Abstract Expressionist Art with Joan Mitchell

 Artwork Exploration
Yellow squiggles with green and multi-color squiggles at the top and bottom..

Examine Joan Mitchell’s “Sides of a River II,” an artwork from the Museum's Collection. Then, follow along with the prompts below to explore, learn more, and create an artwork of your own! 


  • What colors did the artist use? 
  • How are colorful lines used to create forms?
  • What indications of a river do you see? 


  • The artist who made this piece, Joan Mitchell, was a leading Abstract Expressionist painter/printmaker who worked in an inventive gestural style.
  • This artwork is part of the Bedford series which are reflective of her external environment, and non-representational.
  • Joan Mitchell once said: “Music, poems, landscape, and dogs make me want to paint... And painting is what allows me to survive.”


  • Why do you think the artist chose to represent her surroundings with abstract lines? 
  • What do you think influenced the artist that impacted her work?
  • What do you see that makes you think of a river? 


  • Make your own artwork! You'll need plain heavy paper (watercolor paper or white cardstock would be best), and crayons or oil pastels in varied colors. 
  • You may want to use hand wipes or paper towels to clean up your area and hands. 
  • Use the crayons or oil pastels to draw gestural lines on the paper. Think about a landscape and the natural environment you are trying to convey. 
  • Choose a title for your artwork and share it with a friend or family member. 

Image Credits

Joan Mitchell
b. 1925 Chicago, IL; d. 1992 Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Sides of a River II ( from the Bedford series), 1981
Color lithograph on white Arches 88 paper
42 1/2 x 32 1/2 in
Acquired in 1993
Gift of June Bakalar
© Joan Mitchell Foundation