Objects as Identity
Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, Visual & Performing Arts
Class time required: 2 X 50 minute sessions
Author: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
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In this one-session lesson, students will use basic one-point perspective to make a perspective drawing of their own room (or an imaginary room) that houses objects of significance to them. As in Rochelle Costi's Quartos, their artwork will include a set number of objects that together are a portrait of the room’s occupant.
- White paper
- Colored Pencils
- Oil Pastels
- Glossary terms: atmospheric perspective , horizon line, mixed media, perspective, portrait, scale, self-portrait, vanishing point
- Print the images onto overhead transparencies or use a document camera.
- As an additional introduction exercise, introduce one-point perspective by simply drawing shapes becoming smaller as they move towards a central vanishing point.
- Another variation is to have the students assemble a collection of objects that they feel represent their lives and identities. These items can be placed in a small box, such as a shoe box. Once the boxes are complete, students can use the one-point perspective drawing of a room and draw from observation their objects in perspective.
1. Begin a discussion with the students about how a person’s possessions can provide insight into who that person is. Use the items found on your desk as an example. What can your students learn about you by the items found on or inside your desk?
2. Show the students the transparency images. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
• Can these artworks be considered portraits even if they don’t show the person’s face?
• What can we learn about the person or people in the portrait if we can’t see his/her/their face(s)?
• How does the artist tell you about who the subject(s) is/are in the artwork?
• Why do you think the artist chose to create a portrait in this manner?
• What kind of objects would you include in a drawing of your room?
• What can we learn about the artist and his/her life by looking at this artwork?
3. Begin to introduce the idea of artists using perspective in drawings and paintings to give the illusion of space. Focus specifically on Rochelle Costi’s Quartos. scale, atmospheric perspective , and overlapping shapes all are used to give the illusion of receding objects. Define these concepts for the students and have them identify the ways in which Costi uses these four concepts to show perspective. Use other images on the CARE Web site (such as Harry Sternberg’s Mountains and Birches of Utah and Jules Tavernier's Kilauea Caldera, Sandwich Islands) as additional examples using perspective.
4. Have the students imagine a room that they will design that only has objects in it that tell about their personalities.
5. Ask the students to list six things about themselves (likes, dislikes, interests, etc.) that they want to express in this project. Next, ask the students to choose objects that represent those ideas.
6. Explain to students that they will be drawing a room and placing these objects in that room. These objects will be a self-portrait, giving others clues to their identity, but not showing their faces. Introduce the idea of a vanishing point, and practice with small shapes. Linear perspective drawing allows us to create the illusion of depth by relating everything to a horizon line or eye level. Objects, walls, and floors appear to get smaller as they recede from the viewer toward a single point on the horizon line called the vanishing point.
7. Together as a class, lead the students through a demonstration of how to draw an empty room using basic one-point perspective. At this point all of the students’ empty imaginary rooms will look the same. It is up to the students to draw the objects and ‘furnish’ the room, so that the objects tell the viewer about the artist.
8. Using pencil, have the students lightly sketch their objects into their empty room, being intentional with regard to scale and overlapping of objects. Once the students have completed their pencil drawings, have them finish their self-portrait with markers. Students may also add details to finish decorating or furnishing their rooms.
9. Once the students have finished their self-portraits, have them complete one of the following writing assignments:
• Compare your self-portrait with one of the other artists’ portraits. How are the two artworks similar? How are they different?
• Pretend that your artwork was going to hang in a museum gallery. Write a museum label or Explore Art page that includes a short biography about you and some information about your piece of artwork.
CA Content Standards
Fourth Grade Visual Arts
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.
4.3 Discuss how the subject and selection of media relate to the meaning or purpose of a work of art.
4.5 Describe how the individual experiences of an artist may influence the development of specific works of art.
Fifth Grade Visual Arts
2.1 Use one-point perspective to create the illusion of space.
2.6 Use perspective in an original work of art to create a real or imaginary scene.
2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.
4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.
5.1 Use linear perspective to depict geometric objects in space.
5.2 Identify and design icons, logos, and other graphic devices as symbols for ideas and information.
Sixth Grade Visual Arts
1.3 Describe how artists can show the same theme by using different media and styles.
3.3 Compare, in oral or written form, representative images or designs from at least two selected cultures.
4.1 Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.
4.2 Identify and describe ways in which their culture is being reflected in current works of art.
Fourth Grade English-Language Arts
2.1 Write narratives.
Fifth Grade English-Language Arts
2.2 Write responses to literature.
Sixth Grade English-Language Arts
2.2 Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation, comparison and contrast, problem and solution).
Bell, Julian. Five Hundred Self-Portraits. London: Phaidon Press, 2000.
Benson, Elizabeth P. et al. Retratos: 2000 years of Latin American Portraits. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
Hanor, Stephanie, et al. TRANSactions: Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2006.
Betlach Family Foundation
Information about Rochelle Costi's Quartos Series
The James Luna Project
James Luna’s Web site, which includes biographical information, images of his artwork and performance art, and other resources.
National Portrait Gallery Online
Search the collection for self-portraits that span the last 500 years. The E-learning component under the education section has lots of great information and classroom activities.
Retratos: 2000 years of Latin American Portraiture
Traveling exhibition Web site that shares the history of Latin American portraiture. Includes a teacher’s guide with transparencies.
Roalf, Peggy. Self-Portraits. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1993.
Rohmer, Harriet (Ed.). Just Like Me: Stories and Self-portraits by Fourteen Artists. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press, 1997.
Woolf, Felicity. Picture this Century: an introduction to 20th century art. New York: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 1992.