Picasso Faces Art Projects for First Grade


Picasso faces are a fun way for students to experiment with color, shapes and patterns. Depending on how much time you have with your students, you may choose one Picasso face project over the other.

Everyone is looking for a quick and easy art lesson that children can complete in under 45 minutes. This oil pastel and watercolor painting fits the bill! The supplies are simple: 9 x 12′ 90 lb watercolor paper, black oil pastel and liquid or pan watercolor paints. Start by showing how to draw a simple “Picasso” cubist face. I did a similar lesson with older children and I used this drawing technique. Allow about 15 minutes for the drawing, stressing bigger shapes and strong lines. I have many Picasso samples on the white board for inspiration.

The oil pastel, if applied heavily, will act as a barrier to the liquid watercolors, creating small areas in which the watercolor can pool. So technically, this isn’t really a resist technique. Use a small piece of watercolor paper so that you can be sure to finish on time and don’t worry about oil pastel smudges. Most paint colors will hide fingerprints beautifully!


Picasso Faces with Tempera Paint

This lesson is a fun substitute to regular portraits. First, the kids looked at pictures of Picasso’s portraits (Portrait of Marie-Therese and Portrait of Dora Maar) and studied the shapes and patterns Picasso used. They loved Picasso’s way of drawing the facial features.

Then, following a directed-line drawing the kids drew a head, neck, body and hair with a black oil pastel on white construction paper. Using colorful tempera paints, the children painted the different sections of their portraits, making sure they used two colors for their face.

After the paint dried, they cut around the black line and used Mod-Podge to apply the face to a colored piece of construction paper. To use the Mod-Podge correctly,  brush a small amount on the construction paper first and then apply the face. Adhere with another layer of Mod-Podge.

Set aside to dry.

Making the facial features

The next class, each child received a scrap piece of white paper to make Picasso-style eyes and mouths. They colored them in with oil pastels, cut them out and pasted them onto their face with Mod-Podge.
I encouraged the children to think where Picasso might place his eyes, nose and mouth. The last step, the children used oil pastel to trace over their lines and add details like eyelashes.

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What do you think?

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  • Anonymous

    I am loving your site. There are so many unique and sucessful lessons here!I see that you use so much paint with your kids which I think is wonderful. I would love to paint more in my class but I need some tips. It just seems like every lesson I do with paint except sponging and watercolor doesn’t really turn out great results. I just wondered if you could share any tips on how I could have better luck.I would also love to know any tips you have for how you go about setting up a painting lesson ie do you give them all palettes of paint and mixing trays?? or do you put cups of paint on the tables to share? Do you allow younger kids to mix their own colors? What is your secret? I just find painting days so stressful. My email Saras.brown@cms.k12.nc.us Thanks

  • Patty P

    Hi Sara,
    Thanks for asking such great questions. I know you’re not alone in your struggles. This got me thinking that I should do a post on addressing these and similar questions…stay tuned!

  • Anonymous

    I have found the styrofaom dozen egg cartons-with the lid works best for painting in school and other applications. I’m an art teacher turned homeschool mom and somtimes teach art in co-ops where clean up time is short.I carry a large plastic trash bag with me,close the lids on the egg cartons and toss them in or stack them in if I need to reuse them. I save the egg cartons all year plus ask others to save them.I also use small platic butter/cream cheese containers with a hole cut in the lids for water. Use tall kitchen trash bags for smocks by cutting arms and neck out. Often I limit my students paint colors to keep them from getting muddy by not giving them black or brown or giving these in small amounts and direct students to use them in only certain situations.This keeps the painting brighter.

  • Patty P

    Oh, these are GREAT tips! I love the egg cartons idea with the lids attached. I often use egg cartons but always tear off the lid. Not anymore. Also, the plastic containers with the cut out in the lid is brilliant…prevents many drips and accidents I imagine.
    Thanks for visiting and good luck with homeschooling.

  • Alli grins

    Amazing site with great ideas, Patty! You should be proud! I teach Art Masters in my daughter’s public school once a month as a parent volunteer and I’m preparing a lesson on the portraits of famous artists. This lesson plan and your wonderful examples are perfect for our guided art project, which we do after I teach the lesson and we look at art samples. I love the bright colors of the Picasso-inspired self portraits. Thank you so much for sharing! For a fun activity on the computer, go to http://www.mrpicassohead.com, where kids can create their own “Picasso-heads.”

  • Sarah

    Thank you very much for sharing your artistic skills, this is wonderful and I am definetley going to do this with my 8yo son and 4yo daughter. This is my first sime to your blog, I'll will be back.

    Love Sarah

  • Mary

    I didn't know quite where to post this thank you, as I have used so many of your wonderful art lessons. I teach art after school in Orange County, California. Your posts have created so many hits in my classes and as a result, are framed and hung in the homes around our community. These are just a few I have used: Royal Bulldogs, Winter Birch Trees, Picasso Face Paintings/Collage, and soon to be "Giraffes Can't Dance." Here is my blog so you can see for yourself:

    Thanks again!!


  • Nicole

    Hi Patty! I do not have any mod-Podge in my classroom so I tried to use watered down glue on my example and it smeared the tempera paint. Do you have any alternative suggestions?

    • Patty

      I suppose that Mod-Podge might smear the paint as well, but I hadn’t notice it was a problem. Is the paint completely dry? The only alternative solution is not to coat with anything. Just glue down the pieces really well. Hope this helps!

  • Erica

    Thanks for all of your lessons Patty! I am going to read Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail before I start this art project today. I think it will be a nice tie into this portrait project. Thanks again!

    • Patty

      Yes. I have that book as well and it’s a great tie-in. Good luck with the lesson!

  • Melissa Phillips

    I use the book “When Pigasso Met Mootise” to introduce Matisse and Picasso. It’s a great book, the kids like it and it has some great puns that are good for adults too 🙂

  • angela

    another tip for “what to place paint on’ is: use the paper wrapping that your white A4 paper comes in (the glossy stuff) for the photocopier, that paper is great for kids to put their paint on as it won’t seep through and can be popped in the bin once they are finished with it.

  • Jody Sandberg

    i would like the picasso faces lesson

  • Karen Leadley

    What great inspiration!

  • Patty Folk

    I do something like this but I may try using the mod podge technique.

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