kids to art museums, to both the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens, as well as The Norton Simon Museum when we traveled to Pasadena for the Mom 2.0 Blog Conference.
When we lived in Indianapolis, we also loved going to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now called Newfields) to check out the art and walk the grounds.
Living so close to New York City now, we can’t wait to hit up the various art museums there (once this pandemic threats lifts of course).
Our kids all love and appreciate beautiful art (in part thanks to the art history incorporated into their language arts program from The Good and the Beautiful), but they all love to color, draw, paint, and create!
If this is something that interests you as a fun family quarantine activity, here are some tips on doing it with young kids.
How to Do the Getty Challenge
It really is way easier than it looks to recreate pieces of art in your home. You just have to let-go of trying to make it perfectly the same (cause you never will) and just do your best.
No recreation took us more than about 30 minutes to find clothing and props for, prep ourselves, and then shoot. Editing took about 5-15 minutes per piece (but you can also forgo a lot of the editing we did – more details later).
Here are my tips for doing the Getty Challenge quick and efficiently and with kids!
1. Find a Piece of Artwork to Recreate
There are SO many works of art out there. You can choose to do works of people or not. People have used pets, food, play-doh, and other random household objects to recreate landscapes, animal portraits, still life paintings, and more.
For a family project, I think it’s just fun to have the children and adults pose and “act” out the scenes. Our kids greatly enjoyed it.
If you have favorite works of arts or favorite artists, you can search for those online.
If you want something less popular, or just to see what might fit your house, family, or creativity juices, you can definitely start by searching through The Getty Museum’s Collection of Art.
Please note though that there is a LOT of nudity in classic, renaissance, impressionism, cubism, modern, and contemporary art. You may or may not want your children around as you search for images you can recreate.
If you have books in your home with artworks in them, you can also search through those collections first to get names of artists or artworks.
If you want paintings with children and families that should be relatively easy to recreate, some popular artists may be:
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
- Mary Cassatt
- Norman Rockwell
- Anna Ancher
- Edward Hopper
- Edgar Degas (especially ballet/dancers)
- John Singer Sargent
- Edmund Adler
- Johannes Vermeer
Click the links above to go straight to their collection of works. I tried to pick artists that aren’t overly religious (as I think it can be somewhat sacrilegious to recreate paintings of Christ or Mary, for example, not because I’m not religious because I am) or sexual.
That’s not to say you can’t do any piece of art you choose, or that I don’t also love many classical artists who focus on religious art, or art that contains nudity or sexuality. I’m just trying to help you find family-friendly artwork to easily recreate within your own home.
You are welcome.
2. Find objects that can parry the items in the painting.
The way to get your Getty Challenge recreations to look really good and close to the original is to identify the various objects in the picture and see what you have around your house that could sub in for those items.
This is the fun and creative part!
Of course the items in your house will not be identical, and of course they will be slightly off in color and designs and patterns, but do your best. This is where your kids can help and locate different items.
I suggest printing off at least one copy of the artwork you are recreating (keeping it up on a large tablet can work too if you don’t have a printer) so that you can carry it around with you as you ransack clothes, drawers, and cupboards for just the right items.
Really go for it here though! It’s the small details that really make your final products shine!
3. Prep Your Models
If you are recreating a painting with people, you need to get them looking as close to the people in the painting as possible, and this goes beyond the clothes, though clothes are really important.
Be sure to pay attention to things like sleeve lengths, hem lengths, types of shoes, jewelry, hats, pins, scarves, and whatever other accessories they might be wearing and try to replicate them as much as possible.
Next will come the hair. If possible, curl, straighten, put up, or otherwise fix the hair of your models (yourself, spouse, and children) to resemble the hair of their counterparts in the photo.
If your model is bald or shorter-haired than the person they’re representing, then start getting creative. We used one of my daughter’s old black leotards to flop on top of my son’s head to give him “hair.” But, it worked!
Lastly, makeup! If needed, you may need to have some fun adding makeup to lips, cheeks, eyes, or faces (if adding facial hair, for example).
We kept it simple and added make-up afterward using a photo editing software (more on that later).
4. Location, Location, Location
Once you have all the props and your models are dressed and looking like the people they represent in the photos, you need to find the perfect location to shoot them in!
Use cues from the art to help you determine this, and definitely pay attention to light sources and windows.
If outside, try to go outside, or come up with a mock-way to represent the outside world while still inside (like a large landscape painting hanging inside your house).
Check the floor and surrounding items that may show up in your picture. You may need to move furniture around or out of the shot (I promise amazing after photos are worth the trouble ?) as well as picture frames or other things like rugs, and so on.
5. Lights and Camera
Okay, so we have some professional lighting and photography equipment in our home and at our disposal that we used to make these images. But, if you don’t, do your best with what you’ve got.
If you want to pick up some photography staples and invest in such things, here are a couple items you may want to get:
- Light Reflector (bounces light, or softens light, etc from objects)
- Dimmable Bi-Color Lights with Stands
- Tripod for DSLR
- Tripod for Phone (if you don’t have a big camera)
- Nikon D3500
If you don’t have a professional camera, your phone will work to take pictures. Use the highest quality resolution, and hold it steady, make sure there is good light, and so on.
If it has portrait mode, you may want to utilize that feature to help blur the background (as is common in photos for the main subject to be in more focus).
The lighting in paintings is often coming from a single direction, frequently resulting in harsh shadows on half of the face. You’ll want to reference the original here when trying to get the correct direction of the light and shadows on your models and objects, so set your lights up as best you can to recreate those shadows and lights.
If you don’t have professional lights, always start by using natural window light, then lamps, then smaller lights like flashlights, spotlights, and your phone lights, etc.
6. Staging and Posing
With the location set, lighting set up, it’s time to stage and pose the shot!
Let your kids help you put the objects in the background where they are supposed to be. We for one picture hauled in outdoor pots, and grabbed random sticks and plants to add to the background.
Once you have the objects in place as tightly and dimensionally (front/back, side-to-side relations) as possible to the real deal, then start working to pose your model.
Have your child study the person in the photograph. Pay attention to eyes, mouths, hands, leg positions, posture, positioning, and so on. Again, the little details really make a huge difference in how well they look like the original!
Keep referencing that original artwork, looking at the shot through the camera as you continue to stage and pose the shot.
Once you have it where you want it, start shooting!
Obviously, when working with young children, you’ll want to just keep shooting and re-posing frequently and hope and pray you get the shot. ?
That’s what we did with our little two-year-old who would not stay standing in a single spot or angle for long, and who also wanted to give big cheesy grins for the camera, instead of having a calm, closed mouth.
Miraculously, we did get one shot that totally worked!
8. Edit the Photos
This is optional, but I highly recommend you do at least some light editing! I don’t use Photoshop, as that intimidates me, and is expensive. I use an online program called PicMonkey that is cheaper and that I’ve been using for years.
While I mainly use it to do light editing and text overlays for images here on my blog, it has a lot of great features that will help you in editing your recreating art Getty challenge photos to make them more like the original work of art.
There are also lots of great Picmonkey tutorials on Youtube, if you get stuck and want to learn how to do something better or correctly.
You can also learn more about photography and editing from online courses available through places like Bluprint (who is currently offering all their creative learning classes for free, no CC required, through April 16!).
And of course there are loads of free apps and programs out there as well that you can use.
Whatever programs you use, here are things that we’ve typically done while editing (with a downloaded version of the image pulled up right next to our image to do side-by-side comparisons the whole time):
- Crop the image. Cut out background objects or foreground objects, and make the crop around the main people similar to the original work of art, and the dimensions of the original work of art.
- Adjust the lighting. Whether you use curves (if the whole image is dark) or adjust the exposure highlights/shadows/contrast, you’ll want to get the lightness or darkness closer to the painting’s overall brightness levels.
- Clone out objects. If you are not able to crop out things in the initial crop, you may want to play around with the Clone Tool. Keep in mind this is a more advanced editing tool for many people. We used this to extend walls, brighten up areas, and more. It’s a great tool!
- Add makeup. Many old paintings gave their young kids rosy cheeks and red lips. You can add these in now with tools in Picmonkey and other editing programs pretty easily. Just make sure to play around with colors, fading, less harsh edges, and so on. You don’t want to look like a clown when it’s done.
- Change hair color. Sometimes your model doesn’t have the same color hair as the original work of art (like our daughter who posed as Mona Lisa), so edit your model’s hair color! While we didn’t find a super-easy way to do this perfectly, we did use what tools we had to at least make them closer.
- Add a vignette. Frequently the background of images are darker than foreground images in a painting, so to make ours look similar, we add a slight vignette to darken the corners and edges of our photos.
- Adjust the color. Slightly more advanced, you’ll want to make sure your whites are white (use the white color picker), but then to adjust the tint and temperature of your photo. Some works of art have strong blue or green or red overtones to them. Try to get them to match. You may also want to adjust the saturation.
Once you have it where you want it, then save your photo! Then you’ll want to collage the original image (I prefer it on the left or top) with your new recreation (on the right or bottom).
Now you can share your awesome Getty Challenge Artwork Recreation piece with your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your own blog.
Hashtags to Use When Sharing Online:
Because it’s fun to share your creations with friends and strangers on the internet, you can use the following hashtags to help people find your creative art recreations!
#betweenartandquarantine #tussenkunstenquarantaine #museumathome #museumfromhome #arthistory #arthistorynerd #stayathomechallenge #stayhomechallenge #artathomechallenge #gettymuseumchallenge #gettymuseum #GettyChallenge #covidclassics
You should also tag @GettyMuseum and @tussenkunstenquarantaine.
Then you can also hashtag the artist’s last name and the title of the artwork (especially if choosing a very popular piece). So, that might be #Renoir and #agirlwithawateringcan.
I really hope seeing all eight of our Getty Challenge recreation art images give you some inspiration! Our kids had a blast, as did we, the parents doing this!
It certainly breaks up the monotony that is working, schooling, eating, TVing, sleeping all within the home, all day long, that we are dealing with during this COVID-19 epidemic and subsequent quarantine.
Have fun. Enjoy your kids and your family and enjoy some great art and photography!
P.S. If you have older kids, it can be great to have them try to figure out the photo editing programs for themselves too!
If you are looking for more family fun ideas to get through this coronavirus isolation, check out these posts: