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The Magic of Expression: How Is an Artist Like a Magician? (Grades 3–5)
“Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange, hostile world and us.” —Pablo Picasso
Students will study and analyze five works by Pablo Picasso to understand how he used perspective, deconstruction, and construction to transform objects. Students will gain an appreciation for the effort and processes involved in creating works of art, and will understand that just as magicians inspire wonder about something that could not possibly have happened, artists can amaze us by showing us things that do happen, but we may have never noticed.
Part 1: The Magic of Picasso | Part 2: Picasso’s Works of Art and Perspective | Extension Activity | Standards
Students will explore the meanings and ideas of perspective, deconstruction, construction, and transformation as they study, sketch, and write about an object from different perspectives.
Students will practice using perspective in the visual sense and perspective as a personal, creative point of view.
- Appendix A: Picasso and Magic (create large printout or copy to transparency and project to the class)
- Appendix B: How Is an Artist Like a Magician?
- transform, transformation
- still life
- construct, deconstruct
1. Explain to the class that they will be viewing the Picasso exhibition soon and that many people, including the artist himself, thought he was like a magician. Picasso also said, “Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange, hostile world and us.” Explain the quote to them; use Appendix A: Picasso and Magic to create a large printout or transparency of the quote.
2. Using a transparency of Appendix B: How Is an Artist Like a Magician?, have the class discuss and answer the list of questions for both an artist and a magician, uncovering the similarities and differences between the two roles. List responses in the appropriate sections on the Venn diagram. Discuss how being an artist and a magician both take a lot of work and practice and explain that they’ll see evidence of that in Picasso’s work in the gallery.
3. Explain how, similar to a magician, Picasso used different perspectives in his work and was a master of taking things apart (deconstruction) and putting things together (construction) with a twist. Explain how magicians can inspire wonder about something that could not possibly have happened, whereas artists can amaze us by showing us things that do happen, but that we may have never noticed.
- box of 3D objects (room mascot, stapler, scissors, class textbook—whatever interests students)
- images of five Picasso works (curriculum postcards or web-based slideshow)
- Appendix C: Sketching and Describing What We See (one full set for each student)
- pencils for writing and crayons, markers, pastels or colored pencils for drawing
- geometry shape chart with labels
Vocabulary: (retain vocabulary from part 1 for reference)
- geometric shapes (circle, oval, rectangle, etc.)
1. Looking at Picasso's Work
Show class Picasso’s works (curriculum postcards or web-based slideshow). Have posted and discuss the following quotes from the artist as you view his work:
- “What is a face, really? Its own photo? Its makeup? . . . That which is in front? Inside? Behind?”
- “Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?”
- “Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?”
a. Explain that perspective can be more than one thing. It can derive from where the viewer literally stands (quote 1, for example: he drew Paul from the front) or from the artist’s interior point of view (quote 2, for example: he drew Paul from the perspective of a father).
b. Explain still life, portrait, and studio before or while you go through his five works.
c. Encourage descriptive language as you go through the slides and ask the following questions:
- What do you think this picture represents?What do you notice about the lines, shapes, and colors?
- Do you see whole objects?
- Do you think the image is realistic? If not, what makes it seem unrealistic to you?
- From what perspective(s) was Picasso looking at the object (front, top, side, as a father, as an artist, etc.)?
- Which works seem to use more than one perspective, and what perspective(s) did he use?
When working with these ideas encourage students to make connections with the artist's own words by keeping the quotes posted in the classroom
2. Perspective Demonstration/Activity
Show students Large Still Life with a Pedestal Table and Still Life with Guitar and Bottle of Bass as two examples of the still life and Picasso’s use of different perspectives, deconstruction, construction, and transformation. (See definitions to help explain meaning.) Discuss why Picasso might choose to use certain objects in his art. Use a toy or object with different shapes—car, stapler, doll, mug, unfamiliar 3D object—to show how you can view an object from different angles to get different perspectives. Demonstrate on the board how to draw an object from different perspectives by carefully looking for shapes.
a. Group students into groups of four to five and have them choose an object from the box of collected items that represents their life as a third- to fifth-grader. Have each group place the chosen object in the middle of the table as a still life. Note: still lifes can include one object or more, depending on time and skill.
For writing and discussion purposes, have the group determine what is the object’s front, side, top, and back. If an object does not have an obvious front and back, discuss how you make this determination. Ask students if they all have the same perspective of their still lifes. Ask students to share what geometric shapes they see in their still lifes.
b. Give each student Appendix C: Sketching and Describing What We See.
Ask them to each look at their respective still life on the table and visually deconstruct it by sketching it from their perspective using geometric and curvilinear shapes. Demonstrate this skill using an object. Encourage them to work as Picasso did, deconstructing and sketching. They will have two minutes to produce a sketch from one perspective.
c. Students will rotate every two minutes to a different side of the table, drawing from a different perspective each time.
d. After students do three to four sketches from different visual perspectives, have them think and draw what the inside of the object might look like. Refer to the “what’s inside” quote. Encourage creative, imaginary ideas with this step. This can tie into a later lesson on similes.
e. Students write sentence frames to describe their sketches. Encourage creative, imaginary ideas, particularly with sentence frames four and five. This can also tie into a later lesson on similes.
When students are done, have them share a drawing and the written description, leaving the perspective word out. Classmates can try to identify the perspective.
Example: If a student reads, “From the blank, the green olive looked like a spaceship with a red hot engine,” then a classmate might respond, “That’s a side perspective from an astronaut!”
- drawing tools (crayons, color pencils, oil pastels, markers)
- tagboard/cardboard for background (8 ½ x 11 or larger)
- recycled collage materials (cardboard, egg cartons, newspaper, plastic caps, etc.)
- glue, gluesticks, glue dots
1. Review images of Still Life with Guitar and Bottle of Bass with your students with a view to discovering how the different components are shown through different perspectives. Explain to students how they’ll be emulating a similar process in the creation of their works.
2. Students use their perspective still life sketches and sentences from the previous activity.
3. Explain to students that they will be deconstructing their sketches by cutting them into shapes or parts. They will then be rearranging them, or constructing them, into a new piece of art on their large pieces of construction paper.
4. Encourage students to combine their different perspectives as Picasso did and to think about how they want to position their cut shapes. Students should not glue anything down until they have experimented with how they want to arrange and transform their deconstructed shapes. They can also add additional collage materials.
5. Ask students to glue down their shapes when they are ready. They may also use art materials to color their collage.
6. Students use words from their descriptive sentences to make a poem for their collage, or they can cut words from their sentences and add them to their collage.
When students are done, have them share their artwork by groups. Compare the artworks to the actual still lifes and discuss the different perspectives. What do they see and from what perspective? How were their still lifes transformed into new works of art? Does the new artwork retain any of the same shapes? Does it ekove the same feelings? What was the creative personal viewpoint/perspective each student? Was it magical in some way? (Example: “I saw the olive from the perspective of a chef,” “. . . of an alien.”)
Other Extension Activities
- Perspective self-portraits (alter egos)
- Story-writing perspective (“What’s Paul thinking?”)
Reading: 1.7, 1.8
Writing Applications: 2.2
Artistic Perception: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5
Creative Expression: 2.1, 2.2
Reading: 1.3, 1.6
Writing Strategies: Organization and Focus: 1.1, 1.3
Written and Oral English Language Conventions: 1.1, 1.2
1.1 Use simple and compound sentences in writing and speaking.
1.2 Combine short, related sentences with adjectives and prepositional phrases.
Visual Arts Standards
Artistic Perception: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5
Creative Expression: 2.1, 2.2
Reading: 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Written and Oral English Language Conventions: 1.1
Visual Arts Standards
Artistic Perception: 1.2
Creative Expression: 2.1, 2.2.
Communication and Expression through Original Works of Art: 2.4, 2.