Fine Art “Toy Box” Photos


Raid the Toy Box for some fine art tributes

Originally ran on Geekmom on March 23, 2015.

One of my weird bucket list items has always been to capture on film the beautiful balance of my favorite M.C. Escher illustration, Three Worlds.

The illustration is one of Escher’s gentler pictures, depicting “worlds” below, on the surface of, and above the water of Woodland Lake. I had been constantly scoping out the perfect setting, time of day, and year to capture this scene, but it has just never fallen together exactly right. I eventually decided to take matters in my own hands—and camera—and create my own, with the help of whatever household items I had available.

This was the result:


“My Three Worlds,” based on M.C. Escher’s Three Worlds.

Here is what it actually was:

bucketThis is the inspiration of the next spring break-long project of creating a “toy box” photo exhibit based on famous paintings.

The idea and process is quite simple. Find a painting or illustration that catches your fancy, and recreate it using toys and found objects around the house. Use action figures, dolls, and stuffed animals for portraits, scarves and blankets for background and costumes, and any other item you find that captures the work in your own unique way.

Part of the fun for kids, besides that unavoidable urge to play with cameras, is being able to look over some classic pieces of art and see what moves them. This is a chance to bust out any old art history text books, sit down with a pile of catalogs and magazines, or search the web for some great museum or art print sites. A few of our favorites to peruse are‘s poster and print site, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Tate galleries in London, the Smithsonian Institution’s site, The Guggenheim museums, the Lourvre in Paris, and the all-purpose print and poster site

Another added bonus is getting kids to help clean up their rooms and closets looking for the right figure or prop for their masterpiece.


“The Groot With the Pearl Earring,” based on The Girl With A Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.


“Marooning Jack,” based on Marooned by Howard Pyle.


“Monsters,” based on Raphael’s Cherubs.

These don’t have to be exact copies, but should be able to be recognizable as at least a tribute or parody of the painting. It’s okay to play around with easy photo editing and filters to add any finishing touches. Snapseed and Pixlr are both free and easy to use.

Work on these throughout the week, and gather your favorite results for a family art unveiling. This is something everyone in the family can work on together for fun or they can work individually for their own “secret” project. Once the week is up, hold a Saturday or Sunday afternoon art show for family and friends or have a guessing game to see who is best able to name all the works.

One side effect is kids might be pretty proud of these and want to display them year-round, so either clear out some wall space and stock up on printer ink and photo paper, or print them small enough to handle.

Don’t be surprised if you see your kids spontaneously working on these throughout the year. It might be a good time to invest in a fun little point-and-shoot camera as a gift… or hand over your own, as this has the ability to fire up an interest in art history, photography, or set and prop design—or all three.

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