What is ABSTRACT? Grade 5

Leading up to our current fifth grade exploration:

For the last couple weeks, students have been trying their hand at Still Life Observational sketches.  I call these drawings Quick Sketches--students do two, 2 minute observational sketches from a vase of flowers at the beginning of class during the Warm Up.

Grade 5 examples of Still Life Observational Sketches

At the same time, during their art project time, the fifth graders created drawings based on straight, zig zag and wavy diagonal lines thinking about light, medium and dark shading.

Grade 5 examples of Diagonal Line Colored Pencil Designs

In addition, on one side of the room is a display of abstract art (left.)   And on the other side is a still life display (right.)

Abstract and Still Life wall displays in the art room

Abstract and Still Life wall displays in the art room

After the students spent a couple weeks on their diagonal line colored pencil designs, I asked them: what makes a still life painting a still life and what makes an abstract painting an abstract?  Then the class further explored the question: were the art works we made with the colored pencils more like a still life, an abstract or somewhere in between?  

This discussion led into our present exploration: what makes a work of art abstract?  And, how can I make an abstract work of art? 

My challenge for the students in class for their current colored pencil drawing is:


Our next activity will be to take a look at what students come up with in their drawings to further explore “What is Abstract?”

Explore at home:  Have you seen the Google Art Project?  So much fun to explore!  

Click here to view a still life by Paul Cezanne.

Click here to see an abstract by Paul Klee.  A question to think about: Notice the still life imagery in this painting--is this painting really an abstract or is it a still life?  Why do you think it is an abstract?  Or why do you think it is a still life?

Explore the site.  Look for examples of abstract art and to ask yourself: what makes a work of art abstract?

California Visual and Performing Art Content Standards:

1.2  Identify and describe characteristics of representational, abstract and nonrepresentational works of art.

1.3  Use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and in the environment.

2.2  Create gesture and contour observational drawings.

2.4  Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects.