15 PICASSO – Realism

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here is another picture Picasso painted of a harlequin. Do you see how the man looks very real, not like the Girl in Front of a Mirror? This kind of painting is called “Realism.” 

Picasso - Harlequin 3

Picasso painted so many pictures with strange faces that people thought he didn’t know how to paint a real person. But he’s very good, isn’t he?

Do you see how he started with an ink drawing with cross hatching? And how he then painted the negative spaces around the man? And how he made the negative space around the head lighter to get more contrast?

I like this picture a lot. To me it looks like Picasso when he was a young man.

Le’s do some Realism. One way of making a drawing look real is to show the shadows. Look at Picasso’s picture again. Do you see how he painted the shadows on the hat and face?

We’ll start with something simple–an egg. 

Look at this picture I took of an egg on a table near a window. I put a dark book behind it to give it more contrast. Do you see that the white egg is actually different colors?

01 Egg 01

Did you find the blue? Where the shadow starts on the curve of the egg it is actually blue! That’s because the sky is blue. It won’t do that under a light bulb, you must have skylight. Some famous artists called “Impressionists” painted blue shadows for the first time and everyone was very surprised.

Can you see where the egg is slightly yellowish-tan? It’s right at the bottom.  It helps to see it if you compare it to the whites and the blacks. That tan is the reflection of the light from the yellowish-tan table. The light bounces off the table onto the shadow side of the egg. It’s not a very strong light so it is only near the part of the egg closest to the table. Did you know a plain white egg could  have different colors and be so beautiful?

If we want to make a drawing of an egg that looks real, we’ll have to try to show the shadows.  Because we want to draw our egg in pencil, I’ll take the colors away to make it easier to see the different shades of gray.

01 Egg 02 B&W

Go back and look at the colored photograph again. Compared to the black and white photo it is easy to see the colors on the egg, isn’t it? Do you see all the different shades of gray in the black and white photo? Before we draw our egg we need to practice making different grays. Let’s start by making a white, a black, and a gray box. To make white with a pencil, leave the paper white.

Egg Drawing 03

That was easy. But be careful to keep it white, don’t get it dirty or smudgy. To make black with a pencil, press hard until you get black.

Egg Drawing 04It helps to have a drawing pencil like a “B” to get a really good black. “B” stands for black. If you don’t have a B pencil, make the blackest black you can. To get black press hard with the pencil, as hard as you can without breaking the lead.

Now for gray. Start by pressing down on your pencil only lightly and try to keep it all even, not blotchy. Start with it light, then keep adding to it until you have the gray you want. Go slowly! Egg Drawing 02 Try to make the shade of gray exactly between white and black. Do it a few times until it gets easy for you and you can do it fast.

Now we’ll do five boxes. You’ll see why in a minute. Number them from one to five. Number one is white, number five is black, and number two, three, and four are grays. Start with the black first, then number three, the middle gray, just like we did for the three boxes. Egg Drawing 00 Now do number four. Try very hard to get the shade of gray exactly between three and five. Then do number two, making the gray very light. Don’t press on your pencil at all. Let just the weight of the pencil make the marks. Try to make a light gray exactly between the white of number one and the gray of number three.

Egg Drawing 00b

There we have it, five shades of gray. Artists call those “values.” We have five values: white, light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black. Now let’s look at our egg again. Can you see the five values?

01 Egg 02 B&W

I’ll draw some red lines to show you.

01 Egg 02 B&W Values

Do see why we made five boxes with five values? Practice drawing your own lines on pictures you find in magazines or advertisements  If you can see the values, you can make a realistic drawing.

It helps to do one more thing first. Try to make all the values from  black to white in a line without any spaces between them.  That’s how they are on the egg. Try this more than once.  Egg Drawing 01bDo you see how it goes from white to light gray, to medium gray, to dark gray, and to black. 

Let’s try to draw a real looking egg! Like Picasso, start with a careful drawing. Make a box for a frame. Make it the same shape as the photo. See where the egg is in the frame? Put it there, not on the edge or the top or the bottom. See how close or far away the egg is from the frame on all four sides? Draw it that way. Notice that the egg is a little bit more pointed on one side. Draw it that way. And don’t forget to add the book.

Egg Drawing 101c

To make an accurate drawing first draws the shapes very light. Go over them until your eye tells you it’s right.

Now try to see the five values. Use my red lines as a guide. If you draw them in, make them very light or else they will show when you are finished.

The rest is like a coloring book, except we are using pencil values instead of colors. Start with the blacks, number five. I like to leave some white flecks in the blacks. It adds sparkle. 

Egg Drawing 102

Now add the number four grays.

Egg Drawing 103

And the number three grays. Try to make them a bit darker where they meet the number fours, and a bit lighter where they will meet the number twos.

Egg Drawing 104

To make the white of the egg stand out, make the table to the right of the egg number two. That’s the Negative Space. (We won’t try to show the grain lines of the wood.)  I made the number two darker around the egg to make it stand out more.

Egg Drawing 105

Go back and fix things. Slowly blend the values some more. I colored in some of my “sparkle.” It was distracting from the egg.  And I cut some of the edges off the picture to make it more like the original photo,

Egg Drawing 105d

If you want to make your values blend even more, you can rub them with your finger. Be careful not to smudge the white part of the egg. Here’s what the rubbing does. 

Egg Drawing 105ec

Can you see the difference? I usually want to see my pencil strokes, but on something as smooth as an egg, the rubbing looks good.

Your egg doesn’t have to be exactly like the photo. You are not a camera, you are an artist making the prettiest picture you can. Sometimes that means you have to change things. A photograph can’t do that. Do a bunch of these drawings. Your third one will surprise you!

Try to see these five values in what you look at–a landscape, someone’s face, a building, or a car. Put a pine cone under a lamp. Do the same thing with a sea shell or even your pencil. Can you see all the different values? There are way more than five, aren’t there. But making them only five makes it easier to draw.

When you start seeing values in what you look at you are seeing like an artist. Like Picasso.


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14 PICASSO – Painting What You’re Not Painting

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here’s another one of Picasso’s harlequin pictures. The harlequin is holding his child. Picasso painted a clown at a time when he was not funny, but loving. Wasn’t that an interesting idea?

Picasso - Harlequin 1 - Blue

He first made an ink drawing and then painted it. It looks a lot like a page from a coloring book, doesn’t it? Except it’s not the usual way we color in our books.

Do you see that most of the color is the dark blue around the people? He painted what artists call “Negative Space.” Negative Space is not the thing you are painting–that’s the Positive Space. Negative Space is what you are not painting. It’s what surrounds the thing you are really looking at. Painting it dark was Picasso’s way of making the people stand out.

He made some parts stand out even more by adding white. That made “contrast.” Contrast is where dark and light meet. The darkest darks next to the lightest lights create the greatest contrast. Artist’s call it “high contrast.” High contrast always draws our attention. 

Look at Picasso’s picture. Where is the contrast?

It’s the people, isn’t it? Now look at it again and see which of the three people has the highest contrast.

Were you surprised? It’s not the harlequin, it’s his wife. Picasso even put some black over her head and behind her neck to make sure that she had the greatest contrast.

Picasso - Harlequin 1 - Blue b

The thing the artist wants us to look at most is called the “focal point.” It’s where we focus our eyes. Artists often use high contrast at the focal point. Picasso painted the darkest negative space around the harlequin’s wife because he wants us to be sure to look at her. We can tell the harlequin loves the child, but look at the mother’s face, too.

What else is the father touching beside the baby?

It’s his wife’s hand, isn’t it? What a tender harlequin he is! I like this picture, do you?

Let’s color some negative space. Let’s make a mushroom. Draw a shape that looks like a potato. Make a bit of a point on top.

Mushroom B 01b

Add a stem.

Mushroom B 02b1

If we color the positive spaces the way we usually do, it will look like this.

Mushroom B 02b

Instead let’s color the negative spaces first. I added some thin lines to show three areas for the negative space, and some lines on the mushroom to show where the shadows are.

Mushroom B 03

For the negative spaces I used three dark colors that look like a forest floor.

Mushroom B 06

Now let’s do the positive spaces. I used a light color for the mushroom cap. 

Mushroom B 07

Now let’s make the shadow on the edge of the mushroom cap. It’s a bit darker. We’ll make the stem the same color. We want to keep the cap as the highest contrast and the focal point.

Mushroom B 08

Last is the shadow on the stem under the cap.

Mushroom B 09

How do you like working with negative spaces? It’s fun isn’t it?


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13 PICASSO – White Faces & Harlequins

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here’s a picture Pablo Picasso painted. The man looks normal, but the lady has a white face. No one has a face that white.

Picasso - Harlequins

Below is another picture Picasso painted of people with white faces. 

Picasso - Harlequin

Do you see that the man is in profile and the woman is from the front. Look at the lady in the first picture.

But why is Picasso painting their faces white? If you look at their clothes you can get a hint. The men in the pictures are wearing clothes that have lots of diamond shapes on them. Those are costumes. 

These people with white faces are circus performers. The men in the diamond costumes are called harlequins  (It’s pronounced HAR-leh-kwin.) A harlequin is a clown. Aha! Now you know that you have seen people with white faces, too. Circus clowns paint their faces white.

In the United States our clowns not only paint their faces white, they paint on a huge smile or a frown, put on a big red nose and a silly wig, and wear baggy clothes with giant shoes.


Not all clowns everywhere look that way, but most clowns do have white faces, like the people in these paintings.

Some clowns have white faces, wear white gloves, and pretend they can’t talk. They act out a story with their body movements. They are called mimes.


Harlequins, like the ones in Picasso’s paintings, were also acrobats. They did somersaults, cartwheels, and flips while acting out a story. The diamond shapes on their costumes were supposed to be patches on their old clothes, but over time they just became pretty designs.

Remember that I told you that Picasso liked diamond-shaped designs. That’s one reason he liked harlequins so much. But do you remember the wallpaper in the painting of the lady sleeping in a chair?

Picasso - Original Woman-b2 And the wallpaper behind the girl in front of a mirror? PIcasso - Girl & Mirror-c

There is even a name for wallpaper with a diamond pattern. It’s called “Harlquin Wallpaper.” Let’s make some Harlequin Wallpaper like Picasso.

First draw a box with diamond shapes. 

Harlequin Wallpaper 01

I used a computer, so my lines are straight. If yours are crooked, it’s OK. Look at Picasso’s.

Now color the diamond shapes. Pick some colors that look good together. Try using three colors, and try not to let any one color be in two boxes that are touching, except at the points.

Harlequin Wallpaper 02

This may sound easy, but I found it hard to get one that looked pretty. You may have to try more than one.


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I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Let’s paint a face like Picasso’s “Girl in Front of a Mirror.” We’ll start with the picture we made when we were drawing with a brush, like Picasso. If you can’t find your brush drawing of a girl’s face, you can make another one by following the instructions I gave you in “10  Modern Art.” This time make the lines black, or use a felt tip marker,

Picasso Face 07

Let’s give her more hair on the left side of the picture.

Picasso Face 07b

Now watch carefully.

We are going to draw a line down the middle of the face, the way Picasso did. The first part of the line goes from her hair to her nose. See how it’s curved? And now another curve, just a little one, the opposite way as the first one, goes from the bottom of her nose to her lip. Finally there is another curve from the bottom of her lower lip to the bottom of her chin. Make that one curve the same way as the forehead. Look at the picture below and the picture above to see what happened.

Picasso Face 07c

Now I’m going to erase everything to the right of the line I just drew to show you what Picasso was doing. Watch.

Picasso Face 07d

Do you see how this looks like a face in profile. Remember Picasso’s picture of the lady sleeping in a chair and how lamplight made half of her face look like a profile? 

Picasso - Original Woman-d

Picasso liked that idea a lot and made many pictures with both a profile and a front view on one face.

Now let’s take our picture and color it with pretty colors the way Picasso did.  You can use felt tip markers, if you have them. Or just use crayons. Leave the profile part of the face white.

Picasso Face 07e3

Do you see how our face has a front view and a profile view?  We’ll look at this idea more next time.


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11 PICASSO – Side Light & Funny Faces

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here is another painting by Pablo Picasso. It is a picture of a lady sleeping in a chair. It’s calld “The Dream.”

Picasso - Original Woman-c

Did you notice the diamond shapes on the wallpaper behind the chair? Picasso liked diamond shapes a lot.

Look at the lady’s face. The light is shining on half of her face. The other half is in shadow. That is called “Side Lighting.”

Side Lighting happens when people sit next to a window, or a lamp, like this lady, or when the sun is very low. It doesn’t happen a lot, so you have to look for it.

When you see a face from the side it is called a “profile.” Look at someone’s face from the side. Do you see that when a face is in profile the nose and lips are on the edge of the face, not in the middle as they are when you see it from the front

If you look at only the lighted side of  the face of Picasso’s sleeping lady, it looks like it could be a picture of a woman in profile looking toward the ceiling. Can you see the profile?

Picasso thought that the light made a profile in the middle of this lady’s face? He was very interested in this idea of a front and a side to every face. He did many paintings showing that.

Remember Picasso’s “Girl in Front of a Mirror.”

PIcasso - Girl & Mirror-d

Can you see that it is really only one face? What color did Picasso pick for the shadow? Look at the same girl’s face in the mirror. Can you see that it, too, is one face with a shadow on one side?

PIcasso - Girl & Mirror-c3

Let’s compare the face of the lady sleeping with the face of the lady in front of the mirror. If we turn the mirror lady, you’ll see how much alike they are.

PIcasso - Girl & Mirror-g

Try looking at people’s faces when they have a bright light shining on one side. See if you can find two faces the way Picasso did.





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10 PABLO PICASSO – Modern Art

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here is a painting by Pablo Picasso called “Girl in Front of a Mirror.” 

When most people hear the name Picasso they think of pictures that look like this one. He did lots of these. They usually have bright, pretty colors, but there seems to be something wrong with the faces. Most people call it “Modern Art.”

Do you see how Picasso has drawn the faces?   There seems to be two faces together on one person. How strange. 

Can you see that the girl is holding the mirror with both hands? The face in the mirror does not look like the girl’s face, does it? Do you suppose Picasso is saying something about how we see ourselves?

Picasso was famous as a painter, but he liked drawing a lot. In many of his paintings like this one you can see that he was drawing with a paintbrush.

Have you ever tried to draw with a paintbrush? 

Picasso drew with oil paints, but you can do it with watercolors. Do you have some? They come in a small box. The paints are hard until you add water. 

Get an old soup can or something else to hold water. Take your brush, dip it in the water, then drop some water on one of the darker colors. Add more water to your brush and do it again. Do it a third time. Wait a bit until the paint softens.

Now load your brush with the wet color and put it on the inside cover of your open paint box, making a little puddle. Do it again. Add some more water to make your puddle bigger. Use the puddle for your paint. When the brush runs out, dip it in the puddle.  If the color is too light, add more paint. If it’s too dark, add more water. 

Now let’s draw with our paint brush just like Picasso.  Let’s draw a girl’s face. Start by making an oval. 

Picasso Face 01c

Now add some eyes. Remember how we practiced drawing eyes the way Picasso drew the eyes of the girl next to the dove? Try to make some like that. 

Picasso Face 02b

Now add a nose. Just make two lines.

Picasso Face 03

And make a mouth. Let’s make one like Picasso did with the girl and the dove. Start with a bit of a curve for a little smile. Then add a squashed “M” on top or the smile, and a “W” on the bottom. Make the “W” larger than the “M,” because we always see more of a person’s lower lip than the top one.

Picasso Face 04aNow add a neck and some hair.

Picasso Face 05

Add more hair.

Picasso Face 06

Add an arm and a funny hand like Picasso’s Girl in Front of a Mirror. Add more hair if you want to. And make some lines on the neck. That looks like her blouse. 

Picasso Face 07

And now we are drawing with a paintbrush like Picasso. 





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09 Pablo Picasso – Crosshatching

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

This is a picture Pablo Picasso drew of a young lady.  

Do you see how Picasso made her hair and the area around her face dark? Whenever a group of straight lines all going one way cross another group of straight lines gong a different way, they will make the drawing darker.

Crossing lines like this is called “Crosshatching.”

Do you remember the picture by Ben Shahn of the shopping carts?

Do you see that wherever the lines cross, the picture is darker? That’s crosshatching.

Crosshatching was used for hundred of years whenever artists wanted to make a shadow or a part of their picture darker. 

Pablo Picasso wanted to make his picture look like one of the old drawings, so he used crosshatching.

Did you ever try crosshatching? Let’s try it now.

First draw a box. Start with a square.

When drawing a square try to make the up and down lines perfectly straight up and down. Make them match. Up and down lines are called verticals. Do the same with the lines going left and right. Make them flat and straight. Make them match. Lines going left and right are called horizontals.

Now draw three lines from three corners. Make them all go exactly the same way–slanting to the right.

Be sure they are all going the same way. Don’t make them look like this:

But like this:


Now add a horizontal on top, and a vertical on the right side to finish the box. Be sure the horizontal matches the other horizontals, and the vertical matches the other verticals. When you make them match, you may find that some of the lines go past the corners.

That OK. We’ll erase them.

Now we can start crosshatching. A slanting line is called a diagonal. Draw lots of diagonal lines on the front and the side of the box. When lines go the same way they are called parallel. Try hard to make all your diagonal lines parallel.

Now comes the fun part, the actual crosshatching. Make more diagonal lines, only this time make them go the opposite way of your first diagonals, and make them only on the front of the box, not on the side.

You just did you first crosshatching! Do you see how it looks like the light is shining on the top of the box, and some light, not as bright, is shining on the right side, and that the front is in shadow?

Go back and look at how Picasso did it. Do you see his lines are not all perfectly straight? And do you see how he made some parts darker with extra lines?

We can do that with our box too, to make it look a bit more real. 

Now try to do crosshatching in ink.  Then you’ll be drawing, not only like Pablo Picasso, but like the old masters.





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08 PABLO PICASSO – Drawing Big

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

This is a picture of Pablo Picasso drawing.

Does his fish look happy? Do you think Picasso smiled when he was finished with his fish? I wonder how Picasso liked Paul Klee’s “Twitter Machine”?

Picasso looks like an old man in this picture. He lived to be 92. The older he got, the more he painted.

In this picture Pablo Picasso is making a big drawing. Do you ever draw big? Big enough that you have to swing your arm and not just use your hand? Try it.

Find some big paper or some cardboard from an old, large box. You can buy large sheets of paper at any arts and crafts store. It comes in a tablet and is called “Newsprint.” It’s what newspapers are made of.  That’s about the size of what Picasso is using in this picture.

Or just go get some sidewalk chalk and draw away. Remember, use your arm, not just your hand and fingers. Swing you arm and make some nice curves.

This is a picture some kids made in an empty parking lot. 

Have fun. Picasso did.


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07 PABLO PICASSO – Thick Lines & a Thing Called “Perspective”

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Pablo Picasso drew this picture in ink using a thick pen. You can do one with a felt-tip pen. 

Don Quixote

This seems like a strange picture at first. It shows a man on a horse holding a shield and a long spear. There is another man on a donkey. How can you tell it’s a donkey and not a horse?

Those funny things on the ground that look like flowers are not flowers, they are windmills.

The  reason they look so small is because all things that are far away look much smaller than they really are. It’s one of the rules of a thing called “perspective.” Perspective has to do with how things look to our eyes. One rule is that as things get farther and farther away, they look smaller and smaller. 

The opposite is true. As things get closer, they look bigger.

Until people made up the rules of perspective lots of drawings just didn’t look right. Buildings looked crooked, people looked the wrong size. Artists didn’t know how to make a picture look they way our eye sees it. After there were rules of perspective artists who following them could make pictures that looked real.

Go look out a window. Look at the farthest things you can see. Do you see how little the trees and houses and cars look? If you look down from a skyscraper, people look like ants.

Look at the Picasso picture again. Which rider is closer, the man on the horse or the man on the donkey?

Which windmill is the farthest away? Which one is the closest?

Picasso lived in Spain. There is a famous Spanish book called “Don Quixote.”  It’s a man’s name. The last name is funny looking. We think it should sound like “Kwix-ote.” But in Spanish it is pronounced “Key-HO-tee.” 

In the book, Don Quixote (did you say Key-HO-tee?) wanted to be a knight, but the time of knights was long past. So he pretended. He wore armor, got a shield and a long spear and attacked windmills because he thought they looked like giants waving their big arms. Don Quixote’s friend Sancho always went with him riding a donkey. It’s a funny story and everyone is Spain knows it. It was written over 400 years ago.

Many artists have drawn and painted pictures of Don Quixote and Sancho. There are also many woodcarvings and statues of them.

Pablo Picasso drew his picture of Don Quixote and Sancho using a thick pen and lots of scribbly lines. Do you see how the scribbly lines make up the body of the horse? 

Get a felt tip pen and make a drawing using thick, scribbly lines. Look out your window and draw some of the things that look small because they are far away and some of the same things that look bigger because they are closer. Now you are using perspective just the way Pablo Picasso did.

Do you like Picasso’s picture of Don Quixote and Sancho? I do.





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06 PABLO PICASSO – More Simple Lines

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous artists that ever lived. Here is a drawing he made with simple lines, a lot like Ben Shahn.

Picasso - Drawing 05d Face & Dove

Face and Dove

Picasso drew this picture of a lady’s face and a dove. A dove is a white pigeon. It is often used as a symbol of peace. Why do you think Picasso drew a beautiful face next to the dove? Does that say something about what peace is like?

Pablo Picasso and Ben Shahn knew each other and they shared ideas. Remember Ben Shahn’s drawing of the sad boy with the big ice cream cone?

Shahn - Boy & Cone 2

The boy does not have hair or a top to his head. Look at Picasso’s picture. The top of the head is left out, just like it is in Ben Shahn’s picture.

Both Ben Shahn and Picasso drew in ink. In this drawing of the Face and Dove Picasso used simple lines without going back over them, without erasing, or trying again. That’s hard. Try it. Get a felt tip pen and draw something without going back to fix anything.

Does yours look funny? Try it again. And again. Do many. You will be surprised when your pictures start looking right.

We drew an eye like Ben Shahn. Let’s draw an eye like Pablo Picasso. Let’s draw the lady’s left eye, that’s the one on the right side of the picture. Start with the line that is the upper eyelid. It’s a bit like a squashed walnut-shell. Make the center the highest part.

Now add the line that is the bottom of the eye lid. Make it closer on the left side.

Now add a little hook that shows where the tear duct is.

Now add the iris. That’s the colored part of the eye. Try to make it as round as your can, but make it flat on top. That makes it look like the eye lid is covering part of the eye. Look at someone’s eye. You never see the whole circle of the eye-ball or the iris.

Now add the small inner circle. That’s where the lens is. In Picasso’s picture it is not a whole circle, but looks like a hook. 

To finish add an eyebrow.  Use  the  eyeball as a measure. Make the eyebrow as high over the eye lid as the eye-ball is round.

Did you find it hard to do?  Now you know how good Picasso was at drawing. Try it again. And again. Try it in pencil so you can erase and fix things. Then try it in ink, like Ben Shahn and Pablo Picasso.





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05 BEN SHAHN – Gallery

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

An Art Museum is a place that has lots of paintings on the walls for people to look at. An Art Gallery is a shop that has lots of paintings on the walls for people to buy. A museum may have only one or two paintings by the same artist. An Art Gallery usually has many paintings by the same artist. 

Here is a Ben Shahn Gallery I put together for you



Ben Shahn drew pictures, painted pictures, made posters, magazine covers, book covers, and pictures for ads in magazines. The pictures in this gallery are some of his drawings

The policeman in this pictures looks like he is singing! I like the way Ben Shahn draws hands. Do you?


Robert Oppenheimer

Ben Shahn painted pictures and drew portraits of many famous people. This is a portrait of the scientist Robert Oppenheimer. He helped invent the Atomic Bomb, a weapon that ended World War II. Although it saved very many lives, it alo killed very many people. What a sad thing it all was. Do you see the troubled look Ben Shahn gave him? Did you notice the hands?


Sigmund Freud

Ben Shahn drew this picture of a famous doctor who studied people’s minds.  His name was Sigmund Freud. He was interested in how people think. Doctor Freud found many troubling things wrong with people.

Does he look sad or happy to you?

Look at how Ben Shahn drew his nose.  It’s like a fat carrot again, but this time it looks real.  That thin line in the middle of the nose seems important, doesn’t it?



Winfred Owens

Winfred Owens was an English poet. Remember Ben Shahn’s drawing of the boy with the ice cream cone? Part of his head was missing. In this drawing Ben Shahn drew only part of Winfred Owen’s face. He has no ear. When you look at someone talking to you, do you look at their ears?  I don’t.


Hand Holding a Pill 

Here is a picture Ben Shahn drew for a magazine that was selling medicine.

Hold something in your left hand between your thumb and finger–a penny maybe, or something about that size.  Turn your hand back until you can get it to look like Ben Shahn’s drawing. When long things, like fingers, look short because they are pointing at you that is called “foreshortening.” See if you can notice foreshortening. It’s all around you! 


Empty Studio

This is a picture Ben Shahn drew of a music practice room. It is full of folding chairs and music stands.

Have you ever tried to draw a picture of many things crowded into a small space? Try it! Look for a box of things, or a cabinet, or anything else you can find. There are lots of places every day where you see things crowded together.



This is another picture Ben Shahn drew of a crowded space. This first shopping carts were made of thick wires. Do you see how the wires cross when carts overlap each other? It makes the picture darker in that place, doesn’t it? Artists use this method of “cross hatching” to make dark places on their drawings.

We’ll see that in the next artist we look at. His name is Pablo Picasso. He is one of the most famous artists of all time.


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04 BEN SHAHN – Self Portrait

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Let’s draw some more like Ben Shahn.  First take a look at this picture. It’s a self-portrait he did. Remember, a self-portrait is when you draw your own face.. See how simply Ben Shah draws? The nose looks a little like a carrot, like before. The mouth is a simple curved line, a bit of a smile, with lines coming down at the ends.

But look at the eyes. That’s what we want to draw. See how the top half of the eye, the eyelid, is a half-circle, only a little squashed. It looks like a half of a walnut shell. When people grow old you can see more of their eye lid. That’s easy to see on anyone if they look down a bit. Look at people carefully. See if you can find  someone with eyes like Ben Shahn’s. 

Let’s draw an eye the way Ben does. Look at his left eye, that’s the one on the right side of the picture. Start by making a squashed half circle–that walnut shell.

Now add the other walnut shell, the bottom half-circle, but don’t make the ends meet on the left side. Like this:

And now add the dark part of the eye. That colored part of the eye is called the iris. Make the iris round on the left side and color it in to the edge of the bottom curve. Like this”

There we have it. A Ben Shahn eye.

But look again at Ben Shahn’s eye. Look carefully. Try to pick out what he did that is different than what we drew.

Do you see that the iris is higher than ours? It doesn’t touch the bottom of the eye, just the side. And it’s smaller than ours.

And see how the bottom half-circle is more like a half-egg than a half-circle. 

And do you see how some lines are thicker?  Ben Shahn does that on purpose. He chooses very carefully which lines he wants to be thicker. 

Let’s look at both eyes. 

Do you see how both eyes slant down a bit away from the nose? Do you see how the thin and thick lines make the eyes look real even though it is a simple drawing? 

Let’s draw an eye again and try to make it look more like Ben Shahn’s.

Make the line of the top half-circle thicker on the right side. Like this:

Add the horizontal line.

Now add the bottom, but this time make it a half-egg. Make the line on the left side darker. Like this:

Now add the iris.

If you tried to draw this eye like Behn Shahn you will found out how hard it is. Do two or three of these drawings. Keep practicing until you can get it to look like Ben Shahn’s.

Ben Shahn spent many years learning how to draw with simple lines that showed exactly what he wanted to show. Just because a drawing is made of simple lines does not mean it was simple to draw.

Look at the “Self-Portrait” again. Do you agree that Ben Shahn was a great artist?


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03 BEN SHAHN – Leaving Things Out & Adding Things

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Let’s look at some more of Ben Shahn’s drawings.  I like this one but it’s a bit strange.

The boy has only one ear.

Go to a mirror and turn your head to the side a bit. You will see that you too have only one ear. Things change as they turn. A face looks very different from the side than it does from the front.

Remember that a picture of a face is called a “portrait.” A portrait from the side is called a “profile.”

When you see a face half way between the front and the side, that is called a “Three Quarter View.” That’s what you saw in the mirror, when you only had one ear but you still had two eyes.

And that’s what Ben Shahn was drawing when he gave the boy only one ear. 

But the boy has no hair. Why did Ben Shahn leave out the top of his head? Maybe his hair was so short it looked like he had no hair.

Maybe Ben Shahn ran out of paper.

Maybe he didn’t want to show the top of his head for a reason. Maybe he thought the boy was not using the top of his head.  Whatever the reason was, Ben Shahn forced us to look at the boys face, not his hair.

Do you think the boy is standing funny?  

Is he dancing?  Or do you think he might be sitting?  That’s what I think.  Can you see that the boy’s knee on one leg and his ankle on the other leg bend over the edge of something. 

Ben Shahn left out what the boy is sitting on just like he left out part of the head.  

Maybe he is sitting on a bench.  What do you think?

Look at the triple-decker ice cream cone!  Can you tell what the flavors are?


Did you notice that the only color in the whole picture is the ice cream? What did you look at first when you saw this picture? 

What a strange picture this is—a sad boy with a big ice cream cone. Did you ever try to eat when you were sad or angry? How was it?

This drawing is really telling us a story. Most pictures do. But they don’t show the whole story, just one little part of it. It’s fun to guess what the story is. What story would you make up about this picture?

By leaving some things out–the boy’s hair and the bench–and by adding something special–the colors of the ice cream–Ben Shahn got us to look at some things and not others. When you draw a picture, you decide what to put in and what is important. 

Try to draw a picture and then color just one thing, the thing you think is most important.  

Here’s one I did.

I thought the blue awnings were the most important things. The prettiest things.  I liked them so much I drew them twice. I used watercolor paint for the color. You can use crayons, or colored pencils, or whatever you have. You could even paint with grape juice.





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02 BEN SHAHN – Drawing with Simple Lines

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.

Hi Dougie,

Here’s another picture I thought you’d like. It’s by a man named Ben Shahn. He’s really good at drawing with only a few lines. See this face.


A picture of a face is called a “portrait.” Do you see how Ben Shahn used simple lines to draw this portrait? The nose looks like a carrot. And there is a hook on one side of the carrot for a nostril.

The mouth is only one line. But look carefully. That line has a part that is darker? Do you think Ben Shahn did that on purpose?

Let’s draw a nose the way Ben Shahn does.

Start by making a carrot shape. Keep the bottom flat.

Now add a hook for the nostril.

And now make the curved line of the nostril darker, the way Ben Shahn does.

There it is, a Ben Shahn nose!

Did you notice that in Ben Shan’s “Portrait” the face has no hair, and no ears, and no chin and no cheeks, and no neck and no shirt or body or anything. Isn’t that strange? But can you still tell it’s a face? 

Just a few lines can tell you a lot. Remember that.





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01 PAUL KLEE – Having Fun With Art

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.

Hi Dougie,

I found a picture I thought you would like. It’s by a man named Paul  Klee. His last name is pronounced “Clay,” like modeling clay.

“The Twitter Machine”

What do you think of this picture?  Paul Klee calls it “The Twitter Machine.”

Do you know what twitter means? It’s the sound baby birds make. Can you find the birds in this picture? They don’t look much like birds. Look for feathers.

Aren’t they silly looking birds? Did you laugh?  

Have you ever seen a music box? It’s a little box that plays music. All you have to do is turn the crank handle.

That makes a small drum turn. The drum has tiny pins on it. As it turns the pins lift up little piano-key like metal things. As the drum keeps turning each piano key sproings back and make a sound.  Like a real  piano, each key is a different note. By putting the pins in different places on the drum you can make a song. Cool!

Paul Klee’s music box has no drum, or pins, or little keys inside, but it does have a crank. What do you think is supposed to happen if you turn the crank on “The Twitter Machine”?

Did you laugh? Do you think Paul Klee laughed when he painted his Twitter Machine?

Some music boxes have no crank. They work by winding a spring. As the spring unwinds it turns the drum and makes the music.

Some have a little butterfly-like part that spins real fast as the wheel turns. If something stops the butterfly spinner, the drum will stop spinning and the music will stop.

Can you find the butterfly spinner on this picture? It’s near the front on the left.

The spinner is used to stop the music when the cover is closed onto the box. As the lid comes down a wire touches the spinner and the music stops.

What do you think happens when the music box opens? That’s the coolest part of all, isn’t it?

Did you see the butterfly spinner on Paul Klee’s “Twitter Machine”?



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