Serving Art Educators
and Students Since 1994
Lesson Plan Submitted by: Valerie Kerwin
Revised by: MaryAnn Kohl
Art teacher at the YMCA in Sarasota, Florida
For Pre-school level and up
Children of any age love an excuse to wear costumes, so wearing an outfit like in a famous painting makes dressing up both educational as well as enjoyable. Preschool teachers have used prop boxes for role playing and I adapted the idea for my art room in the YMCA after-school program.
I began by choosing a variety of portraits from my collection of art postcards. A wide selection of cards gave me some choice when scouting around for appropriate apparel. Beginning in my own closets I found some things Also, friends, neighbors, relatives and preschool teachers are good sources for borrowing clothing. When all of the free possibilities were exhausted, then it was off to garage sales, nearly new, and consignment shops to find anything extra that would be close to the originals. You might want to contact a local theater company for accessories for costuming.
"L'Homme AuGant" by Titian
After collecting the clothes and appropriate miscellaneous items to begin the activity, I displayed the copies of the famous paintings This activity was designed to be used in a center in my classroom, so when a new group of children arrived I explained how to use the center and the importance of putting the costumes away in the correct box. After they had fun exploring the possibilities I began taking pictures of them in the outfit of their choice. Rather than trying to capture the idea of the backgrounds, I just posed them in front of a neutral backdrop. It was the responsibility of the children and their friends to get themselves in best position to imitate the original model in the painting.
Interest in the activity increased as these pictures were displayed along with the original next to it. Most photo developing places have the option of double prints these days, so because I wanted to display the pictures and give the children one of their own, I got two of each print. Interest in the activity increased as these pictures were displayed along with the original next to it. I Xeroxed the original paintings and gave each child his or her picture and the famous art work that he or she was copying to take home. What a special treat to have your picture look just like the Mona Lisa or The Postman Roulin.
All of the pictures turned out so wonderfully that I wanted all the parents and other staff and patrons to see them. When this month designated "Dress-up Month" was spent, I took all the children's pictures of a particular painting and put them on a 11 by 18 (28 x 45.7 cm) colored paper with the corresponding Art Card, and posted them all in a prominent place in the hall. Everyone was thrilled to see themselves and others and to try to decide who looked the most like the Toulouse LaTrec poster, or who looked the most like the Degas Dancers.
Fine art prints (See resources below)t, with a subject of people and scenery
Very large sheets of cardboard
Large Kraft Paper,
Assorted colors of Tempera Paint and Brushes
Scissors, White Glue, Masking Tape, Stapler
Choices of costumes, dress-up clothing, props
Look closely at a painting that includes people or characters.
Note what is included in the background scenery of the painting. On a very large sheet of cardboard, paint a life-sized approximation of the painting's background scenery. Exact details are not necessary; simple colors and shapes will do. Then let the scenery dry. Option: Skip the background scenery, and stand in front of a blank wall or bed sheet.
Meanwhile, dress in costumes and props to imitate the appearance of the characters in the painting.
Stand the scenery against a wall. Pose together in front of the scenery, copying the position, posture, and facial expression as in the original painting.
Note: Someone should capture a picture, on film or digital. When the picture is ready, compare it to the original painting.
Art Show: Setting up these scenes as part of an art show is always a big hit with parents and friends.
Ideas for costumes and scenery -
Create an album of photographed fine art scenes with posed, costumed characters.
Change the poses of the characters to depict other story possibilities. Think up poses that are not in the original painting to assume. Invent dialogue.
Work up a series of scenes and poses that the characters in the painting can act out that will tell a story.
Parody - change scene to bring it into 20th century. Example: Eating subs at the last supper - or other fast food. The cards of the Card Players become Game Boy and so forth.
Prints/posters (For background)
"The Mona Lisa"
"The Postman Roulin"
Monet's "Woman With a Parasol"
Valerie Kerwin teaches children's art in an after school program at the YMCA in Sarasota, Florida.
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