Lesson Plan

Nicolás García Uriburu, La Joconde, 1967-68, lithograph

Lesson plan developed by Rita Yanny, Kegonsa School, Stoughton Area School District, Wisconsin

Grade Level

Grades 3 to 5

Summary of Activity

Students will create expressive self-portraits with animals. The lithograph La Joconde by Nicolas Garcia Uriburu will provide a starting point for the students.

Learning Objectives

  • Create a self-portrait
  • Communicate feelings and thoughts
  • Make connections between art history and contemporary art
  • Practice drawing skills
  • Use painting and mixed media techniques

Guiding Question

How do artists express themselves in their work? 

Curriculum Connections

Art, English Language Arts


Reproduction of the Mona Lisa

Day 1: twelve by twelve-inch heavyweight paper, rulers, pencils, paintbrushes, paint cups, newspapers, tempera paint

Day 2: six by twelve-inch heavyweight paper, pencils, permanent marker pens, colored pencils/markers, mirrors, animal models

Day 3: scissors, glue, glue brush, plastic lid, brayers, waxed paper

For an excellent resource on color: http://www.exploratorium.edu/downloads/coloruncovered/


Explain to the students that they are going to create self-portraits that include animals. They will have a chance to communicate what they are thinking about or feeling in their paintings. Show the students the print La Joconde by Nicholas Garcia Uriburu and a reproduction of the painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Facilitate a discussion about the similarities and differences between the two works of art. Ask the students to consider which artwork seems to be older and why they think so. Ask them, "Why would an artist refer to a famous artwork in a contemporary artwork?" Ask the students to describe the art elements they see in the painting and in the print (for example, color and forms that look realistic in the Mona Lisa versus flat color, simplified shapes, and repeated patterns in La Joconde). Ask the students to describe what else they see in these portraits and to consider reasons why Nicolas Garcia Uriburu has included animals in La Joconde? Ask them to think about the ideas or feelings that the artist is trying to express. 

La Joconde is a type of print called a lithograph. Explain to the students that they will be making paintings not prints. Nicholas Garcia Uriburu changed and added to elements of the Mona Lisa to make a portrait that is entirely new, but that resembles the original painting in some ways. Explain to the students that they will make a self-portrait or a portrait of themselves. 


Day 1:  Write name on the back of a twelve by twelve-inch sheet of heavyweight paper. Use a ruler to make a “frame” in pencil around the edge of the paper. Remind students that they will paint within this frame. Demonstrate drawing simple shapes for a head, neck, and shoulders. Students may want to add basic shapes in the background, or arms, hands, or an animal, but remind them that they will add facial features and small details next time. Paint with tempera paints. Review color mixing for skin tones, tints (color plus white) and shades (color plus black) or have colors already mixed. Dry on rack.

Day 2: Ask the students describe the expression on the woman’s face, who is portrayed in La Joconde. Ask them to describe what she may be feeling or thinking about. Remind the students that they will be adding their own expression in their self-portraits. Have mirrors available at each table for students to look at before they draw facial features with a pencil onto the painted face shape. They can then outline the eyes, nose, and mouth with permanent pens.

Students will also draw animals on a separate sheet of six by twelve-inch paper. The students can choose to use three-dimensional toys as models for their drawings of animals. Demonstrate how to combine simple shapes with contour lines to create drawings of animals. Remind the students to think about how the animal will fit into their painting.  For example, will they hold the animal or will it be placed in the background? Explain that they will cut and glue these drawings to the painted paper next time.

Day 3: Allow time for students to complete their drawings. Demonstrate cutting, arranging, and gluing animal drawings onto the painted background. A small brush is helpful to spread glue to the edges of the drawings.

Completed student example:


Students could:

  • Add color or patterns to the frame.
  • Write about their self-portrait on the frame. Students can select three to five "who, what, where, why, when, and how" questions to help structure the writing process. Write sentences on strips of paper first as a draft and to help with spacing on the frame.
  • Title their art.
  • Explain why they chose the animals they depicted.
  • Read more about Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Read Just Like Me: Stories and Self-Portraits by Fourteen Artists, edited by Harriet Rohmer, Children’s Book Press, 1997.


portrait: a portrait is a picture of a person

tint: Mixing a color with white creates a tint.

shade: Mixing a color with black creates a shade.

lithograph: A lithograph is a print. The process involves ink, a stone or piece of metal, water used to create a resist, and a printing press. Each color has to be printed separately onto the paper.

Common Core Standards

English Language Arts: 3.SL.1, 3.SL.3, 3.SL.4,4.SL.1, 4.SL.4, 5.SL.1, 5.SL.4

Wisconsin Visual Arts Standards

  • A. Visual Memory and Knowledge: Students will know and remember information and ideas about the art and design around them and throughout the world.  Students will:

A.4.2 Learn basic vocabulary related to their study of art
A. 4.6 Know that art is a basic way of thinking and communicating about the world

  • C. Visual Design and Production: Students will design and produce quality original images and objects, such as paintings, sculptures, designed objects, photographs, graphic designs, videos, and computer images. Students will:

C.4.5 Look at nature and works of art as visual resources
C.4.7 Develop basic skills to produce quality art

  • E. Visual Communication and Expression: Students will produce quality images and objects that effectively communicate and express ideas using varied media, techniques, and processes. Students will:

E.4.1 Communicate basic ideas by producing studio art forms, such as drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics
E.4.4 Communicate ideas by producing visual communication forms useful in everyday life, such as sketches, plans and models

Nicolas Garcia Uriburu (Argentine, b. 1937), La Joconde, c. 1967-68, lithograph, 29 7/8 x 22 inches. Purchase, through gift of Mrs. Adolph Bolz. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

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