Assemble a colorful self-portrait inspired by Niki de Saint Phalle’s Pink Lady. Use your favorite art materials and objects to show the colors, shapes, textures, and lines that represent you!
Time: 45 minutes +
Grade Level: grades 3–5, adaptable for younger and older students
Art Speak: portraits, mixed media
DCPS Arts Curricula: Trusting
What color do you notice first? What other colors do you see? You might have noticed many shades of pink, purple, blue, yellow, and red in the artwork against a black background. The artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, titled it Pink Lady after all the shades of pink she used to create the artwork.
Now, take a moment to look closer at the colorful shapes and lines. What shapes and lines can you find? Where are they? You may have noticed Pink Lady’s body is made up of circles, triangles, hearts, and is full of squiggly and curvy lines. De Saint Phalle used mixed media to create Pink Lady. Mixed media means that an artist uses many different materials to create their art. De Saint Phalle used oil pastels and enamel (a strong metal-like paint) to create bold and vibrant shapes. To make curvy and squiggly lines she used ink and pencil. The artist also added stamps and found images to build Pink Lady’s body to show emotion.
Taking in the colors, shapes, and lines, what does Pink Lady’s body tell us about her and her emotion? What makes you say that? Perhaps you noticed her smile and the fact that she is looking right at you! You may have seen her strong arms and legs which show her standing confidently. During Saint Phalle’s life, many people didn’t think women were strong and confident. De Saint Phalle thought differently and created a series of artworks, including Pink Lady, to show that women are strong, confident, and can do great things!
ABOUT NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE
Meet Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002) a self-taught artist and one of the most exhibited woman artists of the twentieth century. Throughout her life she created many different types of art including paintings, assemblages, jewelry, furniture, mosaics, films, book illustrations, clothing, toys, perfume bottles, buildings and even playgrounds!
She faced many obstacles as a woman and a survivor of childhood abuse. To process her strong emotions, de Saint Phalle made art of strong, powerful, and whimsical women she called nanas (an older French slang term for girlfriend). Her unique and expressive art changed the way people thought about women. Later in her life, she built an enormous park full of art saying: “It’s my destiny to make a place where people can come and be happy: a garden of joy.”
Want to learn more? Read more about Niki de Saint Phalle’s life and work
Niki de Saint Phalle used lots of different materials to create Pink Lady. For this project you will make a mixed media artwork full of colors, shapes, lines, and objects that represent you!
- Gather your materials. First grab a thick piece of cardboard, pencil, scissors, colorful construction paper, and glue. Since this is a mixed media project, you can use whatever art materials are your favorite! We recommend something to add bold color such as tempera paint, pastels, or markers. You will also need images that represent you which you might find in photographs or magazines. To add texture, we recommend feathers, fabric, scrap paper, beads, candy wrappers, small plastic toys, or anything that sticks to glue!
- Choose your emotion. Niki de Saint Phalle created art of powerful and strong women. What emotion(s) do you want your portrait to show? Do you want to be happy? Excited? Something else? What would your body do to show that emotion? Using all the space on your cardboard, sketch an outline of your body in your expressive pose. Remember, like Pink Lady, it does not need to be perfect!
- Choose your colors. De Saint Phalle used shades of pink for Pink Lady. What color do you want your body to be in your portrait? Your favorite color, a color that represents how you are feeling today, or something else? Once you have chosen your main color, choose a second contrasting color for the background. Using your material of choice, fill your body with your main color. Then add your contrasting color to the background. Tip: if you are using paint, let the paint dry between steps.
- Assemble your body. Glue your colorful and expressive body with the things that represent you! What are some of your favorite things? Cut out images from magazines or shapes from construction paper, and glue them inside your body outline. Then some texture with small objects that represent you!
- Add some doodles! De Saint Phalle loved to create fun and small drawings upon her art that represented her emotions. Grab a marker to add doodles over your art that show how you are feeling today!
- Title your portrait. Will you title your self-portrait like de Saint Phalle, after the colors it is made from? Or will it be named after the emotion you expressed in the portrait? We named ours Ocean Girl!