painting
K-12EducatorsEnglish Language Arts and LiteracyThe Arts

Symmetrical Portrait – Lesson Plan

Students create portraits that demonstrate symmetry and the use of warm and cool colors.

  • Length: 1-2 class periods
  • Grades: 2-5

Concepts/Objectives:

  • Students will create symmetrical designs that compare and contrast warm and cool colors.
  • Students will identify the use of warm and cool colors in the painting Priscilla Johnson by Alice Neel.
  • Students will discuss the use of colors in significant artwork.

Resource Used:
Warm and Cool Colors/Cut-Paper College Found On: Spectrum of Art
Priscilla Johnson by Alice Neel

Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts

Vocabulary:
balance, color, cool colors, model, portrait, symmetry

Materials:
9" X 12" white sulphite paper; carbon paper; pencils, paint sets, markers, colored pencils, or crayons; TV/VCR or DVD player; computer (with Internet access)

Handouts:

  • Multiple-Choice Questions
  • Answer Key

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

Colors and Mood
Begin this lesson by talking about how colors create mood. Some colors are warm and exciting; others are cool and peaceful. The ways colors are combined in a picture help create the mood. You can also talk about how emotions are linked symbolically to colors, as in “tickled pink,” “green with envy,” “feeling blue,” etc. Ask students to come up with some examples. Have students brainstorm and list things they associate with warm and cool colors.

  1. Show the video excerpt “Warm and Cool Colors” and discuss how artists use color to express seasons and mood. (If you prefer, watch the excerpt for background and conduct your own classroom demonstration.)
  2. Look at Alice Neel’s painting Priscilla Johnson from the collection of the Speed Art Museum. Discuss what a portrait is and have students identify the warm and cool colors in the portrait.
  3. Discuss how the artist used colors to express mood in Priscilla Johnson. Ask students how they might have used different colors in the portrait and what difference it might have made to the mood of the painting.
  4. Discuss the concept of symmetry. Demonstrate the property by folding a piece of carbon paper in half so that the carbon is on the outside and inserting it into a piece of 9" X 12" paper folded in half. On the paper, draw a portrait of a head from the neck up, using a student for a model. Emphasize detail and observation.
  5. Open the folded paper and remove the carbon paper to reveal a symmetrical double portrait.
  6. Have each student create his or her own symmetrical portrait, coloring one side cool and the other side warm. It can be a self-portrait or a portrait of someone else.
  7. Read poems from Hailstones and Halibut Bones aloud while students work.

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Applications Across the Curriculum

Language Arts

  • Have students write color poems to be displayed with their symmetrical portraits.

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Open Response Assessment

Prompt:
In her portrait of Priscilla Johnson, painter Alice Neel uses both color and balance to achieve an effect.

Directions:

Looking at the portrait Priscilla Johnson …

  1. Define portrait.
  2. Describe how color and balance are used in the portrait and their effects.
  3. Use correct art vocabulary and specific details from the artwork.

Open Response Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
Student clearly defines portrait and describes the use of color and balance, using correct art vocabulary. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively, with insightful use of supporting examples and/or details. Student defines portrait and describes the use of color and balance, using correct art vocabulary. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding effectively with supporting examples and/or details. Student basically defines portrait and describes the use of color and balance, using some correct vocabulary. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding with some supporting examples and/or details. Student minimally defines portrait and describes the use of color and balance, using little or no correct vocabulary. Student communicates this knowledge and understanding ineffectively, with few or no supporting examples and/or details. Blank, no answer, or irrelevant answer.

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Support - Connections - Resources - Author

For more about color:

  • Venizia, Mike. Getting To Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Picasso. Children’s Press, 1994. ISBN: 0516422715.
  • O’Neil, Mary et al. Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color. New York: Doubleday, 1990. ISBN: 0385410786.

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