Klee Inspired Portraits

Students will use tissue paper to create a Klee inspired background.  Then they will do a simple line drawing on wax paper to layer over the background.


Paul Klee

A Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose is difficult to classify.

English: famous painting by Paul Klee

English: famous painting by Paul Klee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Primitive art, surrealismcubism, and children’s art all seem blended into his small-scale, delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings.  A turning point in Klee’s career was his visit to Tunisia with Macke and Louis Molliet in 1914. He was so overwhelmed by the intense light there that he wrote: Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter. He now built up compositions of colored squares that have the radiance of the mosaics he saw on his Italian sojourn.

Klee's Flora On Sand is the inspiration for our background--1927

Klee’s Flora On Sand is the inspiration for our background–1927


Part 1 – Draw the Portrait

  • Sketching pencils
  • Gum Erasers
  • 36 sheets of 9×12 white drawing paper (you may need to cut the 12×18 in half)
  • 36 pieces of 9×12 wax paper
  • sharpies

Part 2 – Create the Background & Assemble the Piece

  • 30 pieces of tissue paper assorted colors cut into irregular squares (the kids can do this part if you have more time in class)
  • glue diluted 50% (each student will need no more than an ounce or two)
  • water
  • large brushes
  • black crayons
  • 36 9×12 pieces of construction paper in assorted vibrant colors
  • glue full strength (not a lot needed)

What To Do:

Part 1 – Draw the Portrait

Follow this step by step process to create a portrait.  Review what it means to sketch.

How to Draw a Face

  • Add the hair.  The hairline should start half way between the eyebrows and the top of the head.  Make the hair simple lines, you will have to trace it two more times.
  • Center the wax paper over your sketch.
  • Trace your sketch with a sharpie onto the wax paper.  Set the traced portrait on wax paper aside.  Do not add words or details as seen in the picture below.

Part 2: Create the Background

  • Take the sketch that you did on drawing paper and turn it over.
  • Using at least 3 colors, layout a composition on your paper with the squares of tissue paper.  The squares should overlap slightly.  photo 3
  • Keeping it intact, move the composition aside.  (Moving it row by row works well.)
  • Using the large brush, lightly spread a thin layer of diluted glue over the white piece of paper.
  • Put your composition back on the paper.  It’s okay if all the edges aren’t sticking all the way.
  • Using more diluted glue, brush the top of each tissue piece to smooth it down.  Once everything smooth, do a few light strokes across the entire piece to blend a little bit of the color.
  • Take the wax paper portrait and center it over the background.  Starting from the center of the piece smooth the wax paper over the background.  Set aside.
  • Create the Frame:  Fold the piece of construction paper in half.  Starting about an inch in from the left edge on the folded side of the paper, cut a perpendicular line (it can be curvy) stop when there is one inch left.   Make a 90 degree right turn and cut until there is about 1 inch left.  Make one more 90 degree right turn and cut down all the way through the fold.  Open up the paper and you will have a frame.
  • Center and glue the frame to the portrait using the full strength glue.photo 4
  • Using your black crayon, go over the sharpie lines a few times to great a thick outline.  photo 5
  • Add details to the space outside the portrait.  These details can be designs, words, symbols, or anything that is meaningful to you.
  •  Cut any excess wax paper off the edges.photo

For the Gallery:

These pieces are nearly ready.  Request some labels from your teacher and center them on the bottom of each piece.

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