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In this Modern American Abstract Art lesson, students depict the inner character of pets


Art, Social Studies  


6, 7, 8, 9  

By – Paula Hrbacek
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – 6 to 9

Objective: to tie knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement and Black History Month to modern art, and to understand how art is influenced by history.

Materials: your choice of drawing or sculpture supplies. Pictures of “The Family” by Moore (sculpture) or “The Scream” (painting).

Lecture: Modern American Abstract Art is a look at the common man. It shows the character of the person without regard to their race, religion, nationality or economic status. Therefore, anything that will indicate these traits is minimized, removed, played down, or done away with. The only things used are presented in a way that shows what is underneath the character’s skin, what we all have in common, that which makes us all human beings.

Hair is not usually used, because different races have different kinds of hair. Clothing can tell you if a person comes from a hot or cold climate, or how much money that person has. Facial features, such as eyes and noses are racial, so they are usually played down. The colors used are symbolic. Colors have associated meanings. Birthstones tell what month you were born in. The church uses color to tell you what time of year it is. Every holiday has colors that are used just for that occasion. Colors have other meanings, too. A person can be “green with envy”, “scared yellow”, “so mad they see red”, etc.

Your assignment is to draw a cat or dog in an abstract form. You should choose a trait, such as loyal, lazy, happy, and choose postures and colors that indicate that character trait. Write the trait on the back of the paper for your assessment.

Your cat or dog should not have a breed. An Irish Setter, German Shepherd, Siamese Cat, Persian Cat, are all indications of nationality. Your animal should not be the color of a normal animal, because this indicates breed, too. Instead, the colors used should have a symbolic meaning that is attached to the character you are trying to represent. Enlarge, or draw attention to the body parts that relate to that trait, and play down or minimize the body parts that take away from that meaning.


Paula Hrbacek

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