Abstract it

by Picasso


The students make a process of abstraction from a realistic image

DURATION: 4 teaching hours

Graphite pencil, paper, printer.
Scanner or camera, computer with image editing software (digital illustration)

Basic knowledge in digital image editing and illustration. In any software similar to Photoshop or Photopea.


Selecting and filtering information captured by our senses is one of the main mechanisms of our perception. In this exercise we train the ability to select and isolate visual information through an abstraction process.

To improve our perceptual skills it is necessary to train our ability to abstract what we see. That is to learn to perceive structures, proportions and to be able to simplify what we see into basic shapes. This helps us to develop strategies to memorize, associate and synthesize information. Whether we focus on an essential characteristic of an object/space or its underlying structure, this exercise helps us to better understand what we see.



15 min. Using the images below as an example, in this input we reflect on what abstraction strategy we can use. It can be:

  • Simplifying the forms. Reducing until we find an essential form.
  • Making structures visible.
  • Geometrization of shapes. Playing with the resulting planes (Superimposing or juxtaposing planes)
  • Reconfiguring the relationship of the parts
  • Superimposing two or more images. And render the composite image according to a certain concept.
  • Superimposing our image with geometrical patterns.
  • Or a mixture of two or more concepts.
2. Abstraction process

30 min. Choose an image and print it. Then copy it as exactly as possible but turn the paper upside down. Take into account the negative spaces when drawing. Also pay careful attention to light/shadow.
While copying the image, think and try to generate ideas for the abstraction strategy you want to apply. What kind of composition does the process suggest to you? Balanced, chaotic, symmetrical, all over, etc.

50 min. Once you have copied and studied the image, you can start with the abstraction process, you have to decide which strategy you want to apply. What can we do with the resulting shapes? Think in terms of arithmetic operations. You can add, reduce, multiply or divide the shapes.

The students decide the level of abstraction, at the end your image could be recognizable or it may not (non-representation).

3. Digital illustration

90 min. We scan or make a photo of the image and get ready to illustrate it digitally.

Take into account colors, do you want to reduce the palette to a certain number of colors or work with a new palette of colors?


15 min. It is interesting to see which abstraction strategy the students have selected and why. This is a point that allows productive discussions. Also, what level of abstraction have they reached, are there students who have gone as far as non-representation?