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4th GradePicasso Portraitasymmetry & cubismConcept:To create an abstract portrait in black line on newspaper, then use oil pastels to fill in Cubist shapes in and around the portrait. Objective: Learn about the artist Pablo Picasso - his style of abstracting a face through asymmetry and Cubism.

  • Materials
    • 1 folded page newspaper 13x20 (preferably the classified section in black and white. Keep folded so paint won’t soak through)
    • 1 sheet newsprint (for sketching ideas)
    • black poster paint
    • med. paint brushes
    • water containers for rinsing brushes
    • oil pastels
    • tray for paint (paper plates)
  • Class Periods - 2
  • Pre-class Prep: provide folded newspaper pages
  • Set Up: day 1
    • Cover tables
    • set out pencils, practice paper
    • set aside brushes, paint, newspaper, water containers, pastels
  • Set Up: day 2
    • place students drawings on table
    • set out pastels
  • Make sure the students put their name and date on every project!

symmetry - in drawing, is a balanced arrangement of lines and shapes, on opposite sides of an often-imaginary centerline (the line of symmetry)

  • asymmetry - one side does not reflect the other side

cubism - art made up of cubes, spheres, cylinders, cones, and other geometric shapes.

The paintings looked like someone had cut them up and glued them back together.


Can you find the objects?

Carafe, Jug, and Fruit Bowl, Pablo PicassoViolin and Palette, Georges Braque


What shapes do you see?

What colors?

Do you see lines that go in different directions?

(hair, nose, chin, sleeves)



Discuss symmetry/asymmetryShow slides of Picasso’s work.Talk about his portraits of people and how abstract (weird, twisted, crazy), asymmetrical (one eye high, one eye low, etc), and cubist (show the picture of the Three Musicians) they are. cubism - art made up of cubes, spheres, cylinders, cones, and other geometric shapes. The paintings looked like someone had cut them up and glued them back together.Three Musicians - can you see the instruments? Have the kids point them out as well as other parts.Cubists wanted to show the most important parts of the things they painted. Look at this face - It shows you every detail of the face even though you would never be able to see all sides of his face at the same time. Cubists wanted to show all the sides of an object in the same picture.portraits of women - in these portraits, you can see both the profile and the straight on view at the same time.



  • Day 1:
  • 1.On a separate piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper, have students practice sketching their abstract face. If students are confused about drawing their own free form abstract face, they can create an abstract face by using simple overlapping shapes such as squares, triangles and circles.
  • 1. Draw a large oval shape. It should take up most of the paper.
  • 2. Draw curves down the middle of the oval to create a profile. There should be a forehead, nose, lips, and chin. We are creating a view of a profile and a full face.
  • Two points of view to be seen simultaneously.
  • **This was often a goal of cubism, creating viewpoint from different planes to be viewed all at the same time.
  • 3. Draw in eyes. Any shape they want because this is an abstract project.
  • To get a more realistic shape, start by making a "rainbow curve" on the top under it, to make a "happy face smile"
  • 4. Find the lips and draw a sideways "V" to define the edge of the mouth. Repeat on the other side. These should be SHAPES not just outline. The shapes will be filled in later with color.
  • 5. Add eyebrows, ears, hair, and a small "C", normally or backwards depending on which direction the profile nose points.
  • Using their practice sketch
  • have students paint the lines of their abstract portrait on the newspaper.
  • Remind them to draw big and bold and asymmetrical, but DO NOT fill in the shapes with black, just draw black OUTLINES of the face and if they want they can draw the body too.
  • Talk about the quality of the black line:
          • their lines will be more interesting if they vary their lines using thick and thin lines instead of all the same thickness
          • Use paint straight from the jar. It will dry faster.
          • Use the long shape of the newspaper to create wonderful lines and shapes.
          • Remind them they will get to fill them in with pastels later.

About PicassoPicasso lived in Spain, he spoke Spanish and his first words were “piz, piz” – a shortening of the Spanish word for pencil. Picasso’s father was also an artist. When Picasso was 13, his father found him painting over one of his sketches and realized the young Picasso would be a better painter than himself.He co-founded Cubism and produced a monumental 20,000 artworks during his 70-year career.

Day 2

1. Show students more of Picasso’s work (slide 11) and talk about colors he used and the boldness of his colors. Later in his life circus people, acrobats and comedic characters influenced the colors and mood of his paintings (oranges, pinks, yellows and other cheery colors). Talk about how color can create a mood. Ask what mood they get from these works.

2.Tell students they can pick three colors of pastels to use. Suggest at least one bright color if they chose neutrals. Show them how you use pastels on their sides and rub, sometimes using your finger to smear colors. If they want to use more than three colors, have them share with their neighbor. Using different colors, have students fill in large areas (or shapes of color) throughout. It is okay to let the newsprint show through or even be pure newsprint in some areas, let them decide. There is no right or wrong way to do this…Have fun!

If students finish early they can draw more Picasso like faces.

  • symmetry - in drawing is a balanced arrangement of lines and shapes, on opposite sides of an often-imaginary centerline.
  • asymmetry - the opposite of symmetry, when one side does not reflect the other side
  • Shape - the outward outline of a form. Basic geometric shapes include circles, squares and triangles.
  • abstract - not realistic but expressive, imaginative or creative way to show the essence of something
  • cubism - subject matter is broken up, studied and reassembled in an abstracted, geometric form