Tableaux Vivants: ‘Living Pictures’ Performance Art

tableaux vivants pinable

First grade tableau vivant: Keith Haring, “Five Figures Dancing”.

Our first and second graders acted out a series of tableaux vivants (‘living pictures’ ) last week. In traditional tableaux, people dress up as the characters in an artwork. They hold a minutes-long pose in front of an elaborately painted background. We skipped the costumes and backdrops, but still had a great time interacting with the artworks.

We began with a Powerpoint and video (see below). For a warm up, we practiced posing like the Mona Lisa. After students understood the basic concept, they acted out artworks with progressively larger groups of characters.

After a few group activities, I put a bunch of art books on the tables and let students act out whatever they liked.

homer tableau vivant

First grade tableau vivant: Winslow Homer ‘Snap the Whip’.

Second grade tableau vivant: Henry Moore, "Reclining Figure"

Second grade tableau vivant: Henry Moore, “Reclining Figure”.

Second grade tableau vivant.

Second grade tableau vivant.

I love the second grade interpretation of Roy Lichtenstein’s Wham!. The little girl in the photo is acting out the explosion.

Wham! tableau vivant

Second grade tableau vivant: Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Wham!’


‘Pagent of the Masters’ is an elaborate tableaux vivants production staged each summer here in Southern California. It has been going on since 1933, and features tableaux based on painting, sculpture, prints and more. Check out this video from CBS Sunday Morning .

Here is the Google Presentation (it’s just like a Powerpoint) I created for our lesson. It includes some fun ‘sculpture game’ activities at the end.

Tableaux vivants are a great way to interact with artworks at the museum. Check out this article from Art Museum Teaching.

Next steps:

Can you imagine the students staging their own Pagent of the Masters? They could select their own artworks, dress up, paint their own background, gather props, have a student director, an iPad photographer….how cool would that be? Maybe next term….


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.


Wayne Thiebaud Ice Cream Cones Roundup

wayne thiebaud ice cream cones


Summer is almost here. Why not try a warm-weather twist on Wayne Thiebaud with an ice cream art lesson? Check out these ice cream cone lessons using paint, collage, papier-mache and more.

thiebaud cones

cone collage

Directed Draw/Paint:

  • 1. I discovered an entire Wayne Thiebaud unit at the fabulous Danish Fru Billedkunst (“Mrs. Fine Art”) blog. Click here for her step-by-step ice cream cone drawing diagram.

Our second graders began by folding their paper into quarters. The horizontal fold became the table edge. Students drew two cones on each side of the vertical fold. We used crayons and tempera cakes. Students had the option of painting a background, or cutting out their art and gluing it to construction paper. They looked so beautiful at our school art show (see photo at top of post).

Here are some more interesting ideas for Thiebaud-inspired ice cream fun:


  • 2. Miss Young’s Art Room has a simple ice cream collage for kindergarten
  • 3. ARTASTIC! has a torn paper collage that would be great for using up all those paper scraps at the end of the year


Group project:

  • 5. Kids Artists has a whole-class painted paper ice cream cone collage.

Papier Mache Sculpture:

  • 6. Phyl’s There’s a Dragon in My Art Room blog has an awesome papier-mache ice cream cone sculpture project using a paper water cone, newspaper, masking tape and art paste.

More resources

My Wayne Thiebaud Powerpoint includes repetition of simple shapes, variety, use of thick paint, horizon line and shadow.

I always show my ancient (circa 2000!) Behind the Scenes with Wayne Thiebaud [VHS] – it includes Mr. Thiebaud drawing an ice cream cone. Oh, why can’t I find a DVD or digital version??

Wayne Thiebaud video from CBS

Whatever project you choose, your students are bound to have fun!




Do you have a favorite ice cream cone project?

Peter Max Statue of Liberty Round Up

I just finished up a Peter Max Statue of Liberty project with my first graders.  To plan this lesson, I took a look at a lot of elementary-level Peter Max lesson plans on the internet. All my research is contained in the Round Up collage above.

Do you like this collage? Click on the collage. Hover over each image and you will see an arrow.  Click on the arrow to link directly to the lesson.

I made this graphic using a free website called ThingLink.  It allows users to make images interactive. I learned about ThingLink on the Free Technology for Teachers blog.

Here are some more resources you can use for your lesson:

Meet Peter Max: has a great selection of Peter Max artworks, including a Liberty Head, psychedelic artwork from the 1960s, and Warhol-like portraits of famous people.

Our students watched Peter Max prep his canvases this EXCELLENT 2008 video from CBS This Morning. (Requires flash. Reading this on an iPhone or iPad? Click here)

Our Art Project: We ended up doing a two-day art project using  tempera cakes and black crayon on 12″x18″ sulphite and manila paper.

Day 1:Paint backgrounds in style of Peter Max. Students made patches of color, stripes or even polka dots.

Day 2: Use black crayon or oil pastel in directed draw of Statue of Liberty head. BE SURE TO TELL STUDENTS TO GO BACK OVER THEIR LINES SO THEY ARE THICK AND BLACK.

Here is one of our first grade artworks:

peter max statue of liberty



Blue Dog Gets Dressed Up

blue dog gets dressed up 2Our first graders learned about artist George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog. They had a fabulous time creating their own blue (or green or magenta) dogs and dressing them up in paper collage. The George Rodrigue Foundation website has every resource you could possibly need.  I downloaded the Blue Dog PowerPoint slideshow, and learned the Blue Dog was inspired by Rodrigue’s late dog, Tiffany. The PowerPoint  has lots of  ‘dressed up’ Blue Dog paintings, including a secret agent dog, hula dog and motorcycle dog. Of course the first graders LOVED that! I also showed students the first few minutes of this video from CBS Sunday Morning.

Now on to the art project!


  • white sulphite drawing paper – 12″ x 18″ (or other white paper that is strong enough for painting)
  • black crayons
  • tempera cakes
  • water cups and brushes
  • glue sticks
  • scissors
  • colored construction paper scraps

Day 1: Students watched Blue Dog PowerPoint, then did a directed draw of the blue dog using black crayon. Next they painted the dog in a single solid color using tempera cakes. Amazingly, this took only 40 minutes thanks to the easy-to-handle tempera cakes.

Day 2: Students decorated their dogs using scrap paper and glue stick. blue dog 123   blue dog pin ableThis was a popular and super successful project with easy clean up. I will definitely repeat next year.



Bonus: FREE Blue Dog app on the iTunes store!

Blue Dog Books You Might Like:

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