Inspired by Artists II: Pablo Picasso

For one month, I'm leading an art series for children, wherein they can learn, experiment and create art pieces just as the masters did. If you'd like to check out the rest of the series, see the links below:

This week, we covered Picasso. Though admittedly not my favourite artist (and probably not in my top 5, either), his style is something unusual to see, and his work within Cubism can translate well to children's art. And thankfully, I was right, as this was the week that filled up the fastest with registrants. In fact, it was so popular that we opened it up to the waiting list to fit even more kids in. The main idea of this week's program was to get the children to work with shapes and learn that body parts - especially faces - are made up of different shapes depending on how we look. As a secondary objective, I wanted the participants to learn about the term "portrait" or "self portrait" and see it as a common theme for artists through time and place.

An example I made to demonstrate making portraits in the style of Picasso using geometric shapes.

Supplies Needed

  • Bristol board, cut in half - each participant received one half
  • Construction paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors

Books on Display

I like to put several different books on display for the kids to look through - or for me to reference during the activity. I've found this is a good plan for those that finish the activity early, or if I want to point out a particular artwork by the artist. For this week, I wanted to focus on a combination of fiction and non-fiction and expand on the theme by putting some books on display that had to do with general artist portraiture. Here's some of what I ended up with:

Anholt, Laurence. Picasso and the girl with a ponytail.
Niepold, Mike. Oooh! Picasso.
Piven, Hanoch. My best friend is as sharp as a pencil.
Strand, Claudia. Look at me: the art of the portrait.

The Plan

Intro/Arrival - Just as with the previous week, I handed out some colouring pages for the kids to work on since everyone kind of arrived at different times.

Book - My best friend is as sharp as a pencil / Hanoch Piven
Selecting a book for this week ended up being more difficult than I anticipated. All the fictional picture books we had specifically about Picasso were overlong and more appropriate for older children, and I had a wide variety (5-9 year olds) in my group. So, I ended up going with Piven's book as it focused on the idea of portraiture using funny and usual things. The kids loved it! For each page they liked to see what objects would make up the different aspects of the character.

We talked about what a portrait can be - I related it to picture day at school and everyone immediately understood. I showed some examples of Picasso's work, including Dora Maar in an Armchair and Woman in an Armchair.

Activity - I supplied only a few pre-cut shapes (I learned in doing my Matisse program that kids will cut what they want, no matter how young they are), and basically let the kids go at it. I encouraged everyone to think about what kind of shapes facial features could be - for example, I noted that a nose could be small and circular, or long and triangular.

A second example of creating portraiture in the style of Picasso.

How Did It Go?

It was awesome! This kind of activity (what's essentially cutting and pasting) is really great for large groups of children as, for the most part, they are self-sufficient. Some of the younger ones needed some help in cutting some shapes, but that was to be expected, I think. So many of the kids got creative with this project - by the end we had portraits of family members, Minecraft characters, a walrus, and a family pet dog. I would definitely do this project again in an instant, it was such a success!

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