Visual Arts: Masks

Grade Level: 8-12
Duration: Ten 45-minutes class periods
Media Type: Plaster casting, acrylic paint
Subject Integration: Social Studies
National Standards for Visual Arts: (see bottom of page)
Objectives: Students will create their own Egyptian mask after researching Egyptian culture, history and artwork. Students will use their own facial structure as the template for their mask. **This lesson can be adapted to create any type or style of mask.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of Egyptian culture by creating their own 3-dimensional mask from plaster casting material. Students will paint their mask with true Egyptian colors (blue, rust, gold, black). Students will show meaning via symbolism in their finished artwork.
(Website for help with writing rubrics)


0 - Little evidence of casting technique used, paint color choices or incomplete artwork
1 - Some attempt at casting techniques, expressing Egyptian history through color concepts, but a major lack of concepts and overall understanding
2 - Casting techniques are clearly used, paint choices are clearly understood, Egyptian culture somewhat expressed
3 - Casting techniques are clearly used, paint choices are clearly understood (blue, rust, gold, black), Egyptian culture clearly expressed, quality work shown
4 - Above, plus exceptional use of detail and application of all techniques clearly expressed

Materials and Procedure:

  • Plaster casting material
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tag board pieces
  • Acrylic paint (rust, black, gold, blue)
  • water bowls, water
  • paint shirts to protect clothing
  • permanent markers for name on back of work

Day 1:
1. Students research Egyptian history/culture. Students view Instant Expert: Ancient History: Egypt (DVD, 2010) and take notes on material presented.

Day 2:
Students view color slides of Egyptian masks on Smartboard.

Discussion: “What do you see?” “What colors do you see?” “What is the significance of these colors?” “What did you learn from the DVD?” “What do we know about Egyptian culture?” "What else do you know about Egyptian history?”

Day 3:
Students draw rough sketches of the type of Egyptian mask they would like to create. Students jot down color choices and symbols being used.

Day 4:
Show PlayList video: Mary Plaster: Mixed Media Masks (4:01)

Discuss procedure of casting (similar to papier mache). With students, talk about artist Mary Plaster, her work, techniques, etc. Casting procedure: students take turns casting each other’s faces. One student lies on the table at a time, while team members help to cast his/her face. Student’s face is first wrapped in plastic wrap with careful detail to leaving nose holes for airflow. (Casting material is cut into strips and dipped into water to make it pliable.) Three layers of casting material are used per face mask. Student being casted must wear a ‘paint shirt’ to keep from dripping casting material on clothing.

Day 5:
Continue casting

Day 6:
Continue casting

Day 7:
Masks are dry, plan painting design, start acrylic painting.

Day 8:
Acrylic painting

Day 9:
Acrylic painting

Day 10:
Finish painting; students complete rubric

Discussion Questions:
With students: What did you enjoy about this lesson? What would you have done differently? What do you know about Egyptian history that you didn’t know before? How did you feel when you found out that a classmate would be casting your face? How did you feel after the process was complete?



  • Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart
  • The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, by Ian Shaw (2002)
  • History of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction, by Erik Hornung (1999)
  • Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002)

Follow-up activities:

If time permits, either before or after this lesson, give groups of four or five students a roll of toilet paper. One person is designated the “mummy”. Groups are asked to completely cover the designated student from head to toe in toilet paper until he/she looks like a mummy. Eyes may be revealed, but rest of body must be covered. The team that creates their mummy first, wins!

National Standards for Visual Arts:

Content Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes. Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses. Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories. Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Content Standard #2: Using knowledge of structures and functions
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas. Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses. Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.

Content Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Achievement Standard:
Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art. Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Content Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Achievement Standard:
Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures. Students identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places. Students demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art.

Content Standard #5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Achievement Standard:
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks. Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

Content Standard #6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Achievement Standard:
Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines. Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment