I developed this “Cardboard Cubism” lesson plan from an assignment I really enjoyed doing while in college. I first taught it during my student teaching at Alcoa (Tennessee) High School, with Ms. Minda Cedeno, and since, have been able to adapt and use the material in my eighth-grade art classes at Alcoa Middle School.
The lesson begins with an introduction to the Cubism movement through the works of influential artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger.
Students must then select a Cubist painting and create a three-dimensional cardboard sculpture based on it. To stay relevant to the movement, I tell students they need to choose work from a well-known or famous artist. From past experience, I have learned how important it is to stress that the inspiration piece must come from a recognizable work, in order to prevent random images, which are not necessarily Cubism at all.
With some of the larger paintings, students may chose an object or section of the painting. They then begin sketching out their ideas and planning how their sculptures will be formed.
During this planning process, students must think about the depth of the various pieces, how they will fit together when constructing the sculpture, and how the finished piece will stand on its own. It is important for them to think three-dimensionally, and to not only plan how the sculpture will look from the front, but also from the side and back.
After the students complete their sketches, I must approve them before allowing them to move forward. This provides me the opportunity to see if the students understand the assignment and have a well-developed idea for their sculpture.
This is the point in the lesson where patience is most required, and most important. It will be necessary to encourage your students to have the same patience. Obviously, their drawings will not always translate directly to the pieces they cut out, due to mistakes or misplacement of pieces, but it is important that the teacher and the students are prepared for this, and capable of adapting.
In evaluating their own work, students answer the following essential questions: “Why did you choose the painting that you did?” and “Is your sculpture a good representation of your image?”
This assignment helps students develop some very good problem-solving skills. Students can use craft knives, box cutters, scissors, or even tear the cardboard to form their pieces, and then use a hot glue gun to apply them to the sculpture.
The assignment does take a bit of time, so I plan for around 4–6 weeks of work time. It is very rewarding to watch a student struggle with the creation of their sculpture and then be amazed by the final product.
Middle-school students will …
• become knowledgeable about Cubism: what it is and how it began.
• work individually, using self-expression to complete the assignment.
• create a 3-D sculpture out of cardboard using images of famous Cubist paintings as inspiration.
• display their final projects and participate in a critique of one another’s work.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Access to the Internet
• Drawing paper/sketchbook, cardboard
• Rulers, craft knives
• Hot glue gun, string
• Pens, pencils, markers