Grades: 3, 4, 5
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, Mathematics, Visual & Performing Arts
Class time required: 2 X 50 minute sessions
Author: Museum of Photographic Arts
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In this two-session lesson, students will observe and experiment with color theory. The students will also compare realistic and abstract portraits. Finally, using geometric shapes the students will draw an abstract self-portrait and write a descriptive poem using similes and metaphors.
- Chalk pastels
- Baby wipes
- Drawing paper
- Hairspray (like Aquanet)
- Experiment with the chalk pastels so that you are familiar with their properties and texture. Practice blending colors with your fingers.
- Print the images listed above onto overhead transparencies.
- Chalk pastels are easily cleaned up with baby wipes
- If sketchbooks are not available, students can make their own. Assemble 20-30 pieces of plain white paper together (preferably white construction paper) using staples, yarn, or other binding materials.
Session One: Color theory
1. Hand out sketchbooks, chalk pastels, rulers, and pencils to students.
2. Begin a discussion with the students about color: What would your world be like if you could only see in black and white? Why is it important to see in color? If you only had red, blue, and yellow crayons, is there any way that you could make other colors, like green and orange?
3. Ask the students to draw a 6-pointed star in their
sketchbooks, using a pencil and a ruler. This can be made easily by overlapping two triangles - one upside down and one right side up - allowing each point of the triangles to extend out creating 6 small triangles bordering a hexagon. This star will be used as a color-wheel. Demonstrate for the students how to use the chalk pastels and how they are perfect for blending colors. Have the students blend a few pastels on a blank piece of sketchbook paper for practice. Then, guide the students in completing their color wheel: the point at 12 o'clock is yellow; the point at 4 o'clock is blue; and the point at 8 o'clock is red. Have the students fill in the entire point of the star. Explain that these colors are the primary colors.
4. Then, have the students predict which colors will be created when the points are combined (i.e. when yellow and blue are combined, when blue and red are combined, and when red and yellow are combined.) Have the students fill in the remaining points of the color wheel to test their predictions. Explain that these colors are secondary colors; colors that are created by mixing the primary colors.
5. Have the students clean their hands with baby wipes and put away the pastels. Continue the discussion with them about color and emotion: How does color affect your mood? What do you think of when you see the color red? How does that color make you feel? What do you think of when you see the color blue? How does that color make you feel?
6. Have the students offer ideas for similes and metaphors that relate colors to themselves and/or their emotions (i.e., My eyes are blue like the crashing waves of the ocean; when I'm angry, I see red like lava flowing from an exploding volcano.)
7. Instruct the students to write a poem about themselves using these similes and metaphors as examples.
8. As a debriefing activity, ask some of the students to share their poems.
Session Two: Abstract Portrait
1. Ask students to share what they remember about the color wheel and the emotions associated with different colors.
2. Show the students the transparency images. Use the following questions to guide the discussion about the images.
• Does this portrait look real (like a photograph) or like something that has been changed from real life? (If the image is of an abstract portrait, now is a good time to go over the definition)
• What makes this portrait abstract?
• What materials were used to create this portrait?
• Do you prefer realistic or abstract portraits?
• What mood do you feel when you look at this portrait?
3. Explain to the students that they are going to
create abstract self-portraits. Ask the students to share, aloud, which shapes they could change their facial features into, both 2-D and 3-D (for example, the nose can be changed into a triangle or a long cylinder.) Have the students brainstorm multiple ideas for each facial feature. Explain that in a particular type of abstract artwork, called cubism, the facial features were not only turned into shapes, but they were also moved from their normal positions. (For example, the nose could be where the ears are normally found.) Discuss why artists might want to transform a face in this way. (For example, to show emotion, show different views at the same time, or create a more pleasing design.)
4. Hand out sketchbooks and pencils. Have the students sketch ideas for their abstract self-portraits. Students should label 2-D and 3-D geometric shapes.
5. Once the students have finished their sketches, hand out drawing paper, rulers, and chalk pastels. Using the drawing paper, have the students draw the abstract portrait and then color in each space with the chalk pastels.
6. Spray the final drawing with hairspray to prevent smearing.
7. Use the following questions to debrief with the students: How was your portrait similar to the abstract portraits you saw on the overhead? How was your portrait different? How did you decide which shapes to use for your facial features? What is your favorite part of your portrait?
Mathematics: Fifth grade students can use rulers, compasses, and protractors to draw and measure the angles of geometrical figures in their abstract portraits.
CA Content Standards
Third Grade Visual Arts:
1.4 Compare and contrast two works of art made by the use of different art tools and media (e.g., watercolor, tempera, and computer).
1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, space, and value.
2.1 Explore ideas for art in a personal sketchbook.
3.3 Distinguish and describe representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational works of art.
4.1 Compare and contrast selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate vocabulary of art.
4.3 Select an artist's work and, using appropriate vocabulary of art, explain its successful compositional and communicative qualities.
5.2 Write a poem or story inspired by their own works of art.
Fourth Grade Visual Arts:
1.3 Identify pairs of complementary colors (yellow/violet; red/green; orange/blue) and discuss how artists use them to communicate an idea or mood.
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (color, shape/form, line, texture, space and value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.
2.8 Use complementary colors in an original composition to show contrast and emphasis.
4.5 Describe how the individual experiences of an artist may influence the development of specific works of art.
Fifth Grade Visual Arts:
1.2 Identify and describe characteristics of representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational works of art.
1.3 Use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and in the environment.
2.4 Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects.
Third Grade English-Language Arts:
2.2 Write descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.
Fourth Grade English-Language Arts:
2.1 Write narratives.
Third Grade Mathematics:
2.5 Identify, describe, and classify common three-dimensional geometric objects (e.g., cube, rectangular solid, sphere, prism, pyramid, cone, and cylinder).
Fourth Grade Mathematics:
3.7 Know the definitions of different triangles (e.g., equilateral, isosceles, scalene) and identify their attributes.
3.8 Know the definition of different quadrilaterals (e.g., rhombus, square, rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid).
Fifth Grade Mathematics:
2.1 Measure, identify, and draw angles, perpendicular and parallel lines, rectangles, and triangles by using appropriate tools (e.g., straightedge, ruler, compass, protractor, drawing software).
Hodge, Susie. How to Draw Portraits: A Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners With 10 Projects. London: New Holland, 2000.
ArtLex Art Dictionary: for Artists, Collectors, Students and Educators
Definitions for 3600 terms used in discussing art and visual culture with thousands of notes, cross references, pronunciations and quotations. Valuable and easy to use.
Bell, Julian. Five Hundred Self-Portraits. London: Phaidon Press, 2000
A Brush with History: Paintings from the National Portrait Gallery
An online exhibition of portraits that explore the lives of people in America’s past. Includes a Teacher’s Guide.
Retratos: 2,000 years of Latin American Portraiture
Traveling Exhibition Web site that shares the history of Latin American portraiture. Includes a teacher’s guide with transparencies.
Island of Freedom
Abstract self-portraits of Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and many other famous artists.
Van Gogh Museum
Permanent Collection has many images of Van Gogh self-portraits, as well as brief descriptions of each.
Kistler, Mark. Draw Squad. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Roalf, Peggy. Self-Portraits. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1993.
Rohmer, Harriet (Ed.). Just like Me: Stories and Self-Portraits by Fourteen Artists. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press, 1997.
Carmine’s Introduction to Portraits
Easy introduction to portraits: includes images.
A Family Portrait
Introduces famous artists who painted their families. Includes instructions for painting your own family portrait.
Rosellini, Eleanor, F. The Puzzle in the Portrait. Zionsville, IN: Guild Press, 1999.
A mystery involving a precocious little girl, an active boy, a grumpy grandfather and a family history involving three generations.