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Child's Blue Wall

Jim Dine (American, born 1935). Child’s Blue Wall, 1962. Oil on canvas, wood, metal, and light bulb, 60 x 72 inches (152.4 x 182.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1963 (K1963:1). © Jim Dine / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Special Space Painting

Featuring Jim Dine's Child’s Blue Wall, 1962

Conceptual Basis

In Child’s Blue Wall, 1962, Jim Dine combines painting and sculpture to create both a realistic depiction of a child’s bedroom and an abstract painting of a night sky. Through the inclusion of physical objects and the re-creation of a domestic scene, Dine also elicits emotion from the viewer. Child’s Blue Wall invites memories of childhood spaces. In this lesson, students will make connections between art and their own experiences.Students will re-create a space that has a personal special meaning in the form of a three-dimensional painting.

Featured Work

Jim Dine
(American, born 1935)
Child’s Blue Wall, 1962
Oil on canvas, wood, metal, and light bulb
60 x 72 inches (152.4 x 182.9 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1963

Lesson Objectives

  • Become familiar with artist Jim Dine and the Pop art movement
  • Support the understanding of basic art elements and principles
  • Create a personal artwork that combines a two-dimensional painting and a three-dimensional sculpture
  • Students will capture the essence of a space that has a personal special meaning through the artmaking process


  • Canvas board
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Model Magic or light-weight, air-dry clay
  • Mixed-media materials

Background Information for Teachers

About the Artist

Jim Dine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1935. After receiving a BA in Fine Arts from Ohio University in 1957, Dine moved to New York to pursue a career in art. During his time there, many artists were participating in “Happenings,” or spontaneous theatrical performances or experiences. Often encouraging audience participation, this Performance art was a popular movement during the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Dine was among the artists participating in the first theatrical “Happenings.” 

In 1960, Dine’s focus returned to painting. His work, however, maintained a theatrical quality. Using mixed-media materials, Dine began incorporating physical objects into his paintings. Although he is often associated with Pop art, most Pop artists of the time used commercial objects with minimal expression or emotion. In contrast, Dine presents more personal or domestic objects in his work, used to provoke emotion in the viewer.

About the Art

Child’s Blue Wall, 1962, resembles a child’s bedroom wall with painted white stars and a polka-dot pattern on the blue background. The background is painted unevenly, giving it a worn feeling. The background may also be interpreted as variations in the sky, with faint clouds floating by. An old rusted switch is in the “on” position, lighting up a bare light bulb on a small wooden lamp and illuminating the lower-right corner of the painting. At the lamp’s base is a small wooden solider positioned in front of a tiny castle.

Vocabulary for Students

Pop art: art movement from the mid-1950s to 1960s that used imagery and themes from popular culture

Happenings: spontaneous theatrical performances or experiences occurring in the 1950s and 1960s that often encouraged audience participation

mixed media: the use of a variety of materials in an artwork

two-dimensional: a flat shape with two dimensions: height and width

three-dimensional: an object that has height, width, and breadth

Building Visual Literacy: Art Detectives

Breaking down the different elements in an artwork allows students to build abstract thoughts based on their concrete observations. It is an interactive way to teach visual literacy in your classroom. Without revealing the title of the work, display Jim Dine’s Child’s Blue Wall. Use the following questions to guide students throughout the discussion process.

Explain to students that the artwork is made of a combination of different materials, making it a mixed-media work. Ask students to identify the different elements in the artwork. The painted canvas serves as the background of the work. The child’s lamp and working light switch balance each other on opposite sides of the canvas.

What could the background represent? Examining the background, discuss how artwork can be interpreted in different ways. For example, the canvas may be seen as part of a child’s room or as an evening sky. Can students think of any other interpretations? Have students imagine what the work would look like if the light was turned off.

Why would Jim Dine want to create this artwork? Can students form a personal connection with the artwork? Do they have a painted or wallpapered wall in their bedroom? Do they have a night light? Have students focus on a special space, such as their bedroom. Ask them to visualize the different décor or items they have around the space. Do they have any feelings or emotions about the space? What about memories?

Students can brainstorm different elements or reflections about this space. Inform students that they will be creating their own mixed-media artwork depicting their space. Have students revisit their space and note the textures, fabrics, wall surface, and decorations they see. If students are able, have them bring in a small object from their space to be used in the artwork. This activity will transition into the artmaking process.

Artmaking Activity

Have students begin the artmaking activity by choosing a textile, pattern, or fabric to act as a background for their artwork. The background can represent an area of their chosen space such as a wall, rug, hardwood floor, or fabric from bedding. Reference Child’s Blue Wall to explain that Jim Dine chose a patterned wallpaper to represent a child’s space. Students can re-create the background on canvas board using either paint or materials such as pictures, paper, or actual fabric and wallpaper. 

To create the three-dimensional aspect of this artwork, have students sculpt an object found in that space using the clay material. For younger grades, students can even bring in a found object and place it in their work instead of creating a sculpture. Paint the clay after it dries. 

Place the sculpture over the background. Glue the sculpture into place to finish the artwork. Hot glue may be needed to secure the sculpture to the background.

Lesson Tips

  • This lesson can be tailored to address a variety of themes and topics to create cross-curriculum connections. For example, students can create a space from an era in history.
  • Students can also create a nature-based space in correlation with a science lesson.
  • To make a connection with physical education, students can create a background that looks like a basketball court or sports field.

Optional Reflections and Lesson Wrap-Up

  • Students can write a narrative based on their own artwork. The narrative should reflect the feelings or emotions they have in their scene. Students can also write the narrative in the voice of a character from a story. 
  • Have students work in groups to create their own theatrical performance like the Happenings during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum Standards

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts: 1, 2, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening: 1, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language: 1, 2, 3
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing: 2, 3

Teacher Example

Artwork featuring a wooden floor with popcorn on it
Example of finished artwork based on lesson plan. Artwork by School Program Coordinator Kelly Macagnone.


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