I immediately told 3rd graders that this project was all about UNLEASHING their craziest selves! 3rd grade is an awesome age group for this cubist self-portrait project because they aren’t afraid to embrace the strange and unusual. We started off by discussing one of my favorite Picasso quotes (below.)
Students seemed to understand that this particular project would be all about what is inside. What colors and patterns make up who we are? Our goal was to bring the inside to the surface and depict our personalities through our portraits.
After learning all about Picasso’s childhood and cubist style, 3rd graders sketched out a basic oval-shape for their heads on paper. We drew necks and shoulders, filling our pages the best we could. Next, we drew a winding line down the middle of our faces, connecting our foreheads to our chins.
Once these were outlined and complete, 3rd graders started tearing out strips of newspaper. They applied glue to 1/2 of their drawn faces and began attaching the bits of newspaper.
When students successfully finished covering half of their faces with newspaper bits, I demonstrated some color mixing techniques. I reminded students how to make shades (by mixing in a touch of black) and highlights/pastels (by mixing in a touch of white.) They know this by now, but I have found that reminding them each time before painting always helps. I distributed a plate of black+white+primary colors to each table and instructed students to paint the uncovered half of their faces. As always, I encouraged them to blend and create their own unique colors!
After we had our fill of cardboard destruction, students painted their backgrounds. Again, they mixed tints, tones, and shades to create their own colors. The ridged texture showed through under the paint, which looked pretty cool!
When all the paint was dry, students used oil pastels to draw Picasso-like facial features onto their self portraits. We referenced Picasso’s various portraits and took note of eyes blinking in different directions, curved noses, and crazy mouths.
Students began drawing on their own faces and hair, using Picasso’s cubist portraits as inspiration. I told them the stranger, the better. No one is supposed to look “pretty!”
I think Picasso would be proud!