Cubism, Pablo Picasso, and Soft Sculpture

This week we discussed the work of Pablo Picasso. He is best known for his contributions to the Cubist movement where he investigated how two dimensional drawings could represent three dimensional objects. In his case he was not attempting to fool the eye into believing that his drawings/paintings had depth, but rather how a three dimensional object would look if flattened. For our purposes we focused on portraiture.

seated-woman the-weeping-womansylvette

For this project I made an example which I don’t often do; however I wanted the students to see the final product so they would understand all of the steps we would take in order to make our soft sculptures. We talked about how the faces were different than we were used to seeing in traditional portraiture. Picasso would choose to show both a profile and frontal view of the women in his paintings while also using unnatural colors. The last image of Picasso’s work we looked at was a work of sculpture as we were going to be working in 3D. It was interesting to compare how he took the Cubist concepts and applied them to a 3D sculpture. As you can see from the picture he is still using many of the same shapes to represent the figure.


It took some explaining with a little trial and error, but once the students started seeing the results of their work, they began to get excited about how the sculptures are going to look. Yesterday’s class focused on the design of the head shape, face, and back. We started with two pieces of foam to use as a base for our drawings. After drawing the front and back of our portrait, we laid a piece of muslin over each side and traced them; first with pencil then with Sharpie. Once the outlines were in place, the students used the foam as a printing plate to lay color onto the fabric. This single color printing technique is called a monoprint.


DSC_0006Thanks to Miss Christine for modeling the printing method for the students.

Next week the pieces will be sewn together and the students can further embellish their sculptures with ribbon, beads, and yarn.

Have a great week. Leanna


Abstract Expressionism with Jackson Pollock

After working with Impasto last week and experiencing the properties of thicker paint, today we looked at the artist Jackson Pollock and discussed his painting technique; which varied greatly from that of van Gogh. Pollock is best known for his action paintings and just like it sounds there is a great deal of movement and action as he would paint on his large canvases. We first looked at his painting Full Fathom Five:


While looking at this painting we talked about how he would make the marks on the page by flinging, splattering, and dripping paint onto the canvas; much different than the more controlled method of Impasto painting. However, I didn’t want the students to get a sense that the marks were purely accidental or that there wasn’t meaning behind these abstract works. So we watched a video of the artist where he described his process in his own words, which is better than I could ever do.

Then we went outside and started our painting. The students worked on canvas sheets in order to have a hearty surface to work on. Unlike Pollock who used ordinary house paint, I watered down acrylic so that it could be placed in spray bottles and squirt bottles for the students to use in their works. This would give them the feeling of drip painting with a little less of the mess.


Each student had their own unique way of working. Some were more purposeful in their addition and subtraction of paint, while others were more carefree and just enjoyed the experience of painting this way. Whatever their intent, the works turned out fantastic.


After they were done working, we did a gallery walk. All of the works were laid on the table and we talked about how they enjoyed the experience and to describe the emotions they were trying to express. I really enjoyed allowing the students to get messy with their creativity and introduce them to an artist that had a unique way of leaving his mark on the world.

If this is something you all would like to do at home, here are some links cleaner versions of action painting: Marble Painting and String Painting

Next week we will learn about Cubism and Pablo Picasso, but instead of painting we will be making a soft sculpture. Stay tuned.



Impasto Painting with Vincent van Gogh

Yesterday morning we learned about the unique mark making techniques of Vincent van Gogh. van Gogh was considered a Post-Impressionist, and to start our discussion I decided to talk a little bit about Impressionism by looking at a work by Claude Monet.

We talked about how many of the Impressionist painters like Monet would paint en plein air – simply meaning outside – during various types of day in order to capture the light in different ways. I was excited to share with them the Google Art Project where we got to zoom in really close to this painting and see exactly what kinds of marks Monet was making on the canvas. It was a lively discussion about how Monet used many different colors to capture the time of day in his work.

Next we looked at van Gogh’s Starry Night. The Post-Impressionist painters wanted to push the ideas of the Impressionists farther by capturing emotion in their paintings rather than just impressions of natural beauty.

vanGoghStarryNightBeing a very recognizable painting, the students were familiar with this work and had a lot to say. We discussed how van Gogh used lines to create movement in the sky. Again, using the Google Art Project we were able to zoom in and look at van Gogh’s marks. This lead us to our project for the day; Impasto Painting.

Impasto is a technique in which you use thicker paint and a palette knife to apply it to the canvas. In this case we simply took acrylic  paint and added corn starch until it was the “right” consistency. I use the term “right” loosely as it comes down to personal preference. We also talked about how you could mix the paint to create new colors directly on the canvas, and how to create texture with the palette knife. The students enjoyed learning this new style of painting.

DSC_0002DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0005 DSC_0006DSC_0007

Next week we will be getting messy with paint again as we explore  Abstract Expressionism; focusing on Jackson Pollock. We will spray, pour, drip, and splatter our way to a unique composition. I will try to gather some smocks, but come prepared for a messy experience.

See everyone next week.