Visual Arts: Portraits II

Grade Level: K-6
Duration: Six- 45 minute class periods
Media Type: red, yellow, blue acrylic paint, white paper, black Sharpie marker
Subject Integration: Art History, Science
National Standards for Visual Arts: (see bottom of page)
Objectives: Students will create an abstract portrait after viewing and discussing several abstract portraits by famous artists.

Assessment: Students will demonstrate an understanding of portraits, both realistic and abstract. Students will create their own abstract portrait with acrylic paint.
(Website for help with writing rubrics)


0 - Little evidence shown of abstract portrait
1 - Some attempt at abstract portrait, artwork not complete
2 - Abstract portrait evident, geometric shapes created
3 - Abstract portrait evident, geometric shapes created, facial features show balance and intentional placement, six paint colors used, background filled with triangles
4 - Above, plus individual creativity, personality, and exceptional use of detail and application of all techniques clearly expressed

Materials and Procedure:

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils
  • Sharpie markers, black
  • Tempera paint in primary colors: red, yellow, blue
  • Paint containers Paintbrushes Water containers

Day 1:
Start lesson by showing PlayList clip of Sarah Brokke. Briefly discuss portraits and what the word means. Ask students what they know about portraits. Show students slides of abstract portraits by several different artists. Discuss. Ask students, “What do you see? What colors do you see? What was the artist trying to say? What is similar about the first two slides I showed? What differences do you see? Discuss the difference between abstract and realistic portraiture.

Sarah Brokke clip (3:10)

Day 2:
Have one student at a time volunteer to come to the front of the room for the rest of the class to draw for five minutes. Discuss proportion and placement. Discuss facial features and where they are located on the head / face. Show students how to fold a piece of paper so that the fold lines will act as a guide for placement. One student models at a time for five minutes while peers focus on drawing a realistic portrait of that student.

Day 3:
Briefly review definition of abstract portraiture. Review slides. Pass out paper and have students create their own rendition of an abstract portrait. Students must divide the space of the face and neck into geometric shapes.

Day 4:
Students use tempera paint to paint their portraits. Students will start with primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and will mix colors to create secondary colors (purple, orange, green).

Day 5:
Students continue painting.

Day 6:
Students use a Sharpie marker to trace the shapes of their portrait. Students will fill the background with triangle shapes to complete their portrait.


  • realistic
  • abstract
  • geometric
  • primary colors
  • secondary colors
  • proportion
  • placement
  • portrait
  • color mixing



  • Portraits [Hardcover], Steve McCurry (Author)
  • In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits [Hardcover], National Geographic Society (Author), Leah Bendavid Val (Editor), Sam Abell (Photographer), Chris Johns (Photographer), William Allard (Photographer)
  • Portrait Painting Atelier: Old Master Techniques and Contemporary Applications [Hardcover], Suzanne Brooker (Author), Domenic Cretara (Foreword)
  • 500 Self-Portraits [Paperback] Julian Bell (Author)

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