In my research for projects inspired by famous artists I ran across a wonderful Picasso project on Mary Making. She rated her project for pre-K and K and I adapted it to be finished in 30 minutes and done by students as young as 18 months. Instead of having the students hand draw their own faces, eyes and mouth I drew three versions of the face and several versions of eyes and mouth and xeroxed these for students to use. picasso face5
Materials used in this project:

  • laser xerox on 110lb cardstock
  • biocolor paint (you could also use watercolor)
  • colored markers (we love Mr. Sketch)
  • scissors

Before embarking on making art I gathered the class around several examples of Picasso’s work, particularly his faces where he skewed the frontal and profile view. We discussed how Picasso wanted to show two angles of the face at the same time, the side and the front. I asked students to look at my own face from the side (profile view) and tell me how many nostrils they saw and then look at my face from the front and tell me how many nostrils they saw. We looked at how Picasso often drew the nose in profile but still placed two nostrils. We continued to dissect his art by noting how he utilized a lot of color and wasn’t too concerned with everything lining up. All of these elements added up to a fun and playful style of portraiture.
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After discussing Picasso’s art together the class lined up to choose their face, a set of eyes, and a mouth. I encouraged students to pick the face they liked best, not the one that resembled their own. Remember this is not a self portrait exercise.
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When we moved to the table I had each child (or caregiver) put their name on the backside of their face and leave it flipped over so they wouldn’t have the temptation to color it in. We then moved quickly to coloring in the eyes and mouth with markers. I encouraged students to use bright colors as Picasso might have done.
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After fully coloring in the eyes and mouth each child was given a pair of scissors to cut out their parts. I stressed NOT cutting out each eyelash or worrying about cutting exact to the line. I found it helped if the eye set was cut in half first. Some younger children needed a little help with cutting, this was of course okay!
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Laser xerox will act like a resist with biocolor as well as watercolor, similar to how oil pastel or crayon pushes through thin paint. I notice around three years old children make a transition where they desire staying inside the lines.
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For children who were interested painting within the lines I encouraged using different colors in each section, as Picasso might have done. I also reminded them not to get hung up on realistic colors, but to follow in Picasso’s playful and vibrant style.
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Biocolor paint acts like glue when wet so we made sure to place the eyes and mouth before the paint dried. This was probably the best part of the project. Each child had such a unique take on where to place the eyes and mouth–if only we could enter a child’s mind.
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The examples below are from students 18 months to 2.5 years. They had great fun with this project too!
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