Art @ Home: Red Lion

Make a New Friend: Red Lion

When you make friends with a work of art at the museum, you begin a friendship that will grow and grow, just like when you make friends with a person. And, you’ll discover that whenever you spend time with your friend, you’ll learn new things about what you see and how you feel about it.

Right now, the Museum is closed, but we can still make friends with works of art there. Today, we’re going to be inspired by Bernard Langlais. When you go to search the collection on the museum’s website and type in Bernard Langlais Lion, you’ll see 25 works of art—drawings, paintings, and wood sculptures—that feature lions. It’s hard to choose, but I think my favorite is Red Lion (2013.177). 

Bernard Langlais, Red Lion, 1977. Painted wood, 20 1/4 x 41 1/2 in. (51.44 x 105.41 cm). The Lunder Collection. Accession Number: 2013.179

A couple of things to know about this work of art and the artist:

  • Bernard Langlais (1921–1977) was born in Old Town, Maine. He began his artistic career as a painter, but discovered that he really loved working with wood. 
  • He used his property in Cushing, Maine, as a place to create many of his large-scale wooden sculptures, populating the fields around his house with circus elephants and acrobatic dogs, dancing bears, grazing cattle, horses, and many creatures most often found in the Amazon jungle and African savannah.
  • Langlais made many works of art featuring lions. In wood relief sculptures like Red Lion, he was able to carve interesting textures to showcase their whiskers, manes, tails, and fur.
  • There is a terrific Langlais Art Trail website, that has a map to show where you can find works of art by Bernard Langlais, both indoor and outdoor locations in Maine.

Artistic Inspirations

Let’s get inspired by Bernard Langlais and create our own lion relief sculpture from cardboard. A relief sculpture is a work of art that has a raised surface. Some relief sculptures are created when an artist carves away parts of stone or wood; that’s called a subtractive process. We’re going to create an additive sculpture, adding pieces of cardboard to a base to create a raised surface. I just moved to a new house, so I have a lot of cardboard right now! A word of caution for young artists—cardboard can be challenging to cut with scissors so it may work best to do this project with the help of an adult.

You’ll want to grab cardboard, scissors, white glue, and drawing materials like pencils and crayons. If you have them, you also could use markers or even paint.

Create a base with a rectangle or square piece of cardboard and then out of another piece of cardboard, cut out your lion head shape and glue it on top. I cut out different parts of the face from cardboard—eyes, nose, and even eyebrows like Bernard Langlais had on his work of art. I used crayon to draw the features of the face—I love how crayon looks on corrugated cardboard because you can see the texture when you color it. Then, I began working on the mane—the furry part around a lion’s head. One of the things I really like about the Red Lion sculpture is the pattern that the artist created for the mane, the repeating square shapes all around the head. So, I cut small pieces of cardboard and glued them all around the head, adding designs with markers to each piece before gluing them down.

This is just one idea, but there are lots of ways that you could create lion-inspired works of art. That’s what artists do—let their imaginations take them to amazing places. Bernard Langlais once spoke of this creative process, “The thing about artists, they do what’s comfortable for them, and then people say, ‘Well, gee, look there, he’s out of the ordinary—he must be an artist.’ One comes first, the other second. But few artists do anything for public reaction. They just are who they are.”

Have fun being creative—we can’t wait to see how this artist inspires you! Have a parent tag @ColbyMuseum on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #ArtAtHome, and we might share your creation with our followers.

Inspiration by Kristin Bergquist, Mirken Curator of Education and Engagement