Joan Miró : People and Dog in the Sun

Overview Artist Biography Planning Ahead Materials & Setup Class Discussion Project Directions Reflections Downloads & Resources Docent Forum


1949, Varnished tempera on canvas, 81 cm. x 54.5 cm., Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent loan to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Photo Credit: Martin Bühler, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel © 2007 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

In this lesson, students will:

  • Analyze People and Dog in the Sun and Miró’s use of repeated shapes, lines and colors to express feelings and ideas
  • Identify how Miró used organic and geometric shapes to balance the painting
  • Discuss Miró’s use of positive and negative spaces and his abstract composition
  • Draw a doodle using Miró’s automatic drawing techniques;
  • Create abstract works of art, using a digital paint app

Lesson Teaching Notes

A document of summary pages on the lesson’s Key Concepts, Discussion Questions, Artist Points, and Project Directions.

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Materials and Setup

Materials List
  • Digital Device (e.g. computer or tablet)
  • Digital Paint App on the device
  • Some suggestions: Adobe Draw , Brushes Redux, Paper 53, Sketch Pad, or Sketchbook Edu – some are iPad and/or Android apps, some may have computer versions as well.
Setup Directions
  • Preload digital devices with the desired digital paint app.
  • Familiarize yourself with the user interface of the digital paint app.
  • Consider having a separate short class session to learn about the digital paint app, before teaching a digital art lesson.

Photos of Setup

Class Discussion

How did Miró draw these funny people?
Play Video From Here
Style - Automatic Drawing

Miró drew from his imagination. He closed his eyes and made lines automatically, without looking at what he was drawing. In an automatic drawing, accidental lines become shapes.

How many people are in this painting?
Play Video From Here
Style - Abstract

Miró arranged lines and colors into a balanced composition, and then turned his abstract doodles into a story with two people, called “People and Dog in the Sun.” These abstract figures have arms, legs, heads, and bodies. They don’t look like real people. There is one figure standing upright and another that is upside down. There are also other figures at the bottom of the picture. Which head is part of two figures?

How do lines make a story in this picture?
Play Video From Here
Line - Expressive/Whimsical

Miró drew expressive lines and shapes with his eyes closed. After he drew several lines, he opened his eyes and added other lines. Then he filled in some spaces with expressive colors.

The doodles are whimsical, or playful, not realistic. Here is a whimsical story about this picture:

Today, I saw the strangest people under a red sun. They had three strands of hair, and funny eyes and noses made with a curving line ending in two dots. The one with a tiny head was wearing a colorful jacket, and the other was upside down and wearing a black dress, colorful stockings, and a funny hat. With them was a dog with a curling tail. They were surprised to see me in the middle of the day. Can you find me in the picture? (I’m the star.)

Where do the lines outline figures?
Play Video From Here
Line - Outline/Curving/Straight

Some of the lines become the outlines of figures, a sun, and a star.

Curving lines form soft, circular bodies and heads. Some end in spirals.

Straight lines form sharp, triangular shapes that look like necks, arms, legs, and skirts. Some lines make hair, eyes, and noses. Some lines divide the larger shapes.

What other figures are hiding in this composition?
Play Video From Here
Design - Composition

Does the dog share a head with the upside-down person? What is the skinny figure wearing a red and blue skirt? Are the big black dots its eyes, or the legs of another creature walking up the side of the picture? Turn the picture upside down to see if it still makes sense. Where is the dog? At the bottom of the painting several doodles have two legs.

How did Miró balance the colors and shapes in this painting?
Play Video From Here
Design - Balance/Repetition

The circular sun is balanced by the big round head. Many black lines outside of the figures are balanced by the red sun. The two bodies balance each other. Black and red are balanced throughout the picture. The blue and red are balanced in the multicolored dress. If Miró had painted the sun yellow, would the colors feel balanced?

Repetition of the color red keeps our eyes moving around the painting. He repeated green twice, once in each figure. He used yellow only once. If If Miro had repeated more yellow spots, would the painting feel balanced?

How do the colors create a mood in the painting?
Play Video From Here
Color - Primary/Mood

Miró played with colors to make the picture more interesting. He painted with mostly bright primary colors: red, blue, and yellow, with only two spots of green. The colors show the figures and make the sun important. They add balance to the picture.

The bright colors create a happy mood. How would the mood change if red sun were green? What if the sun were yellow? What mood would we feel if the sun were blue?

What makes the figures look like people?
Play Video From Here
Portrait - Facial features

The facial features are a curving line for the nose connecting two dots for the eyes. There is no mouth. Both faces also have three strands of hair.

How are Miró’s figures different from real people?
Play Video From Here
Shape - Organic/Geometric

Most of the figures are irregular, organic shapes. One is bean shaped with long curving arms and a triangular skirt. Another is bell shaped with candy cane legs and puffy arms.

We see geometric shapes in the circular heads, eyes, and sun.

Why does Miró leave some shapes as negative spaces?
Play Video From Here
Space - 2-D/Negative/Positive

The figures are 2-D or flat, like paper dolls. There is no shading to give them form and make them look 3-D like real people. The background is empty, in contrast to the many colorful shapes.

The figure’s heads are the negative, or empty space, of the background, which is the canvas he painted on.

The colorful figures have positive shapes. The negative space of the large head balances the positive shape of the sun. Would the picture be balanced if the head were a color? What would it feel like if the sun were a negative space?

Download Discussion Questions
Download Key Concepts


Project Directions

Abstract Color Doodle

  1. Create a new project or canvas.
  2. Make sure you can see the entire canvas and set the background color to a light color.
  3. Select the pencil or pen tool. If you can, set the stroke color to black and stroke thickness to thin.
  4. Draw what Miro called “Automatic Drawing.” Close your eyes and let your stylus or finger move around the screen in whatever direction you want. Do this in one continuous line without removing your stylus or finger.
  5. Open your eyes and see what you drew! Do you see
    anything in the drawing? It’s okay if you don’t.
  6. Select a color and use a wider paintbrush to fill in some of the shapes you created in your outline.
  7. For these shapes, paint within the lines as best you can, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can always refine the edges of your colored shapes with the eraser tool and smaller brush tools.
  8. Play around with the background color if you’d like
  9. Add other elements to your painting to make it more interesting.

NOTE: If your paint app has layers, create a new layer for each area you fill-in, separate from the drawn doodle layer. Make sure layers and colors are set to 100% opacity.



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