“What do these pictures look like? How can you tell these are pictures of people?” I ask the students.
These sound like very simple questions, but for first-graders, abstract art is a new and foreign concept that can be tricky to decipher. But tiny hands go up. The children eagerly tell me the artworks are people because they see eyes, noses, hair, mustaches, and even feet. As we determine the facial features, I ask one question to put it all into perspective: “Do we look like this?”
“No!” the entire class cries. Now we can explain what abstract art is! By explaining how Picasso uses his imagination to combine colors, lines, shapes, and designs in ways not seen before, the students learn how they must use their imaginations to understand the ideas behind abstract works of art.
“Who do these people look like to you?”
The title of this series is Imaginary Portraits, an apt title for works of imaginary people, perhaps Shakespearean characters or other fictional beings. This question unleashes the students' ideas. The children look at each other, pondering the question, and then light bulbs start popping on above their heads.