Cubist Self Portraits

Term: 4 Year: 2012

After visiting the Picasso: masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris,exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney in March I came back inspired to share this experience with my Year 5 and 6 students.

Through their classroom Unit of Inquiry the students were given the brief of creating a painted Cubist self portrait based on a photograph of themselves and their acquired knowledge of Picasso’s personal exploration and development of his Cubist style.

The unit named ‘Quest’ is an inquiry into:
‘Where we are in time and place’
The Central Idea for the unit is: ‘Exploration is a natural human endeavour’ within which the students are required to select a person in history who has contributed significantly through their personal exploration and endeavour.

Using Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ as our entry point the students were able to respond to this work from the subjective, emotional, analytical and historic perspectives through discussion and writing.
The students then proceeded to search Cubist portraits by Picasso, analysing and sketching their compositional elements. These ‘discoveries’ were then incorporated in a composite drawing of an imaginary portrait illustrating the ‘elements and principles’ of Picasso’s Cubist portraits i.e. multiple view points.

As a result of this process the students were able to discuss and answer the questions: What is exploration? (Through the eyes and artistic practice of Pablo Picasso) What are the characteristics of humans that encourage artistic exploration? How has artistic exploration changed over time?
The students enlarged and printed a photograph of them which was cut out and traced to provide a characteristic silhouette of the drawer. Endowed with their knowledge of Cubist elements and principles the students proceeded to redraw and distort the features of their faces to incorporate this innovative way of representing what they could see and feel.
Black marker was employed to outline the drawn features ensuring a variety of lines were employed to accentuate character and mood.
As the marker had penetrated to the reverse side of the cartridge paper, the students were able to explore colour combinations and relationships within the portrait by drawing with colour pencil, leaving a sketched version on the reverse of each of the paintings.

Prior to painting their portraits, the students explored colour mixing, brush and masking techniques using acrylic paint.
Throughout the unit, the students worked at an easel, taking regular photographs with their IPads in order to document their personal discoveries and the evolution of their portraits.
On completion of their portraits the students wrote a reflection and selected a number of photographs which highlighted the development of their compositions. This was presented in PowerPoint.

Throughout the process of making the portraits, the students enjoyed the artistic practice of painting at their easels, immersing themselves in the challenges and pleasure of personal discovery and creativity.

Geraldine Pollock
Visual Art Coordinator
Cornish College
Suitable for Level 4