Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Leonardo Da Vinci

Only two weeks till my Tween Book Club (Page Turners) meets for the first time! I have finished my re-read of Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins and enjoyed the quick read, though it really makes me want to re-read the whole series as the first book was so short. I’ve done my best to promote it, giving out the flyers to an entire school of 4th-8th graders, a homeschool writers group, posting the flyer in the Children’s area, and telling any kid I think is around that age about it. We shall see soon.

I’ve not been doing a whole lot of these kind (i.e. art lecture) of Kids Cafe because of the new system they want us to use (kids have to kill out membership forms once, but with our kid population being a bit odd -we don’t have a steady population since we’re the big downtown branch, we can have up to 15 new kids a time). It is useful I guess for statistical purposes, but is annoying because it takes so long to fill out the forms that by the time they hand them in and get their food, half the time has gone. Anyways, on to this week’s topic, Leonardo Da Vinci. I have been fascinated by Da Vinci ever since I took a class on Renaissance art while I was doing a study abroad there and got the opportunity to see the Da Vinci museum in Vinci (outside of Florence) and see some of his inventions, along with his beautiful original works in Florence and Rome. He was a genius in art, science, architecture and many other fields, so it was fun to share his genius with others. This is one of the best presentations in my opinion. It was rather hard to squish Leonardo’s life into eighteen slides, but I think the kids/adults got a good understanding of the man. I found out about his inventing robots after I did a DiscoveryTime (storytime + science for 3-5 yr olds) on the subject. I had a lot of fun with the activity, though it wasn’t my original choice.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Biography
    • Born April 15, 1452
    • Leonardo was part of the Italian Renaissance, which lasted from about 1330-1550. Leonardo is referred to as a “Renaissance Man,” not because he lived through the period, but because he was good at everything.
    • Da Vinci refers to the place of his birth, the town of Vinci outside of Florence, Italy
    • Italy Region Map
  • Early Art Career
    • At age 14, Leonardo is apprenticed to the artist Andrea del Verrocchio (an important Renaissance artist in Florence, whose patrons were the ruling family, the Medici’s) , which is how he improved his drawing and learned how to paint and sculpt
      • Verocchio – The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
    • Verrocchio - The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
      • Verocchio – David, c. 1475
      • Verrocchio - David, c. 1475
      • First work attributed to Leonardo – The Annunciation, 1472-75
      • Leonardo - The Annunciation, 1472-75
  • Famous Paintings
    • His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Only 15 of his paintings remain. He was very famous and known for his paintings while he was still alive.
    • The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most well-known painting in the world. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa around 1503. It is also known as “La Gioconda”, the last name of the woman who is believed to be the subject of the painting.
      • It has been on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris for over 200 years. Because of numerous thefts and attempts at defacing the painting, it has been put under bulletproof glass.
      • Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Illinois used face-recognition software to determine that the Mona Lisa is “83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.”
      • Mona Lisa, 1504-19
      • Mona Lisa - large
  • Mona Lisa Parodies
      • A parody is an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration
      • Squidward Mona Lisa Miss Piggy as Mona Lisa Minecraft Mona Lisa
  • Leonardo’s Time in Milan (1482-99)
    • The Last Supper is a frescoed painting located in the dining room of a church/convent in Milan, Italy called Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) and is huge (15 x 29 ft)
    • Painted while Leonardo was under the patronage of Duke Ludivico Sforza of Milan
    • His version of this painting was the first to depict real people acting like real people and was the best example of one-point perspective – everything radiates from the head of Jesus.
    • Instead of using tempera paint on wet plaster (the preferred method of fresco painting), Leonardo thought he’d use dry plaster. His experiment resulted in a more varied palette, but this method wasn’t at all durable. The painted plaster began to flake off the wall almost immediately, and people have been attempting to restore it ever since. Last restoration was in 1999.
    • Leonardo’s The Last Supper, 1495-98
    • The Last Supper, c. 1495-98
    • Giampetrino’s The Last Supper, copy of the original from 1520
    • Giampietrino - The Last Supper, c 1520
  • Leonardo’s Notebooks (1482-1519)
    • Leonardo was also an architect, writer, natural/biological scientist, cartographer, and mathematician. He is famous for his notebooks where he kept over 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which were both art and science-related. In fact, he was the first one to explain in the year 1500 why the sky was blue.
    • The notebooks are written in mirror-image cursive with his left hand (i.e. backwards and right to left). And he was ambidextrous – could write with both hands
    • His conceptual drawings included plans for musical instruments, war machines, calculators, submarine, an automobile driven by springs, multi-barreled missiles (machine guns) and many more ideas. Many of these plans were limited by the level of technology at the time.
    • He was interested in civil engineering projects and designed a single span bridge, a way to divert the Arno River, and moveable barricades which would help protect a city in the case of attack.
    • Leonardo’s Inventions: Robots, Tank, and Single-Span Bridge
      • Robots
      • Tank
      • Single Span Bridge
    • Inventions: The Orinthopter
      • He was particularly interested in flight and studied birds to understand how they flew. The Orinthopter was a human-powered flying machine but he also created a design for a helicopter.

      • Orinthopter outline
      • Orinthopter, c 1490
      • Orinthopter
    • Understanding Human Anatomy
      • He became an expert in the anatomy of the human body, studying it in detail and creating hundreds of drawings to help explain his thoughts. Leonardo didn’t just study the human anatomy either. He also had a strong interest in horses as well as cows, frogs, monkeys, and other animals.
      • Anatomical study of the arm, c. 1510
      • The Lungs
    • Animal Studies
      • cats
      • Studies of Crabs
  • Sforza Horse Sculpture
    • In 1482, Duke Ludivico Sforza (Leonardo’s patron in Milan) challenged him to build the world’s largest equestrian bronze statue in honor of Ludivico’s father Francesco
    • Leonardo did a multitude of sketches for the sculpture, and he created a clay model of the horse in 1493, but it was never cast
    • It wasn’t until after Leonardo’s notebooks were re-discovered, and a wealthy American took on the project in 1977, that the sculpture was finally created in 1999.
    • It was installed in Milan (with a copy in Michigan) – it weighed 15 tons (33,069 lbs) and is 25 ft tall [you can see the scale to a human in the bottom picture]
    •  Sketches for Cavallo dello Sforza
    • Studies for an equestrian monument
    • American Horse, 2006
  • Codex Leicester (1506-13)
  • Activity: Invisible Ink using Lemon Juice
    • Let’s Be a Spy and Leave a Secret Message
    • Here’s a simple explanation of this
      • Send a secret message to a friend using invisible ink

        Small glass of lemon juice or milk
        Piece of white paper
        Blow-dryer or light bulb

        Dip the end of the Q-tip into the lemon juice or milk, and use it to write a secret message on the piece of paper.

        Let dry completely. Your message should be invisible.

        To decode your message, heat the piece of paper by carefully blow-drying it (or holding it near a warm light bulb).

        As the paper heats up, your message will appear yellow or brown. That’s because milk and lemon juice are acidic and weaken the paper, Anderson says in her book. “When the heat source is put near the paper, the weaker part begins to brown before the rest of the paper does.”

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Pablo Picasso

I feel kind of glazed over today as I’m fighting a cold (yes you can get them in the summer, even in the desert apparently) and it’s been a rather long day. Aside from that, I have managed to get a fair amount of work done so far this week since Sunday, so I am pleased with that.

This Kids Cafe was pretty cool because I only knew the basics about Picasso, so I got to learn a lot as well. He does have the longest name of any historical figure (that I’m aware of at least). I knew he was the father, so to speak, of Cubism, but I didn’t really know anything about his other art periods. I also had no idea that he even did sculpture, collages or etchings. He had an amazingly large body of work. The kids had an interesting time with the Picasso-style portaits, and I did have a few takers for the Cubist guitars as well.

KC Pablo Picasso – March 27


Self-Portait, 1901

  • “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ” Pablo Picasso
  • Biography
    • Born Oct 1881 in Spain
    • He was named after various saints and relatives: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
    • When he was 7 yrs old, his father (who was also a painter) gave him training in figure drawing and oil painting
  • First Major Paintings
  • Le Picador, 1889
    • 1st painting at 9 yrs, Le Picador 1889 – a man riding a horse in a bullfight
    • First Communion, 1895
    • 1st major “academic” work was First Communion, 1895 which featured his father, mother and younger sister kneeling before an altar – he was 15 yr old when he finished it
  • Background Info
    • At age 13, Pablo studied art in Madrid and then went to Paris when he was 19. In 1900 Paris was considered the art capital of Europe.
    • Paris Opera House circa 1900
    • In 1905, American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein began to collect his work and helped to make him famous. It was through them that he met fellow artist Henri Matisse and the two became lifelong friends.

      Aside from paintings, Picasso also created ceramic and bronze sculptures, drawings, etchings and poetry. He was also famous for doing collages (gluing previously unrelated things together with images), like his friend Matisse.

    • His work is divided into 4 major periods
  • The Blue Period (1901-04)
    • These were sad paintings done in blue and green colors
    •  Old Guitarist, 1903
      • The Old Guitarist, 1903
    • The Rose Period (1905-1907)
      • These were happier and done in orange, red, oranges and beiges
      • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats) 1904-05
        • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats), 1904-05
      • The African-Influence Period (1908-1909)
        • African artworks were being brought back to Paris museums after the French Empire established colonies in Africa
        • Picasso liked the expressive style of the African masks and sculpture
        • Head of a Woman, 1907
          • Head of a Woman, 1907 and Dan Mask
        • The Cubism Period (1909-1921)
          • He is famous for being the co-founder (with Georges Braque) of Cubism, a style of painting where the subjects are broken up and re-painted in an abstract form
          • Three Musician, 1921
            • Three Musicians, 1921
        • Other Famous Works
        • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Guernica, 1937
            • Guernica is one of Picasso’s most well-known works and was created in response and in protest to the 1937 bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in Northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The large, 25.6 ft wide and 11 ft tall mural emphasizes the horrors of war and the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.
            • Guernica, 1937
            • scale of Guernica
              • Guernica and Scale of Guernica pic for comparison
          • Dove of Peace, 1949
          • Dove of Peace, 1949

Activity: either Picasso Portraits ( or Guitars (

Below are my examples of both the Guitar and Picasso portrait. I liked the guitar better. I had some examples of Cubist facial features (found somewhere online, can’t remember exact source) as well laminated to help the kids decide what to use for the portraits, featured below my examples:

Picasso Guitar example         Picasso Portrait example


Picasso Portrait details