I have to chalk this one up to Pinterest.
Through Pinterest, I came across the artwork of the amazing design firm, WonderBros, whom (among other amazing things) creates cubist superheroes. I knew this would be a great connection to Picasso and cubism for my students.
In years past, I’ve planned and taught the requisite cubist self-portrait and /or chair based projects. Some of the students get into it, but most of them are either bored or don’t seem to get it. Generally, when I hear a teacher utter a statement like that, I think: “Well, the teacher is probably bored by the lesson, which is why the kids are bored.” I stand by that statement. I’m a bit over teaching the “cubist self-portrait” over and over and over again.
Now, cubist superheroes . . . Doesn’t that just sound interesting?
It is. And, my students LOVED it. Here is what we did.
1. I introduced Picasso using the presentation below. The presentation gives a brief history of Picasso, touches on the blue, rose, and cubist periods, defines cubism, demonstrates exemplars of cubist superheroes, and then has a compilation of regular superheroes as reference. Please feel free to download and use!
2. During the presentation I really focused on what defines cubism. So often, students think cubism is “making stuff look weird.” And, well, cubism does do that, but it also entails a bit more. My students really need concrete boundaries, so I did a bit of research and created a list to define cubism ( and in the interest of being honest -I can’t remember what parts of the list I created and what parts I sourced). My students and I defined cubism as a style of 2-D art that uses at least two of the following methods:
b. Broken mirror effect
c. Rearranged elements
e. More than one view
f. Simplified shapes
3. Next, I had students peruse a packet of about 60 5 inch x 7 inch print outs of superheroes. They selected their superhero and spent a class sketching it in the cubist style. During this class, students could switch superheroes as many times as they liked. Many sketched as many as 5 different superheroes before deciding on one that suited their aesthetic the best. Ultimately, if you want students to have the maximum level of ownership over this project, taking them to the computer lab and allowing them to research and find their own superhero would be best. However, we have spent A LOT of time in the computer lab in recent weeks and I wanted the students to maximize sketching time. For me, it was of the utmost importance they understand cubism both as a concept and as a creation method.
4. During the next class, I spent about twenty minutes discussing painting techniques. We used tempera for this project. Many of my students have limited experience painting and/or using a lot of art materials other than crayons and markers. They were so excited to learn (as I encouraged them to think about how small brushes could be used for details and big brushes for larger areas) that they could use more than one paintbrush at a time, could mix their own paint, and could choose their own paint colors. Since color mixing can be difficult I posted the following “cheats” on the board:
a. Red + lil’ black = burgundy/dark red
b. Green + lil’ black or lil’brown = camo green
c. White + lil’ red = pink
d. White + lil’ brown + tiny red + tiny yellow = tan
e. White + tan = pale human color
f. White + lil’ black = gray
5. As students painted, I circulated and aided. They loved mixing paint colors so much. In fact, their delight at “discovering” color reminded of elementary students.
6. We used 5 classes at 45 minutes a day to complete this project. All paintings are 18 inches x 24 inches.
Cubist Batman (love the broken mirror effect!)
Cubist Aqua Girl
Cubist Flash (love this one because the student really got it and really got into it; this is his 3rd finished piece for this project!)
Cubist Batwoman (Batman/Batwoman was really popular, but I swear they had TONS of choices!)
Cubist Robin (note how even the title is "rearranged")