Modifying Moods

Activity Steps:

Describe the mood of a picture, then shift the mood by changing the picture.

1. Look:
After you have carefully studied the works in Nathan Oliveira's "Gallery" section in Voices and Images of California Art, find a picture in a magazine or newspaper, or select one of your own photographs that you are willing to mark up and alter.
2. Analyze:
Look carefully at the picture to discern its mood. Think about visual cues such as color (warm colors for action and happiness, cool colors for stillness or melancholy), facial features and expressions, and background content.
3. Describe:
Write a detailed description of the picture, focusing in particular on its mood. Use vivid adjectives so that a reader could visualize the picture easily and accurately based solely on your text.
4. Edit:
Using markers, paint, or other art materials, modify the mood of the picture. You can alter just a few details or change the entire image.
5. Present:
Once the alteration is complete, ask a classmate to respond verbally or in writing to the changed picture. Compare your own before-alteration response to your classmate's after-alteration response. How do they differ? Which of your changes made the biggest impact on the mood? Why?
6. Extension:
Find a painting by Nathan Oliveira or one of his contemporaries, such as Richard Diebenkorn, that is mostly abstract but includes some figurative elements. Write a response to that work of art. If you are having difficulty, a good beginning is to describe what you see, then try to interpret the mood of what you have described. Do you think it is easier to describe the mood of a very realistic image showing people engaged in specific activities, or to describe the mood of abstract elements such as colors or shapes?