Phillips-at-Home Summer Series #7: Exploring Shapes and Colors

This project explores the artwork of an American icon, Roy Lichtenstein. Known for his contributions to the Pop Art movement and inventive use of the Ben-Day dot, Lichtenstein’s Imperfect series uses bright colors, thick lines, and bold patterns to subvert the concept of perfection. What do you think this means? Can you spot the “imperfection?”

According to Lichtenstein: “In the Imperfect paintings, the line goes out beyond the rectangle of the painting, as though I missed the edge somehow.” Each painting of the series incorporates this protrusion, creating a disruptive element within a geometric design. Keep this concept in mind as you begin your own Lichtenstein inspired piece!

Roy Lichtenstein, Imperfect Diptych, 1988. Woodcut, screen print, and collage on museum board. Gift of Sidney Stolz and David Hatfield, 2009.

Roy Lichtenstein, Imperfect Diptych, 1988. Woodcut, screen print, and collage on museum board. Gift of Sidney Stolz and David Hatfield, 2009.

LOOK CLOSELY: What colors do you see? What shapes do you see? What kinds of patterns do you see? Are some lines thicker or thinner than others? How does this change the composition? Do you think the print looks static or dynamic? What makes you say that?

Now, let’s play “I Spy!” Roy Lichtenstein called this print Imperfect Diptych (it is part of the Imperfect Series) because there are slight differences between the two sides of the composition—can you find them? Hint: Look at the colors, shapes, lines and patterns of each side.

ABOUT THE ARTISTIn Roy Lichtenstein’s work, popular culture and high art collide. Using cartoon strips, magazines, and commercial advertisements for inspiration, his early artworks combined and enlarged images to create paintings that were both formally and narratively appealing. Lichtenstein’s artworks challenge the concepts of originality and reality. His “cartoon” style proposes the question: what is real and what is artificial?

Lichtenstein began the Perfect/Imperfect series in 1975 and continued to work in this theme through 1995. Often considered the most abstracted paintings in the artist’s portfolio, this series broke away from Lichtenstein’s former reliance on printed imagery. Instead, Lichtenstein allowed line to take precedence in the Perfect/Imperfect paintings, with thick, black lines dividing the compositions into flat planes of colors and patterns.


  • String
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • 2 pieces of 8.5’’ x 11’’ graph paper
  • 1 larger piece of paper or posterboard (approx. 24’’ x 33’’ recommended)
  • Black sharpie
  • Glue stick
  • Markers or sharpies


  • 7 and up


  • 2–4 hours


1. Tape the back of one piece of graph paper (Graph Paper A) to a flat, solid surface. This will be your art-making surface. Your graph paper can either be horizontal (like a window) or vertical (like a door).

2. Cut a piece of string the length of your arms—you will need a friend for this step!

3. Tape one end of the string somewhere along the edge of your paper.

  •  Tip: Attach the piece of tape to your art-making surface, not your artwork.

4. Pull the string taut diagonally across your paper and secure with tape along the edge of the paper. Repeat 5–10 times. Your last diagonal should meet at the same point where you started! How many lines did Lichtenstein use in his artwork?

“The idea is that you can start with the line anywhere, and follow the line along, and draw all the shapes in the painting and return to the beginning.”       Roy Lichtenstein

5. Trace the lines created by the string with a black sharpie (thick sharpies are recommended). Make sure the string is securely taped down so it will not move as you trace! The string should help you draw a precise and straight line. You can choose to trace one side of the string (as seen in Example B) or both sides of the string (as seen in Example A)

Step 5

Step 5

Step 4

Step 4















6. Trace a few lines more than once to make some lines slightly thicker than others.

7. Securely tape your second sheet of graph paper (Graph Paper B) on a flat workspace nearby.

8. Using the same piece of string, repeat steps 3 & 4

  • Tip: Use the graph paper to help you create the same diagonals. Counting the number of squares between lines will ensure that graph paper A and B are the same.

9. Time to change things up! Remove one of the pieces of tape on Graph Paper B and alter its location slightly. You can move it left, right, or further outside the bounds of your paper. Watch how the shapes and lines you have created change as you move this point.

10. Repeat step 9 with at least three of your points on Graph Paper B. One line should extend beyond the bounds of the paper just like in Roy Lichtenstein’s Imperfect artworks. Once you are happy with your alterations, trace the lines with a black sharpie.


Step 8


Step 10: Notice how the lines on Graph Paper B (right) are slightly altered from their original position

“In the Imperfect paintings, the line goes out beyond the rectangle of the painting, as though I missed the edge somehow.”     – Roy Lichtenstein

11. Use a glue stick to attach Graph Paper A and Graph Paper B side by side on a larger piece of paper. Maintain a 1-2’’ border around each piece of paper to create a framing effect.

12. Using a medium of your choice (markers and sharpies are recommended because their colors are more vibrant), fill in the quadrants created by your line on Graph Paper A. Each section can be one color, multiple colors, or a pattern.

13. Now color Graph Paper B. Try to keep some of the sections the same colors and patterns as Graph Paper A, but just like you changed the lines a bit, you can also feel free to change some of the colors and patterns. Have fun and make your artwork your own!

Step 12

Step 12

Step 13: Artwork by Hayley Prihoda

Step 13:  Can you spot the changes? Artwork by Hayley Prihoda










When you are finished with you artwork, trade with a friend or family member. How many changes they can identify? Did you make big changes or little changes? Are they hard to find?

Example 2: Artwork by Julia Kron

Example 2: Julia chose to expand all of her lines beyond the edge! Her artwork is reminiscent of a star. Artwork by Julia Kron


Thank you for participating in our latest Phillips-at-Home Summer Series project! We hope you found beauty in “imperfection.”

Hayley Prihoda, K12 Education Intern

Phillips-at-Home Summer Series #6: Personal Portraits

This gallery contains 22 photos.

Today we are looking to an American artist for our inspiration: Alex Katz. Katz is an American figurative artist, meaning he primarily creates portraits of people. His portraits are minimalist, colorful, and highly contrasted. The Phillips Collection acquired Katz’s three-portrait series Brisk Day in 2013. Using this artwork as our foundation, today’s project will explore […]

Phillips-at-Home Summer Series #1: Community

With students out of school, some families may have more time to slow down, reconnect, and enjoy their long summer days. We hope to see you around the Phillips this summer (check out upcoming events), but you can always bring The Phillips Collection into your home through creative art-making activities for artists of all ages. Tune in to the blog over the next several weeks for the Phillips-at-Home Summer Series to learn more about artists in our collection and discover new ways to make their artworks come to life.

Our first project of the series features the artist Heinrich Campendonk. Campendonk’s painting Village Street currently hangs in the Phillips’s family’s former dining room.  For this art activity, you will create a collage-style painting inspired by your environment and your community—just like Heinrich Campendonk.

Village Street, Oil on canvas

Heinrich Campendonk, Village Street, 1919, Oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 26 3/4 in. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Look closely: What do you see in this painting? What colors do you see and how do they make you feel? Do you think this painting looks realistic? Why or why not?  How does Campendonk create a collage-like effect in this painting?

About the artist: Heinrich Campendonk was born in Krefeld, Germany on November 3, 1889. While he was working on this painting (1916-1922), Campendonk was living in Seeshaupt, Bavaria. (Bavaria is a state in southeastern Germany bordering Liechtenstein, Austria and the Czech Republic.)

Campendonk used many Bavarian elements in this painting, such as a church, spotted cows, lean-to sheds, spruce trees and wooden fences. All of these elements represent Campendonk’s community to the viewer.  He used luminous colors such as red, blue, brown—can you see how these colors appear to rise out from the dark background? In keeping with Campendonk’s technique, our first project encourages you to get outside, explore your neighborhood, and create a picture that artistically shows your observations.


Materials needed

Materials needed

  • Plain white paper
  • Graphite pencils
  • 12” x 20” paper for final project (larger than 8.5 x 11’’ encouraged. Canvas is optional)
  • Red, yellow, blue (Primary colors) and black & white tempera paint (has a faster dry time)
  • Paper plate palette for paint
  • A couple of paint brushes (markers optional)
  • Scissors 


  • Ages 10 and up

*See optional project modification for younger age groups*


  • Full-day activity (6-8 hours)



1. Go on a walk in your neighborhood. Bring a sketchpad to record your observations. What makes your neighborhood special? What are some of its identifying characteristics?

A look into my adventures around the Phillips Collection and Dupont Circle

Exploring around the Phillips Collection and Dupont Circle, Photo: Julia Kron

2. Do at least one sketch of each of the following:

  • Your house
  • Your street
  • One building in your area
  • An animal or plant
  • A detail that you consider important to your neighborhood

Once you are happy with your observations, return back to an art-making space to begin the final project.


3. Look through your sketches and select at least 5 observations for your final painting. Cut them out.

Step 3 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda

Step 3 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda



4. Arrange the cut-outs on your larger piece of paper, move them around like a puzzle, thinking about a background, middleground and foreground in your composition. Campendonk’s composition is arranged like a collage; feel free to overlap your sketches, use geometric shapes and lines, and play around with the scale and arrangement of your objects.

Step 4 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda

Step 4 Example, Drawing: Hayley Prihoda






5. If you would like to alter the scale of your sketches, you may choose to re-draw them on your larger paper. Otherwise, go ahead and glue down your sketches onto the paper. Heinrich Campendonk frequently used geometric shapes and symbols to represent his surroundings and you can do the same!

6. When you are ready to begin painting, select a few colors that encapsulate your experience in your neighborhood. As a member of the Blaue Reiter group, Heinrich Campendonk was highly impacted by color and used color to represent his emotions and sensations, rather than the reality of his surroundings. Because of this, his paintings often have a dream-like appearance.

7. Start painting your background layer first and work your way to the foreground.  Make sure to take your time painting, allowing each layer to dry to maintain your colors.

8. You have created a beautiful painting!  Please leave a comment or share a picture of your creation with the Phillips on Twitter (@PhillipsMuseum).

Final Example #1

Final Example #1 for 10 and up audience, done with tempera paint, Painting: Hayley Prihoda

Final Example #2

Final Example #2 for 10 and up audience, done with tempera paint, Painting: Julia Kron












*For younger audiences, focus on shapes, colors, and symbols during your walk. Sketch five different objects around the community (your house, a building, a plant or animal, your street, and other details). Use markers to color the sketches and then cut them out. Paste sketches onto larger paper using a glue stick. Add additional colors as desired. 

Final Example for younger audience, done with markers

Final Example for younger audience, done with markers, Drawing: Julia Kron

Tune in regularly for more great art activities inspired by The Phillips Collection!

Hayley Prihoda and Julia Kron, K12 Education Interns