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TeachnetNYC: A Mask for All Seasons


By Lori Langsner, Art Teacher

Home | student web gallery of masks | web page logos of student thumbnail sketches for masks

classroom mask display  | explanation of process | sample student writing



Students will create a plaster craft mask to depict the four seasons.

Students will learn about the Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593), and his “Seasons” series of human faces turned into floral arrangements.

Students will create symbolism in their masks by using seasonal flowers, leaves, branches, seed pods, etc. to depict various phrase associations. (Spring - adolescent, Summer - young man, Fall - wise sage, Winter - old man)


DO NOW:   Describe some words or phrases you would associate with each of the following seasons:  FALL: decay, death, fire , colors, crumbling, leaves, harvest, frightening spirits, chill, floating leaves  WINTER: tired, deep sleep, branches, invigorating cold, whipping winds, delicate flakes, icy, blizzard, white on white, dreams, holiday excitement  SPRING:  renewal, bursting with energy, rebirth, thaw, stretch and grow, thunderstorms, greening, sudden showers, exhilaration  SUMMER:  celebrate, play, heat, simmering, ignite sparks, water, romance, splashes of color, ripening, fulfillment, life is abundant



1. mask - a facial covering usually worn for protection, disguise, or to ward off evil spirits

2. plaster craft - gauze impregnated with plaster used for molding

3. seasonal - having to do with the four seasons

4. Renaissance - a period in art history where there was a rebirth in art and culture, began in Italy in the 15th C.

5. Giuseppe ARCIMBOLDO - an Italian painter whose witty allegorical compositions foreshadowed 20thC surrealist art.  He invented a portrait type consisting of painted animals, flowers, fruit, and objects composed to form a human likeness.


GRADE LEVEL:  8th grade accelerated art 


SETTING:  art classroom


TIME ALLOWANCE:  one month, class meets 4x per week for 40 minutes


MATERIALS:  pre-molded plastic masks, plaster craft, found objects and collage materials, seasonal fruits and vegetables, leaves, branches, twigs, yarn, raffia, ribbon, silk flowers and leaves, tempera and metallic paints, poster board, scissors, glue, hot glue gun, stapler, paintbrushes, water cups, palettes, newspaper, hole punch, gloss medium, glitter paints


MOTIVATION:  Arts & Activities Magazine, Oct. ‘99 - “It’s the Season for Masks” photos p.16-17, student sample papier mache masks, World Wide Web exploration of masks, Fall - Winter season, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to be played while working


 “Web Gallery of Art” - www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/a/arcimbol/index.html

Vivaldi - short bio with links to sample audio track for Four Seasons, as well as cd purchase information http://hnh.com/composer/vivaldi.htm



1. Students will brainstorm associations and phrases for the four seasons.

2. Students will contemplate the season they like best and why and decide what materials would best express their ideas.

3. Students will sketch and color their mask creations.

4.  Using co-operative learning skills, students will work in groups of 2 - 4 to create plaster mask; coat plastic mask with vaseline, cut gauze into 2” wide by 6” strips, cover plastic mask by overlapping each strip and repeating 3 times in reverse order, allow to dry for 10 minutes and gently remove plaster and allow to dry on newspaper overnight.  Each student will continue the process until all is complete.

5. Once dry, masks are then sanded and painted to illustrate the proper season.

6. Fine details may be added as well as, collage materials to further enhance the seasonal theme.

7. Completed masks will be displayed in classroom for evaluation and critique.

8. Students will set up a showcase display in school hallway for entire school population to view.



1. Name three different ways masks have been used throughout history.

2. How are our masks similar to the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo?  How are they different?

3. Describe how you created your “season”.

4.  Why are our masks an example of “additive” and “subtractive” sculpture?

5. Which masks do you like best?  Why?



student web gallery of masks

web page logos of student thumbnail sketches for masks  

classroom mask display 

explanation of process with sample student writing   



1. Invite creative writing classes to view our exhibit and respond to our masks by writing poetry. 

2. Have other classes create paper masks, papier-mache masks, and clay masks.

3. Visit museums to view their mask collections.

4. Create student web pages of mask creations.




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