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


Observational Drawing

Today was another exciting day in Art Foundations. The students and I discussed observational drawing and then made impressions of natural objects with plaster gauze. Let me tell you how the class went.

QuietSeasonDetail_PRogersFirst, I introduced the students to the artist Pam Rogers from Bethesda with a studio at the Arlington Arts Center. Pam works with plants and other natural objects to create exquisite drawings; some true to life, and others more imaginative. She also creates wonderful plant sculptures, which I would suggest checking out. I chose to use Pam when discussing observational drawing because of her eye for detail. In this sample, you can see how she used various lines, texture, and color to describe the objects effectively.








After looking at slides of her work, we took a walk in the “woods” next to the art building. It was important to me that the students pick out their own objects to draw in an effort to add ownership to their final projects. Once we were back at our tables, each student set up a mini still life with their objects and set to work in their Visual Journals. I have been impressed each week with the students dedication to their drawing practice. They worked diligently as I talked about the different line quality that effects observational works. Now the fun really started when I pulled out the plaster gauze.












Most of the students had not used this material before so I did a short demo of how the material works. Basically, it is just like it sounds gauze dipped in dry plaster. To activate the material you dip it in warm water and layer it on top of the objects and let it dry. The students used their still life as a jumping off point to choose how they wanted to lay out their materials for the plaster impressions. They did a great job working with the plaster and the impressions will surely turn out wonderfully. Now we just have to wait until next week for them to be dry. Then we will paint and mount them.

I look forward to seeing everyone again next week.



Welcome parents and visitors to the Art Foundations blog for the Potomac Arts Academy. I am Leanna Gefrich, the teacher for the class and I am very excited to share with you what the students will be learning about during the semester. Last week I introduced the concept of Visual Journals. We talked about how they are different from sketch books and how to use them in our every day lives. I wanted the students to have an “attachment” to their journals, so instead of handing them a book to decorate, we took three strips of heavy watercolor paper, and folded our own. I demonstrated how the students could use the accordion folding method to create their books, while also suggesting they explore other methods in creating their journals. Since they had three sheets of paper, some students glued them together for one long book, while others chose to have three smaller books. Whichever format they chose, the students made truly individual Visual Journals and I am hopeful that they will continue drawing in them beyond our classes this semester.  Next class, we will be learning about a contemporary artist named Pam Rogers and discussing observational drawing. Come back soon to learn more…