Picasso-inspired self-portraits

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4th and 5th grade students at P.S.132 analyzed portraits by Picasso with emphasis on the use of line, shape, and asymmetry.

Teaching Artists lead a discussion of Picasso’s Portrait of Jacqueline and Portrait of Jacueline ll using the technique of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), an arts-based curriculum developed by Philip Yenawine.

VTS provides a way to jumpstart a process of learning to think deeply, applicable in most subjects from poetry to math, science and social studies. Art is the essential first discussion topic because it enables students to use existing visual and cognitive skills to develop confidence and experience, learning to use what they already know to figure out what they don’t; they are then prepared to explore other complex subject matter alone and with peers.

Teaching Artists ask a serious of questions while students examined Picasso’s paintings:

  •  What do you notice?
  • What stands out when you look at the artwork?
  • What parts of the face do you notice?
  • Are these portraits symmetrical or asymmetrical?
  • How does the artist use lines?
  • How does the artist use shapes?

Students then practiced creating a Picasso “portrait line” using their finger in the air to trace a jagged line. They sketched their self-portraits on paper. They were instructed to draw a large U for a face and add hair with a few lines. They drew a long bent line for the forehead, a slide for the nose, two bumps for the lips and a long line for the chin. Then, they added eyes, ears and shoulders. Finally, they colored their portraits pencils and markers.

In May, 2013, the students exhibited their work in the Washington Heights offices of New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. The students were thrilled to take a field trip a few short blocks from P.S. 132 to view their exhibition.

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