Lesson Plans MMoCA Collects

Ellsworth Kelly: Abstract Pictures

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Ellsworth Kelly, Red/Blue, from the portfolio "Ten Works x Ten Painters", 1964, screenprint, 1964.
Sample image
Sample image

Developed by Jeanell Dailey, Taylor Prairie Elementary School, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin


Create an abstract picture of two-dimensional geometric shapes using Kid Pix software based on a photograph taken by the student.


Participate in a classroom discussion about two-dimensional shapes observed in the classroom and discussion of the shapes observed in the print by Ellsworth Kelly.

Identify two-dimensional geometric shapes.

Choose a subject with two or three distinctive geometric shapes to photograph.

Sketch the shapes.

Create a picture using Kid Pix that is an abstract of a portion of the subject in the photograph.


Present reproduction of Red/Blue by Ellsworth Kelly to the class and provide information about the work and the artist. Tell students that this is a work of abstract art and facilitate a discussion on abstract art. Tell students that Kelly gets his ideas for his paintings from nature and things around him. He makes the object or thing into geometric shapes?sometimes very close-up, as if viewed through a magnifying glass. Introduce the word perspective. Discuss what close-up view Red/Blue could be. Tell students they're going to be looking around the classroom to find either a faraway perspective or a close-up perspective that shows at least two geometric shapes.


  1. Students should look around the classroom for two-dimensional geometric shapes. Have them use their fingers as frames to look for interesting shapes together.
  2. After finding an interesting view, each student will take a picture of it with a digital camera. These pictures will need to be printed before the next session. If a digital camera is not available, proceed to step 3.
  3. Students will sketch with pencil, paper, and ruler the two or more shapes they each plan to focus on using simple two-dimensional shapes.
  4. During the next class period, the each student will closely examine the printed pictures (or sketches) to find two or three shapes that will become the finished picture. It could be a small piece of the picture or a large part, but each student will need to identify the two or three geometric shapes.
  5. Using Kid Pix software, the students will reproduce a portion of their photographs (or sketches) using only the basic geometric shapes.
  6. After the Kid Pix pictures are printed, display the students' photographs (or sketches) and Kid Pix pieces in random order. Challenge the students to match the abstract artwork with the original photographs.


Art, math, technology


primary, grades 1-2


Digital camera
Computer with Kid Pix or other drawing software
Computer printer


an arrangement of artistic parts purposefully done to form a successful or harmonious whole


This lesson addresses the following Wisconsin Model Academic Standards:


English Language Arts

C.4.1 Orally communicate information, opinions, and ideas effectively to different audiences for a variety of purposes.


C.4.2 Listen to and comprehend oral communications.


C.4.3 Participate effectively in discussion.


Fine Arts

A.4.1 Develop a basic mental storehouse of images.


A.4.2 Learn basic vocabulary related to their study of art.


C.4.5 Look at nature and works of art as visual resources.


C.4.7 Develop basic skills to produce quality art.


E.4.1 Communicate basic ideas by producing studio art forms such as drawing, painting, prints, sculpture, jewelry, fiber, and ceramics.


H.4.1 Study the patterns and color in nature.


Information and Technology Literacy

A.4.1 Use common media and technology terminology and equipment.


A.4.2 Identify and use common media formats.


A.4.3 Use a computer and productivity software to organize and create information.


A.4.5 Use media and technology to create and present information.



C.4.1 Describe two- and three-dimensional figures (e.g., circles, polygons, trapezoids, prisms, spheres) by:

-naming them

-comparing, sorting, and classifying them


-drawing and constructing physical models to specifications


-identifying their properties (e.g., number of sides or faces, two- or three-dimensionality, equal sides, number of right angles)


-predicting the results of combining or subdividing two-dimensional figures


-explaining how these figures are related to objects in the environment


Ellsworth KellyRed/Blue, from the portfolio "Ten Works x Ten Painters", 1964, 1964, screenprint, 22 x 18 inches. Collection of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Gift of the Betty Parsons Foundation. 1985.36C © Ellsworth Kelly.

Primary, grades 1-2

Art, math, technology