Modigliani Portraits of Mom


Modigliani portraits of mom

Our first graders just completed their Mother’s Day project – portraits of their Moms in the style of Amadeo Modigliani.

Day 1: Learn about Modigliani’s style; practice drawing.

We talked about how the artist’s style included almond-shaped eyes, long skinny noses, tiny lips, and long thin necks. Click here for my Modigliani powerpoint. Students did a practice drawing of Mom on copy paper.

I didn’t focus on Modigliani’s life as much of it was tragic. Click here to learn a bit more about Modigliani’s life.

Day 2: Draw portrait, color with oil pastel

We drew our portraits on watercolor paper using pencil. We colored with oil pastels. I offered several skin color options.  Students were encouraged to rub two colors of oil pastel in the background.

First grade results:



I taught this project before – click here to see more examples of student work. This project would work really well for Father’s Day – Modigliani made many portraits of men.

Educate the parents

This year I sent the classroom teachers an explanatory email with images of Modigliani’s work and a link to his biography. The email will go home in the weekly classroom newsletter. (Why? Last year a mother commented she didn’t understand her gift – when I explained she said she had never heard of Modigliani).

Here is a 2-minute video of Modigliani’s portraits of women.


Roy Lichtenstein Art Project for iPad and Computer

Our 6th graders did another digital art project this week: a quick artwork inspired by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. We used iPads, but the good news is you can do this project from a computer just as easily.


Lichtenstein’s Thinking of Him, 1963.

After looking at Lichtenstein’s 1963 painting Thinking of Him, students used their iPads to do a Google search for Lichtenstein images. They saved their five favorites to the camera roll.
I asked what they noticed about Lichtenstein’s work. Students noticed word bubbles, a lot of blonds and cartoons. I asked them to review their saved images and look for

  • everyday items
  • primary colors (red/yellow/blue)
  • black outlines
  • dots, especially for flesh tone

We talked about appropriation in art. During the 1960s, Lichtenstein and other pop artists such as Andy Warhol used pre-existing images of everyday objects (i.e. comics) as a starting points in their artworks. I passed out enlargements from old newspaper comics, plus the little wax paper primary color comics from Bazooka bubblegum.  I explained that these types of images were well-known back in the early 1960s. Even the dots (known as ‘benday’ dots) Lichtenstein used were appropriated from comic book printing techniques used back in the 1960s.

The digital Art Project
We used the free, online TATE kids dotshop website to create our digital artworks. (note: dotshop is compatible with iPad and computer).

How to create a digital Lichtenstein-inspired portrait using TATE kids DotShop.

Create a digital Lichtenstein-inspired portrait using TATE kids DotShop. Teacher example. Betty Draper photo via AMC

Steps to create a Lichtenstein-inspired digital artwork:

1.Open TATE Kids

2. a) use the camera option to take a selfie or picture of your friends or b) appropriate a well-known image from the internet (e.g. Betty Draper, Sponge Bob, Arnold Schwartzenegger).

3. Adjust color and benday dot size.

4. Color in the background a solid color

5. optional: outline in black

6. optional: add text.

7 Save within the website, then save to camera roll.

8. Turn in to digital turn in folder on Google Drive (click here to read about how we turn in digital art).

6th grade results 

Kenna's appropriated image, includes dots, pink background and text.

Kenna’s appropriated image, includes dots, pink background and text.


Appropriating an image: Lucas found an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, added benday dots, colored the background red, and added text.

Appropriating an image: Lucas found an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, added benday dots, colored the background red, and added text.

DotShop Lichtenstein-inspired self portrait



Do you have a favorite Lichtenstein-inspired art project?


CD Case Portraits

CD case portraits

Do you remember those old-fashioned lockets with little portraits inside? Our fourth graders made modern-day double portraits using recycled CD cases, Sharpies and oil pastels.


  • Clear plastic CD ‘jewel’ cases, with trays removed
  • Sharpies
  • pencils/erasers
  • oil pastels (we used Crayola Oil Pastel Sticks plus a few Pentel Oil Pastels for the skin tone)
  • paper for sketching
  • baby oil + q-tip (for correcting oil pastel mistakes)
  • rubbing alcohol + q-tip (for correcting Sharpie mistakes)

We began by looking a pictures of lockets from Google images.


We talked about how you could only put a couple of photos into your locket.  You had to choose carefully. Our students then sketched two portraits to fit their CD ‘lockets’: one self-portrait, plus one portraits of someone very special.

tracing the portrait in sharpie

  1. Trace around CD case with Sharpie, then sketch a portrait in pencil.
  2. Place sketch under CD case. Trace lines in Sharpie on OUTSIDE OF CASE.
  3. Completed line drawing of single portrait.
  4. Completed line drawing of double portraits.

It was really wonderful to see who the students drew for the second portrait. Most drew a parent or a sibling. Several drew their current or late pet. A couple of students drew religious portraits. My intention was to do an identity project, and I do believe we got a better idea of the student based on who he or she selected for that second portrait.

The last step was coloring with oil pastel INSIDE OF THE CASE . The oil pastel is messy and can smear – by putting the pastel on the inside we can trap that mess for tidy storage.

Tips for success:

Sharpie on the outside of the case, oil pastel on the inside of the case. Erase Sharpie mistakes with a little alcohol and a cotton ball; erase oil pastel mistakes with baby oil and a cotton ball or q-Tip.

color with oil pastel on the inside


The project took three 40-minute classes, including writing an artist statement. It was lots of fun and extremely successful. These look great displayed accordion style on a table, especially with a light coming through from behind. I think the 4th graders will be very proud to show their families their very special double-portrait ‘lockets’.

This would also be a great recycled art or Earth Day project. It would also be a GREAT Mother’s or Father’s Day gift!

P.S. I got double duty out of my 250 donated CD cases! Here is a Kandinsky circles project made from the discarded CD trays.


Modigliani Mother’s Day Portraits

First grade students made Modigliani portraits with a twist! Instead of a self-portrait, we made portraits of our mothers. We began by viewing images of Modigliani’s portraits and talked about his distinct artistic style, specifically:

  • long neck
  • long, thin nose
  • blank, almond-shaped eyes
  • small, closed mouth

One of Modigliani's many portraits of Jeanne Hebuterne

I prepared this Modigliani PowerPoint, which you may find helpful.

Students began the portrait using Sharpie on white paper, then colored with oil pastels. The portraits are distinguished by hair style and color, eye color, skin color and jewelry. After drawing and coloring their mothers, students made a simple solid background.

First graders make portraits of their mothers in the style of Modigliani. Allow 2-3 40-minute sessions.


I have been teaching this project for years and the mothers love it! The first grade teachers hang the framed portraits in their classrooms for the annual Mother’s Day Tea.

I adapted this lesson from a project in the book Drawing Faces (see illustration on cover). I think it is out of print. It is available used, or may be available at your library.

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