INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour

Students use Jim Dine's heart paintings as inspiration for their own creation of a set of 4 small paintings of a Canadian cultural symbol.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


colour contrast cultural symbol expressively repetition symbol


Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Paper Towels Water Containers Plastic Lids for Palettes White Foam Core Board - 12.7 cm x 12.7 cm (5" x 5") - 4 per student Pencils Planning Paper 12.7 cm x 12.7 cm (5" x 5")

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INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Draw your shape on a piece of paper the same size as the foam core board.
  2. Make sure it fills most of the space.
  3. Cut out the shape and use it as a tracer to draw the same shape on all 4 pieces of foam core board.
INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. View Jim Dine's paintings and explore ways to use the paint in a similar way, but use your own ideas too.
  2. Remember that all 4 paintings will be placed beside each other when displayed.
INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Notice how Jim Dine uses strong contrasting shapes and lines to make his shapes stand out.
  2. Decide how you will use contrast to make your shapes stand out.
INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Explore ways of using your cutout shape as a stencil to make shadows.
  2. Try different ideas on each painting.
  3. From time to time look at some of Jim Dine's paintings to get fresh ideas.
INSPIRED BY JIM DINE – Cultural Symbolism, Contrast, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. When all the paintings are complete arrange them in different ways.
  2. Glue all 4 paintings to a piece of Bristol board.
  3. Reflect on how your paintings make you feel about being Canadian.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create 4 small paintings of a Canadian symbol in the style of Jim Dine;
  • use contrast and colour expressively;
  • demonstrate their understanding of cultural symbolism;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works. 


Have students:

  • work together as a class to arrange all the individual paintings into one large class mural;
  • discuss how the use of Canadian symbolism in the class mural makes them feel;
  • discuss how the scale of the class mural affects the overall meaning of the work;
  • create spoken word poems to perform in front of the group painting.


  1. Download images of Canadian symbols from the Internet, for example,
    Maple Leaf
    Leaf Symbol
    Beaver Symbol
    Moose Symbol
    Hockey Symbol
  2. Download images of Jim Dine's heart paintings from the Internet available at the following website,
  3. Download and display the Contrast, Repetition, Space and Colour posters available on this website.
  4. Gather all the materials required for this lesson.


  1. Brainstorm as a class, symbols that people in Canada find meaningful, for example,
    - Beaver
    - Maple Leaf
    - Moose
    - Hockey
    - Polar Bear
    - Canadian Flag
  2. Discuss why these symbols are used to represent Canada and what they mean.
  3. Show students some images comparing actual objects with the way artists have changed them into symbols, for example, the maple leaf.
     Discuss how they are different and how they are the same, for example, images of symbols:
    - are often flat, simple shapes
    - are easy to recognize
    - often use symmetry in the design
  4. View and discuss several heart paintings by Jim Dine focusing on his use of the heart symbol and expressive paint techniques.
    - he uses symbols that are important to him
    - explores everyday life
    - his paintings are his way of trying to figure out how images create meaning
    - paints the same symbol over and over again changing it each time
    - his heart paintings are a style called Pop Art 
    - Pop Art is a modern art movement that began in the 1950s that uses the images of popular culture and ordinary objects as fine art
    - he uses paint expressively to show energy and emotions
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create 4 small paintings of a Canadian symbol in the style of Jim Dine.
  2. Use contrast and colour expressively.
  3. Demonstrate your understanding of cultural symbolism.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works. 

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a cultural symbol that is easy to recognize
    - balanced the positive and negative space
    - used paint expressively
    - created paintings that show my own ideas as well as the influence of Jim Dine
    - accurately explained why my chosen symbol is a cultural symbol
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the paintings are complete ask students to share them in partners or small groups. 
    Ask them to:
    Look closely at the arrangements and how they are made.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
    - Talk about how contrast and expressive use of colour contribute to the effectiveness of the designs.

    - Explain why the symbols they chose can be called cultural symbols, and why they chose them.
    - Discuss how the symbol and colours used reflect their feelings of being Canadian.
    - Tell what was satisfying about making the paintings and explain why.
  2. Ask some students to share their ideas with the whole class.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the artwork, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – Dine_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to reflect on their work. (Downloads – Dine_self-assessment.pdf, DinePrimary_self-assessment.pdf)