Lesson Plans MMoCA Collects

Ed Paschke: Art Icon Collage

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Ed Paschke, La Chanteuse, oil on linen, 1981.
Sample image
Sample image
Sample image


This lesson suggests a way to approach one of Chicago artist Ed Paschke's many artistic styles, techniques, and themes. Students will analyze La Chanteuse as well as a variety of other Paschke images available online in the collection of the MMoCA. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Ed Paschke considered the expanding effect of electronic media on contemporary life. The digital revolution has allowed manipulation and distortion of photo images in ways that now seem common to students. The old adage that photos never lie is no longer a practical statement. Through computer manipulation, photos can change colors and clarity, become animated, and have new elements cloned into place seamlessly. In this lesson, students will alter a photocopy of a familiar art icon using simple manual techniques. Although Paschke's images seem photo-realistic and perhaps air brushed or digitally produced, his elegant surfaces were most often painted with a brush. Ed Paschke was one of the first fine artists to regularly use an opaque projector in his work, which allowed him to combine fragments from a variety of images. Paschke regularly used iconic characters in his art throughout his life, from Marilyn Monroe to Adolph Hitler, from politicians to beauty queens. Students will produce a work of art based on an icon using cutting, collage, and drawing in the spirit of Ed Paschke's electronic interference period.


Students will learn about the art of the Chicago Imagists, Pop artists, and specifically the work of Ed Paschke.

Students will learn to evaluate the flood of media images surrounding them daily.

Students will choose an icon from art history and alter a photocopy of it through manual manipulation.

Students will discuss other ways that images can be altered with contemporary technology.


Discuss Ed Paschke and his connection to the Chicago Imagists starting in the 1960s. Paschke was influenced by Pop art and Andy Warhol. The Imagists developed a playful, sometimes humorous style of figurative art that ran counterculture to the abstract painting style popular on both American coasts at the time. Paschke was a fan of popular mass media, in particular movie posters, tabloid magazines, and comics. In his early work, he used opaque projectors to collage together photo fragments from various sources, using changes in proportions and props to create new portraits of famous people from popular media. Although Paschke's work looked photographic and air brushed, he painstakingly painted most of his images with a brush. La Chanteuse is a painting from Paschke's period of interest in electronic media. Works from this period look distorted by mysterious static. Faces disintegrate and are crossed by horizontal bands of color. Eyes often seem blank and empty, perhaps made vacant by too much exposure to TV. Using collage and drawing techniques, students will choose an iconic "artface" and alter it in ways similar to La Chanteuse. Students will also consider the implications of being able to alter electronic media in society.


  1. As a group, do a Google search for Ed Paschke and print results in color if possible.
  2. Before digital technology (not so long ago) photographs were considered proof of fact, even in court. Altering of photos was uncommon and usually so poorly done that alterations were easy to detect. Ask students to share what they know about how photos can be manipulated and altered today with computers. See if students are aware of photos being retouched or cloned. (Fashion photography is a common example.)
  3. Insert any video into your VCR and change the tracking button to create static. Discuss how images change. How do these changes make a viewer feel? If comfortable with a program such as PhotoShop, demonstrate some ways that a face can be changed in color, clarity, or with distortions. If not comfortable with this technology, invite a guest technology whiz to demonstrate in your class. Ask students if they can always tell if a photo has been altered.
  4. Students look through art books for a portrait in which the face or faces are large in their context. Paschke loved to work with famous faces. On a photocopier help students to enlarge a chosen face to at least 8 1/2 x 11 inches. We worked with 11 x 17-inch enlargements in black and white. (Enlargements were made at a local copy shop to avoid using the school's toner.)
  5. Using rulers and pencils, students horizontally rule across their face photos. Lines can vary in closeness and can verge towards the diagonal a little for variety. Starting at the top right-hand corner, students number (small, close to the edge!) their strips in order from top to bottom so that they can reassemble images after they have been cut apart. Students carefully cut their photos into strips with scissors or have an adult make cuts on a paper cutter.
  6. Students reassemble their strips on top of slightly larger pieces of backing paper, shifting each strip slightly so faces appear blurred. When satisfied with this work, students glue (glue sticks) edges of each strip, one at a time, onto the backing paper, making sure that gluing is flat and secure.
  7. Rip or cut small pieces of tissue paper to cover facial features (eyes, lips, cheeks, forehead, or planes of face). Light colors allow photocopy features to show through. Revisit Paschke images for inspiration.
  8. Mix up a small amount of glue wash in a snap-top container. Cover work table with newspapers. Glue-wash collage is a three-step process: a thin layer of glue brushed on substrate, tissue paper; then a second layer of glue brushed gently over the top. Don't overbrush, as tissue color will "bleed" if overworked. Allow collage to dry flat.
  9. Revisit your Paschke images to look at the "skittery" lines of interference colors. Using oil crayons add "bars of interference." Some of the original facial image may disappear during your work, just as they did in Paschke's work. Discuss the results.


Google search for Ed Paschke images
Ed Paschke books from regional libraries
Examples of tabloid magazines, florid ads and cartoons
Work of John Heartfield

Curriculum Connections

Art-art history, collage, electronic media
Social studies-effects of electronic media on culture
Technology-light tables, computers, opaque projectors, how color and image alterations change meaning in photo images


Appropriate for any level, piloted with grades 3-5


Pictures of people from magazines, newspapers, ads
Art books (We used images by Leonardo da Vinci)
Scrap tissue paper in light colors
White or copier paper for backing of collage
Glue wash (1/2 water, 1/2 white glue) in a re-sealable container
Small soft brush
Glue sticks
Scissors or paper cutter
Variety of drawing media, such as oil crayons, markers, or watercolors
Access to a TV with VCR–unit needs a functional tracking button


all the means of communication (such as newspapers, radio, and TV) that provide people with news, entertainment, and usually advertising. Can also mean varied forms of art supplies, such as paints, crayons, markers, or clay.

electronic interference:
unwanted signals producing a distortion of sound or image and preventing good reception

photo realism:
a type of art that is so realistic it appears to be a photograph

Chicago Imagists:
a group of artists, starting in the late 1960s, known for a colorful, figurative (with recognizable figures) style, making humorous and ironic comments on modern life. The imagists chose to rebel against the abstract painting prevalent on both coasts at the time. Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, and Jim Nutt are three of the notable members of this group.

complementary colors:
colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary colors create strong, eye-catching and sometimes acidic color schemes which are often used in advertising and for sports jerseys. Ed Paschke was known for his use of complementary colors and for using edgy, acidic combinations in his paintings.


This lesson meets the following Wisconsin Model Academic Standards:


B: Students in Wisconsin will understand the value and significance of the visual arts, media, and design in relation to history and social development. (Performance Standards B.4.3, B.4.4)

C: Students in Wisconsin will design and produce original images such as . . . photographs, graphic designs . . . computer images. (Performance Standards C.4.3: Know how the design of art changes its meaning.)

E: Students in Wisconsin will produce quality images . . . that effectively communicate and express ideas using varied media, techniques, and processes. Performance Standards: E.4.2, E.4.5).

F: Students in Wisconsin will understand the role of, and be able to use . . . technological tools and equipment. (Performance Standards: F.4.1, F.4.2. F.4.5, F.4.8).

K: Students in Wisconsin will make connections among the arts, other disciplines, other cultures, and the world of work. (Performance Standards: K.4.2).

L: Students in Wisconsin will use their imaginations and creativity to develop multiple solutions to problems, expand their minds, and create ideas for original works of art and design. (Performance Standards: L.4.4, L.4.6).




Any level; piloted for grades 3-5

Art, art history, social studies, technology