Salvador Dali Art Projects for Kids
Even if you can’t quite seem to cold recall the names of modern artists, you’re almost certainly familiar with their work: Melting clocks, uni-browed self-portraits, cow skulls, Cubist portraits, Campbell’s Soup Cans?
Did that help jog your memory?
Did you come up with Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol?
I bet you did!
That’s because these images have become iconic, as have their creators.
The stories behind how these artists and artwork came to prominence are both interesting and instructive.
And the more budding artists (all our kids!) know about artworks and their creators, the better, I think, they will understand the artistic process and grow from that knowledge. One writer put it like this: If the only thing you ever taste is sliced white bread, you haven’t tasted bread. In the same vein, if you only experience one type of art, you’re missing out.
In learning more about modern art, our students can expand their understanding of techniques and how artists fit within a historical context. They can even find out about the invention of a whole new school of art (like Cubism).
This post is part of a series featuring the modern artists that I like to teach my students about (I talk about Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and Pablo Picasso in the other posts). Each post in this series is full of art project ideas and other useful things you could use to teach your students about these artists.
This post is all about Salvador Dali, so let’s get melting…err… I mean started!
Salvador Dali, of twirly mustache fame, was born in Figueres, Spain, where he nurtured an early love of drawing and art. He later went to art school and experimented with different styles. However, he was kicked out of school before graduating for causing trouble with teachers (imagine that 😉 ).
Eventually, he settled on an art style called surrealism.
Surrealism is an art form in which objects from the subconscious mind are featured as all-important symbols that hold the secret to greater truths. As you might imagine, surrealist paintings can be just plain weird—a lobster on a telephone, for example.
Weird, yes, but also quite interesting!
Dali took surrealism to another level with his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, a desert landscape covered with melting watches (all of which tell a different time).
Let’s start there.
#1. Measuring Masterpieces
Years ago, I was fortunate enough to see this famous painting in person. And boy was I in for a surprise. Having seen Dali’s Last Supper painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., I expected something similar and easy to find. I walked the museum floors looking for this “famous” painting. All the while thinking to myself, If it’s so famous, why can’t I find it?
I finally gave up and asked a security guard. The guard gave me a bit of a perturbed look and pointed over his shoulder. He was the guard of the famous painting. It turns out this larger-than-life painting is only 9.5 inches x 13 inches. That is barely larger than a standard sheet of copy paper!
I was shocked.
Years later, that experience gave me an idea for an art project I could do with kids. I designed an entire lesson around the question, “What is the actual size of famous artwork?”
In art school, every famous piece of art looks the same on a big screen, projected to only one size—huge. Or, in contrast, everything seems small on the pages of a textbook.
No matter small or large, every piece of art is the same size.
Until you see famous artworks in person, it’s hard to comprehend how different these artworks are in size—compared to what we see in books, on calendars, billboards, tv shows, etc.
My Measuring Masterpieces art lesson helps students understand the true size of some famous artwork. The lesson starts by having students re-create famous paintings by Thiebaud, Kahlo, Mondrian, Warhol, Vermeer, and Dali. After they re-create these famous artworks by coloring them and putting them together, it reveals the actual size of each. Students then measure them and see how they all relate to one another. There might be a little bit of math snuck in as well with measuring—finding the area, and finding the perimeter of each painting—but don’t tell the kids! Salvador Dali’s artwork The Persistence of Memory was the inspiration for this project all those years ago.
See my Measuring Masterpieces resource HERE.
#2. The Persistence of Memory Collab Poster
My “measuring the masterpieces” resource is a fantastic lesson, and it hits home for kids. However, sometimes you want to recreate only ONE of those famous artworks, and you want your entire class to participate. That’s when my collaboration poster of Salvador Dali’s painting The Persistence of Memory would fit the bill. If you’ve never done one of my posters, you are in for a treat.
This is how my posters work.
Each child is given one part of the overall design. After following the instructions to color and cut out their piece, the poster is assembled. Once assembled, it reveals a larger collaboration poster that every student got to create. This one reveals Dali’s famous artwork. (Spoiler alert: this version of the work is NOT actual size!) I’ve done these enough to know that your students will be blown away by the process and final results. In the end, they’ll all go up to their piece and say, “I did this piece” as they point enthusiastically at the part they contributed to the larger whole.
You will find this Persistence of Memory collaboration poster HERE.
#3. Surrealistic Cactus Project
Let’s take a step away from Dali’s famous clocks, but only for a moment. We’ll touch on it again in the next Salvador Dali art Project. But for this lesson, the focus is on surrealism. Another word synonymous with Dali. Surrealism is fascinating to students (and adults). Children love to see artists like Dali that paint “weird” things (their words, not mine 😉 ). I have found that comparing surrealism to a dream is the easiest way for children to understand this art form.
I created a surrealistic cactus project to help my students learn about surrealism. To do my surrealistic cactus art project, I took pictures of my students pretending to stand in a bunch of cactus. Using those pictures, I had them create an artwork/collage of prickly pear cactus—large and showing them “stuck” inside—really small. I have written all the steps to this lesson in full detail (click below to see all the details).
#4. Telling Time the Unusual Way
Okay, back to Dali’s dripping clocks. I have always been passionate about infusing art and core content as much as possible. Of course, I 100% believe there is a time to learn the arts for the sake of art. I mean, I went to art school and graduated with an art degree. So, of course, I believe this. However, I also live in reality, and I’ve taught at enough schools to know that kids need help and support in as many places as they can get it. The arts quickly (and easily) engage children—that’s certainly a plus when trying to help with a more complex topic—say math, for example.
Years ago, I designed an art lesson to help children practice telling time. I called it “Telling time the Unusual Way.” And as you might have already guessed, I used an unusual character to help me teach this lesson—Mr. Salvador Dali, himself. My students were so engaged and excited about the project that they hardly even noticed we were talking about telling time. This is one of the earliest lessons I ever shared on Teachers Pay Teachers.
If you think your students would benefit from this, you will find the complete resource HERE.
#5. Create a Creature
“Create a Creature” is what I call this project. “Exquisite Corpse” is what Salvador Dali called it. You can probably guess why, as an educator, I went with “Create a Creature” instead of “Exquisite Corpse.” This is a game I’ve played with kids of almost every grade level. I’ve even done this with adults. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s fra… fra… fra… free!!
You will find the complete free resource on TPT HERE.
I also have a YouTube video explaining the lesson HERE.
#6. Meet the Master Artist
Teaching art history—oh, the joys!!! As an art teacher, this part of a lesson comes naturally to me. However, as a classroom teacher, it can be enough to get the supplies you need, know the steps of a project, and then execute an art lesson in your classroom. Adding in history about the artist, the type of art, or the art period—well, there probably isn’t enough time for that. In fact, I pretty much know there isn’t.
Unless you could connect art history into social studies, reading, writing, AND your other core content.
Well, now you can!
With my Meet the Master Artist series, you can let your students make art inspired by master artists AND learn art history at the same time. These aren’t comprehensive art history courses, of course, but they are a great introduction to each artist and designed to be just the right size bite of information and art activity to help infuse art history into your classroom! These resources save time, first and foremost.
They all include a video that I have created to teach your students about the artist. This video coincides with a one-page biography sheet of each artist as well. Also, and perhaps the best part, these lessons are leveled so you can easily differentiate among your students. To do this lesson, children will cut out two pages and attach them. The top page has a picture of Salvador Dali (that I have drawn) and a short biography. The second page leaves room for children to draw a portion of The Persistence of Memory and the famous dripping clocks.
You will find my Meet the Master Artist lesson in my TPT store HERE.
#7. Portrait Collaboration Poster
Like my collaboration poster of Dali’s famous artwork, The Persistence of Memory, this project is also a collaboration poster. However, this one is of the fun mustache man himself. Kids get such a kick out of his wide eyes and long mustache.
You will find this Salvador Dali art project in my TPT store HERE.
#8. Unscramble The Masterpiece
Kids love games. That’s why I created my “unscramble” series of portraits. Typically they coincide with my Famous Faces® collaboration posters. Well, for this one, I decided to “scramble” up the masterpieces themselves so children could work to unscramble each masterpiece. These are fun because they are easy, kids get to take the “masterpiece” home with them, and they are perfect for substitute plans, early finishers, or as a supplement to any unit on famous artwork. This series includes many famous artworks, including Dali’s—you guessed it—The Persistence of Memory!
You can see my unscramble lesson HERE.
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#9. Dali Dreams
For this lesson, Dali Dreams, I asked my students to think of a dream they once had—the weirder, the better! First, I had them sketch out some ideas in their sketchbooks. Then they could draw their dream(s) on larger paper, starting with a pencil and then outlined with a permanent marker. Finally, I gave my students watercolor paints, and they painted their dreams (that sounds so cool, doesn’t it?!).
Most kids can remember a time they had a strange dream, and giving them the time to document those dreams can be a fun way to help them connect to the artist Salvador Dali.
One of my absolute favorite Salvador Dali books is Dali and the Path of Dreams by Anna Obiols. This book is often hard to find, but you won’t regret it if you can get your hands on it. It pairs perfectly with this Dali dreams art project and can be used along with most of the other Salvador Dali art projects in this post. It’s a great addition to any classroom library.
Thanks for reading!