Picasso did many self portraits through out his life. One of the earliest is
very representational one of the latest, before he passed away, is very
abstract. I use 5 of them as a group, going from realistic to abstract. We
talk about how a person can see him or herself, and how in the end, Picasso
was doing a portrait of how he felt, rather than how he looked.
I have found this to be a good jumping off point for discussing abstract
works. Not...nonrepresentational, but abstract. After this discussion,
students have a better understanding that you don't always paint what you
see....sometimes you paint what you think or feel.
Another lesson I did with Kindergarteners was to read them a book about how
sunflowers grow. Very realistic with photographs of a sunflower farm. In
the book it talks about how beautiful the sunflowers were so people
photographed them and painted them. We then looked at van Gogh's sunflowers
and we compared them to the real sunflowers. The students immediated said
that van Gogh painted sunflowers that was because that was how he saw them.
We used words to descibe them like wild and dancing and hairy...hehe.