Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making a Picasso-inspired Guitar

To teach my son about Pablo Picasso, I decided not to focus on his role in the cubism movement, but rather on his remarkable painting The Old Guitarist

Since our last fine art lesson (on Van Gogh) taught us about the connection between color and emotion, this piece from Picasso's Blue Period was a nice segue.

To start, I gave my son a coloring page that I’d made based on the painting and asked him to follow the directions at the top of the page, considering what the man might be feeling/thinking and using colors to reflect that. (Download the coloring page I made here.)

Kids have THE best interpretations of art. My son thought the old man was thinking about his boy and imagining the two guitars he was going to make for him; that’s why his eyes were closed! The old man was excited about the project. I asked my son what color would show his excitement and he selected green.

When he was done coloring, we figured out how many years ago the original painting was made. Then, I showed him a print-out of Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, and shared the following:
  • For three years between 1901 and 1904, Pablo Picasso used mostly blue in his paintings. I asked, “Why do you think he used so much blue?” He was sad.
  • When a close friend of Pablo’s died, he painted LOTS of sad things like people who had no friends or money or were sick.
  • The Old Guitarist is a painting of an old blind man who has no money.

Then, my son made his own guitar.

Here’s the supply list: an empty tissue box, a paper towel tube, brown postal mailing paper, six rubberbands, a small piece of cardboard, and six brads. I traced the sides of the box onto the brown paper and my son cut them out. Then we glued them to the box (1).

Next I cut out a circle at the top of the box where the guitar’s neck would be attached (2). I used a glue gun to apply glue on the circle’s edge and we wedged the tube tightly in the cut-out hole (3). Then my son cut two slits in the top of the tube opposite each other (4) and we slid a trapezoid-shaped flat piece of cardboard into the slits. I applied a little glue to hold it in place.

My son added six rubberbands to the base of the guitar (5) and slid the brads into the cardboard edges of the trapezoid top (6).

When the guitar was made, I showed my son the two pictures of The Old Guitarist – his and Picasso’s. I asked him what kind of music he thought the two men were playing (was it fast or slow?) and had my son play his instrument the way they might.

When we were done, my son didn’t put his new guitar down for a whole hour. He even held it while watching a movie we rented. Maybe I’ve got a budding musician on my hands!


  1. WOW! You totally astonish me! My son has been begging me to make a guitar out of boxes, but I love the art lesson incorporated into it. This whole lesson is just stunning!

  2. Thanks for the compliments, Sarah. When I FINALLY committed to putting my art history degree to use to create fine art-related activities for my son, I've found these to be some of the most enjoyable to plan. He's loving them too! Stay tuned for another great great art-inspired project next Wednesday! :)

  3. Wonderful post! How brilliant. Love that you are introducing "real" art and then getting creative..

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  4. This is way cool - both parts of the lesson. We also did Picasso-inspired lesson last week. I posted it here - There is definitely a lot of kid appeal in his work, but my daughter specifically liked The Old Guitarist picture. Too bad that she knows its colors already :)

  5. VERY cool! If we hadn't just finished Piecasso I would be doing this immediately!! Too bad I didn't read the post a week or so sooner. I will have to tuck it away for future use. VERY fun! I would love for you to link up

  6. Oh my children adore music and this would be such a fun activity to take part in! We have just had colds so am going to keep the tissue boxes to have a go! Fab!

  7. I love this! We haven't done any Picasso lessons lately so I may have to try this out. I think we have all the supplies on hand already. Thanks for the idea!

  8. What a fantastic art lesson. I love how many different aspects you included.:)

  9. I shared this on facebook with my readers. You amaze me! Seriously fun!
    Beth (

  10. What a fun idea - Thank You for sharing! Visiting through ABC 123... great blog you have!

  11. I never would have connected Picasso with guitars - brilliant! I love the multicolored rubber bands, too =)

  12. fabulous! I shared on FB! Thanks for adding this to the showcase - great connection for your budding artist/musician

  13. Thanks for linking up to Serenity Saturday
    Great idea, will have to try and make this with my kids soon

    Hope you can come link something up this week too.

    Natasha xx

  14. Hi, Definately making this and you have set out the steps so well. Thanks, If you would like to join the link party while Our Country Road is having a break please join us at TODAY AT PLAY

  15. You are a wonderful teacher and this project is very inspiring!

  16. nice so interesting and aesy to do! congrats!!