Artist-Inspired Masks

Lesson Title: Artist-Inspired Masks

Concepts: Research, Art History, Appropriating Images, Thumbnail Sketch & Brainstorm Planning, Mixed-Media Sculpture, Color Theory

Appropriate Grade Levels: 4th - High School

Lesson Rationale/Overview: Students will each choose a piece of art that inspires them from a variety of sources including Google Art Project, SmArtHistory, and WikiPaintings. After researching this piece, it's artist, and the cultural context, they will make multiple sketches to plan a sculptural mask that incorporates elements their chosen piece while adding a personal spin to create a unique mixed-media sculpture. 

Goals and Standards: 

Grade 5-8 Visual Arts Standard 2: Using knowledge of structures and functions. 

Grade 5-8 Visual Arts Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas.

Learner Outcomes: Students will become intimately familiar with the style of one chosen art piece through first researching the background and then making the style their own. Students will practice independent decision making skills as this project differs in technique for each mask. Students will practice working in relief sculpture and have the responsibility to decide if their mask will be functional or decorative. 

Materials Needed for Lesson:

  • Papier-mâché mask forms (or make your own)
  • Aluminum foil, cardboard, wire, and scrap paper
  • Hot glue gun (teacher use)
  • Plaster gauze strips
  • Water bins
  • Acrylic paint 
  • Collage and mixed-media materials (depending on chosen artwork)
  • Modpodge or clear acrylic glaze for sealing

Materials for Students with Special Needs:

  • Paper pulp clay for easier molding and construction
  • personal visual organizer of steps 
  • gloves if tactile defensive of paper pulp clay

Lesson Procedures:

1. Starting the Lesson: Present a timeline of art movements and quickly describe the styles present in each era using a presentation format or book with a small group. With this refreshed vocabulary, students may search for three inspiration pieces on Google Art ProjectSmArtHistory, and WikiPaintings. When students have chosen their three art pieces, they can peer critique choices to narrow down to one final choice.

2. Behavioral Expectations: Students will be responsible for keeping their workspace neat and treating the materials with respect. Students are expected to give informal constructive peer critique through the studio process to guide each other. 

3. Organizer: Break each studio session down into three or four steps and write it on the board, or project it on a screen, so students know the next step in the figure forming process.

4. Lesson Sequence:

  • Students will take notes on the history, techniques, and cultures responsible for their chosen inspiration art piece.
  • Students will then create at least four thumbnail sketches of possible mask designs incorporating essential elements of their art piece.
  • Students will critique these sketches with their peers and with the teacher to determine the most successful concept and take notes on construction and materials needed for the next steps.
  • Mask forms are altered to fit the final sketched plans using a variety of recycled materials to build basic forms: aluminum foil, cardboard, wire, crumpled paper, etc.
  • Once forms are complete, they are covered and smoothed with plaster gauze strips and left to dry for a few hours or ideally overnight.
  • Students will complete their masks with a layer that is appropriate for their chosen art inspiration piece: paint, collage, modeling paste, natural found materials, etc.
  • Group critique using this method.


  • Perspective Lesson with Invented Cityscapes
  • Expressionist Acrylic Paintings based on an Emotive Word
  • Notan Collage
  • Artist-Inspired Masks
  • Cinematography and Elements of Suspense: Hitchcock's Rear Window

* This is a year-at-a-glance overview of my fourth grade curriculum. I'll be adding full lesson plans for each topic here in the future.