What is that Art?

Hi. You are on this page because you followed the code for posters of artwork on display in the Kern Pavilion or you found our website. Here we offer fun things to do as you learn about the art.

Stayed tuned for future opportunities to collaborate in the park and sharing your work!

No. 1: ‘The Library’ by Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, “The Library,” 1960. Tempera on fiberboard. Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.24.

Jacob Lawrence researched many of his paintings of African American events by reading history books and novels. Looking back at his high school years, he remembered that black culture was ​“never studied seriously like regular subjects,” and so he had to teach himself by visiting libraries and museums (Lawrence, 1940, Downtown Gallery Papers, Archives of American Art, quoted in Wheat, Jacob Lawrence, American Painter, 1986).

This colorful view of a crowded reading room may show the 135th Street Library—now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture—where the country’s first significant collection of African American literature, history, and prints opened in 1925. Everybody appears absorbed in their books, and the standing figure in the front looking at African art may represent the artist as a young man, delving deeper into his heritage. https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/library-14376


  • “Story Painter, the Life of Jacob Lawrence” by John Duggelby;
  • “The Harlem Renaissance,” By Dana Meachen Rau,
  • “Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library,” by Julie Gassman and Andy Elkerton

Search the internet for more:


Wanted! Portraits of Readers

Many more resources are available today for learning about Black culture than when Jacob Lawrence was young. www2.ed.gov/free/features/african-american-history.html

Check out some of the suggestions for books on black culture and create a portrait of someone reading and learning about black culture.

While Jacob Lawrence created a painting full of people you can concentrate on a portrait.A portrait can be a painting, drawing or photograph. And usually shows (depicts) only the face or head and shoulders.

Phone cameras make it easy to take a picture of someone reading. Some phone cameras even have a portrait mode allowing you to get a close up of the person you are photographing (your subject) while softly blurring the background.

In any case, you will want to move in close to your subject so that it fills the frame. You will want to capture a close up of your subject as well as the book they are reading.

Catch someone in your family reading, make a portrait photograph and share it on our Facebook page. Or use that photo as a study and create a drawing or painting and share that as well.

Or….Maybe you would like someone to take YOUR photograph of YOU reading!

No. 2: “Bella Coola mask representing the sun,” from Northwest Coast, British Columbia

“Bella Coola mask representing the sun,” from Northwest Coast, British Columbia.

This image is of a MASK. It is carved from wood and then painted to represent the SUN. Though we do not know who made this mask, we know it came from the Bella Coola people who lived in the Valley of the Bella Coola River in central British Columbia.

We know that the Sun is very important for life on Earth. Long before scientists discovered that our planet revolves around the sun, ancient cultures understood how important the sun was to their survival and honored it through their art. Ancient cultures around the world created legends and myths and assigned specific gods to the sun.


There are many legends, stories and myths about the sun from cultures all over the world. Here are a few book suggestions:

  • “Coyote and the Sky : How the Sun, Moon, and Stars Began,” by Emmett Garcia
  • “Kwian and the Lazy Sun: A San Myth (African Tales and Myths),” by Melinda Lilly
  • “Taming the Sun: Four Maori Myths,” by Gavin Bishop

Search the Internet to learn more:


  • Enjoy the coloring page of a Bella Coola Mask. What colors are typically associated with the sun?These colors are called warm colors: yellow, red, pink but who is to say YOUR version has to include typical colors?
  • Design your own version of a sun mask. Ancient cultures gave human qualities to their idea of the sun. Create an image of a sun and add your own facial features! Is your sun happy? sad? angry? surprised?
  • Start with a drawing of a sun then add facial expressions! www.easylinedrawing.com/how-to-draw-the-sun-in-different-ways/

Find on a Map:


You can post your artwork on our Facebook page!

No. 3: Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes and Pies

Wayne Thiebaud, “Cakes & Pies,” 1994-95. Oil on canvas. 72×64 in.

Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter best known for his still lifes of edible treats and everyday objects in his singular illustrative style. His most popular subject matter includes colorful cakes, slices of pie, candy pieces, such as lollipops, and the winding streets of San Francisco. 

“A conscious decision to eliminate certain details and include selective bits of personal experiences or perceptual nuances, gives the painting more of a multi-dimension than when it is done directly as a visual recording,” he reflected. “This results in a kind of abstraction, and thus avoids the pitfalls of mere decoration.” Born Morton Wayne Thiebaud on November 15, 1920 in Mesa, AZ. He lives in the Bay Area. http://www.artnet.com/artists/wayne-thiebaud/


Books to Help Bake:

Peeny Butter Fudge, by Toni Morrison

The Best-ever Step-by-step Kid’s First Cookbook, Nancy McDougall

The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen, Joan Nathan


Bake something ! So many people turned to baking and cooking while staying home to stay safe during the pandemic. It became so popular that stores were running out of flour and yeast, and important ingredient for some baking recipes. Have you been baking at your house? Share a photo of something you are making, something Wayne Thiebaud, (or YOU) might paint. Share the recipe too! Post on our Facebook page.

Watch: https://youtu.be/7NrjtTnGtfA for a demonstration on how to draw a cake Thiebaud style

No. 4: Tosa Mitsuoki, Flowering Cherry with Poem Slips

Tosa Mitsuoki lived from 1617-1691 in Japan. He revived what was known as the Tosa school of painting. It focused on traditional Japanese styles. For a time before Mitsuoki, Japanese art was influenced more by China. He became the head court painter and his work was often on rolls or screens.

The painting depicts a cherry tree bursting in bloom with slips of paper hanging in the tree called tanzaku . It was the practice of Japanese aristocracy to inscribe narrow strips with quotes of seasonal poetry that were hung in trees and enjoyed while people picnicked under the trees.

Though this example celebrates this custom in the spring, Mitsuoki painted a beautiful Autumn screen as well. www.artic.edu/artworks/127644/autumn-maples-with-poem-slips


Search for the poem “When I am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver

Find many classic poems of trees here: https://www.writerswrite.com/poetry/trees/

Check out Twelve Centuries of Japanese Art From the Imperial Collections


  • Soon the trees in the park and near you home will be exploding with color. Find a poem that you enjoy about trees. Make your own tanzaku. ( Pronounce Tanzaku:
Listen Tanzaku pronunciation
  • Write out a favorite line or two on a narrow strip of paper. Add a string to hang in your tree. Get the whole family involved! Spread a blanket under your tree and take turns reading poetry about trees and nature.
  • Compose a poem of your own about trees! Maybe you want to use a traditional Japanese format called Haiku. https://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-a-haiku.html
  • Share a picture of your family enjoying reading a poem beneath the tree, one of your poems, tanzaku, or Haiku!

Keep up with this project and the Arts Council of Lafayette Square on our Facebook page.