SchoolArts Room

Pop Art Portrait Busts

By Nancy Walkup, posted on Jan 5, 2017

A middle level lesson.


Students will:
  • Create a portrait bust of a person they know, famous or personal, or a self-portrait.
  • Recognize the different kinds of architectural columns.
  • View and discuss portrait busts throughout history.
  • Columns Ionic, Doric, Corinthian Bust portraits
  • Pop Art
from John Post
Resources and Materials
  • Clay or self-drying clay
  • Plastic bags 
  • Masking tape 
  • Pencils
  • Clay tools 
  • Containers of water 
  • Paper towels
  • Glazes or acrylic paint
Discuss different kinds of columns. Show examples of the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian columns. Show examples of entertaining busts of movie stars, cartoon characters, and comic book heroes and more traditional, historic busts. Share Jeff Koons’ portrait busts and discuss pop art and what art says about popular culture.

John Suazo
Jeff Koons
Next have students make the column stands for their busts. Demonstrate how to make Doric and Ionic columns. Demonstrate forming a short, thick cylinder first, then adding a round or square flattened piece at the top. Decorations can be added with balls and coils of clay.

Have students form their columns; circulate around the room and give assistance as needed. At the end of the class have students place their columns into plastic bags for storage (have students write names on tape that you have previously placed on the bag). Make sure they completely seal the clay in the plastic. The clay must remain wet so students can continue to work on them next time they come to class.

Step 1: Students choose the subjects for their portraits. Demonstrate forming a simple head and shoulders before distributing any clay. Take a piece of clay about the size of an orange and separate it into two halves. Form one into an egg shape and the other into a short cylinder and join them together with a vertical shape to make the head and a horizontal piece to make the shoulders. Smooth the edges between the head and shoulders to form a neck strong enough to hold up the head. Have students follow these steps and then attach the heads to the columns at this point. Wrap the clay carefully at the end of the class.

Jeff Koons
Step 2: With additional clay, have students make and add the features, hair, and clothing.

Step 3: Let clay dry and bisque fire it.

Step 4: Have students paint their busts with their acrylic paint or glaze and retire.


When all the busts are complete, display the work and discuss the rubric with students.

from John Post
To what extend did the student:
  • Create a recognizable portrait bust of a person they know, famous or personal, or a self-portrait? 
  • Learn about the different types of columns used in architecture?
Assessment Rubric
Discussion on Busts and Columns
Student responds to examples of Busts and Columns with insightful comments supported with persuasive reasoning.
Student responds to examples of Busts and Columns with some comments supported with reasoning.page2image17136
Student does not participate in discussion or makes few or no comments.
Pop Art Busts
Student follows instructions well and works well on project, adding imaginative details.
Student follows instructions and works towards finishing project with some detail.
Student makes little effort to complete a portrait bust.