ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Students use Model Magic to create a variety of root vegetables and then use them to create a portrait in the style of Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Required Time

60 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 6


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour form shape texture


Crayola Model Magic - Primary Colours and White Crayola Construction Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Scissors Crayola Washable No-Run Glue Tag Manilla Paper - Medium Weight - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") - 1 per student

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ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Step One

Step One

  1. View the painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
  2. Look closely at the details.
  3. What do you notice?
  4. What kinds of plants do you see?
  5. How has he used them to create a portrait?

(Autumn, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1573 - Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Choose a vegetable and place it in your workspace.
  2. Mix primary colours of Model Magic to make the colour you need for your vegetable.
    - red + yellow = orange
    - red + blue = violet
    - yellow + blue = green
    - red + blue + yellow = brown
    - white + colour = a lighter colour
    - different amounts of a primary colour will change the way the colour looks
  3. Look closely at the real vegetable and try to make yours look the same.


ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Cut a head shape about 15 cm wide and 19 cm long out of a piece of manila tag paper.
  2. Include a neck.
ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Glue the cut-out head to a piece of construction paper.
  2. Arrange your root vegetable forms on the cut-out to make a face.
  3. Try placing the forms in different ways until you have a face you like best.
  4. Glue the vegetable forms in place.
ROOT VEGETABLE PORTRAIT – Inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Place your portrait at a distance and view it with fresh eyes.
    - What do you like best about your portrait? Why?
    - What kind of personality do you think this person has?
    - What do you see that makes you say that?
    - How is your portrait like Giuseppe Arcimboldo's?
    - How is it different?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • identify and describe characteristics of root vegetables;
  • use Model Magic to create 6 different root vegetables;
  • mix primary colours to make colours that match real vegetables;
  • create a portrait using Model Magic root vegetables for the main features;
  • compare their portrait to one painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • use a device to take photos of their portraits;
  • pretend the person in the portrait is famous for some reason;
  • write a short story explaining how the person became famous;
  • round out the character's personality by including things such as the character's:
    - age
    - special qualities
    - likes and dislikes
    - name
    - nickname
  • use the pictures and stories to make a class digital book;
  • share the book with others.


  1. Download and display the Colour and Form posters available on this website.
  2. Teach or review how to mix primary colours to get new colours.
  3. Teach or review the parts of a plant.
  4. Set up a sorting centre with a variety of vegetables for students to explore and categorize. (Downloads - PlantsWeEat.pdf)
    - Roots - the roots or modified roots of a plant that grow under the ground, e.g., carrots, onions, turnips, radishes, beets, parsnips
    - Stems - the stalks of a plant, e.g., asparagus, celery, bamboo shoots
    - Leaves - the leafy parts of a plant, e.g., lettuces, cabbage, spinach, brussels sprouts
    - Seeds - the seeds of a plant, e.g., corn, beans, peas
    - Flowers - the flowers of a plant, e.g., artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower
    - Fruit - the fleshy part of a plant that contains seeds, e.g., tomato, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, squash
  5. Gather and make available books about Giuseppe Arcimboldo, e.g., Hello, Fruit Face!: The Paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, by Claudia Strand; Arcimboldo: 125 Colour Plates, by Maria Peitcheva; and Arcimboldo, by Werner Kriegeskorte. 
  6. Download images by Giuseppe Arcimboldo from the Internet, e.g.,
    Fruit Basket
  7. View the Smithsonian video Arcimboldo: More Than Meets the Eye
  8. Background information about Giuseppe Arcimboldo is available at the USA National Gallery of Art - An Eye For Art: Questionning Traditions - Giuseppe Arcimboldo.


  1. View and discuss the Arcimboldo images focusing on his use of fruits and vegetables to create a portrait.
  2. Demonstrate how to mix primary colours of Model Magic to match the colour of a vegetable, e.g., red-violet to match a beet (red + red + blue).
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Identify and describe characteristics of root vegetables.
  2. Use Model Magic to create 6 different root vegetables.
  3. Mix primary colours to make colours that match real vegetables.
  4. Create a portrait using Model Magic root vegetables for the main features.
  5. Compare their portrait to one painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
  6. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Make sure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have made a portrait that includes:
    - 6 different root vegetable made out of Model Magic
    - a face that has Model Magic root vegetables as the main features
    - Model Magic root vegetables in colours that match the real plants
    - everything securely glued in place
    - details that show the personality of the person
    - the final work in good condition
  3. Guide the students through the steps outlined in the lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Have students work with a partner. Ask them to share:
    What they like about the portraits.
    - Two things that are the same about their portraits. 
    - Two things that are different about their portraits. 
    - What was difficult about making the portrait.
    - What was satisfying about making the portrait.
  2. Invite some students to share with the whole class.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their portraits – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the portrait, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - VegetablePortrait_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have primary students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - VegetablePortraitPrimary-assessment.pdf)
  6. Have junior students use the form to compare their portrait and then reflect on their work on the back of the paper. (Downloads - ComparePortraits.pdf)
    Have students write a reflection that includes things such as:
    - What they learned about colour mixing by doing this project.
    - What they like best about their artwork and why.
    - What part of the process they feel they need more practice with.

    - What surprised them about the project.
    - What they liked best about doing this project.
    - What the most challenging thing they had to do was.